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Tim Foolery

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Thai Airways Royal First Class (BKK-MUC)

After a bit of a delay boarding and a rather lovely yet awkward push through 250 other passengers waiting to board, we were finally at the Door 1L for our 9,249 km (5,474 mile) and 11.5 hour journey from Bangkok to Munich.  The Royal First cabin on Thai Airway’s Boeing 747 is configured in a staggered 1-2-1 layout. I say, staggered because the first row only has two seats due to the curvature of the plane.  There are three window seats on each side and two rows of two center seats – allowing for 10 passengers in the front of the plane.  There are 14 Royal Silk (Business Class) seats directly behind the Royal First cabin, plus another 26 seats on the upper deck. I would have much preferred to be seated in the small upper deck, but first is on the main deck.

We opted to sit in Seats 3E and 3F – the last two seats in first, in the middle section.  The seats Thai uses in First on both their A380 and B747 service are the same, all forward facing lie-flat seats.  The seats aren’t angled away from each other, so if you are traveling with someone, you can still talk to them relatively easily.

A view from 3F – Love the pointy end of the cabin.

The reverse view from 3F – big drop off from the First Class to Business Class, eh?

As I reach my seat, 3F, the Stew approached, welcoming me aboard and asking what I wanted to drink. He was very rushed and very agitated. My gut is that the delay was frustrating him, he knew he had to get a multi-course meal out and get people to bed quickly.  He was trying to be efficient.  I ordered champagne.

As we arrived at our seat, we were greeted with a signature Thai Orchid, some chocolates and a rather rushed Stew.

I continue to get situated – taking out my noise-cancelling headphones, my tablet, a USB Cable to ensure that my phone was fully charged for the photos I knew I’d be taking.  The champagne was delivered and the Stew comes back asking what I wanted for my meal.  Mind you, I hadn’t sat down at that point – I was still unpacking, rearranging, etc.  I let him know I hadn’t looked yet and needed a few minutes.  He slammed his hand down on the seat in front of me and stormed off.  So strange.

My refreshments while we board – Champagne, still water with my Rimowa Amenity Kit.

The champagne being served was a 2006 Dom Perignon – it flowed throughout the flight.

I get settled, enjoy my chocolates and some champagne and the Stew comes back to ask about my dinner selection (it had been about 45 seconds since his last visit). I told him I hadn’t decided and that I didn’t even have a menu yet. He proceeds to pull one out of the area where the magazines and safety cards are stored…then he stands there while I look at it.  He asks again about my selection.  Good god man, give me a second.  He walks off in a huff again.

Plenty of legroom and a huge IFE Screen.

I figure if I don’t have an answer for him on his next visit I’ll probably be escorted off the flight — yes, all this is happening while passengers in business and economy are still boarding.  I tell him I’ll take the Thai Curry with Beef Satay.  “It is too spicy for you, you’ll hate it. I suggest you choose something else.”  Ok, so just a few hours ago I was at Nahm sweating my ass off because of an extremely spicy Prawn Curry, but I was very confident that this dish wouldn’t be anywhere near that spiciness. I again, requested this dish.  His response was priceless: “Fine, but if you don’t like it, you can’t change your selection.”  Now if that isn’t First Class service, I don’t know what is.

The door closes about 25 minutes after we boarded, so the Thai Airways folks did a great job in getting all the passengers on board and settled.  We had a short taxi to the runway, but a very long and bumpy take off roll.  The plane sounded like it was rattling from every screw, bolt, door and cabinet.  It was so loud (and unsettling is not the right word, but something just felt off), so much the passengers I could see all gave each other a concerned look and tightened up their seat belts.

We were in the air and once we crossed 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) the cabin crew jumped into service. Starting with the beverage service and accompanying nuts.  Everything seemed quite rushed – but at this point it was already past 01h30, so people wanted to get some sleep and I’m sure the stews are getting yelled at if they don’t get service done quickly.  We weren’t in any hurry ourselves, I was fine staying up all night and experiencing the wonder that was Thai Royal First class.

Champagne and nuts to kick off the meal – this should be the service everyday, everywhere, don’t you think?

