Heading home

All good things etc. I’m sat at the HQ Hostel in Bangkok just wearing down the time before I have to head for Suvarnabhumi Airport. I get free wifi here, whereas the airport only allows 15 minutes of it. After you’ve checked in. Which I can’t do till after 5am.

Given the poor weather outside, I’ve decided to fork out for a taxi instead of getting the somewhat untimetabled Airport Express bus. Past experience tells me I could be standing around for up to an hour waiting for the next one.

The next time I come here, there will be a direct link on the BTS. It’s finally due to open in August 2010, though there’s no indication of the prices. Only that there’s an express service of around 15 mins and a “regular” service taking slightly over 30 minutes. Certainly one option to keep an eye on.

Well, time to pack up. And throw away these incredibly stinky sandals. My feet will be much relieved at that one. Next post from back in Blighty.

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Flitting through Bangkok

Last night got messy. I made the mistake of volunteering to lead a group of people up to Finnigan’s where I then made the mistake of telling Pete the barkeep that it was my last night. I was then presented with a cocktail in a flower vase. No exaggeration.

As I came close to finishing it, I then got a panicked phone call from the hostel asking me to gather my stuff and shift to another room as there’d been a double booking and someone else was supposed to be in my bed. I tootled back and shifted, but had to bang on the door of my new dorm as the folk in there had decided to lock it. A bit pointless when they’re actually in the room, and annoying as I didn’t have a key. I explained this to them, and that I’d not be able to get in if they locked the door.

Back at Finnigan’s, I rescued my cocktail and was then given another about a pint in size. And another. Into which Pete kept dropping more shots. We then had more shots.

On a sad note, the shots were raised to a friend’s father who died earlier this week, so the case was reviewed by a wrongful death attorney New York to check the circumstances of this. I promised her I’d have his name honoured by people in Hanoi, and I was true to my word.

As the group started to split up around 2am, I headed back to the hostel and found that I was locked out of the room because the muppets inside had locked the door again. So I rattled the handle and then resorted to kicking it. Repeatedly. And loudly.

Hey, well. I had told them I didn’t have a key and it was obvious I wasn’t in the flipping room.

I was out like a light and woke what seemed like 3 minutes later to my 6am alarm. I gathered my stuff, packed what little remained (outside the room so as not to disturb everyone else) and made my way down to find that my taxi wasn’t waiting for me.

This worked out well, as two American girls had missed their taxi as they had opted to spend the night with a couple of the guys they met in Finnigan’s… The hostel had paid for my cab so I ushered them in when it turned up.

The flight was uneventful other than being a budget one with comfy seats (Ryanair could learn a few things from AirAsia – like how not to be crap and treat your customers like garbage) and we landed in Bangkok just before 11am. The border security was as slow and painful as it always seems to be at Suvarnabhumi airport, though it timed well with the luggage surfacing.

So here I sit with no wifi (come on, Bangkok! Get with the 21st century!) waiting for my bus to Pattaya. I intend to spend the afternoon and evening watching stuff at the nearest cinema to my guest house!

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Bangkok Airport to Pattaya

[quick note – I’ve updated the tagline quote for the blog for the first time in almost 4 years. This is in (slightly belated) honour of Towel Day]

I had some great help from people on Lonely Planet‘s Thorn Tree forum regarding buses from Suvarnabhumi Airport, and it’s very easy. My main concerns were over transportation during the recent unrest, but now things seem to be back to normal.

To get to Pattaya, it’s actually cheaper than getting into the city of Bangkok. I went for the stand next to the Airport Express on level one, near exit 7. Very easy to find. There’s a service every two hours from 7am to 7pm at a cost of 124 Baht.

The alternative is Bell Travel Service who run every 2 hours from 8am to 8pm and charge 200 Baht. This included drop-off right at your hotel, so it could be worth the extra if you don’t fancy a walk. However, you do have to book this service in advance on the internet, although you aren’t charged until you turn up. I gather this is a recent thing, so again could be due to the recent problems.

The weather here sucks at the moment. It’s just gone midday and it’s drizzling – I just missed it chucking down. Having said that, I’m not a beach bunny and I’m here for the diving and the chill-out away from any issues in the city… although I’m still tempted to head back into Bangkok on Thursday night.

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Back in Bangkok. Briefly.

A flag of Thailand on the top of a pole.

Thailand. Again!

Not a bad journey here. I’d happily recommend Etihad – comfy planes, great staff, good food, decent legroom and a wide range of things to watch on the seat-back TVs. If I have a complaint, it’s that the trivia quiz game had too many American football questions in it. And that the flight times mean I was flying during the day instead of at night as i usually do so my sleep’ll be a bit whacky.

So here I sit in the bus station just outside Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. This is – as far as I could determine – the cheapest way to get to Trat (or Trad, or Tart – depends on which sign you read) near the Cambodian border.

