Sunday, 3 June 2012

Bangkok June 1st 2012

Bangkok in June

In true Cambodian tradition, the 9.30 bus turns into the 10am but rolls out of the station at 9.50. Thundery showers giving way to drizzle as the bus heads North towards the Capital and 4 1/2 hours on the National Highway number 4. Mountains on the right towards Vietnam, and hills on the left, looking towards Thailand - greener and considerably wetter than on the way down just a few weeks ago. Lots of leg room, comfy seats and the bus looks in good condition too - if I get to Phnom Penh in one piece then that $5 ticket is a pretty good deal.  The usual halftime break at a roadside cafe. Actually this time it's more of a canteen with a selection of rather spicy looking mixtures in addition to the obligatory noodles and soup. Just a coffee and grilled bananas for me - I'd rather have a good feed in Thailand.

Bus rolls onto rough ground surrounded by dubious looking structures. "airport", shouts the driver and about a dozen passengers disembark here. The usual mire of tuk tuk and taxi drivers swoop in before anyone has a chance to claim their bag and the frenzy of bargaining begins. Luckily, I'm able to share a tuk tuk with an Aussie couple so it's a case of simply climbing in and off we go, clinging on for life! Turns out the bus had stopped just short of the runway, so looks like another shady deal with the local tuk tuk mafia to generate some business. Transpires that the Aussie couple paid $5 for a ride 5 minutes to the terminal building, a distance I could have easily walked! I didn't actually pay anything in the end since the couple were pleased at not having to go into PP to then get a ride back - thanks to me.

The Airport here isn't quite geared up to Air Asia's 'get your boarding pass over the Internet' philosophy, so a queue at check-in is necessary, something I haven't had to do for a while. A modern and compact airport with everything being just a short walk away, but eating and drinking here is expensive. Clearly priced for the Western pocket, a small coffee will cost about £1.80, a pizza, fried chicken etc, $6 and up -  didn't spot anywhere outside the airport. The place isn't busy and it's just a few minutes to get the passport stamp, and security checked. Once air side, a good view of the comings and goings and and equally good view, albeit through a telephoto lens, of the air force camp across the runway - time for some covert photography!

Covert Photography
More covert photography, as the Airbus taxis for departure. A little closer to some quite rare aeroplanes that probably don't see a great deal of action beyond Cambodian borders, so the opportunity here is to good to miss - not wishing to attract undue attention the flash is turned off! It's 1 hour 10 minutes to Bangkok as the plane climbs into dense, dark clouds for this last flight with Air Asia before heading back to England.

At Bangkok again and trying to push my way ahead of the crowds all going to one place - immigration, now famous for being as bad as Heathrow! Either my plan to get ahead worked, or I am just lucky that all the international passengers from Europe and beyond have been dealt with, because there is no queueing. Probably a combination of luck, planning ahead and better staff management ( more of them this time) have avoided the dreadful 90 minutes of waiting that has been experienced previously (January and March). My bag was number 3 on the belt, so from immigration, bags and customs to getting outside, a record 15 minutes! It's the City Line train to downtown (Phaya Thai) for 45 baht, then once there, down to street level, turn right, then left via the over pass. There's a bus stand right outside the school and it's the 503 I need for Khao San road. Rolls up 30 minutes later, air-con and 13 baht for the 20 minute ride. It's hot, it's steamy, its dark and drizzling - welcome to Bangkok in June!

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