Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
85Trip End Jan 08, 2012
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I arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 5:00pm. I was very early as my flight wasn’t until 10pm, but I’d had enough of the heat and humidity in Bangkok and I was more than happy to 'chill’ out in the air-conditioned airport. When check-in opened, even though my flight was announced, it said the wrong time. Surely some mistake? Unfortunately not. The revised time for the flight was 1:15am – 3 hours later than scheduled. I was philosophical about it – all I had to do was to get word to Alan, so that he didn’t show up at the airport in Melbourne only to find that he’d have to wait another 2 – 3 hours for me. This was my great adventure after all, nothing was going to upset me.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is massive, however, it’s badly designed. Once you get past immigration, you‘re faced with a corridor of shops – that corridor is 1km long! There are four sets of gates at each end of the corridor, but no departure lounge, at least not in the classic sense. The ‘departure lounges’ are at the gates themselves; basically each gate has its own ‘departure lounge’, but there isn’t a central one. This means that you need a gate number when you go through passport control so that you know where to go. Guess who didn’t have a didn’t have a gate number? Try as I might I coudn’t get to grips with the layout of the airport and ended up going all the way to the wrong end of the corridor in search of the mythical departure lounge and then had to walk back again because the general area where the flight was leaving from (if not the gate number itself) had finally come up. 2km in the airport! That’s how far I walked – I was a sweaty mess...again. I know some of you are thinking, "Why didn’t you just ask?" Bangkok airport must be one of the few airports in the world where hardly anyone speaks English! How can you have staff at an airport, attending to the public, and yet none of them speaks English????
At the check in, we had been given a food voucher, which could only be cashed in at Burger King (other brands not available). At 9pm I was more than a little hungry and decided to get myself a burger and chips. As much as I loved Thai food, it would be good to get something a little more mundane inside me. At BK, I was told that my voucher was no good, as it missing a portion of the ticket. Despite my protests that the ticket was exactly as it was given to me, they were not going to give me any food. All they kept repeating was that I needed to contact the airline, Jetstar, that had issued the voucher. Being in the departure lounge, I asked them how I could do that – they just shrugged, “You’re on your own, kid!”
I finally found the information desk and asked them what I could do, they said they didn’t know (why was I not surprised?), but sent me to another information desk who in turn wanted to send me to another desk, but I wasn’t having any of it. Eventually my problem got sorted out, but by this time my patience and philosophical outlook was starting to wear a little thin,
1:15am came and we were on the plane. The pilot apologised for the delay, saying that there had been a problem with a part of the plane, but it had been sorted out now. Finally, I would be on my way shortly. Australia, here I come! Reassured, I promptly fell asleep to be awoken by groans, moans and complaints. What was going on? Everybody was getting up and getting off the plane. Had we arrived already? Erm, no, I checked the time and we’d been on the plane for an hour and a half, so there was no way we’d arrived just yet. There was yet another problem with a plane part and so we were kicked off while they tried to see what could be done about it. Now this was getting silly. “Deep breaths, George. Remember, all part of life’s great adventure!” We were back in the terminal and waiting and waiting ...and waiting. No information was forthcoming and the mood amongst the passengers was palpably starting to turn ugly. Were we leaving, were we staying? At about 4am we were finally informed that our flight had been cancelled. There would be hotels for us and we would fly out the next day. One wag called out, “What day is it tomorrow?” getting a bit of a laugh, but we were all crestfallen, when we were told that the next day was actually Saturday. Fortunately that didn’t turn out to be the case.
We were led out of the airport, back through immigration (our departure visas were cancelled), our names were written out by hand by one person, and then we went to baggage reclaim to pick up our luggage. There were no other passengers in the airport, yet it took us (the first group from the plane) an hour to leave the airport. I was lucky to be in that first group to leave; we estimated it would have taken at least 2 hours to get everybody to a hotel. Therefore, we arrived at the hotel at a little after 5am – 12 hours after arriving at the airport.
The compensation was that it was a plush hotel, if a little soulless. We were told that we would be catching a flight at 16:30 on Friday, so we would be picked up at 14:30. I went to bed secure in the knowledge that it would all be sorted the ‘next’ day. When I got up for brunch, things had changed again. The 16:30 was also cancelled. Seriously? Is this one cosmic joke????
Oh well, if there’s nothing you can do about it, at least you can take advantage of it – I was just about to go to the pool at 2:00, when I got a phone call: the flight was back on! So, back to the airport we traipsed and now surely nothing could go wrong, could it? Erm,... think again. The computers were down at the check-in desk and we had to wait for an hour and a half before we were able to check-in. Unsurprisingly the flight was delayed by 3 hours – exactly the same as the day before. Déjà vu, anyone?
By this stage, a certain line from The Eagles’ Hotel California kept playing over and over in my head, ‘You can check in, but you can never leave’. Fortunately that hasn’t turned out to be the case; it is possible to leave Bangkok!