As usually is the case, after finishing another year of University in Australia, it was time for me to fly back to Sweden to spend the holidays with my parents and family. Since my flight had a layover in Bangkok, I decided to meet up with some friends already in Bangkok and travel a bit around Southeast Asia. I arrived in Bangkok on the 22nd of November and had until the 3rd of December to travel a bit through the region. My initial itinerary was set to start in Bangkok and then travel by land to Siem Reap in Cambodia, followed by the country's capital, Phnom Penh. From there on I would fly back to Bangkok on an already booked flight with Air Asia and after that, I would take another Air Asia flight down to Phuket. However, due to the protests in Bangkok, that never became the case. Nevertheless, our trip ended up being much more exiting than it would have ever been if our initial Itinerary would not have been modified. This trip was full of adventure followed by a failure which turned out to be a success.
November 21, 2008
Since there was a big storm on my birthday which was on the 20th of November, I ended up celebrating it the following day, right before heading off for the airport. My friends met up with me at a bar on Queen Street Mall in Brisbane CBD at around 19:00. I had made up my mind to take it easy that night since my flight to Bangkok would be leaving in the next 5 hours. Well, obviously peer pressure, followed my the generosity of my friends in buying me drinks that night, lead me to become quite tipsy. After hanging around there for a while, I noticed that it was already 21:00. I politely told everyone that it was time for me to go and with the help of a good friend of mine, we made it to the airport at around 22:45. Surprisingly, there was still a long queue for TG
992 to BKK
which gave me a sense of relief. While checking in, I requested a window seat but the lady told me that the seats for that specific flight could not be changed. I did try to check it online earlier that day however, but for some reason I could not get through to the system. Anyways, I got my boarding card and was disappointed by seeing seat no. 62C. This would end up being quite favourable however.......
Scheduled departure time: 2359 (0040 actual)
Scheduled landing time: 0610 (0615 actual)
Seat no: 62C
Aircraft: B777-3D7 Reg: HS
PAX: 95% full
Boarding started from gate 79 at around midnight. As usual I waited until everyone got onboard before I made my way into the air bridge. For some reason I don't understand why some people stress over getting into the airplane quicker. One thing that really does irritate me is when they call out for first and business class passengers, or families travelling with children, and random people just ignore that and try to make their way in anyways. As a result, they delay the flight even more and irritate everyone else. I personally know that I have my seat confirmed, so I just sit down and take it easy until the line gets shorter.
Once I was onboard after being greeted by the friendly Thai cabin crew, I slowly managed to reach my seat, located a few rows after door 4L. As I stated before, I was disappointed for not having received a window seat, but after seeing that there wasn't a seat in front of me, I was more than satisfied and enjoyed the endless legroom.
Thai's 773 economy seat configuration consists of 3-3-3 layout, although side rows 60 and 61, which are located next to the galley, have 2 seats (one window, one aisle), hence my luck.
Another interesting feature of Thai's 773 is the PTVs in the economy section. If I am not mistaken, this is a recent addition to Thai's fleet of 6 773s, on top of upgrading the business class seats.
Dinner was served a few minutes after reaching our cruising altitude. The two choices were roast chicken thigh, baby potato green bean, carrot and tomato
or lamb tagine with apricot basmati rice, and masala cauliflower.
I went for the lamb...delicious (9 out of 10)
The following seven hours of the flight went quite smoothly despite little turbulence around the Northern Territories. To pass the time, I chose to watch "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (5 out of 10), courtesy of Thai's 773 video on demand. Other than that, I dozed on and off and hung around at the galley section, sharing travelling experiences with random but interesting people.
The last serving, or breakfast, was served during the usual one hour and forty minutes before landing. One could choose either the scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon potato and mushroom
, or stir-fried rice noodles, prawns with black bean sauce choy sum
. I went for the eggs and potato.....(7 out of 10). Bread and croissant followed shortly after.
Before I knew it, we started our descent into Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport. The touchdown was smooth and the revers thrusts were barely heard. This always seems to be the case whenever I fly the 777, don't know why....
a few days before the protests...
I truly enjoyed this flight as a result of having the best aisle seat in the house and the fact that I had 2 great weeks to look forward too (little did I know that I would soon become a "victim" of the protests). In addition, this was the first time I had experienced flying Thai 773 on this route since not long ago, Thai used to operate the 744 to BNE
. I think MS
have also switched from the 744 to 777.
We took a taxi (400 baht = 8 dollars) to our hostel in the vicinity of Siam Square and started planning our trip. Early next morning we would take a van to the Thai/Cambodian border and from there we would make our way to Siem Reap and Angkor.
After seeing everything Siem Reap and Angkor had to offer (amazing), we went by bus down to the capital Phnom Penh, where we would then fly to Bangkok and from there to Phuket. Obviously that was never the case and we officially concluded to be "stranded" in Cambodia.
However, this favoured us as we decided to keep on travelling through Cambodia and I doubt that I would have had as much fun in Phuket than the places I visited in Cambodia. The people were so friendly and helpful (sometimes annoying), the beer was ridiculously cheap, the women were fun, and not to mention the number of friends I made.
