Bangkok and the flight connection farce.

Thursday, March 03, 2016
Bangkok, Thailand
I'm not quite sure what direction and style my blog will take this time but I'm sure it will evolve as I go along and I hope you all enjoy it. This time we are traveling with a very small budget of just under £20 a day between the two of us. From this £20 we need to find places to stay, we need to eat and it also needs to cover transport costs as well as any activities we want to do along the way....oh yes and beers as well! Quite a tall order really. To do this we will be trying to find work along the way as well as volunteering in return for accommodation and food. I hope this blog will be helpful to those of you who are thinking of traveling. I also hope that the more seasoned travelers among you will keep me right if you know cheaper ways to things in certain countries, so please feel free to comment and keep me right if you know cheaper/better ways to do things, it will be much appreciated. So I guess firstly I hope this blog is informative. I have a feeling this blog will be a lot more personal this time. Given the events in the past year with my mam I feel a little different about things. My last trip changed me a lot anyway and now more than ever I feel myself questioning myself more as a man and as a person. Am I good man? Am I living a good life? Now more than ever I feel these things to be relevant and important to me.

Being a couple traveling is slightly different to traveling alone . I have done both and there are obviously pros and cons for each when it comes to finances. Traveling alone your probably more inclined to spend a few more pennies on drinks and going out to keep the social side of your travels alive. Don't get me wrong we still do but in a slightly different way. Traveling as couple can have it's advantages when it come to accommodation. When traveling alone I generally use hostel dorms as most of the time that is the cheapest option. However as a couple it is sometime cheaper for your accommodation and also you can get a few more luxuries and home comforts for a similar amount of money. When alone I may pay around £5 a night for a dorm bed, however as couple sometimes hostels are not always the best option unless they have private rooms. In Bangkok if alone I would have paid £7 a night for a dorm bed in the hostel we stayed at where as this time we got a private rooms in the same hostel for £11 working out at only £5.50 each.

One of the things we are also learning and finding great on this trip so far to help ease the burden on our cash is a combination of using Quidco and the right sites for booking our accommodation at the same time . You get cashback into your account with quidco and at times it can be a decent amount. We have looked at a place we may stay at soon that quidco will give you 14% cashback on. At the same time if it's booked through the right website you can also acrue rewards via that booking site itself, in this case an additional 10% discount. That's a saving of 24% which when on a budget is not to be sniffed at.

So enough of the sensible advice and money matters, what about Bangkok itself and our first few days?

Well Bangkok itself this time was fairly uneventful I must say. I know Bangkok quite well now as much as I do say London or Manchester and it's a great city as far as cities go so don't get me wrong I like the place and it can be great fun, amazing fun. It's busy, bustling, vibrant and has a great variety of things going on, something different and interesting around every little street corner and certainly some of the best food in the world . You want girly bars there are girly bars, you want not so girly bars and more manly/girly/manly bars they have those too and every combination in between. You want to drink snake blood and swallow the snakes beating heart ala Leo in "The Beach" you can do that as well, 100% wool hand tailored suit in the latest Italian designs? You can buy several for £100 and if you fancy sampling a few deep fried cockroaches Bangkok will not let you down. It really is an entertaining and varied city with a unique identity. That said it is one of the most expensive cities in Asia and we needed to keep to our budget as much as possible. I have seen most of the main sights and tourist attractions on previous trips here so the few days we had here were mostly spent ambling around the streets local to our hostel in a quiet part of Sukhumvit down Soi 50 not too far from Tesco, yes that's right Tesco, complete with "Woopsies" and "Smart Price"! We enjoyed the street food which was up to it's usual great standard and ate as cheaply as we possibly could, around £4 a day between us got us all of our meals . Pad Thai, Noodle soup, spicy minced pork, Chinese sausage, bbq chicken etc etc so much to choose from and even at such a low budget we certainly felt well fed and not hungry. The most we really did in three days was take a trip along to the infamous Soi 11 were quite a few of the girly bars are located, generally populated with tourists and overweight middle aged men clinging on to girls a fraction of their size. The rest of our time was spent sipping cheap Thai rum and planning were to head next after Bangkok. That's all we had by the way, our flight into Bangkok and then we would be free agents after that to move wherever we pleased, whenever we pleased. And it was a tough decision to decide where that would be. Bali was high on the list for a bit of relaxation at the begining of the trip but it's rainy season. Then again rainy season isn't as bad as it sounds as it usually consists of torrential rain for around 20 minutes on an afternoon and the rest is the usual tropical sun cracking the ground open . Rainy season also means cheaper accomodation. As well as the cost we also considered what was happening when and where. Far too hot this time of year to start in Cambodia, with temperatures in the 40's. Songkran happening in Thailand in mid March which is the equivalent of their New Year and is an awesome water festival which we loved so much on the last adventure and something that would have been good to do again. A slow train down through Thailand and into Malaysia is also on our list of things to try this time but that didn't make sense as we want to tie it in with some island hopping and it's coming up to low season when it is hard and more expensive to find boats to ferry you around the islands. So eventually we did decide on the Bali option which will give us a nice bit of R&R at the start of the trip and due to the timing allows us to experince Nyepi the Hindu celebration consisting of a day of silence to appreciate nature and tranquilaity where you are not allowed out onto the streets at all, with all bars and restauarants and shops closed (yeah I know sounds really interesting doesn't it?!) however the day before Nyepi is apparently a fairly lively affair with celebrations held in all the town squares so something interesting and new to check out. Also at the end of March we will be able to join in and sample the Bali spirit festival which is supposed to be a great party held over several days so I think we made the right choice. Or at least I did.

