Archive for the ‘Travel In Thailand’ Category

Cambodia, Draught Guinness, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, Pattayah, Bangkok, Thai Nationality  and a Model Engineering Workshop

What An Amazing Week

Our son Alex visited us for three weeks to apply for his Thai Nationality. At the same time I had to go to Cambodia to renew my Thai visa and I wanted to see a friend I had met via this website who was a fellow model engineer and lived in Pattayah.

We made and followed a blistering itinerary and here is the story.

Awaiting text and media. this will take a while!

Visit To Cambodia To Get My Visa Renewed

The two border towns at the Thai/Cambodia border are Aranyaprathet on the Thai side and Poipet on the Cambodia side.

There is nothing much to say about Aranyaprathet  but Poipet is a different animal altogether. The border crossing and particularly on the Cambodia side reminds me of an old Wild West movie. It’s dirty, dusty and well… just wild.

But, just to set the scene, lets see a movie taken on the Thai side:-

And a movie taken on the Cambodia side, a walk down the high street at Poipet:-

 

Thailand Retirement Life In The Fast-Track – In More Ways Than One

 A Very Quick And Short Summary Of My Brief Spell of Retirement In Pak Chong (Pakchong), Thailand, Typed In The Thai Royal Silk First Class Departure Lounge At Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

DATE: 15 April, 2012

It’s been a hectic and eventful two weeks as I try out my ideal life of retirement at our house in Packchong (Pak Chong), Thailand.

“Retirement” life in Thailand been so full – so busy that not only couldn’t I do all the things I had planned, it’s only now as I am waiting for the flight home that I have some free time to spare to write up my notes on this blogging website.

Many apologies to all those people I planned to meet, but couldn’t, and many apologies for not contacting you previously.

Although I haven’t yet posted online any stories of my retirement life in Thailand for the past two weeks, I have gathered a huge mumber of photos and movies to show you. And I have a lot of insights, facts and opinions to share with you about the pros and cons of retiring in Thailand.

Here are some of the highlights of my two week retirement holiday:-

  • The Fast-Track Route Through Immigration At The Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Flying Thai Royal Silk Business Class – Is It Worth The Money?
  • My Reflections On Retiring In Thailand – What It Means And Why Thailand Is Different (Or Not)
  • Ferocious Hurricane Sends A Mini-Tsunami Of Water Trough Our Retirement House
  • We Hire The Same Landscape Gardener That We Sacked Last Time – And Pay Him More Money!
  • I Screw Up Big Time In My Model Engineering Workshop – And Not A Single Part Of My Model Steam Engine Gets Made
  • I Discover A Fantastic Source Of Model Engineering Materials
  • We Meet Up With Other Expats Retiring In Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand
  • How To Get Online In Thailand – Dead Easy
  • The Horrors Of Songklan
  • …And Much More

Well, that’s enough for starters. I won’t be able to cover everything in this one post and there is more to come than in that shortlist above, but let’s get started and see where we go from here….

First, An Update On Fast-Tracking The Immigration Queues At The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

I first wrote about the possibilities of fast-tracking the huge immigration queues at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport on the “How To Fast Track Past The Long Immigration Queues At Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport And Get Through In Minutes Rather Than Hours” Post.

The quick answer is – if you travel Business Class – then yes you can completely fast track the immigration queues at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. In both directions – i.e. on arrival and on departure.

You’ll get through immigration in minutes, not hours.

First, Fast-Tracking Through Immigration On Arrival  To  Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

I Fast-Track through immigration at Suvarnabhumi airport at Bangkok in 1 minute!

From Arrival Gate To Baggage Collection In 18 Minutes – Including Time-Wasting Turns

See It All In The Movie:-

Date: 31 March 2012

Typed in a Toyota Hilux Vigo Pickup – see below.

I had a Business Class (turned out they call it “Thai Royal Silk”) ticket for my flight from Heathrow in the U.K. and on boarding the plane I was directed up the stairs to the upper deck. It felt like I was travelling First Class!

Before departing the plane in Bangkok I saw the Thai guy sitting next to me packing up ready to leave the plane and he was careful to take the stub from his Boarding Card with him. I had expected the cabin crew to give me a fast-track pass on leaving the plane but they didn’t. In fact they didn’t say anything about a fast-track service. Hence I worked out that I needed to take the boarding card stub with me. I made sure I had the stub from my Boarding Card in my pocket. It was the only proof that I had travelled Business Class.