After the drink orders were taken, I grabbed my Thai Royal First pajamas and went to the lavatory.  The lav on the the B747 was quite tight, nothing at all like the large and luxurious Thai A380.  You almost had to be a contortionist to change in that tiny bathroom – but luckily a couple glasses of Dom made me a little more flexible and I managed to change without any of my clothes touching the bathroom surfaces.

No refills on the nuts were offered – we were obviously on a quick an efficient service tonight.  The caviar service came next and I absolutely loved the caviar service last time I flew Thai.  This time, the caviar cart was not wheeled around, but we were asked what accouterments we wanted and the fully plated version came out.  We were also given our own individual jar of caviar this time, while previously we  given individual scoops of caviar – so you could adjust your portion accordingly.  Keep it coming!  The crew didn’t include the vodka pairing with the caviar tonight though – quite disappointing.

Caviar – prepped and ready.

Mike and I taking a break from the movie we were watching to pose for photos during caviar service.

I’m changed and ready for my dinner. First stop, caviar!

Caviar was served in individual jars this time.

After we finished our caviar – immediately after I mean, with almost no delay or hesitation, we were given a salad course. I think.

Salad?

Then another salad course.  The second with Brussels sprouts, carrots and nuts and greens.  A perfectly respectable second salad of the flight.

Salad?

A mild lime flavored sorbet to cleanse our palettes before moving on to the entree.  We were still moving along at quite a clip here too, not a moment was wasted between final bite of one course and the delivering of the next.

The intermezzo sorbet did a good job as a palette cleanser. The lime flavor wasn’t overpowering, but just right.

Next up was the Thai curry that was going to be way too hot for me – and when that happened, I’d be stuck without a meal for the flight…or so the Stew told me.  He did a great job of setting the table, especially considering there were so many condiments that came with my curry and satay.  I will say the curry was very good, it had the mildest of kicks too it too, but this of course had nothing on Nahm. I ate every single bite of this curry – I did have to shoo the Stew away a couple times as he tried to clear my tray table while I was taking a break from the hurried pace of our meal.  I’d totally order this next time I fly Thai.

The traditional Thai curry was very good and served with all the condiments one would need!

After dinner was cleared, I looked for the Stew working my aisle. I needed his help making my bed, but he was no where to be found.  I found his counterpart working the other aisle (she was back in business class chatting with some colleagues and passengers).  She quickly came up and made my bed without hesitation.  She was so much nicer and more professional.  I wish I had sat in her aisle.

It doesn’t look all the comfortable, but it’s a great bed as you fly to Germany.

I crawled into bed and prepared for sleep.  I was pretty full, so sleep didn’t come all that quickly to me and the First Class Cabin on Thai (and many other airlines too) is like a sweat lodge – the heat is just cranked up. Farther back in the plane it is much cooler, but it was so hot up front that you didn’t need all the blankets they provided.

I ended up sleeping off and on for about 5 hours of this flight.  I was too full and too warm to get a great night’s sleep.  I got up about 60 minutes before we landed (I asked the Stews not to wake me for breakfast – I’m not really a breakfast guy and I was pretty full still when I woke up) and popped into the lav to change and brush my teeth before everyone else started getting cleaned up before landing.

As we came in for a landing the old B747 shook and shimmied, just like it did on take off.  Closet and lav doors popped open and overhead bins dropped down.  We landed smoothly and taxied to our gate.  As we deplaned we were given the customary Thai orchid and like the A380 flight, the Stews held back the Business Class (and Economy) passengers until all the First Class Passengers had deplaned.  That is such an elitist move by the airlines, but I absolutely love it.

Flying Thai Royal First was one of the most anticipated parts of this trip.  I utterly adored my experience on the A380 and since I love the B747 itself, I thought I’d be equally wowed.  I did enjoy the flight, the food, the hard product (except for the doors and bins that kept popping open), but the service was dismal at best.  I know people fly for different reasons and it can be quite annoying when you want to sleep and the cabin crew are banging around serving a meal late into the night, but we felt rushed and couldn’t fully enjoy the experience.  Yes, I’m sure I could have been more proactive and told the Stew to slow down and attempted to enjoy the process more, but I didn’t.

