Browse Category

Travel

Photos and stories from many of my travels in the past 5 years

The day I left for Thailand

I had booked my departure for Dec 13th thinking I would get my Canon 7D by then (I paid for it on November 25th). I waited and waited and as the week before the flight neared its end, I started to get worried. It hadn’t even arrived by Friday, Dec 11. I was contemplating postponing my flight but that would have cost me thousands of rupees with last minute cancellations and new bookings — and as mentioned earlier, I wanted to be back in time for Sunburn in Goa.

So I decided to go ahead with my trip — and pick up a second Canon 7D from Bangkok which I would then sell upon return. I finished my work and only left office at 10:30pm that day. The next morning (Sat, Dec 12th), the first thing I had to do was to get foreign currency. I went to the HDFC Bank close to my house only to be told they wouldn’t be issuing any foreign currency because it was a Saturday and the foreign markets are closed (they also said they can’t give dollars based on Friday’s rates). It was one of those “Oh crap!” moments — until they told me I could try UAE Exchange close by. Fortunately, they were open for business (guessing maybe because they were headquartered in Abu Dhabi. Edit: Wow, I didn’t know the company is owned by a Shetty). I withdrew Rs. 60,000 from my account and got it exchanged for 10,000 Thai Baht, $200 in Traveller’s Cheques and $700 in cash. I planned on carrying so much cash as I needed to buy a wide angle lens from Bangkok.

The thing is, UAE Exchange sold me the Thai Baht at a rate of 1.6:1 rupee when it was 1.3, citing that it was “high demand” currency. I really couldn’t argue because, a) first time dealing with foreign currency and b) I really didn’t have much time.

After I got my currency, I went back home and started to pack. I actually didn’t have much to pack. I wanted to travel light and I knew I would be shopping from Thailand. I was advised by colleagues at work to check out bags from Wildcraft as it would be convenient to have just one big bag instead of carrying several. But when I checked them out, I really didn’t feel like spending Rs. 2500 to Rs. 3000 for what were in my eyes, branded hollow sacks.

So I just went back and decided to take my laptop bag and a sports bag borrowed from my younger brother. I finished packing and made sure I had all my papers in order. I had multiple copies of my flight ticket, copies of my Passport and a Tourist Visa form I downloaded off the Thailand Embassy of Foreign Affairs. Instead of taking a taxi or asking my brother to drop me at the airport, I thought I’d take the airport bus (the ‘Vaayu Vajras’) as I had always wanted to check them out.

My brother checked the routes and we decided to drive down to HSR Layout and catch the bus from there. I boarded the bus in front of BDA complex at around 8pm. The ticket fare was Rs. 150. My flight was scheduled for 12:30am and I was told the journey would take 1 and 1/2 hours. It took 2 hours. It was my first time going to the new Bangalore International Airport in Devanahalli and my lord — is it FAR! The roads to the airport was great but it felt weird sitting in the bus on what seemed like forever to get to a flight which would take me to a different country in just under 4 hours.

I checked in, finished all the procedures walked around and arrived at the boarding gate by 11pm. [Tip: Don’t bother carrying a bottle of water to the airport (unless you finish it by then), you’ll be asked to dump it at the security check-in],

My impressions on the new airport?

Meh. After all the delays and the amount of money spent, it really is just a glossy industrial shed. I do wish the HAL Airport is re-opened for at least short domestic flights. Anyway, I checked out the Duty Free, which was okay if you wanted to buy booze — and not much else. Checked out the food court, the restroom (it was clean, in case you wanted to know) and then just sat there. I switched on my laptop and logged in to the free BIAL Wi-Fi service, which took a while to figure out how to get connected. But hey, it’s free for an hours use.

