Tuesday, May 08, 2007
One Day, Three Countries and Four Airports
My Southeast Asian adventure began with me standing in the chilly Kanazawa night waiting for the overnight bus to Osaka. While the bus was pretty comfortable, leg room was a problem, and I'm not even that tall! I still managed to catch a few hours of sleep, making the seven hour journey pass pretty quickly.
My Vietnam Airlines flight to Ho Chi Minh city left at 11:00, and I was very impressed with the service. The food was excellent. Let me repeat... the airline food was excellent. The standard of service was quite high, but I guess that's what happens when you have an airline run by the government of a country desperate for tourist dollars.
Arrival in HCMC was pretty interesting, for one there were anti-aircraft guns at the end of the runway! Thats not something you see everyday. As we taxied towards the terminal we passed a very decrepit looking military airbase with lots of rusty Soviet Helicopters and a few sad little prop planes.
We also taxied past the gorgeous new airport terminal that is not quite open yet! The plane stopped on the tarmac, so rather than tromping down the jetway we got to disembark into a couple of buses. I thought it was kind of fun to be at ground level, with the jet I had flown in on looming above.
My layover went pretty quickly, but as I didn't have any dong or dollars I couldn't do much but read and watch the Vietnamese equivalent of MTV with the Vietnamese equivalent of Jessica Simpson etc singing crazy pop tunes.
Then it was off to Bangkok, a short one hour jaunt to the brand new but not quite fully operational Suvarnabhumi Airport. The new Bangkok International has been plagued with problems since it opened in September 2006, but I have to admit it is an impressive piece of architecture. Though, the luggage claim system needs some work, I couldn't find my flight listed on the display board, and with some 20+ carousels to choose from, randomly searching was out too! Luckily a kindly employee pointed me in the right direction, and I was off to the check-in counter for my third and final flight of the day. Phew.
The Budget airline Thai Air Asia sold me my round trip from Bangkok to Phuket for under a hundred bucks, but you do get what you pay for. Not to say it was a bad flight, but they sure cut costs in a lot of ways. The boarding pass was a receipt, and the airliner was a flying bilboard for a solar power company, whose logo was also pasted onto each of the tray tables! It was also open seating, which was a new one for me. Kinda cool though, hello window seat, nice to see you today. Even though being a night flight, it didn't really do me much good.
And there we have it, 12 hours after I left Kansai, we touched down in hot and muggy Phuket. A couple hours later, I was sound asleep in my luxurious hotel room, just waiting to hit the beach!