Flight Log: AirAsia Economy A320 Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Airline: AirAsia Thai
Code: FD 3447
Date: 11/24/2017
Route: DMK -> CNX


THE GOOD:
– Fast service for a short flight
– Good for a solo domestic flight

THE BAD:
– The optional meal

The UGLY:
– What is the boarding process?
– Delay cause they can?


Anytime I find myself on a flight within the US I find myself thinking, what is domestic flight like in other countries?

I know back in college when I was in India I flew the now defunct Kingfisher Airways which for 30 minutes was an okay flight that was generally good cause they provided a meal of rice and beans and unlimited selection of their famous Kingfisher beer.

But this time I challenged myself, what is a low cost carrier (LCC) like internationally. I wanted to fly the Spirit airways of another country! (I still haven’t and proud that I haven’t flown Spirit).

In comes a message from a friend of mine who has been to Thailand before. She wrote, “RR You need to go to Chiang Mai, you need to play with elephants!”. My eyes had widened, playing with ELEPHANTS! I knew I had to do that. But how to get to Chiang Mai? I optioned a train which takes pretty much half a day to complete. But then I realized, wait: I can fly there.

So why the heck not? I immediately searched and booked a flight on AirAsia Thai. For those unfamiliar, AirAsia has a near monopoly on cheap flights throughout Asia, offering near 2 digit prices for one way or even round-trip flights. It’s been a blessing to backpackers offering just the basics that can get one from point A to point B.

Getting There

My day started by checking out of my hostel and heading to the Don Menaug Airport. The 2nd international airport which services most of Bangkok’s Low Cost Carriers and Domestic travel. To get to Don Mueang you have several choices: a 200-400 Baht taxi, a similar priced Uber or Grab ride, or public transportation. Thanks to the people running the hostel I learned that for a single 41 baht ride on the BTS to Mo Chit (humorously pronounced “Mo Shit”) and a short walk to the bus station. I can grab an A1 or A2 airport shuttle for 31 Baht. The bus is much more cleaner and has air conditioning than most buses in Bangkok and is a straight shot to the airport. What google told me might take an hour and 45 minutes was done in just 30 minutes.

The Airport

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Don Mueang, like all airports, are ran by AOT, the Airports of Thailand group. This group helped modernize and standardize the airport industry in the country which makes every airport as clean and efficient as possible. As a result, DMK Airport is a well oiled machine that runs just as well as BKK. Since I had checked in online and printed my ticket I went straight to the gate. Interestingly I spotted a Chicago classic, Garrett’s popcorn. I guess I can’t escape goodness ๐Ÿ™‚

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Hello, old friend

The Boarding

Once I reached my gate I found myself waiting what looked like a bus terminal. Similar to my flight in NRT, they would send us on buses and take us to our plane.

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The boarding process is in the most simple terms: whatever. As in when the clock claimed it was time to start said boarding process they Gate Agents milled about and just didn’t care for it. Once they seemed ready they asked people to board which is again: whatever. They first called the people in the “hot seats” or had some status with the airline and then…everyone else. The tickets had zones and they tried to stay within the zones but good luck with that. I was Zone 3 but I probably boarded with Zone 2. Didn’t matter too much since we would be in the same bus headed to the plane.

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the ultra-rare calm kid at the airport

The Plane

The plane layout is an all economy seating on an A320. The first and only goal for any LCC is to fill the seats. I had picked my seat beforehand and picked a meal which means I had to pay extra but the cost made it a 98 dollar flight, but at least I cut down on the waiting for check in to get any seat.

 

The seat was a “cozy” 29 inches of space and with not much else. The worn leather and peeling plastic tray table gives you a sense that yes, indeed you are on a LCC.

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Then the pressurization happened…

 

Out of absolutely no where white whisps of what I assume is condensation came through the A320. I knew this was going to be different flight. The cranks were louder, the Rolls Royce engines roared with ferocity and the landing gear made distinct…cranks. We were in the air and that’s what mattered.

The food trays arrived for those who ordered a head of time. I had a Nasi Lemak, which was acceptable. The thing that threw me off was the fish, some how despite in a spicy sambal like sauce the fish had absolutely no flavor, like NONE. I tried multiple tries to figure it out but it just tasted like matter. I simply left it at that.

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Hello Filler

Eventually they had landed, flight was short so I just listened to music the entire time. When the landing began they stopped anyone watching something on their phone to put it away. Interestingly they didn’t stop my music listening, some passengers noticed and decided to do the same. The landing was more like a dive than anything else. At least we landed in one piece despite how rough it went. One piece of enjoyment came from the view, Chiang Mai is gorgeous and filled with mountains.

