Serpent Across the Mekong: Days Of The OK Family Here We Go! Let’s Enjoy Shopping For Your Exciting Life

Bangkok

With a little planned buffer time to kill, I headed down to the Magic Food Court down in Suvarnabhumi’s basement and had a perfectly acceptable (if hardly magical) meal of rice with pork leg stew — one of those ubiquitous Thai dishes that no tourist restaurant ever stocks, because the economics require a huge pot and dedication to serving this one dish alone. It’s fatty, it’s greasy, it melts in your mouth and it’s aroy maak maak. (And you don’t have to order the pig skin and intestines unless you want to.)

A good half hour ahead of time Z, having unintentionally abused her freshly minted Star Gold to go through Fast Track immigration, appeared fresh off her flight from Tokyo and we headed to the taxi queue. Our cabbie, smiling a little too toothily for comfort as we chattered away in the back seat, figured he could pull a fast one on us and he turned right (that is, to the east, towards Pattaya) at the junction from the airport to the Bang Na-Trat highway and then did a great big loop around the airport that padded the bill by a good 100 baht and added 30 min to our travel time. Not being too sure of the geography, I thought he was heading for some alternate route to the south (I usually stay around Sukhumvit, but this time we’d opted for the Hilton in Thonburi), but the penny dropped once the loop ended and we reached precisely the same highway — and he didn’t even drive onto it, just under.

On arrival at the hotel, the meter was showing ~450 and he cheekily told us it would be 600 with the surcharge and tolls (which in reality totaled 95 baht). I called him on the right turn after the airport, to which he tittered and made up some lame excuse about avoiding an accident… and then snatched the 500 baht we grudgingly gave him and skittered off. Welcome back to the big city!

But we didn’t have much time to mope, as we’d booked two nights at the Millennium Hilton. Back when I first lived in Thailand around 2003, the building was still a skeleton left rotting after the 1999 financial crisis (remember that one?), and it was a real pleasure to find out what they’d done to it. I’m not much of a Hilton man, and I was staying here primarily to dispose of some points I’d had sitting around, but this is one excellent hotel — even without any elite status at Hilton. Our room (and, as I understand it, all rooms) had great river views and the pool area downstairs had a little fake beach (less fun than you’d think) and recliners placed inside the pool itself (more fun than you’d think). Add in a large local market right next door, with an excellent array of Thai eats especially at dinnertime, and who needs executive lounges anyway?

Speaking of markets, though, Z had been converted to the religion of Chatuchak on her last visit to the Big Mango and the next morning I was somewhat reluctantly dragged along. Fortuitously, the March morning dawned unseasonally cool, and coupled with kinda-sorta-early morning start spending 3 hours poking around (me) and buying tons of stuff (her) at the Weekend Market was far less painful than usual. To counterbalance this surfeit of capitalism, we popped into the recently opened Bangkok Art and Culture Center just across from MBK, which even had a free coat check service where we could deposit our Chatuchak loot. If arriving by Skytrain, visitors are first greeted by Wit Pimkanchanapong’s brilliant If There Is No Corruption — unfortunately, it was pretty much downhill from there, with a mishmash of generic (read: largely incomprehensible) modern art that could have been from anywhere. Bah humbug, but points for trying anyway. (And it was, after all, free.)

The next morning, we decided to do something even more touristy, and visit the Grand Palace. We’d both been here once before, but ages ago, and I figured on getting a few new snaps since the last round didn’t turn out too good. What I didn’t figure on, though, was the crowd and (this time) the all too seasonal heat: the place was jampacked, with tourist buses disgorging their loads non-stop and slowly shuffling queues to get into the shrine of the Emerald Buddha. We took a breather by the Ramakiet murals, another in the blissful air-conditioned comfort of the Royal Regalia pavilion (top pick: the three clothing sets of the Buddha), and then escaped back to our hotel pool.

With that, the Serpent Across the Mekong has swallowed its own tail and come full circle in Bangkok, and our story has come to an end.

Serpent Across the Mekong: Flight of the Thai Air Asia FD3255 B737-300 Seat 19E

Chiang Rai-Bangkok

Like most Thai airports bearing the tag, Chiang Rai’s “international” airport does not actually serve any international flights, and it feels rather too large for its modest volume of flights to Bangkok, Bangkok and more Bangkok (plus a daily hop to Chiang Mai).

