In November, I found out that a friend was going to finish his one-year stint in Beijing in January and was going to be in town for a few days before going to his next assignment. He had planned an extended weekend trip to Bangkok with another friend and asked me if I wanted to join them. I didn’t think twice before I said yes as it could well be our last time to go together on a holiday. I also thought I could give a few of my college buddies a visit, all of whom I haven’t met since I left the US about three years ago.
My two friends were flying FD, but the idea of flying a LCC didn't appeal to me, so I looked at TG, which would be my first time with them. But TG fare was the same as SQ, which I thought didn’t really justify choosing TG over SQ, so in the end it was SQ who got my business.
11 January 2007
SQ 064 SIN-BKK
Scheduled: 14.10 – 15.35
Actual: 14.07– 15.37
Departure Gate: E11
Arrival Gate: D4
I had planned to take an earlier flight out since my friends were leaving in the morning, but my boss was already not too happy that I asked for a leave so soon after the Holidays. So I bit the bullet and took an afternoon flight to clock in about 3 hours of work in the morning.
I left my office at the Changi Business Park shortly before noon and arrived at T2 after a very quick taxi ride. It was raining quite heavily, not a good start to the holiday.
I went straight to the new auto check-in machine located in between rows 8 and 9. A bored-looking SATS agent offered her assistance, which wasn’t really needed. The ACM was very easy and straightforward to use. Within a minute, the machine spat out my boarding pass, on which the agent put a stamp, and then it was another minute or so to drop my bag off at one of the bag drop counters.
the new SATS auto check-in machine
I went to the airside, had lunch at BK, checked my emails, and made a mandatory stop at the Sunflower Garden. The rain had subsided earlier, only to get worse after I left the garden.
T2 was as usual packed with an assortment of SQ and MI aircraft.
9V-SRI was going to be my ride back to SIN
Around 13.20 I made my way to gate E11 where my flight was due to depart from. E11 is one of several A380-ready gates at T2 and features a refurbished and enlarged holdroom with brand new comfy chairs and sofas.
Boarding was announced at 13.35. 9V-SMY had the honor of taking me to BKK.
My seat, 61K, was the first row of the four two-seaters at the very back of the aircraft. This was my first time on one of these seats and I didn’t like it one bit. The big gap between my seat and the window made photo-taking difficult, although I guess it’s nice to have an extra space to dump all your stuff on long haul flights.
The 13-year-old SMY had definitely seen better days. There were scratches on the overhead bins, my tray table was sticky, and the seat covers looked well worn. One of the toilets at the back was also inoperable for the entire flight. Having flown almost all of my SQ flights on the 777s in the past 3 years, I had forgotten how punishing the seat pitch was for tall people like me. Thankfully the load was very light at the back, so I could stretch out a little.
By 14.00, boarding was completed and we pushed back early at 14.07. The weather had deteriorated further by this time.
Taxi was slow and we waited for a long time at the threshold of 02C without any word from the flight deck. It was 14.37 when we were finally airborne. Flight time was 1 hour 55 minutes.
Headsets were handed out and there is AVOD on all of SQ’s 744s, but the picture quality on the PTV was simply dreadful compared to the 777s. Not having enough flight time to finish a movie, I watched an episode of House and an episode of Will & Grace.
Lunch was served shortly after take-off, the main course choice being Pork with Pineapple Fried Rice and another one, which I quickly forgot.
I had the Pork and Fried Rice, which was tasty despite looking unappetizing at first glance. Accompanying the meal was a Potato Salad, a dessert of Apple Crumble, and a bread roll. Asked for a Tiger Beer to go with the meal. Drink rounds were made twice.
I didn’t know if it was just because of the light load, but the service from the crew was extra nice. They looked relaxed and happy doing their job.
top-notch service from the two girls working in my aisle
The first half of the flight was extremely bumpy, especially above Peninsula Malaysia, but soon enough the grey cloud layer opened up for us to enjoy blue sky and sunshine above the Gulf of Siam.
20 minutes after the tray was cleared, we started our descent into Suvarnabhumi.
the swamps below reminded me of CGK
We touched down smoothly on 01R at 14.33 local time, which was one hour behind Singapore.
The terminal looked every bit as impressive as the images I had seen.
After a quick taxi, we docked at gate D4 besides a LX 343 and a company 772.
Unfortunately, once inside I couldn’t help but notice the dirty and scratchy floor, the exposed ducts and pipes, the cheap-looking immigration desks, and confusing signage. The whole place looked cheap and very ordinary indeed.
The immigration hall was packed, but my line was moving at a brisk pace, and my bag came out about 5 minutes after I cleared immigration.
There were so many people inside the arrival hall that it was really hard just to move around. I went outside to escape the crowd and was surprised to find a giant, glittering Christmas tree and there was Christmas music playing as well. And I thought it was January already!
After dodging countless touts offering taxi rides, I went downstairs to queue for a public taxi. The 30-minute drive to the city was thrilling to say the least, as the cabbie seemed to be an F1 driver in his previous life, and the speedometer was broken!
