Return to Thailand, 2008

Photos by MJ Klein

This is part one of the series Thailand, Fall 2008.  See also our series on Ubon Ratchathani.

We went back to Thailand after being away for one year, seven months!  It was a nice reunion with old friends, and an opportunity to meet new friends too.

We took a KLM flight out of Taoyuan International Airport in the evening.

Return to Thailand

Taoyuan International is truly a beautiful, world-class airport.  Hui-chen and I love shopping and we enjoy browsing the shops and duty-free shopping on the ground as well as in the air.

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Hui-chen checking out some cosmetic products

On this trip we bought a set of rings for her, and a new watch for me, all duty free and on-board our KLM flight.

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You can find so many high-class items in the Taoyuan International that often I wish I could shop at these stores on our way back instead of only being able to shop when leaving the airport on outbound flights.  Such is the nature of duty-free shopping though.

We arrived in Thailand a little after 22:00 local time.

Hui-chen and I had some time to kill before our morning flight so we ate at one of the restaurants on the 3rd floor in the international airport.  After some time we decided to make our way over to the domestic airport for our flight from Bangkok up to Khonkaen.

Thailand can be a frustrating place because the infrastructure is not as robust as Taiwan’s and pretty much everywhere, everything that is offered to you is jacked up or an outright scam.  I’ve written about the fact that all the transportation people in the Thai airports will offer you a “taxi” service but it’s far from being that.  Private vans can charge you anything they want, and they will do just that if you take one of them.

Also, these van and limo hawkers can be more than annoying.  While I was talking to someone at the information desk, one of these shady operators had taken note of us.  Hui-chen said he was staring at her in a rude manner.  As soon as I began to walk away from the information desk, this guy began to pace along with me.  Clearly, he had marked us as tourists who were unfamiliar with Thailand.  Wrong!  While still inside the terminal and in plain view of the public, I stopped walking and motioned him to keep going.  But once outside he approached again, and came up very close to us – way too close for comfort.  Glaring at him had no effect so I shouted at him to leave us alone – at the top of my lungs.  He backed off a few meters and stared like we were the ones with the problem (typical reaction in that part of the world).  He shadowed us the entire time until we were completely out of the area.  I have no idea what goes through the mind of a person who is trying to sell services when they act like that.  Did he honestly believe that was an effective sales tactic?  He scared my wife.  If I were packing a gun, I would have unsnapped the holster and had my hand on the butt.

As you might guess, there is no free shuttle service from one airport to the other.  Also, given the fact that the new international airport has a virtually unpronounceable name for a non-Thai person, you can find yourself in airport limbo trying to figure out how to get from one to the other.  All the hedonistic/touristy Thai destinations (such as Phucket and Pattaya) all have direct flights from the international airport.  But places like Khonkaen, where we were going, are only accessible by flights from the old airport, Don Muang, which is now the domestic airport.  There is a bus that costs 40 baht but you have to take the shuttle to the bus terminal (at least that shuttle is free).  From the bus terminal you have to find the bus to Don Muang, and everything is in Thai. Good luck!  Do what we did: find the Arrivals level and the metered taxi stand.  The dispatchers speak rudimentary English and I’ve never had a problem with my destination when given a ticket by one of those dispatchers.  Note that there is a 50b fee for hiring a taxi from the airport, and keep track of all the tolls paid by the driver on the way, as you will have to pay those.  One one occasion a driver announced that the fare was 600 baht.  When we asked why this fare was 100 baht higher than the normal fare of 500 baht, he said “OK, 500 baht.”  You’d better watch yourself.  We added up the meter fare, tolls and the airport charge and came up with 505 baht, which is exactly what we paid for the taxi.

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The main problem with going to the domestic airport in the late night or early morning is that there is nothing open.  In fact, we had to take an elevator to another floor to even find an open door to this terminal.

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During daylight hours you can find food, but not at this hour.  I suppose that the places in the internation section might be open but one has to walk through a 500 meter tunnel just to get to the other side, and then walk even further than that just to get to one of the restaurants there.  Way too far to push our luggage cart, and way to far to leave Hui-chen alone, or have her go there alone.  All-in-all, piss-poor management on the part of the Thai authorities.  But as someone put it, none of the Bangkokians are being inconvenienced, only the lowly Issan people in the northeast so who cares?

I do.  I’m doing business in Thailand and I want them to become a world-class destination.  Small time thinking is holding them back from reaping even more potential profits.