I would definitely fly Thai Royal First again – and I’d love to experience their A380 service again -even if it costs more United miles than the first time I flew it.  The daytime flight out of FRA to BKK I think is the way to go – long enough flight to really experience the journey and early enough in the day you aren’t rushed by people trying to get some sleep.

Have you flown Thai Airways Royal First?  Which experience (A380 or B747) was more inline with yours?

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Thai Airways Royal First Class – Ground Services BKK

The beauty of flying First Class doesn’t start once you walk down the gate, with good airlines, it starts long before.  Thai Airways is known for this great service and their First Class Ground Service at BKK (Suvarnabhumi Airport) was one of the reasons we planned our return trip like we did.  We could have returned on Air China or ANA for the same number miles (we didn’t pay cash for this flight, but cashed in United Miles) and left around the same time.  If you aren’t flying Thai in Royal First you don’t get access to all the amenities that Thai flyers get.

Our Uber dropped us off at the door near the First Class Check-In area at BKK and we see this beautiful sight.  Other than the woman at the door (and the three armed guards with assault rifles, just out of frame) no one was around.

I envision the Pearly Gates of Heaven to be like this.

We walk towards the Royal First Check In area – located away from the hustle and bustle that is BKK.  It was around 20h00 and the rest of this terminal was buzzing with activity.  We make it about half way to the check-in podium and the woman guarding the door greets us and asks for our names and the City we are traveling too.  Less than 10 seconds later she flags over two young men who grab our bags and lead us into the Check-In Area.  This woman asked for our passports and said that we would be checked in here and it would take about 10 minutes and that we should relax. Before we could even make it into the Check-In area a couple asked this woman for help (they were flying business on ANA) and she quickly told them that she was with her Royal First Passengers and that surely someone “over there” could help.  She wasn’t rude, but she was forceful.

We were whisked to a small seating area while our checked bags were weighed and our boarding passes were printed.  She asked if we needed anything as we sat at the small seating area.  I, of course asked for a glass of champagne…and Mike thought I was nuts.  Why would anyone need a glass of champagne while you sit and wait for someone to check you in for a flight.  To that, I say “Who wouldn’t want a glass of champagne….”  We sat here and chatted – both excited for the experience the next 24 hours would give.  I finished about half my glass before our escort showed up to take us to the Royal First Lounge.  Our escort handed us our passports and boarding passes, but took our hand luggage.  She quickly escorted us through the First Class Security area, which was a bit of a clusterfuck because the security guards required us to carry our own bags and remove our electronics.  I don’t care about that, but you’d think that they’d have this process down a little better.  Carrying our own briefcases is fine.  We were the only ones going through the security checkpoint when we were there.

Once we cleared security, we hopped on a golf cart and were whisked down to the lounge.  I’m not usually a golf cart in an airport guy, but it was a pretty long haul and I had a lot of things I wanted to do in the lounge.  Unlike in the US, the Thai golf cart driver just honked the tiny horn and floored the cart.  I know we clipped a couple people as we shot by, but the cart did have a Thai Royal First sticker, so I guess that was okay.  One of the people the cart clipped turned and apologized to us – which is probably just a polite gut reaction, but c’mon, we hit you with a cart, you should not apologize.

We make it to the lounge and are handed off to our Lounge Attendant.  She tells us that she’ll be taking care of us during our stay and that she will personally come get us when it is time to board the plane.  Sometimes these folks won’t get you until the very end of boarding and you can feel a bit rushed once on board.  I’d rather get on a bit early, get settled, maybe even change into my new pajamas, get a glass (or two??) of champagne – basically, I want a leisurely start to my First Class experience.

Our Attendant took us into the lounge and helped us find a seat.  She was very apologetic for it being so busy.  The Royal First Lounge has traditional lounge seating areas, plus private rooms.  We passed by several that were occupied – of course, I asked if we could have a private room and she was hesitant.  At first I thought she was saving those for families or larger parties, but as we continued to walk through the lounge, I saw a couple with just one person hanging out.  Then, as if it were timed by God himself, we came across a private room that was being serviced.  The empty glasses were being taken out and a woman just finished sweeping the floor and wiping down the tables.  SCORE.  We got a private room.  These rooms don’t have doors and one side is all glass that opens up into the rest of the lounge, but it is still just for us.

