4:30 comes early in the morning, especially when you don’t get to bed until after midnight. As I readied myself for the trip to Bangkok, the two “pop-up” restaurants outside my window were just saying goodbye to their last customers.
Edi arrived on time, the ferry ride was smooth, and immigration on the Singapore side was fairly quick. The ferry fare was Rp466,000 for round-trip, somewhat less than it has been. Also, BatamFast is now running many more trips from Harbour Bay. (Guess I will have to update the ferry schedules on BatamExpat.com.
After a quick McD’s meal of chicken muffin, potato and coffee, I caught a taxi outside McD’s for the 30-minute, SG$25 (US$20) ride to the airport. This is where my fist problem of the trip happened. Jetstar Asia, the airline I was flying on, charges for all checked baggage. They don’t tell you this when you book your ticket, maybe in the fine print somewhere, but certainly not where you might actually notice it. I was livid. SG$60 for my 14kg bag. At least it was for round trip, not paying both ways.
The baggage fees just keep getting more onerous. Pretty soon, all bags, checked or carry on, will be charged by all airlines. In fact, some airlines, like the dreaded Spirit, are charging for both already. JetStar will get an ear full online when I return home.
I was planning to use the free Wifi at Changi airport but you have to have roaming to receive the password and I just have Indonesia service on my phone. About an hour until liftoff and then a 1 ½-hour flight.
The flight was fine, except JetStar also charges for anything you want to eat or drink, including water or coffee. So no coffee for me yet today.
The Bangkok airport is huge, and thoroughly disorienting. A massive crowd waiting me when I arrived at immigration, long lines snacking through the serpentine barriers we all are so used to seeing at airport security checkpoints. It dawned on me that maybe I needed a visa on arrival but I didn’t (because Thailand and the U.S. must have some sort of agreement, whereas Indonesia and the U.S. do not, thus the 35 visa on arrival visitors need to pay to enter Indonesia).
Once through immigration, I immediately found an ATM and then found my bag on one of the 20 baggage claim areas. A quick trip to the duty free shop and no problem exiting through Customs, which doesn’t check you unless you claim something.
Then it was time to find the driver who was picking me up. There are 10 gates where these people congregate and there were often dozens of drivers waiting at each gate. I found gate 3, way at the other end of the terminal, and my driver, Nui, was waiting with my name on a sign.
Nui had just come from delivering Jack to the condo. He confirmed to me that Jack had pretty much talked his ear off with questions. I said he’s a salesman and Nui laughed and nodded. The ride in took about 45-60 minutes and the traffic was not as bad as expected. Later, we watched from the balcony as the same highway, three lanes in each direction, was gridlocked for miles to the horizon, for a couple of hours.
There was a heavy haze over the city when we arrived, but we still had a spectacular view from our condo on the 44th floor. The Chao Phraya River was directly below, with numerous boats and barges plying their trade. The scene was even better when darkness set in.
The condo was as advertised, for the most part. No cable TV, however, and several amenities (coffee maker, drink glasses, safe, etc.) were missing. The owner, Charles, a Thai Indian whose family has been here for four generations, showed up to get what we needed. Charles was very helpful. We will post reviews on TripAdvisor later pbut here’s the link to his listing: https://www.flipkey.com/bangkok-condo-rentals/p880698/http://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalReview-g293916-d4016785-Bangkok_2_Bedroom_Apartment_Sukhumvit_Soi_21_Asoke-Bangkok.html
After a couple of drinks on the balcony, we decided to check out the streets below. They were very busy but did not have the chaotic scene I’m used to in Batam. Shops didn’t spill out into the streets (there were barricades along the sidewalks preventing this), impromptu vendors were relegated to side streets, but there were food vendors starting to set up for the night.
Hadn’t had much to eat yet but we were headed to Robinson’s, an upscale mall with an upscale grocery store. We just needed breakfast food, liquids and snacks and left with $50 worth of stuff. On the way back, we stopped at a stall selling fried chicken and took some back with us.
Back at the condo, Charles and friends were trying to figure out how to get a coffeemaker to work. Three of them spent more than an hour trying to figure it out. I mentioned to Jack it was like a Abbott and Costello skit.
More refreshments and fried chicken later, we decided to find the party and local food area, which turned out to be Patpong. Every time we asked where to go, this is where we were told, but it was a taxi or tuk-tuk ride away and we were still exploring.
Finally, with directions from a local woman hawking massages, we found a side street with a number of outside restaurants – and lots of Westerners as customers. We found a table, ordered a beer, and I ordered what I thought would be a snack – chicken and vegetables in a coconut broth. Delicious. And filling.
Meanwhile, a young couple decided to sit down beside us and, of course, Jack started up a conversation. They were from Austria and were going to Phuket the next day.
Then, we decided to go to the Patpong area by tuk-tuk, a 4-wheel motorized buggy. About $3 for the ride.
Patpong turned out to be really unusual. As we walked down one aisle of a large outdoor shopping area, stalls selling clothes, jewelry and souvenirs lined one side, and on the other was one bar after another. Each bar had an open door and inside there were usually 8-10 scantily-clad girls moving to the music.
For no particular reason, we chose one to go in and have a drink. Jack managed to gather some intel here and at another place we ventured into and I’m sure he will want to return another night. Outside, I did some shopping and I think I way overpaid. At the condo building, the street scene was very quiet, but we dd find a food vendor, where I bought some pork and noodles to take back for a late snack ($2).
Finally, it was time to rest the bones. It had been a long day for me and even longer for jet-lagged Jack.
Today, we plan to do the hop on-hop off tour ferry to see some temples.