Saturday 12 November
Flight FD3602 BKK – MFM
Thai Air Asia Boeing 737-300 HS-AAK
Scheduled 1005-1350, actual 1025-1400
Photo © Poowin Bunyavejchewin
The total cost for two return tickets was about 12,000 baht (240 euros). Check-in in Terminal 1, the older part of Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport, took quite a long time. Many passengers were either not experienced travellers or plain dumb, but the ground crew had to repeatedly explain to them how to get to the plane. We were given our boarding passes, which look more like receipts, and headed off to the airside. There were no assigned seats, but we did get a sequence number.
After some shopping in the terminal we headed towards gate 71, which is a bus-gate. Most gates in that area are used by Bangkok Airways. It was packed, with PG flights departing to Samui, Luang Prabang and Siem Reap. The pax for our flight were already queuing as well. Once boarding commenced about twenty minutes late, it was not done according to sequence numbers, which is not very good in my opinion. If you don’t give out seat numbers, at least reward the early passengers by giving them a better choice for seating. We boarded the second bus and were taken to the HS-AAK, a 733 with the paint peeling off the fuselage.
Luckily we had some very good seats near the overwing exit on the left with plenty of leg room. The flight itself was uneventful; I bought a Coke and a Kit Kat from the menu for 90 baht (less than 2 euros).
We landed on the runway-built-on-the-sea of Macau International. It’s a nice little airport, opened in December 1995, with a lot of glass and good views of the runway and parking stands from the terminal. Most flights seem to be from and to Taiwan (I guess they like to gamble…) Apart from the Air Macau and Air Macau Cargo Airbuses, I saw a Volga-Dnepr An-124, Atlas Air 747F, EVA Air Cargo MD-11, EVA Air 767, Shanghai Airlines 767 and many MD-80’s of various Taiwanese carriers. The airport is located on Taipa Island, which together with Macau Peninsula and Coloane Island comprises the Special Administrative Region of Macau.
Immigration went smoothly and we took a cab to our hotel, on Macau peninsula, in the middle of the casinos. We had a great room overlooking the Formula 1 racetrack. Preparations were well underway for this event, which takes place in the weekend of 19th November. We were actually planning to go that weekend, but couldn’t get a room… Anyway, we spent the Sunday driving around in a rented Smart-car with open top exploring the tiny place with an interesting mix of Portuguese and Chinese aspects. It’s funny to see signs in Portuguese and nice to be able to understand them (with my knowledge of Spanish). Although handed over to China six years ago, Portuguese is still an official language here. We also found a great spot on a hill with a good view of the airport. Apart from gambling, things to do here include visiting small villages on the islands, walking through the old Portuguese part of town and going to Macau Tower.
On Monday we decided to make a trip to Hong Kong, by jetfoil. It takes one hour; I tried to persuade my partner to take the helicopter, but she didn’t want to… the chopper does the trip in fifteen minutes, but is of course much more expensive (150 euros instead of 15 by boat…) Anyway, we spent some time on Hong Kong island and then took the Airport Express train to have a look around on Chek Lap Kok. I thought there was a jetfoil service from the airport to Macau as well. Well, there is, but you can only get on it from the airside, through a special channel without passing through HKG immigration… so we had to go back to the city and take the jetfoil from there.
Monday 14 November
Flight FD3607 MFM – BKK
Air Asia Boeing 737-300 HS-AAN
Scheduled 2045-2245, actual ???
Photo © WingFlex
Back at the Macau ferry terminal we took the special bus service to the airport, without passing through immigration. They checked us in at the ferry terminal and took us directly to the airside of the airport. Our plane arrived on time but then was delayed. We waited and waited without any further announcements and finally walked over to the ground crew, who said that there was a technical problem with the engine and Air Asia would probably fly another plane in from Bangkok. However, the plane hadn’t left BKK yet and they couldn’t tell when it would arrive in MFM. So it would take at least another four hours. My partner has a bad back and can’t hang around in a chair for hours, and besides, she lost her confidence in Air Asia entirely. I would have waited there to see what would happen, but she definitely did not want to fly them anymore. So we cancelled the booking, slept in the airport hotel (which was very good, by the way, and not absurdly expensive), the next day took the boat back to HKG and went on to the airport to book a one-way on the next flight to BKK. Yes, by cancelling the Air Asia flights ourselves we of course lost the money and had a lot of extra expenses to get to BKK this way. Nevertheless I wrote an email to Air Asia; just to see what they’re reaction is.
Tuesday 15 November
Flight CX701 HKG – BKK
Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400 B-HKD
Scheduled 1600-1800, actual 1615-1730
Photo © Kazim Alikhan - t.dot photography
The next flight turned out to be Cathay Pacific’s, my first flight on this airline and my first flight since ten years on a Boeing 747-400! The plane was the first ex-SIA P&W-equipped 744 for Cathay. We had no time whatsoever to shop around; we had to go to gate 27 straight away, where they were already boarding. The flight was too short to get a complete impression of Cathay, but everything was pretty good on the 2.15 hour hop to BKK (nice cabin crew, personal IFE system, and a seat with a view just behind the wing). I believe the captain was Canadian. Landing at Don Muang was extremely smooth, and we were soon back in the car for the drive home.
All in all a busy and hectic four days, but certainly worthwhile.