Children of Laos, Burma & Thailand

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Thailand and Laos (and Myanmar if I can manage it)

Hello, Sawatdee kaa and Sabai dee,

My next trip will be Thailand and Laos, and this is all about the before, the trip and the after - similar to my Malaysia/Cambodia blog. I am putting together from start to finish - tickets, do's and don'ts, tours, where to stay, places to see, things to do, as well as useful extras like transport, good places to eat, what to wear, climate, tourist traps, tricks and tips and whatever else I can think of that will be useful.

If you have any tips or advice, please, feel free to leave a comment and add your bit - whatever you think may be helpful or interesting.

Thailand map

View Bangkok Thailand in a larger map

Playlist - My Travel Videos

Friday, March 11, 2011

50. Airports

Well I arrived at Tulla (local name for Tullamarine Airport here in Melbourne), had a quick smoke then dropped my luggage off. As I'd already checked in online and printed my boarding pass, it is so simple - and quick. No standing in a long line waiting to check your luggage in. I loved the colourful hue of the Chinese New Year lanterns which were adorning the place, it made it look so cheerful.

Above: Chinese New Year lanterns at Tullamarine
Some of the lanterns that were hanging overhead.

Which Duty-Free Shop?
I didn't make the same mistake as last year - no buying cigarettes from the duty free shop here, it's so much cheaper to buy them overseas. A difference of around $60! Now that's some serious money and not to be sneezed at.

Soon it was time to board the plane and then comes the rush of people standing in the aisles, blocking the way as they try valiantly to shove their 7kgs of carry-on luggage into the overhead lockers. I swear, if airlines introduced weighing every passenger's onboard luggage, there'd be many a passenger denied boarding. Honestly people, if you have more than the alloted 7kg, then why on earth don't you pay the money and check it in? It would make life so much easier - everyone would get on the plane, either put their little holdall/tote bag/whatever in the lockers or place it on the ground in front of their feet and the aisles would remain clutter free. Ah well, I don't make the rules.

Meals on Planes
Another thing I learned from last year is this - it pays to order your meal online when booking your ticket, not only does it save you around 15%, but when the trolley dolly comes around, guess who gets served first? Right, those who have pre-ordered. Trolley dolly asks to see either your passport or boarding pass, ticks your name off a list then hands you your din-dins. (Din-dins is Aussie slang for food, a saying usually used when speaking with little children aka 'ankle biters')
Those who didn't have the forsight to pre-order, get to buy meals when the second trolley dolly comes around. I'd chosen the International Meal and quite tasty it was too. Chicken from memory with roast spuds, veg and what proported to be gravy. Anyway, it was tasty and filling.

Lights Off
After we, the passengers had all been fed and watered and people had attended to their ablutions in the little room the lights are off and it's time to sleep. Fortunately no-one turned their private, individual reading lamp on...the plane had dimmed and only the sounds of gentle snoring could be heard. I pretty much fell asleep. After all - what are you going to do on a plane 40,000 feet in the air when you're in darkness and it's well and truly around two in the morning! ZZzzzzz.....nighty-night.

Above: Mr Sandman

This photo was taken some nine hours after the Chinese lanterns pic. As you can see, there are many sleepy heads - Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream, make him the cutest that I've ever seen...

Thou Shalt Not Covet The First Class Passengers
There didn't seem to be the huge divide between "Premium" and "Economy" passengers when I flew with Air Asia last year as there is now. Then again, the planes I was in in 2010 were newer planes - the "kitchen" area was in the front of the plane and toilets were up the front and down the back.
And the cabin crew didn't say you couldn't walk through the premium section to use the loo. Not so this year - got up to go to the loo only to be told very firmly that I wasn't allowed there and had to use the loo in the economy section. I couldn't see the point in this, not really - my seat was 8G - the loo in the front section was closer than the other one. I mean how much difference can there be in dunnies? They both have a bowl a seat and a lid. Perhaps the "Premium" toilet has a gold-plated seat and lid and they're afraid it might get nicked. Although I don't suppose there'd be much call for second-hand toilet seats.
And cabin crew were very firmly making sure that none of us poor people got the opportunity to even have a peak threw the wee gap in the curtains as is evidenced in the photo below...

Above: First Class only - do not enter!
I should imagine all those rich folks who paid extra to sit up in the pointy end need to be protected from the hoi polloi! I wonder how many more Oxford Scholars it is for the privelege of having a wider seat, a pillow and a free blanket - which you don't get to keep anyway.

Arrival in Kuala Lumpur
We arrived at LCCT in KL pretty much on time - one thing I have to hand to Air Asia's pilots, even if we're a little late taking off, we always seem to arrive on time!

It felt good to be back again, although I didn't feel the excitement of the first time I arrived here, probably a case of been there, done that.
Went through immigration, collected my luggage then went outside. I'd forgotten how hot it was in KL and I was dying for a bottle of water, so it was off to find water and re-hydrate myself.
I dropped my luggage off as soon as check-in opened and like ny earlier flight, had checked in online and had my boarding pass printed. So now I was "luggage free" except for my carry-on bag.