As for Air Asia, it does what it says on the box. They’ve got a winning formula and they stick to it, so see this old trip report for the full scoop on the FD experience. Today’s flight was on one of the slowly-being-phased-out 737s, but still in perfectly serviceable condition with leather seats and tolerable pitch, and our flight departed and arrived precisely on time and in one piece.

Serpent Across the Mekong: Night of the Unswitchoffable Thousand-Watt Fluorescent Light

Bangkok-Nong Khai by Train

Monsieur M sneaks out from work early and we head to a hole in the wall in Siam Square for a meal of blisteringly hot but rather tasty green curry, a dish I will without any conscious effort find myself eating nearly daily for the next week and a half. A little more shopping for sundries with the capable assistance of Mr M’s girlfriend Mademoiselle Tam and it’s time to boogie, saliva production still in overdrive thanks to capsaicin molecules jabbing their pointy little jalapeno-shaped tails into my tongue. Mm, Thai food…

On arrival at Hualamphong, we’re delighted to find a train waiting at platform 3 NONG KHAI as promised, although by minor, entirely understandable oversight, the State Railways of Thailand have neglected to attach any carriages to the engine yet. Rectifying this small issue takes another hour and a half, but a mere 40 minutes behind schedule we choo-choo off into a dark Bangkok night.

2nd class AC sleeper on Thai Railways is, as promised, quite comfortable, at least in the sense that paying twice our $15 pricetag for 1st would be unlikely to do much to improve your comfort. Beds are laid out two to a side, one upper and one lower each, with the lower bed converted into a bunk during daytime. The hinged upper bed can also be lifted up, although there’s sufficient space to hang our below even while down. Poop-brown curtains allow a modicum of privacy, and there’s a baroque maze of metal tubing clinging from the ceiling for placing your bags and for housing motionless, dusty and unneeded fans. Attendants troop past every now and then, converting seats into beds, handing out bedsheets, blankets and pillows, hawking water, beer and snacks and taking orders for tomorrow’s breakfast.

After chewing the fat and experimenting with the cameras (hopelessly, as it turns out later, since even SLRs and fast glass are no match for dim, contrasty lighting and constant vibration), I clamber into my upper bunk. The bedding is clean, the pillow is comfy, the bed is just long enough for me to reach from end to end, and the climate control is set to crisp Arctic levels that remind me of my army barracks in Helsinki on that week in February when the heating broke down for a week. This does pose a small dilemma though: should I wrap my sweater around my head, to filter out a bit of the 1000-watt flourescent lamp half a meter from my head, or should I wrap it around my body to delay hyperthermia? Wrapped up either way and soothed by the narrow-gauge railway’s spastic clunks, lunks and jerks, I curl up fetal position and float through the amniotic night at an altitude of two meters, ensconced in my upper bunk.

Serpent Across the Mekong: Evening of the Soontra Beetroot-Passionfruit Juice

Opened with great fanfare two years ago, its scraggly palm trees still strapped to their training poles, Suvarnabhumi is already visibly falling apart, dark clouds of murk gathering on the only recently blemishless vast expanses of raw concrete. I navigate past the touts to the SHUTTLE BUS stop on the lower level, its Thai purity unblemished by any other words in heathen languages, and partake of a free tour of catering buildings, customs compounds and parking garages before being dropped off at the Transport Terminal, where lower-class riffraff such as myself can board ordinary public buses or avail themselves of taxis without paying surcharges.

35 bahts’ worth of Bus 551 whisks me to Bangkok, in the sense of an impatient chef attempting to whip up cream that he had forgotten to refrigerate, but the clots of traffic crowding around Rama IX’s fine establishments like the Colonze 4 Massage parlour (SPA SAUNA KARAOKE NO BRA) eventually dissolve and barely two hours later I’m at Paragon.

A Nikon camera show is in progress in one of the atria, with scruffy photojournalist types and even scruffier geek types fondling lenses the size and resolving power of telescopes while teenage models in princess dresses ignore them totally and chatter about makeup. I head up to my regular haunt, the True Cafe on the 4th floor, and position myself and a glass of ice tea under what looks like a giant perming machine, vague washes of color projected onto the wall behind me while an giant dot matrix display on another wall flips through True propaganda.
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Serpent Across the Mekong: Flight of the Thai Airways TG404 Airbus A330 seat 40A

Haiku time:

