Back from my first visit to Thailand! Learnt a lot of new things…
1. Monopoly Leads to Lousy Food
The food at Han’s @ Changi Airport’s Budget Terminal sucks. Don’t eat there. If u must have some food before u board the plane, buy snacks from the shops inside the terminal. I waited 35min for my grilled fish, which came soaked in so much oil that i could only stomach half of it before i wanted to puke. (And this is coming from somewhere who can have char kway teow for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)
2. Free-Sitting Woes
Board budget flights as early as possible, if u want to sit together with your friend/family/whoever & whatever. ‘Cos of the free sitting rule, it’s quite chaotic during boarding… and choose healthy people to sit with. I sat with a couple, and the husband had a cold, which by mid-flight, spread to the wife, and by the end of the flight, spread to me.
3. The Airport says a lot about a Country
BKK’s Intl Airport is the crappiest airport i’ve been to so far. Ok, maybe Thailand’s the only 3rd world country i’ve visited, apart from M’sia. But it’s just damn crap lah. After queueing for 1 hr to clear immigration, we were told to shift to another terminal! After queueing up all over again, some Thai airport official comes and jabs some gestures at another tourist, and we found ourselves changing queues again! It took a total of 2hrs to clear immigration. I can only say 1 thing – BKK is the land of a thousand
smiles jams. Car jam, immigration jam… @(#^!
4. Kena Ketok
Ever heard the phrase Cai Tao 菜头 (aka sucker)? Yep. I got suckered at the airport. The minute we cleared immigration, we saw friendly Thai ladies waving at us & beckoning us to book taxis through them. It looked innocent enough since they were airport staff right? Yeah, i paid Bht1400 for hiring an airport taxi to my hotel, and for a ride to the airport on my day of departure. That is extremely expensive given that the meter of a normal taxi in BKK starts at Bht35. Sigh… we must have looked like walking “cabbage heads” to the airport taxi sales people.
I don’t know about the rest of Thailand but BKK definitely “prefers Visa”. I saw the very first “prefers Visa” signboard at the airport… and all over shopping centres as well. By golly! They sure have a strong preference ‘cos my mastercard didn’t work at any place other than the hotel i stayed in. So make sure u have a Visa credit card, or bring lots of cash!
Most of the shopping malls i visited (MBK Centre, Siam Paragon, Central World, Siam Discovery Centre) had pretty much the same shops / restaurants as in Singapore – Crystal Jade, Breadtalk, Giordano, Nafnaf, FCUK, and designer brands like Chanel, LV, etc.
I liked the interior design of Central World aka the old World Trade Centre the most. In fact, the grand opening was held the day before we arrived in BKK! Bought a pair of sunglasses at Oakley’s there (it’s about $12 cheaper than in SG), and had a really delicious dinner at Black Canyon Coffee there.
The only bad thing was that maybe 1/3 of the shops are still under reno and the place is abuzz with mosquitoes! Some sections also had a really strong smell of paint. Bleah!
Cirrus & i spent the most time in MBK. Remember those Chinese idioms they taught in pri school? MBK fulfills most of them man…包罗万象， 人山人海….Hehe. Cirrus spent most of his time at this car accessories shop on the 4th floor called R-style or R-Type… something like that lah. (To find it, go the the 4th floor of Tokyu department store in MBK, then exit the store into the section selling tons of hp, and the store’s somewhere there lah.)
For me, i managed to get a pair of casual jeans there, and a pair of sequinned/beaded jeans (for salsa). MBK also sells lots of imitation goods for those who’re into contrabrand… and i MUST mention this. In BKK, u can buy bras & underwear like there’s tomorrow. I bought a total of 8 bras & 7 underwear at MBK! (Okie, some were for my mom/friends but still! I managed to claim the VAT refund based entirely on my lingerie stash!) Check out the Tokyu dept store, or the Triumph store for really cheap buys.
Chatuchak market is great for buying souvenirs & knick knacks. Just make sure u bargain (walk away if u have to ‘cos there’s always another shop that sells the same thing). A picture speaks a thousand words so… check out the pic of all the stuff Cirrus & i bought from Chatuchak!
7. VAT Refunds
Speaking of VAT refunds. Listen up if u want to claim it! No one at the airport’s going to help! (Crappy management, crappy staff.) Read the procedure for the paperwork carefully. Assuming u got all the paperwork done correctly, once u reach the airport, look for the VAT Refund counter. There, an airport staff will check through the paperwork to make sure everything’s correct. Your purchases may also be checked by him. He’ll then stamp a “goods inspected” stamp on your refund document.
After that, u can check in your luggage. If u’re early like me (i reached the airport at 11:25am for my 2:05pm flight), u’ll most lik
ely have to wait for the check-in counter to open. Note that not all TVs display the same information regarding departure check-in counters. So walk up & down the terminal & check the various TVs. I didn’t know this till a kind Singaporean couple (actually it was the same couple that spread the cold bug to me) told Cirrus that the info was displayed on another TV & that we could check-in already. (The check-in counter opens approx. 1.5 – 2 hrs before the flight departure).
When u’ve checked in all your baggage, find a “Passenger Services Charge” counter. That’s the counter to pay the airport tax. Most of the counters would be manned by some grummpy looking lady. I wonder if the airport recruited beggars for this post… 2 of the ladies i saw kept their mouths shut throughout & only knew how to put their hands out to receive the money (Bht500 per pax). “Passenger Services” indeed. Pui!
U’ll get this receipt stating that u’ve paid the airport tax. Present the receipt to the ladies guarding the entrance to the immigration clearance and they’ll let u through. When u’re queueing up to clear immigration, open your eyes big big & be ready to run anytime… ‘cos new counters may suddenly open & if u want to clear immigration fast (it takes like 30min to clear 5 people?), run to the newly open counters!! That’s the ONLY way to beat the jam…. else, u risk missing your flight! (No kidding… just imagine… we checked in our luggage at 12:25pm, paid the airport tax, queued to clear immigration (which we hastened the process by jumping to a newly opened counter) at 12:50pm, which left us only 35min to get the VAT refund and grab some lunch before boarding the flight at 1:25pm.)
I was happily taking photos of Patience on the plane when an air stewardess (btw, budget airline hor, the stewardess also damn budget looking) told me in a very condescending tone that hps were not allowed on planes. I told her that i was using flight mode and her curt reply was, “flight mode also not allowed”.
DUH?? Flight mode not allowed then have flight mode for what? I know we’re not supposed to switch on any electronic devices during take-off and landing, which i duly obeyed. I was using my hp to take pictures only after the annoucement that it was safe to use electronic devices!
I rolled my eyes and kept my phone tho’ i didn’t switch it off. Why should i indulge stupidity? (If u want to know more about hp / flight mode, etc, click here.) In fact, i even took a picture of stupidity to share with u. 🙂
There u have it. My personal guide on how not to be another blooming idiot in BKK.