HCM to Kuala Lumpur to Phuket

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Jul 20, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hilton Arcadia Phuket

Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Well, today was a repositioning day, so nothing too big to report -- just logistics info.  We left the hotel by 09:00 via taxi en route to the Saigon airport.  The Intercontinental in Saigon was a wonderful hotel.  We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to check-in and maybe have some breakfast or lunch.  About 20 seconds after we left the taxi, Mickell realized that he had left his phone in the driver's seat of the taxi!  He quickly called the concierge back at the hotel who was able to call the dispatch office for the taxi company.   We didn't have any news though, but the clock was ticking and we needed to get checked in.

We were booked on Air Malaysia (the cheapest I could find) so we queued up and proceeded to check-in our bags.  We were a bit apprehensive because, as I had mentioned in earlier blogs, we're carrying an extra bag thanks to our shopping spree in Hoi An.  We checked the bags and altogether they weighed 75 kilogram and we're allowed 60 kilograms for the three of us!  Not good.  Even worse, the lady said that it would cost us $100 USD to ship the bag.  This was ludicrous considering that our tickets were less than $100 USD each!  So, I asked the lady if we could just carry-on the extra bag.  It would fit just fine in the overhead compartment.  She said no.  Mickell started digging through our bags at the time to see if we could pull 15 kilograms out.  He had pulled our new oil paintings that we purchased in Beijing out and I told him to stop because finding 15 kilograms was a hopeless cause.  I told the lady that we'd find another way with the bag.  I was thinking that if Mickell had to miss the flight to wait on his cell phone, then he could just buy another ticket which would get the bag along with himself to Phuket.  The lady was very snotty and reiterated that we couldn't take the bag on the plan.  I just said thank you and we went back to deal with Mickell's missing phone.

We decided that Major and me should go ahead and go through security, have breakfast, and wait at the gate.  That would let Mickell focus on getting his phone back from the taxi company.  I didn't have too much hope that the phone would be recovered, but it was worth trying since the iPhone 4 costs roughly $799!  So, off Major and I went.  We got through passport control and security just fine and went to have breakfast at Burger King.  It had just turned 10:00 so I went ahead and got a Whopper while Major got the Big American breakfast (as it's called here).  Major asked me while we were eating if we would leave and go to Phuket without Papa and I said yes.  Major was shocked and not happy.  He gave me a grilling over it, but I explained the logic that Mickell would be able to buy a new ticket for him and the extra bag.  Major was still unconvinced as we were walking to the gate.  By the time we got to the gate none other than Papa was already sitting there with iPhone in hand!  I was amazed.  Apparently the concierge got in contact with the dispatch, the dispatch located the taxi and the taxi turned around and met Mickell at departures drop off.  Mickell gave the taxi driver 200,000 Dong for the trouble.  Needless to say we were very, very lucky!

We started to board the aircraft and they came and got Mickell out of line and told him that he would not be able to take that bag on the airplane.  The lady from check-in had come down to the departure gate probably for the sole purpose of this little shake down.   As Major and I were gave our tickets, one of the gate agents asked us if we'd like to remain outside the plane while Mickell was making his arrangments.  I declined and got on the plane.  The overhead bins were empty on the plane and there was so much room it was ridiculous that they were giving him a hard time.  Anyway, Major and I got seated and we waited, waited, and waited, but no Mickell.  Finally, right before departure, he came on board.  Mickell said that they had demanded $100 USD for the bag.  Mickell had rightly asked to see it in writing because it seemed pretty exorbitant to charge $100 for 15 kilograms.  Mickell said that they weren't able to show him the price in writing, but they made a deal with him for $50 USD.  Mickell gave them 1,000,000 DONG, but they said, "no, we want USD."  I thought that was odd.  Mickell didn't have US dollars anymore since we'd already given all of our US money for the Hanoi Halong Bay excursion.  So, in the end, they accepted the $50 and let him board the plane.  This new bag we've acquired is going to be nothing but trouble for the rest of our trip!  We were already on the borderline with the 20 kilogram per passenger rule.  Now, with this new bag filled with our Vietnam shopping spree, we're toast.  We've still got the flight from  Krabi to Bangkok, the flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong, and the flight from Shenzhen to Shanghai to contend with.  At least the flight on American Airlines back home won't be a problem with my Executive Platinum status. 

So, our flight left Saigon and took us to Kuala Lumpur where we had a 4 hour layover.  We had lunch and hung out until it was time to board our flight to Phuket.  As we pulled out our tickets, we noticed that all of our tickets were in different parts of the plane!   Really!  They put a freaking 6 year old away from BOTH parents!  Unbelievable.  I asked the gate agent to change the seats and she said the plane was full.   So, I got on first and took my seat and put Major in the middle seat next to me.  Major's seat happened to be the aisle seat on the other side of the aisle from us which seemed like a good trade.  The couple came and in and they wanted to sit together and preferred not to sit in the two aisle seats (which to me is still sitting together).  I told the lady that I would be having Major sit next to me and she reluctantly took Major's seat.  Mickell was in the row behind us.  Major was upset because he wanted us to all be together.  I finally calmed him down and off we we went to Phuket.

It was raining when we landed in Phuket, but I could see as we flew in that it was going to be beautiful.  We debarked the airplane and went through passport control to collect our bags.  After we collected all the bags, Mickell asked me where the oil paintings were?  Remember that he had pulled them out of our checked bags during the hub bub a the check-in counter and we had carried them on.  We quickly realized that we had left them in Kuala Lumpur.  Mickell spent time completing a lost and found report in hopes that we might get a call stating that someone had found our beautiful paintings in Kuala Lumpur.  It was at this time that we decided that Mickell had been having bad luck ever since he disturbed that butterfly in the Buddhist temple in Saigon

We made our way through customs and then decided to rent a car.  They drive on the opposite side of the rode here, but I've driven Brittish style in other parts of the world including South Africa and Australia.  I had read that Phuket is a good island upon which to rent a car so I found the Hertz counter and rented one.  The rate was 999 Bhat per day which is less than $30 USD.  Away we went without a GPS system en route to find the Hilton Phuket.   Of course ,the Hilton was completely on the other side of the island at Karon Beach.  Our plane arrived a bit late and it was already approaching 19:00 and I had some work conference calls to attend to at 20:00 so I was hoping to make it to the hotel in enough time to take the calls.  The rain didn't help matters, but we navigated our way to the Hilton where we were met with a security guard.  They asked us to open our trunk and then they did a sweep with one of those mirrors that lets them check for bombs underneath the car.  We then parked and went to what I thought was the front desk.  But, it wasn't.  At the resort, you're transported by open-air bus to the main lobby.  It's a large resort-style property, so it's definitely better than walking it (especially in the rain).  They checked us in and we were given the best room in the resort aside from the Presidential suites and the like.  It was on the top floor of the executive tower right next to the Panarama Lounge.  The room had sweeping views up and down Karon Beach.  We were very, very pleased.

I ended up having to cancel my conference calls since I didn't make it to the room in enough time.  My other problem was that the phone in the room wouldn't dial an outside line.  I did not take today as a vacation day, so I needed to work US hours which, in this time zone, was roughly 8PM to 4AM.   My first day back at work started a little late as I was waiting on the engineers at Hilton to fix the phone, but I did email while I was waiting.  It was a long first night, but ever bit as productive as I would have been in the US.  Tomorrow, we're just going to go to the beach and relax!

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