Friday, April 9, 2010

Bangkok, Thailand, Overall Score Card

Bali, Cambodia, and Thailand: September 29, 2009

All material including photographs are ©2009 Ronald Dunlap / Doglight Studios

We got up and did our toiletry and then finished stuffing the rest of our belongings into our suitcases. We didn't need to be at the airport until late afternoon, so we had the morning to kick around. Ann wanted to walk down to Sukhumvit Road and look for a couple of extra presents. We locked our most valuable things in the safe and then locked our bags.

We rode the shuttle down to the end of the block, then turned right and started looking for stuff. There were lots of t-shirt sellers. We settled on black Hard Rock Bangkok shirts. After bargaining a while, we left with three and continued our search. We crossed over the road and headed back towards the hotel. I saw a bedspread with gold elephants on black.

When we got back to the hotel, we had a drink in the lounge area and got some lunch.

I'd reserved one of the hotel's cars to take us to the airport at 2 p.m. That's the travel time they recommend, as you can never predict Bangkok's traffic flow. At about 3:15 the cab pulled up in front of the departures terminal. We found the Singapore Air check-in counters, but we were early, so we found a bench across from the counter and sat.

The counter opened at 3:45. Ann checked in and got her boarding pass, then I handed over my passport and threw my bag on the scale. The woman at the counter handed me my boarding pass but said that my bag was over-weight and that I needed to go down to the post office and buy a box to transfer some of the contents out of my bag into. It took some back and forth before I sighted the post office in the northeast corner of the building.

I hurried back to where Ann was watching my bags. We cleared some space and I assembled the box and opened my bag. I filled the box with all my clothes that needed to be laundered. I taped the box shut twelve ways from Sunday, wrote my name on the side, and went back up to the counter. She checked in both my pieces and handed me my baggage tag receipts.

Security is long and involved here. I ended up almost totally undressed by the time they were done with me. Ann found me as I was lacing up my boots and rearranging my garments. We were looking for gate D3 and the VAT counter to get the tax refund.

We found the VAT counter and I took my receipt and forms up to the window. The clerk examined my forms and smiled. He said I wasn't due a refund because I didn't check in at the VAT office in the outer section of the airport. I said that I still had a couple of hours until my plane left and wanted to know how I could get to the other office so I could get my hundred bucks. He just smiled again, saying impossible, and asked me to move aside so the next person could be served.

Travel Tip: VAT ripoff. Just be forewarned that there are at least two places where you must have your receipts stamped in order for you to be eligible to have your money refunded. Seems to me that the Thai government makes it as hard as possible so they can keep your money.

Singapore Air Flight 12 left on time and arrived in Singapore a little after 10 p.m. We had another 12-hour layover, so as soon as we disembarked we walked straight to the transit hotel to get a room for the night. We stood in line, and just before we got up to the counter, we heard them tell the person in front of us that they were full up, no more rooms available.

We spent the night roaming the shops and amusing ourselves window shopping until 1 a.m., when the shops close. A lot of the eating places stay open all night. We found a Burger King on the second floor and had a late dinner, then found seats in one of the television lounges and hunkered down to spend the night.

When the stores opened at 6 a.m., we were up and about, visiting the washroom and trying to clean up as much as possible.

The departure screens finally posted our gate number and we moved down the concourse to wait for our 9:45 flight.

From Singapore we flew to Tokyo and had a one-hour layover, then on to Los Angeles.

After touch-down Ann and I went through passport control and claimed our bags. I knew I'd be a while in customs, so we said goodbye there. Sure enough, when I got up to the man, I was sent over to the problem line. But I was lucky compared to Ann, she still had six hours of flights to get back to Minnesota.

I find flying from west to east exhausting, but all in all, it was a great trip.

I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to give "rgd-travels" the once-over.

Ronald G. Dunlap and Ann K. Marsden