When flying Royal First, passengers get access to complimentary massages too.  You can get up to 60-minutes of spa treatments.  You can do a full body massage (with or without oil) or two 30-minute massages (shoulder and foot) or you can opt for just a 30 minute massage, if time is limited (again, your choice is shoulder or foot).  Business class passengers can choose one of the 30-minute options.  Before our Attendant left our private area, I asked her about massages and we were in luck – two 60 minute spots were available immediately.  We were told to leave our bags in our area in the lounge (which really concerned me, but I grabbed my wallet and passport and left my bag there).

The Spa is actually in across the hall from the Royal First Lounge and we were escorted over and quickly checked in.  Things were moving very quickly and efficiently.  The massage area is quite large and separated into two rooms.  You have the main area with your massage table and a separate area where you change and can shower, shave, etc.  I wanted to take more photos of the massage area, but my masseuse seemed to be in a hurry and I didn’t want to keep other patrons from having a massage before their flight.

I popped into the changing area and found XL Disposable Underwear, which were still a bit tight (I’m 1.82M/6′ 84kg/185lbs), but fit so much better than those disposable undies in Myanmar.

Wearing XL Underwear isn’t an ego booster…

The massage was good and the room was quite quiet, considering how much was going on just outside the room.  It did take me a bit longer to get relaxed – I think it was because of how much running around we were doing just to get to this point.  She did a great job though.  I chose the Full Body Massage with Oil.  After the massage I took another shower (so far this day, I had a shower before breakfast, a shower at the St. Regis spa…yes, I had a massage earlier in the day, a shower before we went to the airport, as we weren’t sure if we’d get a massage or not and I couldn’t wait until Munich for a shower) and headed back to the Royal First Lounge.  Our Attendant was waiting for me to finish and walked me back to the Lounge.  I assume they pinged her and said that I was done and that she didn’t just wait there for 75 minutes…

The private area of the massage suite at the Thai Airways Spa.

The toilet, agape, in the Thai Airways Spa.

The Robes were a nice touch, but not really needed.

I made it back to the Lounge and found an elderly Thai woman (in full Thai Airways Uniform) sitting on a folding chair to the entrance to our private lounge space.  She wasn’t on her phone. She wasn’t reading. She was just sitting, perfectly straight.  She thanked me (for what??) and folded her chair up and walked away.  I was told that she was there to watch our stuff and keep unauthorized people out of our room.  Hmmm.

I sat down and before I knew it, our Attendant brought me a glass of champagne, a still water and a menu for food.  The Royal First Lounge does have a full and proper sit down restaurant (white table cloth type of place). I’ve heard that the food there is authentic and amazing, but after Nahm for lunch and Gaggan for dinner the prior night…and a full dinner on the plane, I couldn’t bring myself to eat a sit down dinner…so I just ordered some fried spring rolls.  Hey, it’s still vacation, right?

Champagne and fried spring rolls. A lovely combindation.

By this point it was about 22h30.  Mike had returned from his massage and we relaxed in the Lounge.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 00h50, so I thought we’d head over to the gate, which wasn’t very far from the Lounge at around 00h00, but our Attendant really didn’t like that idea.  She asked, then begged us to stay.  She said the flight was a bit delayed because of mechanical issues and it was a bad idea for us to just go stand at the gate. As she said when we first came in, she reminded us to sit and relax and she’ll get us when it is time to leave. Fair enough.

At around 00h40 we decided to leave. We just felt uncomfortable and the lounge was getting pretty empty.  When we walked up to the Lounge entrance we found six other passengers in our same boat — uncomfortable that we were still in the lounge just minutes before scheduled departure.  Most of these people were German…

Our Attendant finally agreed and they collected the final people for our flight and walked us to the gate. No one had started boarding yet.  It was mayhem.  Our Attendant had stayed in the lounge and our new guide was a bit frustrated.  We had a couple folks who couldn’t follow simple directions – they got lost on the way to the plane and he had to go find them.  After a few minutes waiting in the gate area, our guide pushed through the crowd saying something in Thai, something in German then “First Class Passengers, please move”… ouch.  I loved it though.

Thai Airways 747. This bird took us from BKK to MUC. It was a bit rickety, but still the Queen of the Skies.

