I’ve arrived in Thailand and am loving the temperature and prices here already. Back in the UK at the moment it’s freezing cold, windy, foggy and expensive but it’s in the mid 30’s here and everything is so cheap. It has been a long journey to get this far, however.
On Wednesday I had my last day at work before my trip. I was originally planning to use that evening to get everything sorted, finish packing, rest etc. However due to the problems with my flights I had an early morning flight out of Heathrow yesterday and needed to get a hotel near the airport to avoid having to get up very early and risk public transport issues.
The hotel I picked was the Ibis Budget in Hounslow and it turned out to be a really good hotel for the price. The room itself was weird and looked like something out of a 1970’s Sci-Fi series but was clean and functional. The staff were also really friendly – due to the rush I had left the copies of my passport that I might need during my trip at home so needed to get some new copies. I thought the best thing to do was ask at the hotel and then try at the airport if the hotel said no. However the hotel staff were more than accommodating and after getting the copies done I was able to catch a good nights sleep without worrying about not having copies.
So then yesterday I had a long travel day to get to Thailand. I got up early as check-in for Cathay Pacific opened at 8am and I wanted to make sure I was there at the start to get a good seat and to give myself time to have breakfast. The issue was that due to having a different class of ticket issued through a travel agent I wasn’t able to check in or select a seat online but due to having long legs I need to have an aisle seat so that I’m not squashed in. They had electronic check-in desks but for some reason these wouldn’t work so I had to wait until check-in opened. As expected I was first in the queue when check-in opened although the lady at the desk told me I had successfully checked in using the machines just hadn’t been issued a boarding pass. But either way it didn’t matter as I got the seats I wanted and checked in successfully.
While waiting for the flight I did the usual get breakfast, stock up on water and snacks, buy magazines etc and then headed to the gate once it was announced to wait for boarding. The flight was a bit late leaving but they let us jump the queue to make up our slot for take off.
The food on the plane was surprisingly nice although I kept having problems with the entertainment system in the back of the seat in front of me. First the screen kept going blank when each feature started so they reset it. Then it kept crashing and restarting when I tried to watch movies so they reset it again. Then the screen just froze so they reset it a third time. It was getting late by this point so I decided to give it one more go and, as expected, it crashed again and I just gave up and decided to catch some sleep.
It seems staff on Cathay Pacific are attentive, however, as at some point a little while after closing my eyes one of the flight attendants woke me up to ask if I needed any help as she noticed there was a problem with my screen. I explained that I had been having problems and she asked if I would like to move to some seats that were spare further forward. I agreed and she showed me to a row they had kept empty in case of emergency so not only did I have a working entertainment system I had a row to myself which was excellent. I watched a few movies but wasn’t able to sleep so once the lights went back up I had a lot of coffee with breakfast.
Transit at Hong Kong airport took a while as a couple of flights had arrived at similar times to us but the flight arrived early so I had plenty of time. Once through into the departure lounge I had a look around, changed some money ready for my overnight stopover on the way back, and was amazed how big the terminal is – the place reminded me of the new terminal at Dubai which I transited through a few years ago.
My flight down to Phuket was with Dragon Air, a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific, and was only a few hours in duration so I wasn’t worrying so much about getting a row to myself like on the first leg of the trip. However I had a surprise as I was sat in front of the over-wing exit row which was occupied by a disabled couple who, for obvious reasons, were not able to sit there so were asked to move. I took the opportunity and asked the flight attendant if she would like me to sit there and she said that would be helpful. So not only did I have a row to myself it was the exit row with extra leg room.
The flight arrived on time but most of the journey was misty or over sea so we didn’t really see much. I was just happy when we touched down in Phuket Airport. The entire process through the airport including collecting bags, passport control and customs took less time than transit at Hong Kong so I was soon through into the arrivals area. I changed some money and purchased a pre-paid taxi voucher and I was then taken through to the taxi rank for my journey to Karon. Just a side note that there are several ways to organise a transfer in Phuket – you can book one online or through your travel agent but these are usually more expensive. I would recommend just getting a taxi when you get there. You can either purchase a voucher like I did for between 500-1500 Baht depending on the destination or can just go through and use a metered taxi. I used the voucher as it was less hassle although it did cost 20% higher than it would have with the meter.
After arriving at my hotel, the Karon Living Room, I relaxed in my room for a while before exploring the town. Most of Phuket is my idea of hell and is tourist central with rows of sun loungers on the beach and Karon is no different. It’s nowhere near as bad as Patong, which we drove through on the way to Karon, but the only reason I’m here is because this is where my trip starts tomorrow. The scenery is nice and the food is cheap but I didn’t get a chance to look around much as I’m really tired so I’ll be going to bed shortly to catch up on sleep.
The trip starts tomorrow officially although it’s just another night at the Karon Living Room before we head north to the Myanmar border the following day. Either way I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the group tomorrow. I’ve been told that I can stay in the same room and not have to move which is helpful.