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Published: November 14th 2015
We try, whenever possible, to use the flagship airline of the country we are going to or coming from, just to get a different experience (usually in terms of food served on the flight, language of announcements, uniforms of the cabin crew, etc). It's just the little things, but they add a different element to an otherwise routine aspect of travel. We'd booked Thai Airways because we were scheduled to go to Phuket (in Thailand) from Laos but Thai Airways cancelled the flight we originally booked and unilaterally moved us to a flight the following day. Of course, this totally screwed up our hotel bookings etc and involved additional costs whichever way we looked at it.
It proved to be cheaper (though obviously less convenient) for us to spend one night less in Luang Prabang, travel to Phuket via Bangkok and pay for an additional night's accommodation in Bangkok than it was to fly directly to Phuket from Luang Prabang. Steve manfully began an e-mail correspondence with Thai Airways requesting that they move us to the flight the day before our original booking, rather than the flight the day after. Some things were lost in translation and I'm sure a
bot was involved somewhere along the way because requests from one Thai Airways department to another for confirmation that Steve was a real person and not malicious software ended up going round and round in circles. We did eventually receive confirmation of our requested change but we had started to become concerned .....
Nevertheless, we arrived at Luang Prabang Airport from our wonderful riverside hotel fully confident that things would work out. Glancing at the list of flights scheduled to depart from the airport during that day we were not totally surprised that our flight to Bangkok was not listed. We asked a member of airport personnel and she said not to worry, the gate would open in 30 minutes. So, we waited, not exactly brimful of hope. However, surprise surprise, oh ye of little faith, the flight popped up on the listings, the gate opened and we were able to check in. We had several thousand kip left in our pockets (literally just a couple of pounds) but I was determined to spend rather than waste them. In the end I was one kip short of a 5 kip packet of chewing gum and the cashier let me
buy it anyway. So, we went from being kip millionaires during our time there to leaving the country in debt!
The plane was almost empty, which confirmed our suspicions that our original flight had been cancelled due to lack of interest and merged with the flight the following day. We took off early and landed in Bangkok just over an hour later. So, it was a much quicker return journey than the many hours it took us to get up to Luang Prabang but had none of the experiences, excitement, random events, beautiful scenery or interesting encounters of our journey out. Those are just some of the reasons we like to travel on the ground where-ever possible.
We'd booked an airport hotel for our overnight stay and the Sinsuvarn Airport Suite Hotel offered a free shuttle service to and from the airport. We shared the bus to the hotel with a young Danish girl of Vietnamese origin who was travelling to Bhutan on some charity mission and was literally just using the hotel for a couple of hours to shower and freshen up between flights. She was terrified she might fall asleep and miss her onward flight! We
had a nice corner room on the top floor of the hotel with a lovely view of the restaurant, swimming pool, large hotel car park and local swamp. We went to eat in the restaurant but the mosquitoes from said swamp forced us indoors. We were enjoying a relaxing peaceful meal with 3:1 service from the staff when 6 coachloads of Korean visitors arrived, descended on the restaurant and, within 15 minutes, were seated, ate and left, leaving typhoon-like debris behind them. It was a sight to behold. We wallowed in the quiet once they had gone, had a couple of beers wishing we were still on our patio beside the river in Luang Prabang, then retired for an early night.
We had an early evening flight the following day so were able to have a bit of a lie-in before using the hotel shuttle bus to take us back to the airport. For some reason we didn't question, we were eligible to use Bangkok Airways airport lounge (a first for us) and very nice it was too. The monks in both Thailand and Laos are revered and seem to get every upgrade possible (best seats on buses and
planes, etc) and they even have their own rooms at airports so I felt quite swanky being able to use the lounge which had free food and drink (which I'm pretty sure the monks don't get but who knows?) and we had comfy chairs to relax in until our flight was called. In the general airport areas there are priority seats which the pictograms indicated were for the elderly, pregnant, disabled and, it seemed from our interpretation of the heavily bandaged person in the drawing, the severely injured. It wasn't until we had a much later lightbulb moment that we realised the bindings we were looking at were, in fact, the robes of the monks! Ho hum. We took off on time, had a flight of about an hour, went straight through customs (because it was an internal, domestic flight) and were met by the driver from our hotel. We arrived at our hotel in Karon, Phuket about an hour later, ready for bed.
So, thank you Bangkok, but we are so done with you now. As Murray Head said, 'One night in Bangkok is like a year in any other place' and we've served our time.
PS Have had very patchy access to WiFi again so I am way behind with blog entries. Am trying to do a rapid catch up!
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