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Plane and mountain spotting

Overall

You get what you pay for in a LCC, that’s true with any LCC regardless of what you fly. AirAsia offers a cheap option and gets the job done. If you have little to no expectations you will get a flight that takes off and lands, quality optional.

-RR

MORE ARTICLES FROM “THAILAND THANKSGIVING”

  1. Introduction: Thailand Thanksgiving
  2. Flight Log: ORD to NRT
  3. Flight Log: NRT to BKK
  4. Short Review: Boxtel BKK
  5. 7-11 in Thailand
  6. Train Night Market Ratchada
  7. Flight Log: DMK to CNX
  8. Playing with Elephants in Chiang Mai
  9. The Saturday Night Market in Chiang Mai
  10. Seeing and Staying in Bangkok

So You Want to Travel in 2018? Part 1

Hi There!

It’s me, RR, and I decided that I should begin my 2018 with a guide to help those who want to start traveling in 2018. This isn’t for the seasoned frequent flyer or the master traveling business person. This short guide is for the person who has decided to start traveling for the first time.

For those that are still with me, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the reason you would like to travel in 2018?
  • What’s the furthest you’ve gone? Out of the state? Out of the country? Out of the Continent?
  • Do you wanna go with people or just go it alone?
  • Can I afford it?
  • Where do you go from here?

If you have been chewing on these questions for some time then it must mean that you are ready to start thinking about traveling this year. Keep reading and hopefully I can help you!

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My first trip solo was Hong Kong in 2015, I miss this view a lot

Quick Disclaimer

By no means am I here to provide the absolute best possible advice. Sometimes my advice doesn’t work for everyone and that is okay. My only hope is that you read this and that you will get those questions answered!

Why Travel

In my work, we have to always encourage others to lead with the “Why” and not with the “What”. Most people who start to think about traveling sometimes leads with the what as in “What do I want to do when I travel” “What can I afford” “What am I getting myself into”. Don’t get me wrong, these are all questions people have asked themselves, including me! But it helps to lead with the why, because “the why” is your main motivator and besides the plane and it’s captain, it’s the reason that you choose to “take off” on your adventure ๐Ÿ˜‰

For many the why is simply “I want to get away”, this is true for almost 90% of you out there and it’s valid but try to dig deeper as to why you want to get away? Do you want to see something that you saw on a video once on YouTube? Are you perhaps shopping around for a new city or even a country to settle in? Saw something delicious on a food blog or on Netflix and you want to go there and try it yourself (in case you haven’t noticed that is me ๐Ÿ˜€ )

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My “why” to go to Brussels? To see where my parents went on their honeymoon โค

We all have our reasons but in order to get the ball rolling I find myself encouraging me to unpack my reasons to ask why more and more as a motivator and to create a stronger, tangible reason. Do I want to go on a 14+ hour flight, in economy, to check out Singapore? Or do I want to go take a 14+ hour flight to Singapore to try some of the best food Asia has to offer, see the great diversity and clash of cultures, and to wander the quay looking at some of the best views of the city-state?

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Which of those questions do you find more motivating? Which sounds more like a plan than a dream? Which one could you find yourself doing?

Can I even go far?

For many of us, traveling can take ages, not all of us are plane people or train people just like how many are not car or bus people. Time is one of those factors that people have in the back of their minds, not so much the destination.

But here is the thing, depending on what you wanna do you might find that time can be on your side. When we work during the week and try our best to relax on the weekend we find ourselves believing that if we go on vacation that we might have to go for a long time and a we need some of that time to travel.

But to get to a place like Asia your flight is going to be 13-15 hours long. In essence that is just over half of a day. Why leave at a time that is most convenient for the airline? Why not try to leave at night to get some rest for most of the flight? Or how about leaving after work so you don’t need to take a vacation day. As an American, we get very limited vacation days compared to our European counterparts but it never has to be that way.

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Yeah sometimes you gotta take a “Hello Kitty” themed flight at 12am to squeeze an extra day in Singapore, worth.

I find myself doing my research and trying to squeeze in the most days for the fewest vacation days. Sometimes it involves me leaving after work, even bringing my luggage with me to the office. Other times I take a red-eye flight (a flight that’s either very late in the evening or very early in the morning). If I’m taking a flight to my destination, I try to search for a flight that works best for me. I try not to let an airline dictate my options, sometimes it’s worth spending a bit more to find a flight that works best for you rather than spending less and finding that you might be stuck at a connecting airport for 6 hours or you will arrive at your destination but maybe at a ridiculous time like 2am, making you miss most if not an entire day!

Are you still there?