This was only my second visit to Bangkok. In more ways than one, I feel that it is very similar to my hometown, Jakarta. The weather was great during the four days we were there. It was very mild, great for shopping at the markets, and definitely much better than Singapore. Both of my friends visit Bangkok quite often, so they knew how to deal with the local touts.
I also spent plenty of time with my Thai college friends. It was great to finally see them again. They showed me around the city and we had some nice meals where we caught up on our current lives and reminisced on our Wisconsin days.
All in all, Bangkok may not be the most beautiful city in the world and it has its shares of problems. But, the genuine friendliness of its people, the delicious Thai food, exotic tropical fruit, the colorful markets, they all more than make up for the negative aspects.
I left with a really good impression and will definitely be back, hopefully sooner rather than later.
this is where I got fined 500 bath (yikes!) for littering by corrupt policemen
Christmas trees and decorations were still present everywhere
my personal guide in Bangkok…khorb koon p’noon!
14 January 2007
SQ 625 BKK-SIN
Scheduled: 18.30 – 21.55
Actual: 18.33 – 22.06
Departure Gate: D4
Arrival Gate: F33
My Thai friend was taking me to the airport and we left her house in the Prawet District around 16.15. It was a quick 15 minutes to Suvarnabhumi, with another 15 minutes spent on looking for a parking spot. I got to the Departure Hall at 16.50 to find the very quiet SQ check-in counters.
SQ check-in counters at Row K
An agent waved me over to her counter. She was very polite as most Thais are, but not overly friendly. The check-in process took a little over three minutes. I then went over to Row E to meet my two friends who were checking-in for their FD flight back to SIN. Their flight was going to be delayed for 1.5 hours. This was adding insult to injury as their outbound flight to BKK was also delayed for almost 2 hours.
The departure hall was just as crowded and chaotic as the arrival hall below. Tons of people were loitering inside the hall (surely they couldn’t all be passengers!) and the signage was just as confusing.
very crowded check-in hall
We said goodbye to my Thai friend, who’d been kind enough to accompany us for the past two days and then went to the airside around 17.30.
The lack of clear signage continued to be a problem and there wasn’t even a floor plan to help us find our way. Lots of temporary signage though, which looked very cheap indeed. To be fair, I found the airside departure area to be much better than the rest of the terminal.
traditional Sala Thai
The airside looked more like a posh shopping mall than an airport, with its huge duty free shopping area and nice-looking restaurants/bars.
I proceeded to gate D4 at around 17.55. Long lines at the security checkpoint, where everyone seemed to set off the metal detectors.
9V-SRI would be taking me back to SIN
The gate lounge was incredibly small, there weren’t enough seats and we had a full flight, so a lot of people were standing or sitting on the floor. It was also ridiculously dark as well. The sun was just beginning to set and it was getting dark quite fast, yet somehow the gate lounge stayed very dim.
small and dark gate lounge
The flight had originated from KIX and arrived slightly late, so boarding didn’t start until 18.10. The flight was packed, mostly with passengers from KIX. Unfortunately my camera battery had run out juice and foolishly I had packed the spare one on my checked bag, so there won’t be anymore pics. Sorry!
My seat was 50A, the window of a two-seater at the last row of the forward Economy section. The aircraft was immaculate and the legroom was miles better compared to the 744.
Doors were closed at 18.30 and we pushed back only 3 minutes late at 18.33. Announcements were made by the Leading Steward, which was a first for me. Never once had I been on a SQ flight where a male member of the crew made the announcements. There was a long wait for take-off and we were finally airborne at 19.03 from runway 01L for the two-hour hop down to SIN.
It took quite a while before I was served dinner, with the main course choice of Chicken with Potato or Thai-style Fish Cake with Rice. I chose the fish cake, which was a bit tasteless. Included in the meal were Pasta Salad with Tuna and a Thai-style Tapioca Pudding (yum!) for dessert. I was expecting something Japanese, but overall the meal wasn’t bad. Had a Tiger Beer to go with the meal again. Drinks were offered twice.
Excellent service from the crew. Had a young Japanese crew serving in our aisle and she was quite slow but couldn’t stop smiling and a Singaporean one who seemingly always added “as well” at the end of every sentence
There was no AVOD on this aircraft so I didn’t bother with the IFE, preferring instead to take a quick nap after dinner was cleared. In no time, we started our descent into Changi. An approach for 02C saw us flying down south before turning back to line up with the runway. Those seated on the left hand side were rewarded with some impressive views of the downtown skyline. We landed at 22.03 and after a very quick taxi, docked at gate F33 at 22.06. Thanks to Changi’s efficiency, I was on the cab home by 22.30.
Overall, SQ didn’t disappoint. While not perfect by any means, I admire how they can be consistently consistent in delivering an enjoyable in-flight experience, even on the shortest of flights. These were my fifth and sixth regional hops aboard SQ in the space of three weeks, and apart from the mediocre crew on a SIN-CGK leg, I received nothing but consistent outstanding service that exceeded my expectations.
Thank you for reading, hopefully it was a good read, and as always, comments are always appreciated.