Image of Royal Thai Silk Boarding Pass Bangkok Fast Track Immigration

Royal Thai Silk Business Class Boarding Pass

Would it work? Was there really fast-track route to bypass the long immigration queues that had been reported.

Here’s what happened:-

The plane lands at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport at 0530 local time and I’m out of the gate at walking to immigration at 23:52 U.K. time , 0552 Bangkok time.

Here is a photo of my mobile phone still set on U.K. time. this was taken just after leaving the gate at the beginning of the walk to immigration:-

Image of Fast-Track Immigration Queues At Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport Start

Starting Time On Embarkment From the Plane At Bangkok

I actually took out my camcorder to recorded the entire walk and the process through immigration but for some reason the camcorder kept stopping (I only found this out later) and I only had a very seconds of movie recorded.

Anyway I walked long towards immigration, following the signs and at the turn-off to the normal immigration desks there was a blue sign at high level that said something “First Class” and VIP and the sign indicated to keep walking instead of turning right into the normal immigration area.

I walked on about 50 m and came across a place signposted “Fast Track” and “Visa on Arrival”. There were about 20 travellers there filling in visa application forms, attaching photos to them, and clutching a bunch of Thai Baht for the fee.

These people seemed to be getting processed at a cabin clearly signed “Fast Track Visas”.

Since I just wanted a two week tourist visa and nothing more I didn’t want to fill in a form or join this queue.

So I walked past the “Fast Track Visas” cabin and up to one of the immigration desks. Just one person queue. My turn and I gave the immigration officer my passport, Landing Card (properly completed) and my Boarding Card stub.

She told me to go to the left an pointing somewhere on her left which was in the general direction of the normal immigration queues, where I had just come from.

So I walked out and back towards the normal immigration desks. Then after a few metres I saw a big yellow coloured “archway” with words like VIP, Cabin Crew etc. so I took my chance. There were two immigration desks, nobody queing. I gave the lady (they all seemed to be ladies) my documents as before, she processed them, stamped my passport and I went through!

The time now was 0010 U.K. time, exactly 18 minutes  after leaving the gate. Here’s a photo of my phone again, still on U.K. time.

Image of Fast-Track Immigration Queues At Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport Finish

Time After Being Processed By Immigration

Even including the walk from the gate and me wasting time by going the “Fast Track Visas on Arrival” place I was through immigration in about 18 minutes. Without the mistake it would have been under 15 minutes from the landing gate. Quite a fast time to get through immigration at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

So I collected my big bag full of model engineering materials and tools (including a steam engine kit) and went outside to meet Kanyah. Except that she wasn’t there! By this time is was 0620 so I phoned her. Yes she was on the way but she hadn’t reached Saraburi yet (Half way between Pakchong (Pak Chong) and Bangkok).

After about ten minutes waiting in the sweltering heat – it was an overwhelming 29 deg C despite the sun only starting to rise and drive away the dawn darkness and it was VERY humid – I had a lovely surprise. Deang, Kanyah’s Thai daughter who works at the airport, presented herself and took me off to her nice cool air conditioned office where I waited two hours for Kanyah to arrive!

New VIDEO Coming Soon!

So I had got through immigration in a fw minutes just to have to wait two hours for Kanyah.

And Then The Time Wasting Got Worse

It’s normally a two hour drive from the airport to Pakchong.

A year ago when Kanyah collected me the car was driven by her nephew, Jalan, and he got hopelssly lost trying to find the road to Pakchong out of Bangkok. That trip took us 4 hours.

This time, Kanyah was driving an our neighbour, Noi, was in th car to “help” her find her way.

In no less that 15 minuutes we were again hopelessly lost. I had before I left London told Kanyah to bring the Sat Nav (Garmin nüvi® 2565 Sat Nav) I had bought in Pakchong (Pak Chong) at Christmas for a great deal of money.

She had forgotten it. I was hopping mad. I’m actually typing this as I sit in the car on our way to our retirement house Pakchong (Pak Chong). It’s 0900 – we have lost an hour and got nowhere. In fact about 15 minutes ago Kanyah hired a taxi to show us the way at my suggestion and we seem to be going in the right direction. We are almost back to the Suvarnabumi airport again. And we have lost one hour. Eventually the taxi left us on a road that Kanyah new on the way back to Pakchong (Pak Chong).

