Koh Chang and Thailand

Suvarnabhumi Airport

by Dave in Features and Archives, Koh Chang and Thailand, Transport Pages Comments Off on Suvarnabhumi Airport

bangkok airport rail linkIf you’re flying in to Thailand you will almost certainly find yourselves visiting Suvarnabhumi Airport, the modern and imposing centrepiece of Thai air travel. It looks great but it is vast and can be a little overwhelming.  So here are a few tips and suggestions to help to make your journey a little more straightforward.

Getting There

Perhaps the first point of note is that the way that Thai people pronounce the word “Suvarnabhumi” is very different to the way that it is written. So if you are trying, for example, to get a taxi to take you there you should refer to it as “Su-wan-a-poom”. You can accompany this by flattening your hand and making little wings out of your thumb and little finger if you like. If this winning audio-visual combination still leaves the taxi driver looking confused then cut your losses and flag another one down, or take the train (see below).
If you’re flying down to Koh Chang you will need the Bangkok Airways check-in desk on the fourth floor at row F. Get your taxi to stop at door 3 or 4 to save yourselves a walk.

Getting Away

If you want to leave the airport by Taxi you are supposed to go to the Taxi ranks on the second floor, tell them where you are going, take a ticket and wait in line until a taxi becomes available. There are several good reasons not to do this. Firstly you have to pay an extra 50 baht on top of the fare, presumably for the pleasure of standing in line. Secondly you have to stand in line. Thirdly it seems that the prospect of taking advantage of people who have just arrived in the country attracts all of the city’s most crooked taxi drivers. Often the driver will demand a huge set price to take you to wherever it is that you are going rather than turning on his meter as he is required to do by law.

Instead we strongly suggest that you go up to the fourth floor and get in a cab outside. The taxis that pass here have just dropped passengers off which means that they will be glad of the fare and since they haven’t been lying in wait for you like the vultures downstairs you are much less likely to get ripped off.
If you are heading into Bangkok then you might like to use the excellent new Airport Rail Link which is an overhead train linking the airport to the city. Express trains take 15 minutes into Bangkok and the commuter service takes half an hour. It is a convenient and quick way to get into town, especially in rush hour – which could be just about any time in Bangkok. To find the train just take a lift or escalator down two floors to the basement of the terminal building where you will find the station. At the moment it costs 15 Baht for the commuter service and 100 Baht return for the express train.

You may also be offered a limousine transfer as you leave the airport. As you would imagine this is nice, convenient and very expensive indeed.

If you’re on a budget and want to catch a bus to the Koh Chang ferry port this is easily arranged. Go down to the level one bus lobby. Here a free shuttle bus will take you to the nearby bus terminus where you can pick up a Koh Chang bound bus. There are a couple of small travel agencies on this 1st floor so it is probably a good idea to pick up your bus ticket before you leave the airport. They will have all the information on when the next bus departs.

Waiting

A trip to the airport always seems to involve a lot of sitting around. Suvarnabhumi is just like most other airports in the world in that, apart from spending what is left of your savings in the duty free shops, there isn’t really a great deal to do. If you are hungry you might want to try the food court down on the 1st floor. In true Thai style there are quite a few stalls selling good Thai food at reasonable prices. Most of the airport staff seems to eat there so you know that you’re onto a good thing.

However if you are flying down to Koh Chang we strongly suggest that you take advantage of the excellent Bangkok Airways lounge near to your check-in gate. This is available to all Bangkok Airways passengers. They have comfortable seating, computers with a free internet service (and Wi-Fi), plenty of newspapers and magazines and they provide all kinds of snacks and drinks. If you have a long wait then this is the place to get through it. There is also food court just before this lounge that conforms to the international code of shockingly overpriced airport foods. 200 baht for a beer! You don’t need to use it so don’t.

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Water Festival of Songkran on Koh Chang

by Dave in Koh Chang and Thailand, Thailand Holidays and Festivals Comments Off on Water Festival of Songkran on Koh Chang

Songkran on Koh Chang

If you’re in Thailand between the 13th and 15th of April  then prepare yourselves for Songkran, Thailand’s famous new year festival. If you’ve been here before then you will probably know what to expect; celebrations, entertainment and lots and lots of water. If this is your first time then here is your Songkran on koh Chang survival guide.

Songkran is Thailand’s biggest public holiday and celebrates the Thai new year. For convenience these days Thailand uses the international calendar and the year (this year is 2552) commences on January first. But Songkran marks the date of the traditional Thai new year. The date was originally linked to the lunar calendar but is now fixed.

The festival is a time of renewal and the paying of respect to Buddhist images and elders. Traditionally this was expressed by the ritual of the pouring of a few drops of water over a person to display respect. But, perhaps because Songkran occurs in the fierce heat of Thailand’s hot season, this rite is now interpreted as the wholesale throwing of water over anything and everybody, so expect to get wet.

There are two basic approaches. If you don’t want to get a soaking then stay inside during daylight hours, during Songkran on Koh Chang the water throwing is focused mainly on the road so you might, just might, be safe on the beach. Alternatively leave anything that doesn’t like water such as passports, cameras, phones and the like in a safe place or seal them in a plastic bag and go and join in the fun. You can buy water guns, buckets and other “weapons” at many local stores. All of the groups of celebrants lining the road will be happy to welcome you into their armies. It is common for people to rub your face with dabs of talc, again a tradition denoting respect. Be warned, however, that it turns into a caustic goo that you do not want in your eyes. Watch out also for the groups who are using freezing cold water chilled by small icebergs of ice – a direct hit from one of these buckets is a bracing experience.

By sunset things are generally wrapping up as people go home to clean up and change into dry clothes for the evening. Make sure you don’t  soak them then as it won’t be appreciated. Also remember that Songkran is by far the most dangerous time of year on Thailand’s roads and hundreds of people die annually. Drive with care and be careful about drenching passing motorists.

So have a fun and happy Songkran on Koh Chang. Sawat Dee Pee Mai! Happy New year!

More Thai Holidays and Festivals

 

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