My flight landed early, which was nice, but there was the usual delay at immigration. I didn’t have a hotel name on my immigration card but there were no problems when I explained I was transitting to Cambodia. To get to the bus station, it was a walk outside to where the Airport Express runs from, but a short walk past them to the end of the concourse (bear left when exiting the terminal one floor below where arrivals come out). There’s a shuttle bus every few minutes which I think is meant to cost 10 baht, but I paid 20. Hey ho.

Ignore the bus timetables posted at the station. According to them, the next bus to Trat was around lunchtime. An alternative was getting the 10:10 to Chanthaburi then hopping on a local bus for the 90 minute ride south.

However, when I asked the smiley and helpful young lady behind the counter, she informed me that the next Trat (city, not ferry) bus was actually at 9:10 (90 minutes wait) and 248 baht (around six British Pounds). I should arrive in Trat around 16:20. I asked and was told that the journey is non-stop so I’m going to pick up some drinks and munchies. Having said that, I’d be genuinely surprised if there’s not at least one stop along the way. I’ll likely sleep for most of the trip anyway. Especially as, once I finish my book, I’ve got nothing to do courtesy of the thieving toerag in Kuala Lumpur last year who stole my PSP. I hope you get cancer, you filthy lowlife.

So I have an hour to kill and I discovered a free wi-fi connection. If you’re ever here and need to check your mail, sit near stop number 3 and connect to “muek”. Now all I need is a power point…

Overall, a nice journey. The weather’s not looking great here. It’s warm but very humid and the sky is completely grey. I don’t know whether that will burn off or not as the sun rises. I’m hoping for better weather by the time I get near the coast.

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Big long hop

Well, I left you at Suvarnabhumi Airport, fortunately hitting “Publish” just before the free wi-fi connection dropped. It was a long flight, but I made it.

Things to note when making a long-haul journey. In fact, primarily… make sure you have enough stuff to do. I’d left my spare novel in my hold baggage so I started to worry what would happen if I finished the one I was reading. Fortunately, between snoozing and reading newspapers I managed to spin out the time.

I flew with FinnAir and they were OK. No individual screens for the videos, so EVA Airlines still wins my prize for best long-distance flight. A shame that was way back in 2006 and I’ve not had a comparable aeroplane since. It was a moderately filled flight, so I had a lot of room and the meals were as good as in-flight meals get.

There was one upset as we neared Helsinki after almost 10 hours of flying. One Thai gentleman a few rows behind got rather ill all of a sudden. Judging by the mass exodus of people from the seats around him, I think this may have involved a degree of “splosh”. Fortunately, the cabin crew saw to it swiftly and he was OK.

Other than that, I fell asleep during the recent Indiana Jones film though managed to suffer through Kit Kittredge though I don’t know how. Bad as Crystal Skull was, Kittredge was like a feature length episode of The Red Hand Gang. With hobos. And yet I couldn’t nod off to spare myself.

With my sanity barely intact, we landed at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport where I had a fairly painless swap onto my connecting flight. The only slowdown was the annoyingly thorough security check. Welcome to Europe. As is not uncommon, my laptop bag went through a second scan, I assume as it’s full of cables and stuff. I’ve still never been cautioned or queried about the half-empty toothpaste tube that’s always wedged in the front pocket.

It must be the only location in Finland where you can’t get free wi-fi although there are three companies competing for your cash to use a paid-for service. As ever, I didn’t even look at the pricing and just folded up my laptop and waited. Fortunately, due to some good scheduling, I only had an hour or so to wait for my flight to Dusseldorf. As far as airports go, it was OK, but nothing special. They start to look the same after a while.

Despite it only being a 2-hour flight I was fed a meal which was good as I’ve not bought a thing foodwise since I left my hostel in the morning. I also managed to cram in an hour’s sleep, waking just before we landed.

We touched down at Dusseldorf International at around 20:15 local time and I reckon my body was at around 23:00 with all the sleep I’d managed. Hopefully this would offset some of the jet lag. I had no immigration to deal with as I’d had my passport checked at Helsinki, so it was only a short delay before I picked up my rucksack and made my way to the connecting train station.

Here’s a hint – make sure you have change before buying a train ticket. The machines will only accept EC cards, 5- and 10-Euro notes and coins. The ATMs at the airport will only dish out 20-Euro bills. Fortunately, a woman behind me had two 10’s which she helpfully swapped.

An announcement came out over the tannoy which I didn’t understand. I did, however, pick up the body language of the other passengers – delay. Thankfully it was only ten minutes and by 22:00 I was stood outside Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhof waiting for Melanie (who I met at this year’s Graspop) to come and get me. A shame that Chris – my CouchSurfing host from last year – couldn’t make it.

With no further ado, she showed me to the hotel she’d sorted, I dumped my bags and went on the very important search for the bar area. Dusseldorf claims to be “Europe’s Biggest Bar” due to the number of alehouses in one small location, though I think Norris McWhirter would have had something to say about it.

Needless to say the only problem we had was picking one out of the variety of offer. Eventually we settled on an outdoors place with a very pretty barmaid and stared sinking the first of far too many “Alt”s. Two bars and much beer (and a few shooters) later, we staggered back to the hotel and crashed out.

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