Tee gee four oh four
Seat pitch twenty eight inches
No one hears your screams

TG404 from Singapore to Bangkok is scheduled smack dab in the post-meridiem, which means it’s pretty much worthless for business travel. This has two consequences: as fares are cheap and availability is good, I seem to end up on it whenever I’m connecting out of Bangkok to somewhere else; and because the flight’s passengers tend to be the very definition of “low yield”, TG doesn’t hesitate to field its crappiest aircraft on it. Today, at least, they’ve replaced their previously ubiquitous Airbus A300, held together with baling wire, duct tape and chewing gum imported into Singapore with special permission from the Dutiable, Controlled & Prohibited Goods department of Singapore Customs, with a somewhat less antiquated A330. While I kind of miss the A300’s Commodore 64-vintage sickly beige interior and rotary audio channel selector, which always brought back fond memories of childhood flights when my knees were not necessarily jammed into the seat in front of me, in all other respects this plane is a mild improvement.

Despite Thailand’s generally stunning genetics and the same trowelful of makeup as that used to much success by Singapore Girls, Thai Airways flight attendants are generally not very attractive, doubtless because they received their positions through family connections in the vast, corrupt bowels of this state-owned airline. (A phenomenon easily observed elsewhere in the region, compare Garuda vs Lion or Malaysian vs Air Asia.) The plane is packed to the brim, and while waiting for Porn the trolley dolly(*) to fetch me my inevitable coconutty curry — as they say in Japan: Atsumono ni korite, namasu wo fuku, or “Learn from the stew, blow on the raw fish”, and ’tis a foolish man indeed who eats the “Western” meal selection on TG more than once — I hammer away at my Japanese kanji drills on my laptop like a crack-addled chimpanzee.

(*) Yes, really. It’s Thai for “blessing”.
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Soi Lang Suan — Bangkok’s Little Italy

In the heart of Bangkok, just off the Chid Lom Skytrain station, lies a district of Bangkok well known by locals and expats, but that few tourists ever venture to. Between the leafy streets of Lang Suan Rd and Soi Tonson, strategically located between the busy business and shopping areas of Sukhumvit and Silom, is a cluster of serviced apartments, diplomatic residences, local boutiques ? and Thailand’s greatest concentration of Italian restaurants, with at least a dozen competing in the space of a few blocks. And here, “Italian” doesn’t mean “Pizza Hut”: the people living around Lang Suan know their rigatoni from their ravioli, and so do the restaurants. Here’s a tour of a select few.

Air Plane, 63 Lang Suan Rd, tel. +66-2-2524630

When it first opened 15 years ago, Air Plane instantly became the place to be and to be seen for Bangkok’s high-flying society elite, and after a recent renovation is again at the top of its game. Unlike some of the more purist Italian restaurants here, Air Plane is not afraid to mix other influences into its quirky decor, which manages to incorporate reindeer statues and framed Time covers without looking tacky, or its food, which has absorbed some Thai touches but remains Italian at heart. An appetizer of classic beef carpaccio comes in a generously sized portion with shavings of parmesan drizzled with a unique, slightly sweet sauce. Both the spinach ravioli and its tomato-basil sauce are lovingly made by hand, but for a spicy kick, try the Spaghetti “La Mana” with Thai dried fish and lashings of dried red chillies. While not as low as they used to be, prices remain affordable, with most mains clocking in under 300 baht. The restaurant hosts live music performances on weekends, but fear not, the volume is kept low.

Calderazzo, 59 Lang Suan Rd, tel. +66-2-2528108

One of the newer entrants on the Italian dining scene, this popular restaurant is run by Italian-Australian chef Marco Calderazzo. “Our food is southern Italian, from the Campania region”, says Marco, “with very little cream and butter. We use the freshest imported primary produce, cooked to exact time constraints.” The menu changes frequently, but favorite dishes include the hand-rolled Fettucine Calderazzo with oven-baked bell peppers, capers and anchovies, and osso bucco served on saffron risotto. A split-level restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, downstairs packs in the Thai hi-so crowd, while upstairs features an intimate cocktail lounge famous for its wide spread of Italian grappa spirits. Expect to pay at least 1000 baht per head for a full meal here, and that’s assuming you skip the extensive wine list. Alternatively, the recently opened Calderazzo Bistro (map #3), just down the street in the Marriott Mayfair, offers a more casual version of the Calderazzo experience.

