The Silk Way to Paradise
Thank you for clicking on my latest trip report, featuring a return trip between Singapore’s Changi Airport and the Thai island of Koh Samui on Silk Air, the regional airline of Singapore Airlines. The reason of this trip was not so much aviation related. Besides travelling and flying, I have also taken a liking to scuba diving. Living in the Netherlands this unfortunately means that one does have to travel and go on holiday to actually experience some good scuba diving. Besides my other travel plans, flying trips, short holidays or weekend getaways, I try to go on a ‘scuba diving holiday’ at least once a year.
This year, I made the decision to go to Koh Tao, which is a very small, 21 km2 island in the Gulf of Thailand. I visited it before, and it’s like paradise on earth. It is extremely laid back, with only a few small towns and a great atmosphere. Besides having some of the best dive sites in Southeast Asia it is also a great island for relaxing, eating, sunbathing and a bit (or a lot) of drinking – without getting enormously touristic or busy, even though most of the visitors on the island are Western tourists.
Getting there is quite the ordeal though. It being so small, it means there is no airport. There are a few options to get there, with taking an overnight train and/or overnight boats from Bangkok being the cheapest (and slowest) option, while flying into the airport of Samui at the nearby (1 hour sailing time) Koh Samui is the quickest and most expensive option. As I had only a little over a week to spent in Thailand, I opted to travel via Koh Samui and fly into Samui Airport (USM). The most logical option would be to fly from the Netherlands to Bangkok (BKK) and to connect to one of the numerous Bangkok Airways flights between BKK and USM. Bangkok Airways actually owns the Samui Airport and operates an extensive schedule between USM and several Thai airports. Only a few other carriers operate to Samui, at no more than a 1 or 2 daily schedule.
When I was looking at flights to and from Samui, I actually stumbled upon a fare sale from Silk Air, between Singapore and Samui. As I had flown Bangkok Airways before and Silk Air was definitely an airline I was interested in flying I decided to go for this option. I would have to spend the night in Singapore before, and the night in Samui on the way back, but that would have been the case for the flight via Bangkok as well. Anyway, enough with the introductions, it’s time to go flying. Please allow the Great Circle Mapper to illustrate this (simple) route – I have added a few other airports for reference purposes. Enjoy!
Saturday, February 2013
Silk Air Flight 772
Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) – Samui Airport (USM)
210th overall flight
1st flight on Silk Air
23rd flight on an Airbus A319 (59th flight on an Airbus A320 Series)
8th visit to SIN and 3rd visit to USM
1st time flying the SIN-USM route
Departure Time (Scheduled/Actual): 09.00 / 09.01
Arrival Time (Scheduled/Actual): 09.50 / 09.43
Block time (Scheduled / Actual): 1.50 / 1.42
Flight duration: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Mileage: 627 miles
As said, I spent the night in Singapore. I found a decently priced budget hotel near Clarks Quay, and also conveniently located next to a SMRT station. I had a surprisingly good sleep in spite of the jetlag, and woke up around 04.00 am, just an hour before my alarm would have sounded. As I was excited to get back to paradise, I eventually went out of bed at 04.30, a little earlier than planned, but this would give me some more time at the airport.
I took the aforementioned SMRT to Changi Airport, it was actually the first train one of the day – mostly occupied with sleepy looking airport staff and an occasional other early traveler. I arrived at SIN just a little over 06.30. The station is conveniently located in between Terminals 2 and 3, and it was therefore only a small walk to Terminal 2, from where Silk Air flights, as well as most Singapore Airlines regional flights depart from. As could be expected at this hour, it was still rather quiet in the terminal.
Singapore Airport SMRT station
Departure FIDS at the Metro station, showing departing flights per terminal
Terminal 2 check-in area
Great looking old-fashioned FIDS departure board
Silk Air economy class check-in.
