The Doors always seem more appropriate when in SE Asia, “there’s only four ways to get it unraveled. One is to sleep and the other is travel.” When last we spoke I had just landed at BKK on my way in from the world.
After 2-3 hours in the slumber room of the first class lounge, I realized I was not going to fall fitfully to sleep on the perfectly decent leather couch provided to me, and I changed out of my purple Thai PJ’s and back into my street clothes.
The airport in BKK is really fantastic. A clean, modern operation. The only problem is it is enormous. After a hike to the preferred customs line, I tried my luck entering Thailand. The customs official seemed puzzled as to why the box for my address in Thailand was left blank.
“Where are you staying in Bangkok?”
It took some doing, but I managed to explain to her that I was leaving again in about 8 hours for Sydney and I just wanted to enter Thailand, have some lunch and then get moving again.
As soon as you leave the climate controlled confines of the airport, the humidity washes over you and you can smell that you’re in the tropics. There wasn’t much of a wait for the taxi line, so I told the woman “Khao Sahn Road” and then set to haggling with my driver.
Mr. Suriya Boonsook, got us going into the traffic. I gathered he was some sort of singer. There were cheesy promotional shots hinting at the ability to buy his CD should one so desire. I was still beat from the flight in from CDG, so I told him I was French, to avoid conversation.
Bangkok is not a driver’s town, and it’s that much worse when it rains. We sat in gridlock as it drizzled and I wondered if heavier stuff was on the way.
It wasn’t. I settled into a restaurant and asked for the spiciest thing on the menu. I have no idea what they brought me, but it was as spicy as advertised. I decided drinking beers to cut the heat was my best bet. About halfway through the meal, I realized that if I kept going at that rate, I’d likely get drunk, miss my flight and stay in BKK, so I paid my bill and went in search of a cab.
The cabbie was sympathetic with my desire to get to the airport, but he advised me it would really be a better course of action to go with him to a prostitute instead. I declined.
As we pulled up to BKK, I told him to drop me by the Royal Silk/Royal First registration area and it was time to get flying again.
Thai Airways fly two versions of the 747-400. Internally, they refer to these at the 7443 and the 7442 (aka the infamous “All Series”). The planes designated 7443 have Thai’s newest currently fielded version of their first class. Ironically, the 7442’s which are actually newer airframes than most of the 7443’s have an older version of the Thai first class seat. The 7442 first class has in flight entertainment but *gasp* it’s on a loop, not on demand. This may sound trivial, but you need to keep in mind that most full service carriers (even US Flag carriers) offer on-demand in flight entertainment in all classes (even coach) on long hauls. To not offer this in First is pretty bad. On top of that, the 7442 cabin layout is 2-2, so that if the first cabin is full you might have to sit next to someone.
Sitting next to someone you know by pre-selecting two middle seats in first is all well and good. That’s the reason most cabins are laid out 1-2-1. However, not having the option to be in a single seat in first class is virtually unheard of with the current generation of first class seats industry wide.
When I booked this flight, it had originally been slated for an Airbus A340-600, but Thai is famous for TG’ing (TG is the 2 letter code for Thai, and has become synonymous with last minute equipment swap) flights. Once the 747-400 was posted to the BKK-SYD route, I checked the seatmaps and was dismayed to find that my flight had been allotted one of the dreaded all series 7442’s.
Upon entering the check-in area, I caught the staff a bit by surprise. It was hours before my flight, and I suppose they didn’t think anyone would be checking in this early. I was told to have a seat, and a cold towel and glass of tea were brought over. Shortly thereafter, a Thai employee appeared with a seating chart and told me that the equipment had been TG’d (in a good way! It does happen!) and that now we would be flying south on a 7443. She asked if 2A would still be ok, and I happily agreed.
Thai go positively over the top with their ground operations in BKK. Not that i’m complaining. After this private check-in, a Thai agent escorted me to Thai’s special security screening operation. Since there was no line, it was a breeze. The agent then guided me onwards to Thai’s separate immigration checkpoint and I was out of Thailand.
Once back in international waters, I was pawned off on another Thai employee who put me in a Thai golfcart and drove me back to the first class lounge.
When I re-entered the lounge, I verified that my carry-ons (which I had left earlier in the day) were ok, and confirmed my 3:30 massage. Oh, that’s right. I forgot to mention Thai maintains an on-site spa for their premium class passengers.
At 3:30 an attendant took me from the First Class Lounge, to the Royal Orchid Spa across the hall. Business Class passengers are only entitled to a 15 minute massage, but first class passengers can have a full 1-hour massage free of charge.
I drifted in and out of consciousness during the massage, which was excellent. Between the lack of sleep and the relaxation from the massage, I spent the last 1.5 hours before boarding fighting to stay conscious.
While most aspects of Thai’s ground handling were excellent, I have one bone to pick. I kept asking if my flight had called boarding yet, only to be rebuffed by the desk staff. They assured me the flight would be announced when boarding began and they would take me to the gate. Finally, after being told “not yet” for the third time, I looked at my watch and thought “screw this.” I made my way to the gate to find boarding almost completed.
I settled into seat 2A and got myself ready for dinner and a movie.
The meal service was up and down. This seems to be Thai’s style. The canapes were good. Due to a light load in first (only 4 of 10 seats occupied), the stewardess offered me a second round of caviar and I took her up on it. The grilled vegetable starter was mediocre, but at least the vegetables didn’t taste plastic. The soup was a total train wreck, borderline inedible. The basil chili sorbet was perhaps the highlight of the meal service oddly enough. The pork curry was rather good, probably on the high end of spicyness an airline would shoot for, which as a lover of spicy foods was A-ok with me. The dessert selection was also rather good.
Overall, the meal service from BKK-SYD was head and shoulders above the CDG-BKK service. I’m not sure if this had to do with superior menu options, or if the catering they receive is markedly better ex-BKK.
After the service concluded, I struggled to keep myself awake for the end of The Change Up. I was expecting absolutely nothing from this movie, so when it delivered a few laughs, I was pleasantly surprised. Also Leslie Mann (you know her as Paul Rudd’s wife in Knocked Up) is naked semi-frequently in the movie. Even if not for Ms. Mann’s surprisingly perky rack, I would still have forced myself to stay awake for the films resolution. Once I start a movie, no matter how bad, I need to see the ending. You are dealing with someone who managed NOT to walk out of the live-action abortion that was Wall Street 2 AND a person who actually saw notable career killer Gigli, (did I just admit that?).
Once Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds managed to successfully piss in a magic fountain and set themselves back in their proper bodies (Whoops…spoiler alerts!), it was finally time for bed. I went to change into my second pair of purple PJ’s and asked the stewardess to please do the turndown service.
Unlike CDG-BKK, the stewardess on TG475 put a mattress pad on the seat, and provided me with one of the new blankets (they are gray on one side, purple on the other and honestly not that much of an improvement over the crappy green ones. Not at all an acceptable premium cabin blanket.
I asked not to be woken for breakfast and then proceeded to pass out in a rather satisfying manner for the next eight hours. I woke up to sunrise over Sydney and it dawned on me that in the last week I had woken up in midair more mornings than I had in a bed. I figured this was likely not of great benefit to my health, but this was of little consequence. It was time for my first visit to the land of Kangaroos and Crocodile Dundee.
ADDITIONAL CABIN PHOTOS