Gianni, 34/1 Soi Tonson, tel. +66-2-6522584

Gianni has been at the forefront of fine Italian dining in Bangkok for eleven years, and is often credited with bringing the idea to the city. “Our food is absolutely Italian”, says chef and patron Gianni Favro. “We cook classic food using modern techniques and a bit of southern Italian style: more olive oil and less heavy cream, to fit the tropical climate.” Gianni is very particular about quality — “for us, the food is the most important thing!” — and ingredients are flown in twice weekly directly from Italy. The menu changes every ten days, with specials changing daily, but long-running favorites include their goose liver salad and real buffalo mozzarella. “Most customers just ask me for recommendations,” suggests Gianni, and goes on to wax eloquent about today’s special of tender veal, gently stewed for no less than eighteen hours until it just melts in the mouth. Dinner at Gianni doesn’t come cheap, but “the value for money is far better than in Hong Kong or Singapore”, says Gianni, hinting at one of Bangkok’s best-kept secrets: at lunchtime on weekdays, you can get a three-course meal for only a little over 300 baht.

Pan Pan, 45 Langsuan Rd, tel. +66-2-2527104

A squat building with darkened windows hidden behind a thicket of unruly greenery, Pan Pan doesn’t look like much from the outside, but most evenings it’s packed with locals, mostly Thai, enjoying a cheap Italian treat. The decor inside is unpretentious, with a brick tiled floor, scuffed wooden furniture and creamy yellow walls, but that’s perhaps why it’s the only Italian restaurant in the area that actually looks like a working-class trattoria. The menu is a solid collection of Italian staples, no fusion or Thai touches in sight, with the biggest crowd-puller being their thin-crust pizza baked in a wood-fired oven, with generous toppings and lashings of oozing mozzarella cheese. Prices are very reasonable, with a basic pizza margherita starting at 140 baht and few entrees going over 200. Leave some room for their homemade gelato ice cream.

Originally written for and separately licensed to JetAway, the inflight magazine of JetStar Asia.

Soi Ari — A Visit to Millionaire’s Lane

Most Bangkok visitors heading north on the Skytrain make a beeline for the Weekend Market at the end of the line, but next time, stop two stations before at Ari. Also known by the Thais as “Millionaire’s Lane”, the sois of this quiet residential district hide some of the most opulent mansions in the capital — and some of the quirkiest hotels, restaurants and boutiques in town.

At the Skytrain station, take exit 3 and turn at the first left into Phahonyothin Soi 7, better known as Soi Ari. The first block is taken up by the frenetic Ari Market, a veritable gallery of street eats worth an article in itself, but today we’ll just plow straight through the often crowded sidewalks. Soon, shortly after you cross past Soi Ari 1 (just keep going straight), the bustle disappears and, after a few upmarket boutiques selling Thai handicrafts and antiques, you’ll arrive at the unmistakable neon pink monolith of Reflections. Without a doubt the most famous Ari landmark, this wacky hotel-restaurant-bar-shop complex only opened in 2004, but it has already been written up in the New York Times and Newsweek, and regularly stages fashion shoots where Thailand’s top models strut their stuff. Every room in the hotel has been designed by a different artist, with over-the-top themes ranging from disco balls (room 201) and a maharajah’s harem (407) to a day at the beach, complete with sand, hammock and a palm tree (404), and they can be yours for a night starting from 2850 baht. PR Manager Kanchana Pimthon says, “We hope to inspire some ideas for guests to add more colors for their lives, such as hanging more paintings in their house for a better, more creative look and more artistic surroundings.” Next to the hotel is the equally zany Reflections restaurant, which serves up a wide menu of Thai, Chinese and Japanese favorites and, at night, often hosts live bands and other performances to draw in Ari’s fashionista set. In fact, the restaurant predates the hotel by a year, and its runaway success was what inspired the Reflections team to expand. If you fall in love with a particular piece of pop art — say, a fuzzy purple Buddha statue or their trademark mutant teddy bears — you can probably bring it home from the gift shop.

In the lobby of the Reflections hotel Isaan food at Som Tam Bangkok

Across the street from Reflections are a few more interesting shops. Ari Bar, or maybe that should be “Aaari babar” like the sign says, is a quiet neighborhood bar with an eclectic selection of music and drinks. Deli House, a few doors down, serves freshly baked European-style pastries as well as a daily selection of German meals like sausages with mashed potatoes and beer sauce. But perhaps the best eating option lurks just behind Reflections in Soi Ari 2, where behind a thicket of greenery you’ll find a small white house hosting Som Tum Bangkok. True to the name, the first page of this little restaurant’s menu is dedicated to the papaya salad som tum in its many versions, but there is a wide range of northeastern Thai (Isaan) favorites like minced pork salad (larb) and grilled chicken to go alone with it. Complete your order with a little handwoven basket of sticky rice and a cooling glass of sweet, milky, orange Thai iced tea, and dig in — but remember to ask for less spicy if you can’t handle the heat! You don’t need to be a millionaire to order either: they have an English menu, and a full meal here won’t cost you more than 300 baht for two.