Come 12am, it was time to board. I got in and headed to my window seat only to find some moron already sitting in my seat. I tell him that’s my seat and he points to his and says in his broken English to sit there instead. And then I tell the moron to get up. He mumbles something about it being ‘the same thing no matter where I sat’. (Gawd I hate such people)

The in-flight food was okay. Steamed basmati rice with nice boneless chicken curry and the usual sides you get in an economy class flight on an Asian flight route. The service was good, not that I requested it often. They had ‘Post Grad‘ as the in-flight movie. Looked like some chick-flick starring that Gilmore Girl. I didn’t bother watching it because I was busy reading through the manual for my newly-acquired Nokia E72, which I planned to use in Thailand.

The moon from my window seat
The moon from my window seat. Taken on my Nokia E72.

I didn’t sleep much either. I mean, after lunch and dinner, you’re already half-way through your journey. I was scheduled to land in Bangkok at around 5am.

Other posts in this series:

Getting ready for my trip

Day 1 – Suvarnabhumi, Pantip Plaza, Fotofile & MBK

Day 2 – Bridge over the River Kwai and Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luangta Bua) in Kanchanaburi

Taking the bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

Day 3 – Maesa elephant camp, ‘long-neck’ tribe village near Chiang Mai

Day 3 (Part 2) – Chiang Mai Night Market

Day 4 – Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai… and back in town

Day 5 – Leaving Chiang Mai for Phuket

Day 5 (Part 2) – One night in Phuket

Day 6 – Leaving Phuket for Ao Nang by bus (via Phang Nga)

Day 7 – Touring Koh Phi Phi (Maya Bay, Monkey Island & Bamboo Island)

Day 7 (Part 2) – Exploring Railay, Krabi

Day 8 – Flying from Phuket to Bangkok

Day 8 (Part 2) – Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

Day 9 – MBK, Siam Paragon… and ‘little Arabia’?

Day 10 – Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha

Day 10 – Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and finally leaving Thailand

Figures, lessons learned, and things I couldn’t do

Getting ready for my first Thailand trip

The travel bug bit me when I first went to Rajasthan in 2005. Since then, I’ve been to Rajasthan once more, Goa twice, Pondicherry twice, New Delhi, Agra, Mysore (I lost count), Kerala (a bunch), Coorg twice and few other places from where Bangalore isn’t too far.

All there is left for me to explore in India is the North-Eastern stretch — from Kashmir all the way through Nepal or Darjeeling.  But I need to plan a heck lot for that given the logistics and the weather conditions. So when it came to thinking about traveling abroad, South-East Asia seemed like a logical first choice. After all, budget flights were aplenty and it wasn’t too far. The places I was initially planning on going were Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

After much research, I scratched Singapore of my list. I realized how well marketed that place was. If you have never seen a world-class city before, I can see the appeal to some Indians but to me, it really didn’t offer me anything compelling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure its an awesome place to live, but as a tourist destination, I wasn’t impressed.

Now, Hong Kong is yet another ‘city’ destination (like Singapore) but what a city it is!

I would go just for that view at night.

Then, there is Malaysia. Interesting mix of races, a nice city in Kuala Lampur and coastal destinations like Langkawi.  Then there is Thailand, which was a ‘must-go’ after watching ‘The Beach‘ (mediocre movie, awesome soundtrack!).  Of course, if I had the money, there isn’t a place on earth I wouldn’t want to visit (okay, maybe not Saudi Arabia and some countries in sub-Saharan Africa).

Back in the South-East of Asia, the other destinations I’d love to visit are Vietnam (all thanks to the Top Gear special from 2008), Bali and Cambodia. But the problem with destinations such as those are the cost of flights to get there.  Because there are so many Indians visiting Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, flights are aplenty and the competition keeps prices reasonable.  But no so for the other countries.

Anyway, back to my trip. My initial plan was to go on holiday for 2 weeks since I had 11 days of leave I had to use up before year end. I decided not to go to Hong Kong right now as it isn’t a cheap destination (read: getting there and hotel room rates) so I just thought I’d do Malaysia and Thailand first.

Then, something came up in Goa. I wasn’t really keen on Sunburn 2009 … until they announced Armin Van Buuren was going to be there! I LOVE AVB’s music. So I thought I’d keep a few leaves for that because I knew some friends who were interested in going for that as well.