Nice interactive information screens. You chose your flight by destination or flight number, and the route to check-in and immigration is shown, and then the route to the gate
Silk Air offers seat selection in advance via their website, where I had already pre-selected seat 18F. Additionally, Silk Air also offers online check via web or mobile phone 48 hours in advance. I had also made use of that, and noticed a pretty busy flight with hardly any seats available. I proceeded to the check-in counters. With a whole row of desks open, and just a few people in line ahead of me it was my turn quite quickly. A lovely agent asked me where I was going and for my passport, after which she produced a good old cardboard boarding pass and checked my bag. A detailed description for the route to the gate was given, as well as the remark that it was quite a walk to get there. I was also given a separate form my checked bag receipt that also showed the several check-in and boarding time deadlines. I then proceeded to immigration, which was also a quick affair, and then found myself airside at Singapore Airport Terminal 2.
Shopping mall after immigration
One of the many gorgeous gardens at SIN
Traditional Malay and Singapore breakfast: kopi coffee, soft boiled eggs and kaya toast
Meanwhile dawn is breaking outside. Lots of Silk Air action here, and a SQ 777 heading to the take-off runway
Then, a visit to the Sunflower Garden was in order. A nice outside garden, that also offers some decent runway and tarmac views
The long walk towards gate F42
Singapore Airport has security at each gate, and when I arrived at gate F42 there was already a long-ish queue for the security for this gate The wait wasn’t all that long though and I went to security quite quickly. After security you then approach a counter where the boarding pass is checked, as well as a Thai immigration card was handed out. Then you are released in a large holding pen with sufficient seating. Photo opportunities were limited, however. Boarding commenced just after 08.30, with first Business Class passengers, followed by rows 15-28, which included my row. Since the boarding was already scanned, this means one walks straight into the jetway and onto the waiting aircraft. Boarding went smoothly, and was completed just after 08.45.
When boarding was completed I counted an almost full load. Mostly European holidaymakers, who probably just arrived on the early morning Singapore Airlines arrivals bank from Europe. I counted 5 FA’s on the aircraft, which seems a lot for an Airbus A319. The lead FA would serve the business class section, whilst the other would serve the Economy Class section, 2 from the front, and two from the back. Newspapers were handed out in both classes when on the ground. An informal and happy-sounding welcome from the captain was also made, introducing himself and the lead FA by first name only. Flight time was expected to be 1 hour and 25 minutes, which seemed short for a 1 hour and 50 minutes blocked flight. Pushback was straight on time, and during the taxi a safety demo was shown on the drop down screens.
Good legroom here on this Airbus A319
Full house on this great and cozy looking Airbus
Pusback, with a company Airbus on the taxiway towards the departure runway. The window was a bit dirty unfortunately
Reaching the start of the runway
Climbing and cruising through the clouds, with some great views of the clouds this part of Asia is famous for.
After the initial climb out the drop down screens, well dropped down, to first show a video – including sound – for a Silk Air destination. Then it was just silent video’s with gags and stuff like that. When the crew was released, they first handed out cradles and color books for the children. Then they started confirming special meal requests. This got my attention. Although I had hoped for a (hot) meal, we are talking about a legacy Asian carrier after all, Gabriel Chews recent report about a Silk Air flight from SIN to Penang showed only a small sandwich: Asia 6: Silkair And Firefly On The Malay Peninsula (by gabrielchew Nov 14 2012 in Trip Reports). However, with USM being a tad further, I still had some hopes, which turned out to be justified. A hot breakfast was served, a Western option, omelet with potato, or an Asian option, spicy seafood noodles. I preferred the Western option, but so did most of the other Western folks seated in the rows ahead of me, as they only had the noodles left when they reached my row. I accepted the noodles nevertheless, and it tasted pretty good. A cup of water was already on the tray, and additionally coffee/thee and or another drink were offered. Also, real cutlery – been a while since I had that in Y. Meanwhile the flight was progressing, and the first officer came over halfway through the flight, updating us on the route and the weather expectation for Koh Samui: 28 degrees, some clouds and a just a little bit of wind. Sounds good!
