Airlines: TG, CX and IT
QF First and Business lounge at BKK;
CX Lounge at BKK and
Clipper Lounge (IT) at BOM Domestic
Total Travel Time (including ferry): 28hrs
I am currently on a sabbatical. Since I had already flown around the world a couple of times in a hurry I decided to do it somewhat more relaxed this time. I took 5 months off and packed my bag. Yes ladies, you can live out of one carry on for 5 months. Having already visited Australia and Thailand it was now time to leave my new favorite place in the world (Koh Phangan) and travel to Goa.
When I originally booked this itinerary the flight from BKK to BOM was a day flight. However, far along in the planning phase CX decided to change the flight time to leave at the ungodly hour of 01:55AM and arriving at the even worse time of 03:55AM. For a moment I thought about skipping India altogether, but that would have upset my India colleagues. Since I had already booked IT for the BOM-GOI flight I needed to wait for 8 hours at BOM since the first flight left at 12:50PM.
GETTING TO BKK
Load: 100% in J and Y
17:50 – 18:55
Actual: 18:05 – 18:50
The first part of the trip was about getting to BKK. I had two choices; take the 11AM ferry out of Koh Phangan and spend 5 hours at the USM airport or take the 4PM ferry and pray to be on time for my 17:50 flight to BKK. I decided on the former, having established that nothing in Thailand is run by the Swiss or Japanese. If in a similar situation I can only advise you to do the same. The ferry was fashionably late (45 minutes) and the evening ferry fared no better I heard later.
Not a bad place to wait though
View from the ferry terminal at Koh Phangan
The ferry was a modern catamaran with a maximum load capacity of 340 pax. This of course meant that about 700 where on board.
Leaving the docks
I love to travel by boat. I took about 25 minutes for us to reach our destination. A ‘harbor’ on Koh Samui.
Since it was loaded way, way beyond capacity it took quite a while for all the passengers got off and onto the busses. My bus for the airport was, fortunately, one of the first to go.
Now you may wonder why, if I have 5 hours or so to spend, I would choose to do this at the airport instead of going into town or something. Good question with two answers. First of all after spending 4 weeks on the islands I did not feel I had to squeeze every drop out of the experience and secondly I heard that USM is actually one of the nicest airports in the world to spend some time. That turned out to be true.
There is a sort of shopping boulevard there with some nice eateries.
Not a bad place to hang around for a bit. This is the front of the Spa. I had a nice 60 minute massage for less than $25,-. Expensive for Thailand but cheap for an airport.
The airport has 6 ‘terminals’ or gates but it all looks rather more like a hotel than an airport. Security wasn’t too strict either.
Gotta love the Main Gate!
Beyond security there are a lot of waiting areas. Although I flew business class I had no lounge access. TG does not have lounges at USM. Bangkok Airways does, but nobody would use them. The waiting areas at USM are far better than many lounges I have been to!
Yes, these seats have a view of the runway! The one on the right is mine.
The (relatively) busy schedule for the day
Some shots of the runway. They are not too good due to severe backlight.
Time flew by (pun intended) and it was time to board my flight. We were about 15 minutes late, but we would make that up in the air.
Once again we were loaded on the nicest airport buses ever and driven to our plane. Along the way I took some pictures.
Here is our ‘chump’…
A good place to make any plane look good.
I had snagged seat 11A (that is where they start numbering) this time and was secretly hoping the seat next to me would remain free. It may be business class but it isn’t that roomy.
Yeah, I know. But it is really about the legroom of the seats. Really! At the very last minute a passenger turned up in the seat next to me. I immediately realized by the passport that it was a fellow Dutchman. A very nice guy indeed. We started chatting and I forgot about taking pictures of meals etc. Nothing impressive anyways on this 45 minute flight. At BKK we said our goodbyes as I had to take the flight connection route. It is real easy to get to the departure area from arrivals in BKK. Took me 15 minutes, not counting the 20 minute wait at the transfer desk to get my boarding pass for BOM-BKK. I was behind 3 DYKWIA passengers demanding to be upgraded or something. I quickly phased out. I had ample time. My flight did not leave until 01:55…
BANGKOK TO MUMBAI
Load: about 20% in J
Actual: 02:30 – 04:20
Although the kind lady at the CX transfer desk handed my an invitation to the CX lounge I decided to go for the Quantas lounge instead. Security was quick and I headed upstairs to Concourse G where both the CX and QF lounges are. Side by side in fact. Being a nosy sort of fellow I decided to have a quick peek in the CX lounge first. There was nobody at the desk and I wondered around for 2 minutes before leaving for the QF lounge without anybody bothering me. Not so secure.