The gate area was surrounded by glass and doors into a glass wall lead to the gate itself.  We were escorted directly past the glass doors and then spent a few minutes hanging out – watching all 300 of the other passengers glare at us as we moved to the front of the line. I’m sure they could smell the champagne and massage oil on us as we moved by.

I really enjoyed the Royal First Lounge and the full 60-minute massage.  I do wish I could have tried the full restaurant.  I also wish I had a bit more time in the Spa.  There are rooms that have full bathtubs where you can have a massage then a nice long relax in the tub.  The problem here is that I really shouldn’t be spending so much time in an airport lounge, right?  I’m on vacation in an amazing city like Bangkok, I should be out and about.  Maybe next time I can schedule a longer connection at BKK (as long as I arrive or leave in proper Royal First, otherwise, I don’t get access to all the amenities).

Have you visited the Royal First Lounge in Bangkok?  How was the food?  Did you spend enough time in the lounge or did you need more?  What massage option did you go with?

St. Regis Bangkok

Our final stop on our trip to Myanmar was the St. Regis Bangkok. We’ve stayed at this property at the end of our last two week trip through Southeast Asia (after we visited Vietnam and Cambodia).  Staying in luxury hotels is very easy in Bangkok – there are a ton of them and they are so much more reasonably priced in this market than anywhere else I have seen in the world.

We figured it would be utterly foolish to book the St. Regis on points, as it goes for 30,000 Starpoints each night or we could pay cash for only 150USD per night.  We opted for the latter and as an SPG Platinum member who stays 50+ nights annually, I am awarded 10-suite night upgrades, which I used two for our stay in Bangkok.  We were only going to be there a single night, but our flight home (via Munich) was scheduled to leave around 01h00 and we didn’t want to deal with luggage handling or vacating our room at 16h00 then finding something to do for four or five hours, especially at this price point.

After ditching those Oregonians who wanted to split a cab into the City, we pulled up to the main door at the St. Regis, around 16h00 and were greeted by several doormen, all smiling, bowing and graciously taking our luggage.  Reception is on the 12th floor of the hotel, while the first floor houses several seating areas, a chocolate retailer and a Concierge Desk and what appeared to be a Tour desk.  Our luggage was whisked away and we were escorted to the main elevator and walked directly to a young German man who was waiting to check us in.

We did not catch this German’s name (I know he told us, but we forgot).  We called him Rolf (from the Sound of Music…not because we thought he was a member of the National Socialist Party, but because he looked like the actor who played him in the film).  He was young and seemed a bit confused during most of our interactions.  He was clicking and typing away as he confirmed our stay details, scanned our passports and made small talk.  He had been in Bangkok for a six month rotation with SPG and he was very excited to get out.  He didn’t like the heat.  He was heading off to Madrid and would do a six month rotation at the Westin Palace, which we had stayed a year or two prior to this visit to Bangkok.

Rolf welcomed me as a Gold member and informed me that he had personally upgraded us to a standard room with a better view because of my loyalty and before I could correct him, he began telling me all about the benefits of being a Gold Member.  I let him finish.  I then told him I was a Platinum member and that we were confirmed into a Suite. He suggested that SPG had downgraded me to Gold for some reason (perish the thought).  It looks like the St. Regis wasn’t pulling all the current info on my record into their systems, but were just using the info from my most recent stay (Gold Status and old US address).  It took some convincing – and asking him to check with someone else on our status and our room.  He did and got it cleared up.  He graciously personally upgraded us to the room that we had been confirmed into five days prior.  We were happy with the result but the round about way to get there was frustrating.

Rolf escorted us to our room and showed us all the features.  We didn’t have much Thai Baht on us at that time and we wanted to make sure the more local folks would get that, so we tipped Rolf in Euros which he seemed to appreciate (he had less than a week left in Bangkok).

Our room was stunning.  The room was way too big for us, especially since we’d be spending little time in the room and only sleeping there one night, but it was very nice to have ample room to stretch out and enjoy the space.

As you open the main door you are greeted by a very long entry way, with an entry table and a beautiful orchid.

First sight as we entered our suite.

Better shot of the beautiful orchids on the entry table. Every entry needs an orchid, don’t you think?