The Asian meal option: spicy seafood noodles
Meanwhile cruising over the Golf of Thailand
After 1 hour and 10 minutes of flying, it was time to start the descent to Koh Samui
It would appear that we were on a downwind approach, as we made a 180 degree turn at a pretty low altitude. Unfortunately, only the blue sea and clouds were visible. When the slats were deployed, the island finally came in sight
Crossing a beach and a small town and then touching down!
No parallel taxiway here, so a backtrack was in order
Koh Samui’s unique airport terminal visible here
Reaching our parking stand, with a Bangkok Airways A319 and a Thai Airways 737-400 also visible
Finally, an opportunity to take a picture of the plane that took me here
Bangkok Airways’ colorful livery
No busses at Koh Samui, but these cute little trams are used to bring passengers to and from the airport "gates"
When waiting in line for immigration I could take this picture of the baggage reclaim building and a shot back towards the runway and the ‘arrivals’ gate. Immigration took about 15 minutes, with only 3 desks for a full load of Airbus A319 passengers. To expedite the process, an airport official was checking the immigration cards of all passengers in line to point and correct any errors. Immigration itself was an informal affair, no uniform for the guys here, just casual clothing like a polo or a t-shirt. With only 3 international flights a day, this is perhaps a side job for them?
Arrivals building. All passengers are greeted by an airport agent. Not to sell you anything as might be expected in Thailand, but to point out the official taxi point, the shared shuttle services, hotel and tour operator points, etc. Great service. I made my to the pick-up area, where a bus from the ferry company arrived after a short way. Almost in paradise!
| | | Koh Tao | | |
Saturday, February 2013
Silk Air Flight 772
Samui Airport (FRA) – Singapore Changi Airport (LIS)
211th overall flight
2nd flight on Silk Air
24th flight on an Airbus A319 (60th flight on an Airbus A320 Series)
4th visit to USM and 9th visit to SIN
2nd time flying the USM-SIN route, second time in this direction
Departure Time (Scheduled/Actual): 10.40 / 10.40
Arrival Time (Scheduled/Actual): 13.30 / 13.28
Block time (Scheduled / Actual): 1.50 / 1.48
Flight duration: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Mileage: 627 miles
After a wonderful week in paradise the ferry took me back from Koh Tao to Koh Samui, where I spend the night in a nice hotel of the beach. A taxi from the hotel took me to the airport, where I arrived around 08.45. Koh Samui’s airpory is set up in several pagoda like buildings. A first building handles check-in, a third building has the actual gates, and a third building features as the arrivals hall. In between, and surrounding the building, are many tropical gardens, flowers, green fields and small ponds. Together with the wooden, half open, terminal buildings it feels more like you are in a resort then at an airport.
Only 3 three people in line ahead of me, so it was quickly my turn. A friendly female agent confirmed my pre-selected seat 15A and checked my bag towards Singapore. A boarding pass was issued, along with the similar baggage receipt with deadlines as well as a Singapore immigration card. I was also given directions to the departure building, which is a 5 minute walk away through a boulevard like street with shops and restaurants which remind me more of Disneyland’s main street then an airport.
The departure area has two separate areas for international and domestic flights, and with the Singapore flight being the only international flight for the next few hours passport control and security only took about 10 minutes. I then found myself in one of the ‘gates’ for international flights. Now the Koh Samui Airport is owned and operated by Bangkok Airways, who pride themselves on being ‘Asia boutique airline’. One of their features is lounge access with free drinks and snacks for all passengers. With USM being such a small airport and only a few flights a day that are not by Bangkok Airways, they have extended this courtesy to all passengers, and set up several ‘courtesy corners’ where coffee/thee, juice and scacks were available. Wifi was also free throughout the terminal.
