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

Train Night Market Ratchada in Bangkok

In short: There are many night markets around Bangkok but while some are borderline NSFW (Patpong) or just full of backpackers (Khao San Road). The Train Night Market Ratchada marries the old and new in a way that is uniquely Bangkok

Budget:
5-10 USD: Can get you comfortably fed on street food stalls and a drink or 2
11-20 USD: Eat to your hearts content with freshly made seafood and some beer
21-30 USD: Live like a king, maybe even hit up a bar or buy some hipster clothes

Bangkok is big, very big. At times it can be overwhelming with the sheer amount of stuff to do. But as you go around you find yourself running into a theme: this is a tourist city. Temples littered with tour guides, plazas catering to the sex tourists, touts on most corners. It makes you wonder: where do the Thai people go? And more importantly where do they go EAT!

At the Train Night Market Ratchada, you find what looks to be a more modern style of night market which caters itself to the younger, yuppie crowd. A place for folks to shop and make bargains and to eat a variety of food.

GETTING THERE

Since my hostel was close to Nana Plaza, we could easily walk to the Bangkok Metro. For about 21 THB ($0.64) you can take a train from Sukhumvit station to the Thai Cultural Centre stop.

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It’s almost half an hour but it’s half an hour in AC!

Get off and follow the signs to the Night Market. I had a small fear that this might be a tourist trap but what I found it was far from it.

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If the 9 minute walk is too much you can cut through the nearby mall

LAYOUT

Once inside you find a carnival of sights. Full scale bars with live music, shops that cater to the local hipsters: Metal Music themed Burgers, Jeans with a post apocalyptic theme, Tattoo parlors, and multi-level bars.

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rows and rows of food and clothes

The Train Market is divided into rows, the first 5 rows from the right are food while the remaining rows are for clothes, electronics, and anything else. In the back is where you will find the more permanent buildings that are boutique hair stylists or clothing stores.

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An example of some of the more permanent shops

At the time we had went the crowds wasn’t much and we were able to pass through and walk around comfortably without being “stuck in traffic”

The market opens at around 5pm and ends roughly around 1am with some flexibility depending on when businesses decide to pack up.

THE SHOPPING

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My friend I met in the hostel went around checking out the small clothes shops. I found it quite refreshing the lack of touristy stores selling the basic “I โค Bangkok” or other kitschy items. The majority of the shops around was selling women’s wear, most of which has a distinct Korean or Japanese fashion influence. Bargaining seems to be pretty well accepted so you are bound to come out on top of the savings

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Apart from clothes, you can also find electronics of various quality and legitimacy. Personally I usually try to find an electronics store before risking my phone or laptop with whatever I buy outside. There is also a handful of shops selling nuts and candy for people to take home with them.

THE FOOD

With around 5 full rows of food you will find that it’s almost impossible to leave hungry. The main attraction I found is the seafood. For roughly 11-20 USD (neighboring vendors like to compete!) you can order a large plate full of oysters, shrimps, and clams. Many of the stalls offer their own quirks such as serving food in a bag mixed with various spices and flavors. They give you all the tools you need and even include disposable gloves to grab and nosh down without getting your mitts messy.

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But I am a frugal street food guy so for me the start to any meal has to be coconut. For around 30 Baht or less you can get your hands on a delicious coconut. For me it’s a good start to the food adventure and can be pretty refreshing no matter the temperature.

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Another good option is the stuffed roti, this carb heavy dish can be either sweet or savory, mostly sweet. Pick what you want inside (for me it was egg and cheese) and it will be cooked with a mix of butter AND oil. They even offer chocolate or condensed milk on top, yes even for the savory option. This I had to share, it was very heavy with carbs and fat and can be greasy. Not my favorite but I’d turn the other cheek if I had more alcohol in me.

Grilled meats are always in supply, my favorite being the chicken and pork meatballs. Do NOT be like me and eat the ones with bits of green and orange thinking it’s just onion and carrot. Those are the colors of Thai chilies! And it is spicy but the pain is so much more pleasurable with the sour spicy sauce thrown in! Word of warning, this is served with sharp skewers that can stab through your plastic carrying bag so careful where you poke ๐Ÿ˜‰

But for me the start of the show is the Kanom Tuay. These steamed warm discs of coconut pudding and a pandan jelly bottom is a perfect ending to my food adventure. My friend and I agreed, this is something we can keep eating and never get tired of. I wanted to eat this slowly and with little bites because once it was gone I was, very reasonably, sad.

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OVERALL

The great enjoyment of this night market is balance. Somehow they managed to combine something for tourists and the local yuppie crowd. It’s a place to grab some food, shop, and just enjoy walking around like any night market. But what sets it a part for me is the sheer diversity in those categories that makes me want to come back for more and many times over.

-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

 

7-Eleven in Thailand

Really? 7-11

Absolutely, unknown to many, 7-11 is a cultural icon in Asia rather than the place to get tube shaped “food” and Arizona iced tea late at night. 7-11 sparked a convenience store boom in countries for actually providing convenience. In Asia, you can use your local 7-11 to buy plane tickets, pay taxes, find concert tickets, find food that’s a lot better than what you find in America.

In my travels I found that 7-11 is a great way to grab a quick meal without ruining your budget and even provides a peak into what snacks and foods do the locals enjoy at all times in the night!

So basically this is a short guide telling you what you should check out in a 7-11 in Thailand divided by the popular drink, the onigiri (triangular rice balls found in all 7-11 locations in Asia), and the specialty of the country.

The Drink

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Nectar of the (Energy) Gods

Fun fact – Red Bull originated from Thailand. Some enterprising Austrians discovered the recipe in their travels to the country that they made their own version of it. The one you will find in Thailand is vastly different. In Thailand it’s called Krating Daeng and features eerily similar red bulls ramming into each other. They are sold in much smaller containers looking more like prescription bottles of magical elixir. The taste is sweeter and non carbonated which I find make it go down a lot easier. How powerful is it? Let’s say on my first night in Bangkok I managed to power through a multitude of bars and alcohol and clubs and ended up sleeping at 5am. A new personal record!

The Onigiri

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Just make sure to follow the instructions otherwise you’d bite into wrapper

The Onigiri selection here is not as plentiful as most other 7-11s in Asia. With only 2 options I settled for the Teriyaki Salmon. Which contained hearty chunks of salmon in the bite. Overall it’s not special but when you need to carb load/heal from last night. Like any other onigiri, gets the job done. There is also a spicy cod roe option but since I am not a fan of cod roe I passed on trying it.

The Specialty

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Breakfast of (hungover) Champions

CHEESE. TOASTIES. The life blood of any heavy partier or person who needs that comfort from last night. 7-11 has successfully pushed a variety of cheese toasts into their Thai based 7-11s with a mixed success. The most popular being the sausage cheese version. They are heated up in what looks like Hamilton Beach Panini presses and given to you hot. Other options are the egg, tomato, sausage, cheese which explodes with lava liquid into your mouth and hands. Not really recommended but when it’s 6am, you tend to stop caring ๐Ÿ˜›

-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