Lots of Red, Red, Red.
I hadn't reaised until I was uploading the photos that there was so much red - even in the pics above we have red, red, red!

Above: LCCT Kuala Lumpur
There were Chinese New Year lanterns and decorations everywhere. Last time I was here was in March so the displays weren't there, but this time around being early February they were everywhere.

Above: Gong Xi Fa Cai

The Chinese don't say "Happy New Year" like in western countries, instead they say "Gong Xi Fa Cai" which is Mandarin and means 'wishing you to be prosperous in the coming year.'

I loved this lovely picture of the red and white pandas and the floral display with its red lanterns and pink blossoms.

Above: Chinese New Year blossom
Close-up of the cherry blossom and red lanterns.

Water feature and flora
Another new feature at LCCT is the addition of this attractive water fountain surrounded by lots of greenery. I think it makes the airport look a little more scenic.

Above: Garden and water feature
I was quite taken with this, and admired the different shades of green. Seeing as LCCT has now removed all the seats that used to be here I suppose they thought this would make up for the lack of seating.

Above: Fountain at LCCT
As you can see, there are three fountains, the middle one being larger with water spilling over to the two smaller ones.

While waiting in the departure lounge, I met a Melbourne couple from Lilydale and it turned out their seats were next to mine on the plane to BKK.

Bangkok Airport
As with my earlier flight, I had pre-booked a meal. The only downside was the cup of coffee that came with it was that horrible 3-in-1 muck - dreadful stuff. Coffee/milk powder/sugar. I don't have sugar and asked for one without it. A firm "No" was the answer, pre-booked meals come with the 3-in-1 and that's it. Not very good PR on the part of Air Asia - apart from the fact that I dislike sugar, what about passengers who are diabetic and cannot have sugar? I was told by the trolley dolly if I wanted no sugar then I had to order it from the second trolley and it would cost me. I had to pay? For a cuppa tea or coffee because I don't have sugar? Evidently the coffee on the other trolley isn't included in the pre-booked meal deal. Pffft!

Above: Thailand coastline
This was taken on the plane - I had a window seat but alas the photos are not all that clear, must have something to do with smog.

Anyway, not having been to Thailand before, the couple (can't remember their names off-hand) offered to guide me through the airport (Suvarnabhumi Airport) - it's absolutely massive.

Above: Suvarnabhumi Airport
As I said, it's absolutely massive.

Above: Touchdown at Bangkok airport
Very nice design too. I had a migraine by the time I got off the plane and would have had no idea where to go without the guidance of the Lilydale couple. Finally, we were standing in line at the customs or immigration section - and there was a long. long, line at the counters. Our line seemed to be moving the slowest. We stood there about an hour. Everybody was feeling grumpy and my migraine had become full blown. If you've never had migraines, then you're very lucky, and if you have then you'll know what I'm talking about.

Eventually we passed through immigration and it had taken such a long time that the luggage carousel had been emptied and we had to walk off and find where it had been placed. I found mine among a few other pieces of luggage on the floor somewhere, started to wheel it along and wondered where the hell am I and where the heck do I go from here?

The Aussie couple came over to me sans luggage, asked where I had found mine and were understandabley upset they couldn't find their luggage. I pointed to where I'd found mine but they said the other bits and pieces weren't theirs. The last view I had of them was two people trying to find someone to ask about the disappearing luggage. It did make me think of THIS - it's a very funny Youtube skit called "Lost Luggage" I've posted the link rather than the video clip so it doesn't slow down the page load.

Taxi Scams
Having been warned already about the taxi scams I went to what I thought was the taxi counter but they didn't speak English and I couldn't find where to go. If only I'd printed out one of the many airport maps I have previously posted on the blog, I could have saved myself quite a bit of time and nerve wracking experience.

I was approached by a very "official" looking female in a navy uniform who had a booklet and would book me a taxi. At least I didn't fall for that one. After many "Could you please tell me where do I book a taxi?" questions of many people, finally I found it - downstairs outside. I booked my taxi to take me to the Southern Bus Terminal and was on my way. By this stage I was very hot, had a throbbing head and felt a little sick.

Taxi to Kanchanaburi
Rather than bore you all with the details, he didn't know where the Southern Bus Terminal was, offered to drive me to Kanchanaburi for 2,100 baht. By this time I was beyond caring, (as I said I was very hot, had a throbbing head and felt sick) so I said "2,000 baht", he agreed asked the name of my accommodation, I gave him the phone number and that was that. I slept on and off most of the way.

When we arrived, he took care of my luggage, I paid him and was led to my room. My last thought was, that's funny, they didn't give me a key. I'll just have a lie down on the bed for half an hour.

And so ended my first day in Thailand, a rather sorry beginning.

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