No doubt about where we are
Walking towards the second building with the gates
Entrance to the gates
A newer, more modern looking departure gate
And an older looking, original USM style gate. The domestic gates area have another two or three of these gates
The courtesy corner
A look outside towards the apron, with a bizzjet, two Bangkok Airways A319’s and a Thai 737 in the far distance
The apron again. My Silk Air jet has arrived, and a Bangkok Airways Airbus taking off
Boarding commenced straight on time, and went very orderly, with Business class passengers called first, followed by rows 15-27, which included my row. Back on the cute little trams again, for the short to the aircraft. I lingered around a bit on the apron, let most of the fellow passengers in first, before climbing up the stairs to the rear door, where I received a very friendly personal welcome by the FA:
“Good morning, welcome aboard”
“Did you enjoy your vacation?”
“I certainly did!”
“Got a little sunburned too, didn’t you?”(as she shy-ingly points towards my red nose)
“I guess so”
“Where are you from?”
“Oh that’s so great! Hoe gaat het?” (the latter is Dutch for how are you?”
“Het gaat goed, dank u!” (I am doing great, thank you)
“Have a good flight”
I immediate felt very welcome on board again! As the passengers in the front rows boarded the aircraft, the captain came on the PA to welcome us all on board. Again a very informal welcome, introducing himself and the entire crew by their first names. He also announced a flight time of about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Later on also an informal welcome by the lead FA, as well as newspapers that were handed out again. Safety demo was once again played on the drop down screens as we backtracked to the end of the runway.
My view for the next 1,5 hours. At this time only our aircraft, the bizzjet and another Bangkok Airways Airbus on the appron
Taxiing out with a good view of the pagoda like gates at USM
Reaching the end of the runway, and turning around for take-off
Take-off, with a superb views of the island
Some beautiful clouds as we ascended and reached cruising altitude
During the flight, the same service routine. The lead FA took care of the C cabin, while the other 4 FA’s handled the Y cabin. Meal service was announced as a lunch, and once again a hot meal was served: seafood pasta or chicken curry with yellow rice. Although the curry chicken sounded good, my stomach was at time in disagreement with something I ate the night before, so I figured it would be better not to have spicy food and went for the seafood pasta. This pasta would turn out to be my only disappointment about Silk Air. The pasta was good, the vegetables tasted nice, and the sauce was fine, but the seafood: yuk. It was some kind of fried fish, it was very hard, very salty and tasted very bland expect for the salt. Safe to say that I only ate the veggies and pasta. During the flight the first office informed on the flights progress in great detail: route, altitude, temperature, temperature at destination, flying time left, expected arrival time, temperature in SIN etc.
Meal with the inedible seafood. Once again a cup of water was on the tray, and coffee/thee and an additional were offered from the cart
The time once again flew by (pun intended) and before I knew descend had already begun. During the flight it was hard to tell how our approach went, but it the end I could make out that we basically flew past Singapore towards Indonesia and then made a downwind approach into Singapore. As I had hoped, arrivals were to the North today, which gave me some excellent views of the Singapore skyline.
Glimpse of Indonesia
Final approach, with a splendid view of the Singapore skyline
Can’t have a trip report about Singapore without a shot of the many ships awaiting their arrival into the harbors
Almost there… and touching down
As we exited the runway I noticed a very unique aircraft next to that Singapore Airlines Cargo bird: it’s the Berjaya Air Dash 700 that operates between SIN and the airport at Tioman Island. Fellow member Flieger67 has some fond memories of this plane: Is It Really Worth It To Fly For TOD? (by FLIEGER67 Dec 2 2012 in Trip Reports) and Four Props On A Pax Plane?. Yes, It´s The Dash-7!. (by FLIEGER67 Dec 8 2012 in Trip Reports)
And then the captain pulled us into the gate, which concludes another great flight on Silk Air.
So in conclusion: two very enjoyable flights with Silk Air. Great and friendly crews with attentive service. Nice informal atmosphere on board. On time flights in great looking aircraft in good condition. Hot meals were very much appreciated on these 1,5 hour flights – and they tasted remarkably well. Good job Silk Air. Thanks for reading, comments and remarks are appreciated!