I banged into the door of the First Class lounge since that was closed. I made a quick 180 and found that the J class lounge was open. The lounge attendant told me that the First class lounge only opens at 20:30. I decided to wait for that to take a shower. Here are some pictures of the QF business lounge.
A very nice lounge I must say. I had some small snacks and waited for the First lounge to open so I could get a nice shower. After 25 minutes or so I moved and immediately went for the nice showers. Pictures are in my other trip report on my LHR-SYD flight.
I needed to get some stuff done at BKK. I wanted to find a hairdresser, I needed swimming goggles, I needed my sunglasses and watch bracelet fixed and I needed a baseball cap. After 1,5 hours of meandering through the airport I managed to get a baseball cap. All the other things: no go. Not too many good shops or services at BKK I decided. Hell of a walk too.
On my way back to the lounge I went downstairs instead of upstairs. This is very, very stupid since you are now at arrivals again. They did not put up warning signs so if you left your boarding pass in the lounge you are in deep, deep trouble. Luckily I had everything with me so I went to security again (very quick) and up to Level 3 where the lounges are. I had another 2 hours to kill so I watched a movie on my laptop and then decided it was time to move to the CX lounge.
This time the lounge attendants were at their post and welcomed me to the lounge. “You do boarding calls?” I inquired. “Yes sir, of course”. You know where this is going, don’t you?
The lounge is a pretty average lounge if you ask me. Nothing special and hardly any food options.
The food section
I only had about half an hour to wait so I wasn’t to bothered. After about half an hour I decided to check if the plane was delayed, only to find out that it was on final boarding call. Not quite sure who was wrong (probably me) because upon arrival at the gate boarding had not even started yet… It started within 2 minutes of my arrival however and was surprisingly orderly, given the destination.
This flight originates in HKG so there are already passengers on board. By the state they were in (sleeping mostly) they do not need to disembark here. By the state of the cabin they also do not clean the plane here. What a mess! Really one of the shabbiest J class cabins I have ever seen. It was pretty old and in a bad state of repair.
Old style seats. I like them better than the herringbone coffins though…
We were a bit late but I did not mind. In fact, the later the better since I still had no idea how to pass the time in BOM. The crew made a very uninterested and tired impression. They took forever preparing the cabin and could not decide how to handle the sleeping mother and daughter in the middle row next to me, without seatbelts and the chairs in sleep mode. The purser even made a gesture like “never mind, let them sleep” but one of the cabin crew protested (!). Eventually the two of them struggled to strap them in and erect the seat without waking them up. A nice gesture but still…
Taxiing for departure
As soon as the wheels left the ground I put in my ear plugs and put on my sleeping mask. I needed as much sleep as possible. I managed about two hours (give or take) and I have little recollection of this flight. I asked for a bottle of water before I dozed off and found a 1,5 liter bottle in the seat next to me a little later. I had no food. By the way, the seats are not the best for sleeping in.
Touchdown in BOM was a mess. One of the sloppiest landings I ever had. Swaying from side to side it seemed like he had trouble keeping it on the runway. Maybe the approach became unstable at the last moment. Ah well, I will never know and at least it wakes you up! A very appropriate way to arrive in India, where nothing ever goes quite as it should.
BOMBAY TO GOA
Load: 100% in Y, 20% in F.
12:50 – 13:50
Actual: 13:40 – 14:30
This part of the whole RTW trip I dreaded most of all. I had heard the most horrible stories about BOM and the transfer to domestic. “Get a hotel!” was what everybody said. However, I anticipated a possible delay coming in would leave me with under 5 hours to spend at a hotel which on average costs $200. I had decided to gamble.
Myth 1: Arrival takes forever
Although India in my book is synonymous to chaos arrival at BOM was pretty smooth. It took less than 20 minutes from plane to baggage claim. I don’t do baggage so I have no idea how long it took for them to arrive.
