06
Apr
17

Bangkok Diaries: Arrival and Tips

Our flight from Manila was delayed but thankfully we didn’t experience any further inconveniences while we’re up in the air (except for some turbulences).  We were travelling westward towards where the sun was heading, giving us extra sunlight hours despite our later than expected departure.

View from above continental Southeast Asia

Flying from Manila to Bangkok is almost a straight westward path.  This meant that we got to see what lies on the Manila Bay just outside the Metro, the peninsula of Bataan, the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea for those outside the Philippines), and the vast lands of continental Southeast Asia occupied by Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.  It’s my first time seeing continental Asia as my past Asian destinations were all islands on the outskirts of the continent (i.e. Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan).  It’s not my first time seeing so much land, but whenever I do, I always think how big this world really is as I’m seeing so much vastness yet it only occupies a small piece of the world map.  There were hardly any signs of human activities in most of these areas up until reaching the vicinity of Bangkok International (Suvarnabhumi) Airport.

First glimpse of Suvarnabhumi Airport

We arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and cleared immigration just in time for the golden hour.  Fortunately, there were wide windows throughout the airport so I was able to take some shots while we’re walking and waiting for our bag to come in.

Going towards Arrivals area

Golden hour at the airport

Waiting for our bags

After getting our bag and having some local currencies (Baht, ฿), we headed off to the basement level to take our first train ride to the city via the Airport Rail Link (ARL).  When we were finally outside the airport premises, I still can’t believe we’re already in Bangkok as I can hardly see any signs of the metropolis I keep seeing in pictures!  The airport is located quite distant from the city center that you can hardly see any signs of the popular Bangkok skyline.

One of the first views I’ve seen outside the airport… definitely no tall buildings here

Be it mere coincidence or pure luck, meeting a fellow Filipino traveler on the train sure made our trip to our hotel more efficient.  He gave us some useful advice on how we could get to our destination faster and it of course made the trip a bit nicer.  Our detour made me a bit anxious though as it was unanticipated and we were still travelling “offline.”

ARL Makkasan Station somehow adopting the theme of Suvarnabhumi Airport

A day before leaving Manila, I downloaded HERE WeGo app on my Android phone as I knew we wouldn’t immediately have mobile data connection upon arrival.  This app provides routing, like Google Maps, even without any active data connection, provided that you pre-downloaded the map of your area.  A lot of times it doesn’t work as I expected it to, but at the very least I have an offline map where I can see where I was and just use whatever skill I have to navigate.

What an offline map of HERE WeGo looks like

From ARL Makkasan Station, we transferred to the MRT Phetchaburi Station to get to MRT Sukhumvit Station where our hotel is just a few hundred meters away.  I was expecting to arrive in the vicinity of our hotel from the BTS Asok Station (Sukhumvit Line) but our detour lead us to a different “angle” of approach, and I was disoriented for a few minutes.  And since my lone offline map app is quite cumbersome to use, it took a lot of brainpower to figure out where we’re supposed to head.

View of BTS Asok Station from Terminal 21

When we finally figured everything out and got out of the station, we went to the street where our hotel was supposed to be, according to the app.  And when we got there, surprise!  It wasn’t there!  I was alarmed that we may be lost!  I ran a few meters further ahead and thankfully, our hotel was there.  You could just imagine how stressful that was and the relief I felt when I finally saw our hotel.

Our home in Bangkok

This is our very nice bed

And this is our toilet which is separated only from the bedroom with a clear glass 😉

After settling in our hotel, we went into the nearest mall, Terminal 21, and explored our options.  Hungry and tired from a long day of delayed flights, hauling heavy bags, and walking, we didn’t really have enough energy to be picky on where to eat and so a mall was our best option to find some good Thai food.  We still don’t have any local SIM for getting online at this point so our range was also limited to how far we’re willing to walk.

Inside Terminal 21

In the end, we picked Yum Saap since they offered a good variety of Thai dishes.  These are what we had:

I do not know what the names of these, but these are chicken, what we call in the Philippines as bagoong rice, and a very spicy papaya salad

This one I know very well: tom yum.  One of the best I’ve ever had!

Tamarind shake to help push the food into my stomach 😀

Looking back at this day, there are some things that we could have done better, and so here are some of my tips leveraging on our that:

Airport:

  • All money changers in the airport offer the same rate so it doesn’t matter where you get your Baht (฿), the local currency.  As expected from any airport, exchange rates are lower as compared to outside.  Exchange only the amount you think you need to get to where you’re headed and get your Bahts there.
  • ATMs are another way of getting Bahts and they are located all over the airport.  Make sure to call your banks first to activate withdrawals abroad before leaving the country should you consider this option.
  • Pocket Wi-Fi devices are available at the airport.  We didn’t see this on our way out that’s why we didn’t get any and this could be a good alternative to getting a local SIM since you can connect multiple devices at the same time.
  • Local SIMs are also available in the airport.  We just couldn’t wait to get out that’s why we forgot to get one.
  • Wi-Fi is available all throughout the airport but you have to register first (your name, passport, etc.) before you can use it.

Trains:

  • Bangkok has many train lines (i.e. Airport Rail Link, MRT, BTS, etc.) and each one has its own ticketing system.  Consider carefully if you really need to get stored value tickets and figure out which lines you really need to.  We didn’t think we can consume all the amount in each line’s stored value ticket so we get single entry tickets/tokens only when we need to.
  • While the BTS lines use tickets similar to the trains in Metro Manila, the Airport Link and MRT line uses something that looks like a token for single journeys.  You still have to tap them though like tickets upon entry, and insert them into a slot upon exit.
  • Single journey vending machines are located in train stations, aside from regular human tellers.  Some of them only accept coins so check first before you go into a queue.  Queues could get long during rush hours but waiting times aren’t normally that long.
  • All signs are written in Thai and English so if you pay attention, you can easily find the platform or exit that you’re looking for.
  • Thailand drives on the left side of the road (like UK and Japan) and so the train directions follow suit.
  • You may find money changers in train stations and they offer better rates than at the airport.  Not all of them accepts Philippine Peso (₱) though.

Money Changers:

  • Most money changers open at 10AM (likely until 8PM)
  • Most money changers outside the airport don’t accept Philippine Peso (₱) and I’ve been told that they only accept ₱1,000 and ₱500 bills.

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