I hope that what I have provided above is a nice primer for those that wish to start traveling. But I haven’t answered all the questions yet! So stay tuned for a part 2 where I go further in helping people try their hand at finally traveling!

-RR

Flight Log: ANA Economy 787-8 Tokyo to Bangkok

Airline: ANA
Code: NH 805
Date: 11/21/2017
Route: NRT -> BKK


THE GOOD:
– The Food
– The Exit Aisle
– Bathrooms

THE BAD:
– Middle seat (really my fault)
– Time taken to clear the trays

THE UGLY:
– Turbulance
– Delays


ARRIVING AT THE AIRPORT

We landed early which had given me a full 2 hours to transit. I personally love transiting through NRT, just a quick security clearance done in an orderly fashion pretty much every time.

I managed to take a super quick peak at the KAL Lounge in NRT (Accessible for those with Priority Pass). I felt I didn’t have too much time so I just stopped by to grab a bite and a free drink.

 

Overall the lounge is okay, has a similar set up you would find in a lounge in America, except for of course the perfect pour machine! It was amazing to see it, if anything else. I then proceeded to down my beer and eat my onigiri and proceeded to head down to my gate and…wait

And wait.

And wait.

My flight has been delayed due to aircraft maintenance. While this is something that is routine, the crowd felt a bit annoyed that the gate agent didn’t give us an updated time or when to expect an answer until after she announced it 4 times over the intercom.

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I killed time by finding humorous signs and realizing how thoughtful this airport is

FLIGHT

Finally around the time we were supposed to take off were able to board the plane. Interestingly they actually shuttled us over to the nearby cargo area for ANA, once we got on the FAs did the customary bows and readied the flight for departure with an hour delay.

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We boarded in the cargo area of the airport

I was pretty glad to have an exit aisle as it was a first for me. Unfortunately I was in the middle seat. I loved the space and leg room but was cramped from being between 2 big and tall dudes.

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My first time in Exit row! The Middle seat still sucks though

We hit some very heavy turbulence early on which didn’t help me as I was falling fast asleep. Between my sleep deprivation, delays, and turbulence I was not feeling like I was enjoying the flight. But then the food arrived!

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Rice Crackers which I had with some standard red wine

The FAs distributed the food in a timely fashion, they explained the menu with every row which is very nice of them. My row all ended up going for the snow crab w/ rice and my goodness was it amazing.

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Economy isn’t so bad I guess ๐Ÿ˜›

It also came with a standard salad, ham and cold spaghetti noodles in a mayo based sauce (I think it’s their idea of pasta salad) and a small cake.

But the main! OH THE MAIN, it also included shredded egg, mackreal, and even some real baby scallops. The presenation allowed for every bite to include a bit of everything.

Once completed all I really wanted to do was get some shut eye, but unfortunately I had to wait for some time for the trays to clear, the FAs on ANA like to take their time with the passengers and like to offer additional coffee or tea but I guess my patience was being tested. Once done I was finally able to rest up and by the time we had landed I was awake but still needed some sleep.

I managed to sneak a peak at the bathroom inside the 787-8 cause it was rumored that even in economy the toilets have a Japanese bidet system. I can confirm that it does and overall the bathroom was pretty impressive for economy. Good lighting, spacious, and of course it has the fabled bidet toilet. It makes quite the difference ๐Ÿ˜‰

Eventually we began to land and we were finally in Bangkok, the delay brought us in around 12am instead of the original 11pm. We managed to successfully deplane and brought ourselves to the giant immigration area.

OVERALL

ANA has always been consistent in their service. The delay and the lack of reason was irksome but they managed to provide a mostly comfortable flight. The impressive food and general care for each passenger more than makes up for it.

-RR

MORE ARTICLES FROM “THAILAND THANKSGIVING”

  1. Introduction: Thailand Thanksgiving
  2. Flight Log: ORD to NRT
  3. Flight Log: NRT to BKK
  4. Short Review: Boxtel BKK
  5. 7-11 in Thailand
  6. Train Night Market Ratchada
  7. Flight Log: DMK to CNX
  8. Playing with Elephants in Chiang Mai
  9. The Saturday Night Market in Chiang Mai
  10. Seeing and Staying in Bangkok

Flight Log: United Economy 777-200 Chicago to Tokyo

Airline: United
Code: UA 881
Date: 11/20/2017
Route: ORD -> NRT


THE GOOD:
– Service of the FAs
– Great IFE collection
– I got an empty middle seat

THE BAD:
– The Lunch
– Faulty IFE

THE UGLY:
– The Sandwich


ARRIVING AT THE AIRPORT

I woke up at an unbelievable 5:30am in the morning something that, for me at least, is a feat. I have been trying to adjust myself into Asia/Thailand time so that when I arrive at 11pm, I can crash comfortably in the BKK airport.