After a while though, we decided that it was time for us to go back to Bangkok by any means possible as we had to try to fix our trip home somehow. As a result, we took a 15 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Bangkok and wasted no time in trying to get our trip in order. In the meantime, we were living large as the Thai Government was more than generous in allocating us to a 4 or 5 star hotel (Twin Towers) and offering us food 3 times a day down at the wonderful buffet. A paid vacation! What more could I ask for? I saw this as a blessing more than anything else and I did not hesitate one bit into taking advantage of this wonderful situation, even though I knew these events meant a great blow to Thailand's economy, but what else was I supposed to do? Furthermore, the nightlife in Bangkok is just amazing and the beers kept on coming!
Twin Towers Hotel (courtesy of the Thai Government)...
As pleasant as all of this was, we still had to try to get a flight to Sweden as soon as possible. For that very reason, we went to Thai's head office in Bangkok to see what choices we had (if any)...
Thai had resumed flights with operations from UTP (U-Tapao) and HKT
(Phuket). After a long meeting with one of the agents, we managed to book a flight leaving from HKT
on the 4th of December at 00:25 local time. At that moment, it was the 2nd of December and I felt that I wanted to stay in Bangkok longer and didn't mind to be on a standby list for BKK
, but all my friends wanted to go home and since I did not want to separate myself from the group, I decided to tag along with them. Before leaving though, I had to set things straight with Air Asia as we had lost 3 flights with them. After visiting one of their branches, I was surprised by their flexibility in refunding all passengers. The conclusion was that I would be fully refunded to my credit card within 30 days...
With one more night to spare in Bangkok, we all tried to make the best of what the city's nightlife had to offer for one last time. We had booked a taxi (mini van) for 03:00 on December 3 so that we would be in Phuket at around 13:00 (12 hours before our flight), just to be on the safe side. Before heading off to the bars, we turned on the news and found out that the national court had ruled to overthrow the prime minister. As a result, the protestors started moving out from the airport and it was estimated that BKK
would be up and running the very next day. This worried me a bit since I did not want this to be a reason for the HKT
flight to be cancelled once we were on our way down to Phuket. So, I called the airline and they confirmed that HKT
would operate regardless of the status of BKK
. We were all then relieved and headed out to the city to finish our last night in style..
We then made it back in time for the taxi and at 03:00 sharp, we hit the road to Phuket. The ride took exactly 10 hours and as we all were relatively "tipsy", the trip seemed to take far less than that.
We are very bad actors by the way..here we are pretending to be asleep...
December 4, 2008
Scheduled departure time: 0025 (0115 actual)
Scheduled arrival time: 0605 (0635 actual)
Seat no. 41K
Aircraft: B747-4D7 Reg: HS
PAX: 100% full
Boarding started just after the scheduled departure time and I was surprised to notice that we would be taken to the aircraft by bus. This is the most exiting way to board an aircraft in my book. The smell of jet fuel, sound of APU, standing below that huge wing, etc. On my way to the aircraft, I had the pleasure of seeing many interesting aircraft that usually are not spotted in Phuket. Some of these were SK
A343, AY A343 and QF
This time I did manage to get a window seat (41K), although it really was pitch dark outside and Thai has a tendency to keep the cabin fairly illuminated during take off and landing, so I apologize for the lack of window views. One thing I did notice about these seats in contrast to the 773 is that they recline a fair bit more in the 744, and for some reason it just feels much more comfortable. The only negative thing about Thai's 744s in my opinion is the absence of PTVs. Other than that, I do prefer the 744 more than the 773 and the legroom is extremely generous as well....
Push back, taxi and take off occurred in an eye blink and at exactly 01:15 we were airborne bound for Stockholm. I noticed that we were extremely heavy as the aircraft kept its brakes on for a fair bit before releasing them at take off thrust. Flap settings were at 20 if I saw correctly and the take off run was quite long, followed by a very gradual climb rate. Apparently I was very tired since I fell asleep almost immediately after take off and was woken up for dinner about one hour later.
I went for the curry and it tasted much better than it looked like (10 out of 10).
Breakfast (7 out of 10)...
5 minutes before starting our descent, the captain greeted the passengers and announced that we would soon start our descent into ARN
. He joked by saying that the weather was the complete opposite from the one in Phuket. Cloudy skies with a cloud base as low as 200ft, low visibility and light snow showers (auto land perhaps?). The temperature at the time was 1 degree Celsius.
The descent and approach was nicely accompanied by classic music in the background although I could not see a thing until we were right over the threshold of runway 01L. The landing itself was quite hard for my standards (but then again, I am quite picky), although it was a fairly good one considering the conditions outside.
Overall, I must admit that every time I fly Thai, I am left with a happy face. In spite of the lack of upgrading certain areas on many of their aircraft, I believe that Thai is best for its friendliness and excellent service. The food is just amazing and the quantity is very abundant. In Bangkok, everyone tried to help us so that we would get home on time. Over 100,000 tourists were stranded in Thailand due to these protests, and we were one of the very few to have the luck to get a seat so early. Many of the people I met in Southeast Asia are still stranded in Thailand and god knows when they will get to go home. We were initially supposed to leave on the 3rd of December and we got to go home the very next day, while many of the people who have waited longer than us are still stuck. To be 100% honest, I would do anything to change places with any of the stranded people. Free hotel, free food, allowance, more vacations.....why not? But what is done is done and I am very grateful to Thai for being so helpful regardless of all the problems and the late hours their staff was facing. Finally, I would like to say that due to these protests, I received much better vacations than I had initially planned and it will definitely not be my last time in Cambodia and Thailand!
[Edited 2008-12-07 09:28:23]
[Edited 2008-12-07 09:30:43]
[Edited 2008-12-07 09:31:56]