Bangkok take 2
5.15, cool and dark as I step out of the Hotel one last time. Web checked-in, boarding pass printed and bills paid all the evening before so all I have to do is turn up at the airport, in one piece and on time! They even stuck to the agreed rate of 11 $ per night, well since I made them write it down there wasn't a great deal to argue about. Laundry bill came to 2 $ and 37p for the use of their printer for my boarding pass.
A brisk 15 minute walk upto the bus station at Long Bien as Hanoi was waking up. Hanoi old quarter is as busy at 5.30am as Norwich is at 8am. Quite a few locals there, I'm the only tourist. Other transport options to the airport are available. A shuttle bus, from somewhere near the lake for 2 $, taxi for considerably more or of course hitch a ride on the back of a motorbike, and yes, they are happy to accommodate a rather large back pack, no problem! The bus duly rolls in at 5.50 and is soon on the bridge headed towards the airport, handing over 5000 vnd to the stony faced money collector.
Fewer people around this time of the morning which means the bus is making fewer stops therefore theory go's that I will be at the Airport in good time. All is going to plan as the bus pulls up across from the terminal, it's taken just about 55 minutes. Flight is at 9 so a little time to use up a few thousand in loose change and get a coffee. And that's it, my last and final purchase with this monopoly money. Physiologically it can be depressing having to depart with thousands in cash on a daily basis!
One good thing about Hanoi is the Airport. Apart from being the quickest way out it's neat, compact and well laid out. Small enough so that check-in, immigration and aircraft is just the shortest of walks. All the tarmac action can easily be viewed and even the air force facility opposite can be photographed at will without any attention from the authorities.
On board this Air Asia Airbus to Bangkok then and they depart 5 minutes early! It's 2 hours until I hit the tropics again as the plane climbs up through the misty overcast and breaks into clear blue sky, something i haven't seen much of lately.
Queues at Bangkok airport immigration are considerably longer this time but seem to be moving slightly faster. About 1 hour to get to the passport control point, and again I'm let in without any need for interrogation. Through the green channel in the customs hall, and a big wide grin...I'm back! As before it's the train to phaya Thai station, but the price has risen by 100%. It's now 90 b, about £2 for the 15 minute ride. Bus 59 is the one that stops close to Khao San road, according to the transport information desk, but conflicting advice as to where it actually picks up as the bus stop outside the Phaya Thai Station is now a taxi bay. A local shop keeper directs me and another tourist to the road opposite, accessed by an overpass which actually forms part of the Sky Train system. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we wait and wait and wait along with a few other tourists. They need the 503 which also stops by Khao San, but eventually we all end up on the number 72 which stops about 1/2 a mile short, and costs 66.6666p.
£6.50 gets an OK room with air con, water and TV. It'll do until I find something closer to the action at Khao San. A wander around some familiar little streets, the smells, sights and sounds of Bangkok have finally returned. It's a yellow curry for tea, £1.77 but it's a big plateful and delicious.