I then cut my trip down to 10 days and started budgeting the cost of flights to Malaysia and Thailand. I started off with Tiger Airways as Air Asia had no direct flights from Bangalore. There was a flight from Bangalore to Kuala Lampur via Singapore (6 hour stop over) available for Rs. 13k (return, incl. taxes). I thought it was a good deal since I felt I could use the stop over time to use the Singapore Airport bus tour to see Singapore city instead of simply wasting time at Changi. But I later learnt that, even though that tour is free, regular Indian passport holders need to have a transit visa just to enter Singapore airport.  So when I factored in the cost of Singapore visa, Malaysian Visa, the flight to KL and then from there to Thailand, it was coming to a bit much for just 10 days (the Thai Visa-on-arrival is free).

So instead, I decided I’d just focus on Thailand for now.

I went to all the popular online ticketing sites but ended up with a good deal from Yatra.com. A return ticket from Thai Airways for the dates I picked cost me around Rs. 17k. But at the time of booking, I saw a field for ‘Yatra Promotion Code’. So, I googled for ‘Yatra coupon codes’ and found a few sites that listed them. Some worked, most didn’t — but I eventually got one that saved me a good 5-10% off the ticket price. The final cost was Rs. 15,740 (incl. taxes).  There was a cheaper flight from Sri Lankan Airlines but that included a very long stop over at Colombo airport which made the total duration of the flight 9 hours. The Thai Airways flight is a direct flight from Bangalore to Bangkok and back (3 hr 45 mins journey time).

The places I wanted to visit in Thailand were Krabi, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Kanchaburi and then Bangkok. I decided not to got to Koh Samui because the Full Moon party for December had already gotten over on Dec 2nd and I really didn’t want to stay for the one on Dec 25th & the New Year party. Plus, it can be dangerous if one is alone, which I was going to be. So I decided to keep Koh Phangan and Koh Tao for next time.

I paid for my Canon 7D on Nov 25th and booked my flight for Dec 13th, thinking 2 and 1/2 weeks was a long enough time for it come and for me to get the hang of it. I wanted to spend a few days in Krabi province — mostly Railay and Ao Nang.  In Krabi I wanted see the Tiger Cave Temple, which 1200 stairs up on a hill is where, they say one can see the Andaman sea.  Railay was pretty much a backpacker’s haven, also popular for rock climbing. Ao Nang is the sea side tourist town of Krabi and a base from where I would take the tours to Phi Phi island and the many other islands (like ‘James Bond’ island) . After spending at least 3 to 4 days in Krabi, I would head to Phuket, which was 2 hrs by road. After spending a day there, I would head to Chiang Mai (for the temples, the ‘Long Neck’ tribe) and then Kanchanaburi (for the Tiger Temple) and then finally back to Bangkok (for the Weekend market, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and then shopping).

Well, that was the plan. But as you’ll see in the next few posts, things didn’t really go according to plan. And that sucked.


Other Thailand posts in this series:

The day I left for Thailand

Day 1 – Suvarnabhumi, Pantip Plaza, Fotofile & MBK

Day 2 – Bridge over the River Kwai and Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luangta Bua) in Kanchanaburi

Taking the bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

Day 3 – Maesa elephant camp, ‘long-neck’ tribe village near Chiang Mai

Day 3 (Part 2) – Chiang Mai Night Market

Day 4 – Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai… and back in town

Day 5 – Leaving Chiang Mai for Phuket

Day 5 (Part 2) – One night in Phuket

Day 6 – Leaving Phuket for Ao Nang by bus (via Phang Nga)

Day 7 – Touring Koh Phi Phi (Maya Bay, Monkey Island & Bamboo Island)

Day 7 (Part 2) – Exploring Railay, Krabi

Day 8 – Flying from Phuket to Bangkok

Day 8 (Part 2) – Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

Day 9 – MBK, Siam Paragon… and ‘little Arabia’?

Day 10 – Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha

Day 10 – Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and finally leaving Thailand

Figures, lessons learned, and things I couldn’t do

Related Posts with Thumbnails