To left is the living area, which included a dining area with seating for four, a couch paired with a couple of club chairs facing the TV and closest to the hallway was a bar.  The bar had a fancy Siemens Nespresso coffee machine, which was lost on us as we aren’t coffee drinkers. I did make a cup of tea though.

A view from the bar in our suite. Ample seating for relaxing and entertaining.

A view of our dining and sitting area with the bar off in the distance.

The bar was properly stocked and a coffee, some tea or a cocktail were at your finger tips…or just call the Butler to make one for you.

Our bar had wonderful Nespresso beverage station, which was almost totally lost on us non-coffee drinkers.

On the dining table the welcome amenity of fresh fruit was waiting our arrival.  The fruit was very tasty and the Butler replenished the items we ate when we stepped out.

 

Our welcome gift, waiting for us as upon arrival.

The room also include small half bath between the main hallway and the living space.  Not really a necessity for us, but it was very nice to have.

The suite had a half bath, they billed as for “guests”. While a total luxury, I really love the half bath in hotel rooms.

To the right of the main hallway was the bedroom, which had a TV, a small writing desk and a king sized bed.  I love the modern muted colors of the St. Regis.  The bed was very comfortable, but during turn down service we were given only milk chocolate, which is pretty standard, but something I’d rather skip.  Give me dark or nothing!

While not the most efficient use of space, the I really enjoy the colors and textures of the St. Regis Bangkok.

The bedroom in our suite was large, comfortable and perfect for our one overnight in Bangkok.

The closet in the master bedroom was stunning – although for a one night stay we didn’t unpack.

Who lines up paperclips like this? I do love a properly stocked desk when traveling. Interestingly enough, the room did NOT have St. Regis stationary.

The bathroom was large and beautiful.  The large shower with a view into the City was separated from the rest of the room and tucked away in the corner.  The separate bathtub did not get used this time – last time I had the Butler fill me a bubble bath where I enjoyed champagne and read magazines that I’d schlepped half way around the world.

The double vanity in the main bathroom was lacking a bit of counter space, but worked out well for us.

The bathtub was calling to me. Bubbles (both bubble bath and champagne) are a guilty pleasure that I didn’t partake in this trip.

The master toilet…and obligatory phone.

The water pressure and temperature were phenomenal.  The Elemis products (from the spa on site) were perfectly acceptable.  I wasn’t really digging the scent, but they did their job and each time we left the room the bathroom was reset with new products (old ones weren’t taken away, but anything that we had used, an additional one was brought in, so we had no fear of running out).

The Elemis products found in our bathroom were the same products used in the spa onsite, of the same name.

As a Platinum Member, we were welcomed each evening to the Bar on the 12th Floor where a special area was reserved for Platinum members – for a daily reception.  This was part of our welcome amenity.  Complimentary cocktails and snacks were offered, which I enjoyed both days I was there.  I lounged by myself on our second day, as Mike didn’t want to fill up because we had the Thai Royal First Ground Experience plus Royal First on a Thai 747 to Munich too.  I’m a glutton, so I had prosecco and snacks before we started our journey home.

The SPG Platinum Wine Appreciation Menu

The cocktail menu at the Platinum Reception.

The St. Regis Bangkok doesn’t have a lounge, so a portion of the bar was blocked off for a Platinum Reception.

I really enjoyed our stay at the St. Regis Bangkok – this stay ended on a much better note than the last time we stayed.  No drama with checkout or extremely stressed, panicking staff.  I would return to this property again in a heartbeat.  We do a poor job of exploring Bangkok when we are here, at this point of our trips, we are usually ready for some luxury and the St. Regis property and the wonderful team who staff her provide exactly what we are looking for.

Where do you stay when in Bangkok?  Do you jump in with both feet to the luxury hotels the city offers or do you prefer to save some travel money and visit the more normal hotels that go for as low as 50USD?  When in this city, we like to splurge, but love to hear about other properties too.  Where should we stay during our next visit to Bangkok?

Air Asia Economy (RGN-DMK)

Our last shorthaul flight on our trip to Myanmar had us leaving Yangon on Air Asia to Bangkok. I had never flown Air Asia before but I usually try to stear clear of low cost carriers because you can often get stuck paying a lot more in fees (carryon, checked bags, seat assignments, etc), than you initially plan. We really didn’t have an option for this trip as the flights to Bangkok on Thai (our preference) or Myanmar National Airlines all left dramatically later than we wanted. We wanted to spend the afternoon in Bangkok and a 15h30 departure from Yangon would help us out in that regard.

