Sunday October 14th 2012
I am finally heading to the place that I hope will let me heal my heart and contemplate what the future holds for me, Koh Phangan, Thailand. I was last in Thailand with a friend in 2001 for Christmas vacation when we taught in Seoul. It will be interesting to return.
My flight was at 9am and I had thought this was a fairly decent hour, needing to be at the airport at 7am. However, I forgot to take into account the 1hr bus ride from Seoul to Incheon Airport, also wake and get ready time (luckily for me that’s about 10min). I got up at 5.30am, got dressed, Jamie walked me to the taxi and was on the bus at 6.02am. Not bad timing if you ask me. I had no issues at the airport, unless you count the rather humbling experience of trying to pull a baggage cart away from another, I just grumbled and moved to another one that was much happier to oblige me. All my fears of baggage weights proved unfounded and I was well within the limits I had paid for. I checked most of my scuba equipment except for the more expensive and sensitive regulator and computer, which of course were suspicious going through security scan. Although the only thing they asked me was if I had a dive knife… I would hope not in my carry on luggage, I just smiled sweetly and said no and they barely checked to make sure I was telling the truth.
At check in I was told to take the train to gate 106 and it would take 30min, I assumed that the airport had grown a bit since the last time I flew out of here. But after barely 3min of talking to a very chatty businessman who was heading to China to ship silica, we arrived at the gate. At first I thought it was one of many stops but then realised EVERYONE was getting out. Guess the check in lady had mispoke.
I love watching people in airports and ever since we entered the train I was bemused by the bleach blonde or wigged, serious high heel platform shoed version of what seemed like the Korean Lady Gaga. You just couldn’t help but stare.
With 2 hours and 10,000won I bought an ice coffee and skyped the folks. I wanted to exchange my leftover won and hoped to use my debit card to get $100 worth of Thai Baht. But they wouldn’t accept it, cash only. So I dug out the $20 I had saved and used that along with my remaining change of Korean won. I managed to get 590 baht which would cover the taxi in Bangkok tonight and the one in the morning right back to the airport.
Air Asia – Flight 1
Air Asia has really cheap flights, but you pay for everything from checked baggage, to meals, to seats, to entertainment. The good thing about this is that you can design your trip how you want it, you can also add something like a meal during the flight, it’s just a little more expensive. Usually I don’t book seats and just see where they put me, but for some reason I decided to book these flights.
It paid off and I managed a whole row, where I quickly spread out to prevent anyone else getting the idea of moving to one of the empty seats. Sometimes self preservation and being able to stretch out during a flight is more important.
I guess I couldn’t have it all perfect, a full row to sleep, airline food that was actually food and good, tv on my computer…. and an aircon system in the plane that was bordering on schizophrenic. Blasts of freezing air every 10min, then lull you into a false sense of security of comfort and just as you get comfy…another blast of arctic wind. After the one flight attendant saw me turning blue and teeth chattering for the 3rd time they finally got it sorted. Maybe they were just trying to convince folks to buy the “Comfort Pack” which includes a pillow, eye mask and a BLANKET!!!
Arrival Kuala Lumpur
I had a 3hr layover in KL, and it was a balmy 33C, which is the warmest I have felt in over a year. I stripped off jackets and hats and boots in preparation and just as well as the airport’s airconditioning involved open doors and windows.
I was meant to go to the transfer “lounge” but got caught up in the masses and discovered myself in immigration. After some confusion I figured out that the sign was telling me to U-turn back down the stairs and not go round the corner. The entrance to the transfer was a door I had walked passed and had a huge sign announcing what it was… oh well, I blame lack of coffee (you had to pay for that).
In true customer service style there were 3 desks open… but only 1 for about 10 country destinations including mine, so there was a good 30min wait and shuffle, wait and shuffle. But people watching was hilarious. The high maintenance Korean girl wearing ridiculously high wedges and blue stripey socks and nearly breaking her ankle with every step was there. She was having a tiff with her boyfriend/husband, and throwing things on the floor in grand temper tantrum style, I was waiting for her to start stomping her feet, she already had the pout going.
By the time I got through the counter I only had a 2 hr wait. I needed to charge my computer so hunted down a power station, the only one in the whole place. Then realised I had packed my adaptor in my checked luggage. Luckily found one at the bookstore. Plugged in and sat on the floor watching one of my miniseries. Of course, people kept bumping my plug and losing power, and every time I tried to reach across the table to plug it back in, very helpful folks unplugged it for me thinking I wanted to leave. After the 4th time I just took the plug and went to the loo. When I came back I went to the other side of the power station and a plug point I could reach. Started chatting with an American girl, and she watched my computer as I searched, in failure for a water fountain, apparently you need to buy water in this airport.
The Boarding Game
I have taken a flight from this airport before and remember the sheer confusion as multiple destinations are checked through the same gate and you all, en masse, head for a variety of planes and just hope you end up on the right one.
This time was even more amusing as there were streams of people coming off planes and streams heading to planes. You kind of criss cross, look confused, point in one direction, get a nod, head that way, board a plane and hope it’s the right one. Luckily the flight attendants are quite good at checking tickets.
I was surprised when the attendant suddenly called my name and handed over some roast chicken I had pre-ordered. Completely forgot I had got it. My seat mate was Thai and we had a great chat about things, well “great” with limited English. This time the food was not so good and there was a lot of gristle on the chicken and just not that good flavor wise. Oh well can’t win every time.
I got into Bangkok around 8pm, and had been traveling for close to 16hrs. I managed to get my bags, some money and then went to line up outside in exceptionally hot and muggy weather, waiting for a taxi. Once I got my taxi I showed him the name of my hotel, of course he didn’t know it, but luckily I had taken all the information I could including the phone number, and he called to find directions. He was a very chatty driver and told me to be sure to get an early start touring as my area got very backlogged with traffic by 7am in the morning. I said no worries as I had to leave at 5.30am for my 7am flight.
Finally arriving, actually it was barely 5min, I went into reception and discovered the 2 guys spoke NO English. We managed to get me checked in and they called one of the other staff with English to come and get some info from me. She also helped me get a sim card for my phone, and the wifi code and promised she would be on duty in the morning at 5am to get me a taxi. Finally making it to the room, I collapsed after a shower and a quick message home to say I had arrived. The bed was as hard as a rock, but I didn’t care. All I wanted was the 6hrs of sleep I had before I had to wake up for my last flight, and bus and ferry to Koh Phangan….