And On Departure From Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

DATE:15 April 2012

This is exactly what happened to me this morning, just a few minutes ago. As we (or rather as Kanyah) drove up to the departure area at the Suvarnabhumi Airport (using the Sat Nav this time) I saw signs indicating a “Special” gate for Thai Royal Silk passengers. Since I was one of those, I directed Kanyah to the gate (I think it was No. 1) and Kanyah dropped me off.

In seconds a Porter had picked up my baggage and I followed him to the check-in area for Thai Royal Silk passengers. No queue and I was checked in in seconds.

This then led to the Fast Track security channel, which was about 30 seconds walk, and then immediately on to the Immigration Desks. All the way, no waiting, no queues.

Next it was downstairs to the exclusive Thai Royal Silk (Business and First Class only) lounge which was, as you could imagine, luxurious. Plenty of free food and drink and free internet access which is where I am typing this report from as I wait for the plane.

I have made a video of the Thai Royal Silk lounge itself, and I’ll pause this update to shoot a movies of myself making it. (The update)

VIDEO

(Note to self. Get a travel adaptor so that you can power your laptop from the power outlets in public places like this airport lounge without having to use the batteries.)

Retiring In Thailand Swingometer Hint: Assumes I’ll be doing this again sometime. (+2 points)

Flying Business Class to Thailand – Is It Worth The Extra Money?

I’m still awaiting my return flight as I type this so there will be an update later.

But based on my outward trip from London to Bangkok and this wait in the Thai Royal Silk lounge, this is my view:-

Flying Business to Thailand is a huge leap forward in terms of comfort and convenience. There should be no other way to fly. As I remember the last flight home from Bangkok to London ,when (for the first time in my life) I was physically sick on the plane, was such a terrible ordeal, for me there is no other way to travel civilised other than  to fly Business Or First Class.

Back on the ‘standard class’ flights you’re packed in like sardines. No leg room, can’t sleep and the food is atrociuous.

In Business Class you get a huge seat that can be made into almost a flat bed, no more that four seats to the width of the plane and 5 star restaurant standard food, and superb service.

Splendid, thank you very much.

But is it worth the extra money?

Let me just recount the difference in cost between Thai Royal Silk (Business Class) and standard return air fares from London to Bangkok.

My standard class ticket with EVA Air last Christmas cost £1,149.73 ($1,494.65, 55,1087.40 Baht).

In comparison the Thai Royal Silk (Business Class) this Easter cost £2,555.83 ($3,322.58 or 122,679.84 Thai Baht) – more than double the price.

Let me say that if you can afford in my opinion it’s worth the money to arrive at your destination resembling a human being and not like some rag doll who’s been stuffed in a tiny box for 12 hours with no chance of sleeping.

I don’t travel to Thailand often – just twice a year – so the difference between the two air fares is nothing compared to the £100,000 + (Thai Baht millions) I have spent in Thailand over the last three years. So as long as I can afford it I’ll still travel Business Class.

When I finally retire to Thailand, though, and when money is tight and where I can afford to take a few days to recover after a flight – I’ll probably drop back to standard class.

Coming Up In The Next Post: I Seek Some Overwhelming Reasons Why I Should Be Retiring In Thailand

How To Fast Track Past The Long Immigration Queues At Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport And Get Through In Minutes Rather Than Hours

Three Ways To Beat Those Frustrating Immigration Queues

My excitement at packing my bag for another trip to my retirement house we built in Pakchong (Pak Chong) is tempered by the thought of suffering the long delays and waiting to get through the immigration checks at the airport on arrival. (And on departure but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!)

I started writing this post assuming that I would be in for the long queues at the airport immigration that we all know and hate.

Thinking about these delays, I recalled something someone had written on the Thai Visa wesbsite about fast tracking through immigration because he had a business class air ticket. I started to investigate the possibility of this fast track service and almost by accident discovered that anyone could fast track through the immigration, either the FREE way or by paying for it, whatever kind of air ticket they had bought!

This is the story…

Just How Bad Are The Long Immigration Queues At Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport?

I have been following with disconcertion the debate on the Thai Visa forum (Massive Delays Through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport Immigration) about the long delays to get through immigration at the Suvarnabhumi Airport and as I pack my bag for my next trip to Thailand I’m not looking forward to it at all.