From here on, the shops peter out and Ari shows its residential colors. The tall, elaborate wrought-iron fences painted with gold lining the road on both sides often hide gigantic houses with Romanesque columns and Mercedeses parked in the driveway, but some gates are so high that you can only wonder at the splendour that lurks within. If you’re not in a hurry, walk along the soi past hip nightspot dbaa until you reach the next main road, then turn left twice to double back into Ari Soi 1. Halfway down the road you’ll find the oddly named Banana Family Park, which is not a fruit-themed playground, but a hip spa and restaurant complex. The leafy Coffee Garden here provides some welcome air-conditioned relief from the heat, not to mention a variety of caffeinated beverages (from 35 baht) that puts Starbucks to shame.

Thai VIP Mercedes Mansion in Ari

A few more steps brings you back into the Ari Market and to your right, you’ll see the Skytrain station beckoning on the other side of a narrow passageway. Stop by the row of stalls lining the way to pick up a few bags of munchies to bring home. “The rich, they’re not like you and me”, said F. Scott Fitzgerald, but at least in Bangkok they seem to like the same things the rest of us do.

Originally written/photographed for and separately licensed to JetAway, the inflight magazine of JetStar Asia.

 

RTW2007: Bangkok part 2, wherein our juggling journalist is hard at work enjoying free spa treatments, finding out how Thai millionaires live and gorging himself with four Italian meals in one weekend.

I was supposed to arrive at Bangkok about an hour before my friend Z, but due to the take-off delay got there only 15 minutes before, and as the plane parkedwaaaaaaaaay at the other end (why does TG discriminate against itself like this? they did the same in Don Muang too!) I ended up catching her — literally — just before Immigration.

This visit, though, was work. I was on assignment, or more specifically three of them: review the Amari Watergate hotel, with a focus on its new spa; write an article about Ari, my favorite neighborhood, and eat at as many Italian restaurants as possible in Soi Langsuan. (I know, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.) I’d actually spent the better part of three months at the Amari a few years ago, and it was still a very good hotel, albeit in a mildly awkward location. Recently renovated, the Executive Lounge continues to have the best breakfast views in town, and I’m reliably informed that the spa was pretty good too. As for Ari and Italian chow, I’ll let my stories speak for themselves:

And that, as they say, was that: another 30251 miles in economy class notched on my belt, with surprisingly little pain at that. Picking your long flights carefully helps, and having a laptop with insane battery performance helps even more. Next time, it might be time to up the tempo a little and try flying around the world on low-cost carriers.

TG648 BKK-FUK A300 seat 34K

The plane turned out to be the flying museum piece I expected, a crunky old Airbus (the oldest in Thai’s fleet, if I’m not very much mistaken) with all the aesthetic charm and usability of a Commodore 64. I can understand Thai flying these domestically, or even making the occasional hop to Singapore and back, but medium-range redeyes with these things is pushing it. But then again, flying to FUK instead of KIX/NGO/NRT saved some time and (for NRT/KIX) a pretty painful transfer, so beggars can’t be choosers…And it could’ve been worse. The flight was around 70%-ish full, but my neighbor jumped across the aisle, leaving me with two seats to use. After a “light meal” that consisted of a pastry and a cup of juice, I stretched out diagonally and, much to my own surprise, slept for ~3 hours of this 4.5 hr flight.Breakfast was big but bad. Yogurt, fruits and juice I could deal with, but the centerpiece was a “crepe omelette” gruesomely splattered with a vomitous white sauce so foul I could only eat one — I can’t remember ever running across literally inedible airline food before. What happened at TG catering, which is usually pretty good?

The sky over Kyushu was cloudy as we flew in, only the shapes of a few hills peeking through the mist. I girded myself for the battle that awaited.

RTW2007: Bangkok, wherein our intrepid explorer sits on a bus, crams himself with Thai chow and goes flying from a new shopping mall.

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

Before this trip, I’d just spent six weeks in India, dealing with difficult customers and managing to contract amoebic dysentery. After I arrived back in Singapore, I had a little over 24 hours to sort out a couple of months of accounting, personal and corporate taxes, my remaining shreds of social life, pack for the next 6-week trip and head back out to Bangkok, where I’d booked my RTW from, and where this story starts.