Myth 2: Terminal transfer is hard
Well, it is quite simple actually. You turn right instead of left after customs and you arrive in a nice waiting area for the bus.
They even have some really nice guys who help you out.
Of course they want to be “compensated” afterwards, but you can decide not to. I just promised to put their picture on a.net…
The bus is a regular touring bus and it can be very busy. Also a lot of Indians do not travel a lot so they can be a bit confused. That is sometimes very hilarious, especially if a bus makes multiple stops, like this one. I flew Kingfisher, so I needed to get off at Terminal 1A which is (naturally) the second stop after 1B.
Myth 3: BOM Domestic is terrible
I was way too early and IT does not allow you to check in until 4 hours before your flight. Luckily the lounge at Domestic terminal 1A is before security (land side) so I could wait there. I had fallen victim to the OptionTown scam so my upgrade did not materialize. They now put it on their website clearly but at the time I booked mine it was not there: OptionTown only works for the most expensive booking classes at Kingfisher. These are often about as expensive as discounted J. This KL/AF style ‘upgrading’ makes me even more sure they will enter Skyteam at some point. Of course OptionTown reimbursed the upgrade fee but they kept the 3 euro sign on fee.
The Clipper Lounge is also accessible through payment (Rp300 or 5 euro) since it is both the Kingfisher and the Oberoi lounge, so I went there anyways. There was a very charming and attractive lady on duty and I decided to try and charm my way into Kingfisher First. No luck but she was extremely nice and helpful. She checked me in (so I would not have to stand in line) and promised to wake me up in time. In fact, she was helping out everyone in the lounge, checking to see if they weren’t on the upcoming flight etc. Real service oriented. Unfortunately the mainly India pax treated her as a servant and ignored her with a disdain I have so far only seen in this country. Possibly a leftover from the kaste system. She gave me her mail address and I hope she can help me out with some other stuff regarding the flight back. We will see.
The lounge itself is not too bad. Not a place you want to spend about 6 hours in, like I did.
My little corner of the Kingfisher world
This is how you feel at this point in the trip!
After what can only be described as a very tiring rest (no sleep, too noisy, too bright) I decided to head to the gate to see the terminal. It was nicer than expected but not too many shops or eateries. Still, better than most Indian airports.
I waited at the gate they announced, printed on my boarding pass etc until 12:50. Only then did they announce a gate change. That meant back up the stairs with all my bags and a lot of now even more nervous travelers. I also meant a change from a bus gate to a bridge gate. That was an improvement.
Once again a lot of pax were now totally confused and they tried to open doors that lead into secure areas and they were told of by the airport staff. I can never understand how Indians can be so rude to each other. According to my team in Bangalore it has a lot to do with the ways of old. This is a country where there is still a group of people who are called ‘untouchables’ and that means exactly what it means.
Boarding was swift. As always a lot of wheelchairs but we entered the plane only 20 minutes late.
This is where I want to be.
Hopefully I can get it on the way back. Not too important though. It is a very short flight.
IT economy is very tight however. I am rather larger than the average Indian…
Very tight (I am 1,96m tall)
I was surprised to find an entertainment system on this narrow body. It features live TV. About 20 channels. On board. Cool.
Air India, now rescued
At this point my camera battery died and I could not move, let alone get my backpack from the bins to get another camera. Suffice it to say that the catering wasn’t half bad (hot dish, rice with something not entirely unlike meat), the FA’s were charming and the pax in front of me was a bloody prick. During the entire flight he kept trying to move his seat back and there was just no way. I told him that it wasn’t going to work but he ignored me. For future reference: on KT seatmaps row 15 shows as an exit row on the A320. It is not. They just leave out row 13 and 14 (the real exit rows) because they only assign them last minute. Best row is row 11, first row of Y.
At GOI I quickly got a taxi (fixed price) for the most dangerous part of the trip. Believe me, you haven’t lived until you have ridden with an India cabby! Having worked a lot in Bangalore I am used to it but this guy even scared himself sometimes.
I am safe and sound in my resort in Carvelossim. The crowd is a mixture between Coronation Street and Moscow. Nothing in between. Not the best choice I made so far but the weather is nice and the beach is lovely!
As always, comments, critiques and signs of life are always appreciated.
Next trip: GOI-BOM-HKG-DPS, starting Feb 26.
[Edited 2010-02-21 02:55:41]