Some Comments From Disgruntled Travelers On The Waiting Times At The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

These are just a few of the many comments by travellers from the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport Passenger Reviews and Customer opinions forum on the AirlineQuality.com website.

“All I can say is the immigration procedure is farcical.”

“I’d rank such disorganised airports as Sydney, Ho Chi Minh and Denpasar as better run than Bangkok”

” I travel all round the world and this airport ranks as one of the worst major airports I travel through.”

“Transiting through this airport is nightmare.”


Fast Track Method No. 1. Get A Business Class Air Ticket?

Last time I entered it took me about an hour to get through (entering Thailand) and I was pretty fed up I can say. One guy on the Thai Visa forum said that if you have a Business Class ticket than you can go through the business channel and short-cut the queues.

It so happens that when I went to buy my air ticket earlier this year there were only one or two spaces left on direct flights near Easter and they were on Business Class on Thai Airways. I really had no choice but to cough up the £2,555.83 * ($3,322.58 or 122,679.84 Thai Baht) fare if I wanted to travel at that time (I did). Ouch!

Even so I could not get the exact flight I wanted and had to leave at lunchtime instead of the evening. Hence I lost a day at work.

* By comparison, my standard class ticket with EVA Air last Christmas was £1,149.73 ($1494.65, 551087.40 Baht). So Business Class is about double the normal fare. You’d expect a few extra perks for that apart from a wider seat and decent food.

Anyway I read this on the AirlineQuality.com website and I perked up a bit:-

“My wife and I flew business class and we were given a premium pass to help us through security and immigration.”

Also I just found this statement on flyerwiki.net:-

“At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Royal Silk Class passengers have their own exclusive check-in lounge, with separate fast-track immigration channels, before they proceed to any of six Royal Silk lounges”

And this:-

Fast-Track Immigration at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International airport

Updated on July 14, 2010

“All Première guests traveling from Bangkok on all Jet Airways flights will be able to enjoy the new Fast-Track Immigration service at the Suvarnabhumi International airport at Bangkok. No need to wait in long immigration lines! This new privilege offers Première guests a special immigration channel which bypasses normal queuing.” on the jetairways.com website. (Admittedly not Thai Airways, but the principle is the same. i.e. it seems that a fast-track immigration service is available.)

So I concluded that Business Class travelers can short-cut the immigration queues on landing at Bangkok.

Can anybody comment on whether you can by-pass the immigration queues on entering Suvarnabhumi Airport if you are have a business class air ticket?


Fast Track Method No. 2. The Free Way To Beat The Queues – Cheat

How I Avoided Missing My Flight Due To Long Immigration Queues Leaving Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

If the immigration queues on arrival at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport are terrible, they are nowhere near the terrible queues to get through the Thai immigration when leaving Thailand through the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.

I experienced this for the first time whan I left Bangkok in January, 2012 and I nearly missed my flight.

I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check in and there was no check-in queue. Then when I went through to the immigration desks my jaw dropped when I saw the huge queue. I had been used to long queues at Heathrow airport in the UK after the liquid bomb scare, but Heathrow seems like a fast-track process compared to what I witnessed in Bangkok.

The queue was ‘controlled’ by those portable posts with black webbing tape strung between them. The posts were arranged in zig-zag back and forth across the immigration hall and about twenty lines deep to the front of the queue.

As I slowly (very slowly) moved along the queue I became quite alarmed at how slowly it was moving. As an engineer (engineers always count or calculate everyhting) I started to count how far the que moved in a minute. Then a quick calculation showed me that is would take two hours to get to the front of the queue. Then I would still have the long walk out to the terminal whch as you know can be half an hour.

In danger of missing my flight, this was unacceptable.

Always naughty, I slipped under the webbing tape and was in the next line. Nobody complained so I did it again. And again until I was at the front of the queue and ready for the first hurdle of the immigration process – no not the immigration desks – but security. Shoes off, belt off, lap top out, jacket off and through. Then it was straight on to the immigration desks where the queues’s were quite short.

I’m not looking forward to doing that again.

Fast Track Method No. 3. Fast Track Airport Services

Fast Track Services To Avoid The Immigration Queues At Suvarnabhumi Airport

As I became engrossed in this issue of the long delays at the airport and the possibility of being able to fast track through immigration I started to do a bit of investigation on the Internet.