We decided on Air Asia because the flight times were the best we could find, plus the air fare was very reasonable. Air Asia wasn’t flying into BKK,  but DMK (Don Mueang International Airport) instead. It looked to be a bit closer to the St. Regis anyway and our goal was to enjoy Bangkok, so we booked it.

Our driver from Yangon, earlier in the trip, picked us up at the domestic terminal and drove us to the international terminal. It was very generous and included in the price we paid for the tour, but it really wasn’t necessary the distance between the terminals wasn’t long nor was it convoluted.

We had about two hours between the time our flight from Heho landed until we left for Bangkok. Yangon has a contract lounge and with your Priority Pass you can gain access. That is of course, unless you run into the people we did at the airport. The women working the lounge wouldn’t accept our Priority Pass. She said that we weren’t welcome (that’s a quote). I figured I could just pay for access then bring it up with Citi or Chase once we get back home. No deal. We saw another passenger enter by showing some sort of pass (not a printed lounge access card, but a credit card sized pass). He was a young man of European descent. No clue what the issue was, but she kept the lounge locked up like Fort Knox.

There was a lot of empty space and not a lot of seats in Yangon, and almost no power outlets. We found seats near the gate and sat for about 90 minutes. Interestingly enough, while we waited, we met an American couple from my home state…and the woman actually went to the same college as me (20 years prior, but I went to a small school and the only other Americans we ran into having this connection with us was quite exciting).

We boarded the plane and quickly found our seats near the last row. The retired Oregonian travelers were seated in the row behind me. The man in the middle seat next to me was a very tall African man. He had two large Fosters Beers, one of which was half consumed and the other was chugged between the time we were on our take off roll but before we hit cruising altitude. As we boarded we saw a tall European (could be North American) board with a rainbow clown wig, a big red nose and a big horn that he’d honk from time to time.

Pretty tight pitch on this Air Asia flight – awful uncomfortable.

Interior shot of a moderately packed A320.

Before we reached 3,000 meters the flight attendants began service. The flight to Bangkok was less than 50 minutes, but a small snack box was served to all 180 people on board their Airbus A320. The pitch was quite tight and the African dude chugging his Fosters (and silent burping and blowing his beer stink on me) was manspreading like a motherfucker. The seat width is tight on this plane, so it really felt like he was trying to play footsie. It was a rough 50 minutes.

We landed and the Oregonians were asking where we were staying and they lost their minds when we said the St. Regis.  They were staying at an Ibis because they got a rate of 70USD per night. The St. Regis was 140USD. Big percentage difference, but an even bigger quality difference. I love the cheap luxury hotels in Bangkok.  They wanted to split a cab with us, which was probably the last thing in our list at that point. Luckily their phones weren’t working, so we told them that our hotels were in opposite directions, then once off the plane, we ran like Olympic Sprinters to ensure we didn’t have to discuss cab sharing again.

We had forgotten how tight the cabs are in Bangkok too. There would have been no way our suitcases, their backpacks and ourselves would have fit into one of those cabs. Whew.

If I had a choice between Thai and Air Asia, I’d choose Thai. For such a short flight with reasonable airfare and departure time, Air Asia was perfectly acceptable. I would definitely fly them again, if the need arose.

What do you think of Air Asia? Is it worth the hassle to save a few bucks or a few hours of vacation?

Magnificent Myanmar: Introduction

We usually take one big trip a year, and by big I don’t mean expensive, I mean our longer trip. Historically our big trips have been to places like Southern AfricaVietnam/Cambodia and Peru. This year, we decided to return to southeast Asia and visit Myanmar.  We chose Myanmar because it wasn’t that long ago that Americans couldn’t tour the area an many Americans aren’t visiting now.  We wanted to visit before the country was overrun with western chain restaurants and before the photos of the beautiful temples would be spoiled by a Gap or a Starbucks.

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda – Yangon.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be writing about our trip, including the following:

If you see that I missed something, or want a little more detail on an aspect of the trip, just let me know.