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Finally we took off at 06:15 the following day, after spending a grueling night in Don Muang airport, watching videos on my Asus notebook.  There isn’t even a decent hotel in the area, nor any way to find out about it.  There is so much room for improvement in the Thai travel process.  We only came from Taiwan, just 4 hours away and by the time we reached our destination we were ready to kill someone.  I cannot imagine someone coming from Europe or North America, only to have to sit in the domestic airport for 8 hours or more, until they can board their domestic flight.  It’s malignantly stupid.

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Ah, the first glimpse of Khonhaen, our destination, 12 hours after we left Taiwan, and no sleep.

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We checked into our room at the Tamarind Residences.  I looked out the window and was relieved to know that the beautiful boss lady across the street was still in business.  We rested for a couple of hours and then ventured outside.

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Across the street from the aircon bus station.

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New housing complexes are popping up all over Khonkaen.  The prices are going up too.  These houses are unlike anything I have seen in Thailand before.  They look more like Taiwanese homes.

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Hui-chen discusses menu options with Noi of the #1 Bar

We walked over to the #1 Bar and ordered food.  It was nice to see that the bar is still in business (one never knows in Khonkaen).

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#1 Bar owner David White presented me with my unfinished bottle of Suntory Red from the last time I was there, a year and seven months ago.  Nearly empty, I finished it in one glass….

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And ordered a bottle of domestic Sang Som.  Notice the white label as opposed to the black export version label we have in Taiwan.  It’s the same smooth taste though.

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The staff was all new but the regular customers are all the same.  That’s David on the right.

In my next article I’ll show you some night shots of Khonkaen.  It’s an amazing city and we love it there.

Thanks for reading!

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  1. MJ I am sorry for the hawkers at the airport. This is not a way for new visitors to be greeted and luckily that you are a seasoned traveller to Thailand.

    A little while back all teh legal taxis blocked the raod into the airport in protest to all the illegal taxis and limos. A governmnet minister was dispatched and promises were made.

    The Thai mafia that run these illegal taxis and vans are apparently owned by influencial people I have read, people who are meant to stop this from happening are profitting from it. But again in Thailand this isn’t surprising.

    Bruntys last blog post..Taking Time to Smell the Roses, Thailand.

    1. Brunty » i seem to remember that, but nothing permanent has become of that solution to the problem. it’s bad business as usual. that doesn’t bother me as much as:

      1. there not being a decent hotel nearby for travelers
      2. no free shuttle with English signage, easy to find, going between airports
      3. no food or water available (except the water fountain) in the Don Muang domestic terminal all night

      i can deal with the bothersome hawkers but i am already dreading my next trip to Thailand because i know of the exhaustion i’m going to experience, well in advance.

      thanks Brunty.

    1. Carrie » but how cool is he to keep a thimble full of whisky for me for such a long time? i guess we’re both cool, huh? lol

      thanks Carrie. cu next weekend unless you’re coming to our block party on Saturday)!

  2. The guy following you around reminds me of an unpleasant experience in Varanasi, India. We also had a guy trailing us the minute we got out of the cab. The streets in the old town are too small to drive down; maps are also pretty useless once you enter the labyrinth. We tried to lose him a couple of times, but couldn’t. 25 minutes later, when we had found a place that looked promising, he scooted by us and up to the front counter, like he had brought us. (The “guides” get a commission in many places in India.) I was so tired of him that I blurted out “this guy has been following us since we got out the cab and we just can’t get rid of him!” I guess I shouldn’t have worried about a couple of bucks, but I was hot, tired and sick of being treated like a side of beef. Later, when I was chilling out on a step down to the Ganges, the same guy came up and whispered in my ear: “Something is going to happen to you.”

    “What do you mean?” I asked.

    “Maybe you’ll be robbed when you’re out. Watch out for you camera.”

    That was pretty funny for a guy still feeling pretty tired. “Go ahead. You’ll probably make about $20 bucks off everything in our room.” I know these guys are just hoping to make money for dinner, and I feel for them looking back. But they can be very trying if you’re not in the right state of mind.

    Patrick Cowsills last blog post..John McCain’s Statement on Taiwan

    1. Patrick Cowsill » at first i thought he meant that he was going to get even for you for taking away his commission. those commission types are a major PITA because you can’t go anywhere without one of them jumping in front of you like as you say, they brought you there.

      carry around a rubber ear with fake blood, in a handkerchief soaked in the fake blood. then you can show it to the guy and say “maybe something will happen to you too.” lol

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