First I found this on teakdoor.com:-

Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce : Fast Track Immigration in Suvarnabhumi Airport

03 February 2011

Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce offers Corporate Members to buy “fast track” tickets that will make it possible for the members to skip the long waiting lines at the immigration in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Hours of waiting in the ordinary line for tourists can be cut down to 10 minutes at the Fast Track counter for only 200 baht per ticket that are sold by the Chamber’s office.

“If you travel from and to Suvarnabhumi Airport on a regular basis you will spend much time in the immigration process. The fast track service will save a lot of valuable time for our members and at a very competitive price,” says Stig Vagt-Andersen, Member of the Board at DanCham, who has arranged the special offer.

DanCham offers 10 fast track tickets at 2,000 Baht while pricing found on various internet sites shows prices more than ten times higher than the offer from DanCham. Usually, the fast track service will be provided if you got a Premium Class flight ticket or you can buy the service from several companies in the airport.

That sparked my imagination and very quickly I found that there are several companies in Bangkok offering a fast track service at the airport to circumvent the immigration queues. Of course there is a fee for this service. Here are some of the fast track services I came across, with examples of their services:-

http://fasttrack.in.th/products.php

Service: Meet and Assist and escort through formalities on arrival and departure First Class lounge access at airport on departure.

Price: One person 3,700 Baht

http://www.thaifasttrack.com

Service: As soon as you step foot off the aircraft, we will have staff waiting for you at the gate to escort you to the VIP fast track immigration line for your convenience. After immigration, our staff will escort you to the baggage carousel and assist you retrieve your baggage. After retrieval of your baggage, we will escort you to the fast track customs line to avoid long customs check saving you time. If you have relatives/friends picking you up, we will make sure you meet up with them.

Price: 1,400 Baht. (it doesn’t clearly say if this is just arrival only or arrival and departure. I assume arrival only)

http://www.limousine.in.th/fast-track-immigration.html

Service: Our friendly Airport Hostess or host will meet & greet with you at the arrival gate, holding a sign with your name or a more discrete expression like a company name, logo, initials, etc.

She or he will help with carry-on luggage and lead you to the exclusive fast track immigration counters, where he or she will assist with immigration documents details to ensure that your official entry into Thailand occurs without any delays.

After collecting your luggage from the Bagage claim area, she or he will then guide you through customs and deliver your bags to one of our limousines that just then pulls up in front of the arrival hall at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

If you are traveling by other means of transportation, you will be taken to it instead. If the pick up vehicle does not hold green or yellow license plates, please ask the driver to park in the parking building and meet at outerdoor number 3.

Price: 1,100 Baht. (Arrival only, limousine not included)
Price: 2,100 Baht. (Arrival and departure, limousine not included)

Other Services Offered

These companies also offer other services, typically limousine transport to/from your hotel.

Which Method Will You Choose To Get Through Thai Immigration At The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport?

Grin And Bear It?

There are those who hate being ripped off and see these fast-track services as being a rip-off. These people may take the view that the airport shouldn’t need fast-track services to get what is taken for granted in most other airports around the world.

Having spent many thousands of Baht on air tickets and other transport costs the last thing they want is to fork out for ‘services’ that fill in for the Thai immigration and airport planning and execution failures.

They may take a cynical view and see the immigration department deliberately creating long queues so that they can take a rake-off from the fast-track services. I personally don’t think this is true, but some people may think so and consequently get angry.

Pay For The Fast-Track Service?

I have no experience of the services, having only just discovered them.

If anyone has used them every reader would love to hear their comments, so please post your experiences below.

Get A Business Class Ticket?

Again, I have not flown Business Class to Bangkok (until this time coming), so I have no experience, but watch this space for a report in a couple of weeks time.

At around twice the normal fair, business class tickets are extremely expensive and most people would find the additional cost difficult to justify. I’m travelling alone but if you are travelling with your wife two trips (to the U.K.) would cost around £10,000. That’s $15,000 or 480,000 Baht! Half a million Baht!

That’s nearly as much as we paid for the brand new Toyota Hilux Vigo pickup we bought in Bangkok.


Whatever your views and experience please leave a comment below. Your email address will not be divulged to any third party and you have the choice if you want to be kept posted of further comment.

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