I had arrived at ORD through the blue line, one of the many benefits of living in Chicago is that for about $2.25 I can take myself and my bag to both of the major Chicago airports.

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If you use United in ORD, there is always the amazing light-work above as you walk towards the C-section departures

My general rule is to plan 3 hours for international and 2 hours for domestic, a rule which I should just consider breaking. Now that I can load boarding passes on my phone and I have access to TSA Pre-Check I was able to get to my gate in under 10 minutes. I had 2 hours and 45 minutes to kill so I wandered around and tried my best not to grab a quick beer before my flight, it is the morning after all ๐Ÿ˜›

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I was bored enough to check if my bag can count a personal item, close enough I’d say

My flight did arrive, and the crowd was fairly small with plenty of empty seats. Curiously some of the exit rows was empty, some folks asked to move up a row but the flight attendants explained that was for Premium Economy. Personally I feel like that exit rows would need to be filled regardless and shouldn’t be something left to passengers who paid more.

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My Chariot awaits…in Economy

FLIGHT

The flight took off and was smooth for the majority of it with only a single instance of having the seatbelt sign on. I then turned to the IFE console.

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Taken much later but it only took me 5 tries to get the map to show up

The console is in dire need of updating, I had to “double click” in order to select anything and even then the cursor trailed off to the other side of the screen if I wasn’t exact. That being said the content was plentiful, checked out some Marvel movies and tried watching the Simpsons. To my disappointment, the Simpsons just isn’t what it used to be, I guess same could be said for flying.

The seat however was pretty comfortable, it helped that I had an empty middle seat next to me. My seatmate across from me gave that knowing glance that we are indeed free to stretch out just a little bit more. I also got to test out my bag and sure enough, slides right down in front of me!

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I even had room to prop my legs right up over the bag

Lunch was served upon reaching cruising altitude, the flight attendants took the time to make sure everyone was served and didn’t seem as rushed as some flights can be. In case you missed it, yes, they served “lunch”, which was pretty light.

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It is econ after all

A single “brick” of fried rice (veggie or chicken), the chicken was okay, interestingly they had dark meat which is rare for US airlines to include. They also included a grain salad which wasn’t really explained. It was…a salad? I still felt like I was shot up with the carbs.

Soon after I finished doing my Simpsons marathon I managed to get some rest, the real MVPs were my fuzzy socks and eye mask. But even more so is the headspace app that United provides. Not even 5 minutes into the “sleep while sitting” course and I was ready to doze off.

After a quick nap I had woken up and began watching some more stuff on the IFE to keep myself awake and keep going. At this time it was early morning in Thailand, I had to adjust to that. But the view outside was nonetheless amazing! An older gentleman seated in the exit row was watching it upon waking up thinking he was seeing the Colorado Rockies. I got the chance to see his reaction when I told him we were indeed flying over Siberia ๐Ÿ˜€

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Without a doubt, it’s beautiful

 

Midway throughout the flight they offered people a small sandwich with M&Ms, the quality was equal to any sort of grab and go sandwich. Mine had apple and gouda in it, the sogginess made it easier for the bread to go down at least, ugh.

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At least I was sustained?

What I did enjoy were the flight attendants (FAs), they were extremely polite and kept up the mood. They even spent time during the flight offering water while walking up and down the aisles. Something which their Asia-based counterparts tend to do.

Eventually they began finishing up the service by providing breakfast which ending up being pretty delicious

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Not pictured: me being oddly impressed

They had a choice between pancakes and a pesto/cheese omelet, I opted for the omelet which ended up tasting pretty good. It wasn’t a mysterious rubber blob like most economy breakfasts, though overcooked a bit, can’t blame them though.

Finally the plane landed and by having literally only a backpack I managed to bob and weave through the crowd and managed to exit while trying not to steal a business class amenity kit ๐Ÿ™‚

OVERALL

Economy will always be that, “economy” and there is no way around it. However, for a US-based airline to do the little things like passing out water or distributing food at a pace that didn’t feel rushed made the difference to me. The flight crew provided a great flight even when the IFE and Food was lacking.

-RR

MORE ARTICLES FROM “THAILAND THANKSGIVING”

  1. Introduction: Thailand Thanksgiving
  2. Flight Log: ORD to NRT
  3. Flight Log: NRT to BKK
  4. Short Review: Boxtel BKK
  5. 7-11 in Thailand
  6. Train Night Market Ratchada
  7. Flight Log: DMK to CNX
  8. Playing with Elephants in Chiang Mai
  9. The Saturday Night Market in Chiang Mai
  10. Seeing and Staying in Bangkok