Now comes the strangely annoying part of the trip so far and we are only a few days into it. We spent hours trawling various websites to pull together the cheapest way to get from Bangkok to Bali and back out of Bali and into Malaysia. The best we found were some flights with Malindo air, my favourite airline in Asia and generally the cheapest. Now we had two ways to book these flights. Either a single booking of Bangkok to Bali, via Kuala Lumpur and a single booking from Bali back to KL or a single booking from Bangkok to KL then a return from KL to Bali and back again. There was a good difference of around £50 each depending on how we booked and naturally we took the cheaper option which was to book the single from Bangkok to KL then a return from KL to Bali all with the same airline. Now I'm no airline guru but considering the fact you could book a single trip with Malindo from Bangkok to Bali (Via KL) I presumed even though our flights were considered separate yet the same exact flights that we would be able to check our bags all the way through to Bali and simply transfer in KL to our forward flight without going through Malaysian immigration and then straight back out of Malaysia and onto our flight. Makes sense right? No. That would be far to logical for an airline to handle so once at the checki-n counter for Malindo we were told we could not check our bags through and not go through transit. Our connection times were too tight for us to have to collect bags, enter Malaysia via immigration....check in our bags...leave Malaysia etc etc and we explained this along with the fact that there would be other people on the flight doing the exact same trip as a single booking who would simply go through transit with their bags checked all the way to Bali. It started to turn comical at times as the girl on check in was bit of a ditzy Thai girl who seemed to just giggle a lot when we asked to speak with the supervisor. If we had more time I would have been pretty jovial about the whole thing myself however time was ticking and we needed to get through all of this and to our gate for the first flight. Eventually after enough persistence we spoke with the supervisor. Brilliant, I could see her printing out boarding cards for our second flight out of KL, this was starting to look promising now. But no, this wasn't as promising as it seemed we were told that although we could go through transit ourselves she could not check the bags onto the second flight. We were told we could get round this and would be allowed to take all our bags straight onto the plane as hand luggage. Hmm this was getting a bit interesting now. 30 minutes to boarding and we had to go through passport control and security with our big bags containing 2 liters of Thai rum, god knows how many bottles of sun block, mosquito repellent, toiletries, all the stuff that is actually so much cheaper at home than in Asia...oh yeah and my camping knife, my multi tool, scissores etc. Grief we are going to look like terrorists at this rate. But we tried all the same. We knew we shouldn't but it was too much stuff to lose and not try getting it through.

We failed miserably. With 20 minutes to boarding we were both stopped at security and sure enough a tag team of security ladies and ladboy's for that matter descended on our bags. I was worried they may delay us quite some time particulalry because of the knives. Everything was emptied. Bottles of rum were opened and poured away, although they were nice enough to let us have a few good gulps first, fair play I thought. In fact not even allowed I would say encouraged to have a good drink of it! Once we did it drew gasps and shock from the security team, I think they only did it to have a good laugh at Johnny farang necking neat Thai rum but hey better than wasting it all right? Our bags were re-packed, x-rayed again, opened again, more items removed, x-rayed again, rinse and repeat, you get the picture. Eventually we were packed up and running towards the gate just in time to board. Made it, now let's see how the connection goes....

So here we are. I'm sat typing this on the plane from KL to Bali, and do you want to know what the annoying irony is about all of this? Well, we landed at KLIA2, at gate 17. Scampered with our big backpacks and day packs along the length of the terminal as our transfer time was really tight, followed the signs to international transfers, down a floor, back along the same terminal on the ground floor and back wait for it.....yes gate 17 and have just boarded the exact same plane that flew us from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. Our bags would not have even needed to be taken off the plane. How ridiculous is that? So on that note I think I'll call it a day for this entry. Next stop is Bali in around 3 hours and a well deserved large Jim Beam and few cheeky Bintangs are in order me thinks. The joys of travel eh? A lot of people seem to think traveling/backpacking is just one long holiday. It's not, it can be frustrating at times, hard work pulling everything together, and for those familiar with my last blog down right dangerous. Thankfully this time though Russia is not on the list of destinations, in fact I doubt it ever will be after my last escapade a couple of years ago in Siberia! But that said this is the stuff that makes these trips memorable and the good times all the more rewarding. It's starting to feel a bit more like the adventure has begun.

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