Spring Break ’12 Bangkok to Koh Samui to Koh Phangan

Thai Airways 737-400 BKK-USM



There are only two flights a day on Thai Airways from Bangkok to Koh Samui (USM). This is because Bangkok Airways (PG) built the airport at Samui, and in return were granted a near monopoly.

Even though I took the super early flight from HKG to BKK, it still did not arrive early enough to make the morning flight from BKK to Samui as the connection time was something like 45 minutes, which the computer rejected as insufficient. As a result I had a very, very long layover in BKK. To make matters worse, since BKK-USM is a domestic flight, this time was all spent in the TG domestic lounge and not the Royal Silk lounge.

I was forced back to consciousness when the wheels hit the tarmac in BKK. I was fairly well rested after my brief nap on the flight in from HKG, and now it was time to negotiate customs for seemingly the 10th time this month. Once through the Thai border, I found my way to the domestic portion of BKK.

You walk down the long corridor towards the domestic gates, turn left, and about half way to end of the finger is the entrance for the TG domestic lounge. It’s not a bad lounge. The same food as the Royal Silk Lounge was on offer, there was WiFi and ample seating. It’s just really, really lousy to spend 4+ hours in an airline lounge.

A lot of sad, douchey old men with their Thai hooker girlfriends came in and out of the lounge as I waited, and I inwardly hoped they would be on flights to HKT and not USM. One of these hookerwives kept her sunglasses on the entire time she was in the lounge…yes honey…we’re all sure you’re very famous.

After an eternity waiting, a load of crappy dumplings and a failed attempt to download Full Metal Jacket, it was finally time for boarding.

Off to Koh Samui, finally…


Unfortunately, boarding was via bus to an apron position. If you have been reading my updates, you know that I do NOT enjoy transfers to apron positions (unless we are on Lufthansa or Swiss and being transferred privately from the FCL).

In typical Thai fashion it took ages to load the busses up and get them rolling towards our suitably ancient 737-400. I’m sure Thai keeps these birds in adequate flying condition and all, but man could they use a cabin refresh. It felt like boarding a time machine to the mid-70’s…at least they don’t allow smoking on board (More dated cabin photos at the end of the post).

Once on board, the 737-400 which is three rows of 2-2 in Business, the Russian guy in the aisle seat next to me started pleading for me to switch with his Thai gf/hooker/wife in a row 1 aisle seat. As I may have mentioned before, I am a crazy person and only like to fly in window seats. I told him I couldn’t help him and that I was sorry. It was like a 1 hour flight anyway, and these 737’s were not conducive to joining the mile high club.

In the end he went with the highly inconsiderate seat poaching move of simply taking the window seat next to his girlfriend in row 1 and then asking the guy in 1A to switch after he got on board. If it had been me, I would have told him to pound sand, but the guy slated to fly in 1A was a laid back Aussie guy and he seemed nonplussed and continued back to the aisle seat in my row.

This was a very short flight, but Thai still rolled out a meal service. It was an unidentified fried thing with some sickly sweet sauce and then a lump of gelatinous goop in a tin for dessert. I was hungry…I ate it…it didn’t kill me.

5-Star Cuisine


I chatted a bit with the Aussie guy, he was in Thailand for work and was taking a break to go to Samui and relax. We were both shocked and disgusted when we ordered beers with the meal service and the stewardess informed us that Thai doesn’t serve alcohol in any class on domestic flights. Madness.

My anticipation grew as the azure waters around Samui came into view as we started our descent. The pilot eased us down onto the only runway as Samui and we taxi’d to await our transfer in from the apron position. To be fair, there are no jetways at USM, as it is a tiny, tiny airport. Once down the airstairs, we boarded something that would be akin to those fake trains that drive around some city centers or amusement parks to move tourists around. As I had no checked bags, I went right to the transit desk and asked when the next ferry to Koh Phangan would be leaving.

I was given a pink ticket for a seat on a minibus and took my seat out front of the airport and made small talk with some of the other people making their way out to Koh Phangan.

The drive to Big Buddah Pier was pretty quick. The pier itself looks like a personal dock one might have at a lake house, and it juts out through some brush to the seaside. It’s not the most professional looking operation. Since we had a long time to go, I started in on the Singha’s from the conveniently places bodega right at the pier. They were warm, but it was hot and there was a very long time to wait.

As it neared sundown, the pier was thronged with people waiting to go. The sky was a carolina blue cut with a soft but vibrant pink and looking out over the mass of under-30 humanity drinking, smoking and clutching their backpacks the whole scene suddenly became very familiar to me. This was spring break.

Big Buddah Pier

As is Thai custom, the ferry, which looked like the even more beat up and rusted over brother of the jalopy from the original Jaws movie, was late.

The sun was almost below the horizon by the time we set off, and the Chang beer was flowing on the top deck as people readied themselves for Koh Phangan, and in a few nights, the Full Moon Party. I started talking to an Australian guy sitting next to me on the ferry. His buddy had severely injured himself on Koh Phangan while drunk, so he had brought him to Samui to take him to the hospital. The friend would be ok, but for him the war was over…he would be sent back on to Australia when he fully recovered.

The guy I was speaking with was also sporting a knee brace, another product of drunken decision making. I made a mental note that Koh Phangan could indeed be a treacherous place.

A troika of Canadian girls blathered on and on at max volume reading from their lonely planet books and I was reminded at once why I hate self-styled backpackers.

Long after dark, we pulled into port in Koh Phangan and I hopped off quickly and went in search of a shared taxi. I ended up in a mini-bus with two very surly old Russian women and a group of six or eight Swedes. I was the last to be dropped off.

I walked into the B-52 Beach Resort, and saw no one. A pretty blonde girl walked by and I asked her if there was a reception desk. She pointed to a hut near the bar.

My friend had come in to Koh Phangran earlier that day, and so the desk clerk brought me to the hut (after first letting me into the wrong room, much to the chagrin of its occupants).

My buddy had been napping after a long afternoon in the sun, but soon we were poolside drinking beers which soon turned into plastic pails of red bull vodka, and then it was off to Haad Rin, beer in hand in the back of a tuk-tuk cum army truck with benches lining the rear. the Full Moon Party was only days away.







Crappy legroom


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