|6E77, A320 service CCU-BKK, May 1, 2016|
Kolkata to Bangkok
Indigo Airlines flight 6E77, A320, CCU-BKK
|Harry and yours truly at the Travel Club lounge, NSCBIA Kolkata|
I picked the slowest line at immigration (an almost infallible instinct, it seems). Security was a breeze. We both headed to the Travel Club lounge on the mezzanine floor (thanks, Priority Pass!), which was decent. I loaded up on some food, and a couple of diet cokes. My friend's flight boarded before mine. At 2015, the Indigo flight was announced, and I walked down to the gate. It was not the zoo I had feared. There was an orderly line, and I was among one of the first onboard. A large group of young men traveling together followed, creating a bit of a ruckus, and delaying the entire process. I could see the frustration levels of the flight attendants rising. The emergency exit rows were both largely empty (there was only one other passenger in my row, at the opposite window), and a couple of times, one of the FAs had to ask one of this group who had decided to take an unauthorized seat in the row. "It's a chargeable row, sir. Twenty dollars." (I'm glad I'd booked it online for 3/4 of that price!)
|The boarding zoo|
I dozed off after the meal, and woke up just before we landed at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, at about 0050 Thailand time, almost exactly two and a half hours after takeoff from Kolkata.
Indigo is India's premier LCC (Low Cost Carrier), with reliable and courteous service. It was my first time flying them internationally, and I thought they were just fine (some of the other passengers however ... !). I always pay the few hundred rupees extra for the emergency exit row, and pre-purchase a sandwich and drink. For someone my height, the legroom is worth it. The ordinary pitch is below average by international standards, and my knees can feel it! It's important when flying LCCs to pay attention to the fine print, especially when it comes to luggage allowances and other perks that airlines like to upsell. However, getting to Thailand from India for about $120, in decent comfort, was truly unbeatable.
Night in Bangkok's Airports
Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang
|Sign spotted at Suvarnabhumi airport baggage claim: what prompted this caution?|
I toyed for a moment with using Uber, however, I figured it would be better to figure that out in daylight hours. At the helpful airport information counter I asked how much a cab would cost -- about 500-600 baht ($14-16). "Make sure you insiste he uses the meter, and do not settle for a flat fee. You also pay an extra 50 baht airport access fee, and any tolls on the way to the driver directly." I headed to the lowest level of the arrivals area, and followed the signs to the taxi stand. There was a lady right in front of me. She went to an area with aluminum railings and barricades, and pressed a button on a coupon generator. I followed suite. A little ticket printed out that told me to go to a particular parking spot, where a green and yellow Bangkok cab awaited me. The driver put my suitcase into the van's trunk wordlessly. Once inside, I told him I wanted to go to Don Muang Airport. He asked if we could settle for 600 baht. I refused and asked him to put the meter, which he did without any hesitation. I loaded up the route on Google Maps, which gave a travel time of 36 min.
A few minutes out, the driver indicated he needed to stop for gas. I nodded. Though he didn't take me off route -- the gas station was adjacent to the highway -- I put my guard up a bit. No one gets mugged or robbed in Bangkok really -- it's very safe -- but hey. My fears were unfounded, and a few minutes later, we were off on an excellent elevated tollway to the northern side of Thailand's capital, as the skyscrapers of downtown whizzed by. We stopped for tolls 3 times, and I think I paid 100 baht in tolls. About 40 minutes later we were pulling up to Don Muang's Terminal 2. The meter read 383. With the 50 baht fee, that brought the total to 433 baht. I gave him a 500 baht note and asked that he give me back 50. He only had 40 he said. Shanya, I thought (a Bombay-Hindi term for a clever cheat). I shrugged, and went inside the terminal. It was about 3 am. I figured I could sleep for 2 hours, before getting ready for check-in.
|These seats at BKK is where I was originally|
thinking of spreading out. They would have
been a lot more comfortable than
what I encountered at DMK!
It was a zoo. The line to enter the AirAsia area snaked around, making at least one if not two loops. It moved fast. First stop, itinerary check, and check-in luggage scan. After that, a chaotic mess of check-in desks. I had purchased AirAsia's "Premium Flex" package (about $40 more, bringing the roundtrip cost on the DMK-RGN segment to $160), which had a separate check-in counter, with a much shorter line. If I had taken the bus from Suvarnabhumi at 5:00 am, there's no way I'd have made the flight! The taxi was totally worth it.
At the counter, I was asked for a printout of my Myanmar e-visa. The immigration line was slow here too. I stopped for a hot breakfast at a McDonald's (yeah), after which it was nearly time to board AirAsia FD256 to Yangon. Premium Flex customers got to board first -- which means we got to get on the bus first, since the flight departed from a remote stand, actually at the other end of the airport! We did get to drive past a variety of different airlines and planes, which was cool.
Bangkok to Yangon
AirAsia flight FD256, A320 DMK-RGN
|The PremiumFlex check-in counter at Don Muang Airport|
|Boarding FD256 DMK-RGN|
I had pre-purchased a sandwich (this is the thing to do on LCCs, if one wants to eat!), which was served soon after take off. There was no soft-drink service here, just water. I slept a bit, and soon enough we were on the ground at Yangon's Mingaladon International Airport, some 25 km north of downtown.
Arrival at Mingaladon International Airport
|Planes lined up at Yangon's Mingaladon Airport|
|Qatar A330 departing, with another AirAsia A320 next to us|
As we set off towards downtown Yangon, slowing soon to a crawl in the city's notorious traffic, I noticed that though the cars drove on the right (like in the US), they were all right-hand-drive cars! Win explained to me that because of import restrictions and taxes, almost all the cars in Myanmar are older, second-hand Japanese models, imported directly from Japan, where they drive on the left! "It was in 1972 that the government decided we needed to change over." He laughed. Somehow this ridiculous driving situation, to me, was a small indication of the absurdity and tragedy of the recent history of this beautiful country.
|Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon|