Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Right day, wrong airport (Feb. 16/09 - Khao Lak, Thailand)

With half a day to kill before heading to the airport this afternoon, we took the opportunity to walk over to Khao San Road, Bangkok's notorious traveller street, to see what it was all about. Our first reaction was that we were very glad to not be staying there! Packed with stores, vendors, hotels, noise, signs, beggars, and people all over the place shouting the typical "Mister, where you go? You need tuk-tuk? Taxi? Floating market? City tour? What you need?" It gets so tiring. Once again, the big city is wearing thin on us and we are ready to escape.

We had arranged for a taxi to take us to the airport a few hours in advance of our flight to Phuket. Seeing as this was a domestic fight, we automatically assumed that we needed to go to the domestic airport, which used to serve as Bangkok's international airport before the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport was built. An hour later, we pushed our bags into the domestic terminal and were greeted by an airport staff lady wanting to point us in the right direction. When we said Air Asia, she gave us a blank look and then told us that we were at the wrong airport. Not a big deal, we thought at first, since it looked on the map as though the international terminal was right next door. Turns out that was an old map, and Air Asia operates only out of the new airport, which is on the complete opposite side of the city. We were not impressed - why wouldn't the domestic airport handle all the domestic flights?! Maybe we shouldn't have assumed that, but it seemed obvious at the time. We had no choice but to take a taxi across the city to the other airport, which would take another hour and cost 500 baht. So much for our daily budget! The guy drove like a Nascar driver, and we actually had to ask him to slow down when the spedometer hit 140 km/hr. On the plus side, it gave us a decent view of another part of Bangkok, where glitzy highrises towered in the smog above the elevated highway. An hour later, we pulled up to the airport and then realized that not only had we been there before, but we had flown to Chiang Mai from this airport - a domestic Air Asia flight. Oops. What a stupid mistake! That theme continued when I forgot to take a new $20 bottle of sunscreen out of our carry-on pack, which had to be confiscated at security. It was just one of those days.

Thankfully, we had left plenty of time to get to our flight for screw-ups like this. We landed in Phuket and found out that the only way to get up to Khao Lak from here tonight, which is about an hour north, was to hire a cab. Although this was preferable to staying overnight in Phuket and doing the drive tomorrow, it still adds to an already pricey day. On the way out of town, we stopped at a booking office to see if they know of any cheap places to stay in Khao Lak since we had no map and no idea where we were going. The cheapest place they could hook us up with was at least double our usual budget, but it was late so we figured we'd better pick something and go with it.

The driver also seemed to belong in the Nascar league, rounding corners at 100 km/hr that are sharp enough to have caution signs and "max 30 km/hr" signs on them. We pulled into town 20 minutes sooner than planned and were amused to see that our $29 splurge of a room was fancy enough to come with swans made out of towels on the bed. Luxury! We took a walk down the main drag of town to recover from a long day of sitting. Touristy shops selling clothes, day trips, and souvenirs lined up with restaurants, tailor shops, and dive shops along the main drag. It sounds like Khao Lak is blessed with a pretty stretch of beach, so we'll be checking that out tomorrow. It's probably pretty good because nearly every tourist we saw in town was sporting a pretty decent sunburn!

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