After a shamefully long absence, this was my chance to pop into Thailand for all of eight hours and pop my Suvarnabhumi — Bangkok’s new airport — cherry in the process.

First impression: Wow. It’s big, it’s thoroughly modern, it’s funky (well, at least if, like me, you like steel, glass and raw concrete) and it’s just on a whole different level from Don Muang, where the only funk is the strange smell. Parts remind me of Incheon (the neverending travelators), parts remind me of Kansai (the two-layer arrangement of arriving and departing pax, separated by a glass wall), parts remind me of KLIA, only larger (the humongous departure hall). And there are Thai touches here and there, although it certainly doesn’t whack you over the head with them, and that too appeals to my Nordic-Zen sense of minimalism.

Unaccountably, Immigration was using the stupid “one queue per desk” model, and I was stuck in line for a while as the loud guy in front of me, in an equally loud Hawaiian shirt and too many Thai stamps in his passport, was raked over the coals. I didn’t find the infamous post-Customs arrivals crush too bad, although signage was pretty lacking — it took a bit of wandering around until I found my way to Departures (to check in for my connection), and a lot of wandering around until I finally found the shuttle bus stand (is it just me, or is there no signage at all for this?). Signage for the train in the basement was there though in the lifts and all around, just covered up in tape waiting for opening day…

Once I did find the bus stand, the spiffy new “express” shuttle showed up almost immediately and ferried me to the bus terminal, which was surprisingly nice. No sign of bus schedules though, and English signage there was a bit spotty, but asking around a bit confirmed that bus 552 was indeed going to On Nuch, and soon enough I was on my way. (Great to see construction on the Skytrain extension on Sukhumvit taking shape, by the way!)

The bus passed by the enormous Bang Na Central shopping mall and I kicked myself for not seizing this opportunity to save an hour and head there instead. But no, I trundled on to Skytrain terminus On Nut and, pleasantly surprised to find my stored value card still functional, zipped along to Chid Lom and Central World, which half a year after my last visit was still a work in progress. At least the FoodLoft upstairs was now open (mm, phad thai). I decamped to Paragon and whiled away a pleasant few hours in megabookstore Kinokuniya, where I deliberated between notebooks labeled “Sheep Note” and “No Jam, No Stress” (I opted for the latter, as this profound message was being conveyed by a mean-looking robot) and the basement’s mofongous gourmet supermarket, where I picked up a few packets of Fishy Nuts(tm). Then a bowl of kuay tiow naam with pork balls from the stall with the longest queue and a taxi back, which also provided a good chance to check out the progress of the airport link — long stretches already have the viaduct up and they seem to be moving at a good clip on the missing bits too, although there’s apparently still a gap at RCA where the Nasa Superdome was? Once we got on the highway, signage for Suvarnabhumi was comically plentiful, my favorite being back-to-back signs announcing “Suvarnabhumi 14 km” and “Welcome to Suvarnabhumi Airport”. The final approach by night, though, is seriously awe-inspiring — the vast airport spreads out on all three sides, bathed in a sea of light, with the blue-lit hulk of the main terminal building looming ahead.

One thing that struck me, though, is how packed with people the airport appeared on this perfectly ordinary Saturday evening — did they really have this many pax in Don Muang too in its hayday, and can the check-in facilities cope with any more expansion, or are they going to build an entirely separate terminal? It’s not uncomfortably crowded, yet, but it quite doesn’t have the same feeling of vast space as KUL, ICN and KIX do.

Exit immigration was painless and I finally realized why everybody compares the terminal to a shopping mall — the airside area looks just like Paragon, with blinding white walls, designer lighting and fancy boutiques, and I overheard a middle-aged couple whisper, in genuine awe, “this airport is beautiful”. I’m tempted to agree. But having already done my fill of that in the city, I made a beeline for the TG lounge, which also has vast depth and slightly too many people for comfort. Fortunately the PCs are misconfigured so that the network keeps flaking out randomly, so people leave in disgust after a while — a bit of poking around revealed that they’re set to connect to the nearest network, so whenever somebody brings in a laptop with peer-to-peer wifi enabled, bam. I set “aotwifi” as the automatic default and p2p into manual, and now at least two of them work OK.

All in all, for me Suvarnabhumi is looking pretty good, and once the airport link is up and running I’ll be as happy as a clam. Fixing up those cracked runways and such might be nice though…