Day 0: Departure and Arrival (Thailand)
Departing from the new IGI T3 was a breeze. Inspite of a grand inauguration just before the Commonwealth games in Delhi last October, it has received a fair share of criticism on account of leaking rooftops, power failures leaving passengers stranded, lack of information to its esteemed customers, and if it isn’t funny, even for its mammoth size due to which several passengers haven’t been able to make it to their gate on time. No such interruptions came our way on the night of 15th July as we took our flight to Bangkok.
My wife Rashmi had been disappointed when this trip got pushed to July from its original schedule in March. And to my three and a half year old son Aarav, it was just another time away from school, he’d hop along anytime, anywhere. However, this delay provided me with ample time to plan for it.
We arrived at the airport the mandatory three hours prior to departure and were soon in the queue at the Air Asia counter. Being a no-frills airline, it helps to read up its rules. Booking your preferred seat costs extra and to get the front seats which have more leg space (this was a single class flight, no economy v/s first class) costs even more extra. Every kilogram of check-in baggage is charged and if you forget to book it online, god save you from the horribly expensive rates you’ll have to shell out at the boarding pass counter. Just to give you an idea, I paid INR 650 for 20 kgs on the net and it’d have cost me 10 times had I forgotten to do so. Cabin baggage also has an interesting decree. Seven kilos per person per bag. Which means we couldn’t dump 14 kilos in a single bag, it had to be two bags of seven kilos each. Luckily my wife had the providence of carrying an empty bag on us (though I know it wasn’t any providence on her part, it was meant to be laden with shopping goods on our way back). We quickly unpacked and repacked. This minor glitch notwithstanding, we made the long walk to gate 14B which is at the farthest end of this massive and swanky terminal. Aarav enjoyed pulling the trolley along the travelators.
To get Thai Bahts, I had to first convert to dollars at IGI (the counter claimed no Bahts) and then to Bahts at Survanabhumi airport. I have never learnt to calculate losses due to such conversions but I know it was a big one this time.
Eleven thirty pm is probably not the best time for a short flight. Delhi to Bangkok is a shade under four hours – too short to catch any sleep and too late to enjoy any views outside. All of a sudden, the three of us got hungry as the flight took off and we bought ourselves some in-flight meals. Not carrying any Bahts, I was forced to pay more than the due amount in INR. Another learning, always pre-book your meals for any flight, you’ll get hungry when least expected. Tried hard to fall asleep post filling our stomachs but no success. Aarav though was peacefully spread out between Rashmi and me. Before we could adjust ourselves to the right position in the cramped seats, we were touching down in Bangkok.
Having heard about the popular Visa on Arrival (VoA) by the Thai authorities, we had decided to save ourselves a visit to the VFS office.
All you need to carry is a valid passport, 2 recent PP photographs, filled-in immigration form of arrival, produce a return ticket indicating you’d be flying back in 15 days (thats the limit of visa at VoA) and an address of stay in Thailand. You’re also required to carry an equivalent of ten thousand Bahts per person, but no one really checked us on this. At the VoA counter, it appeared almost the whole plane had offloaded itself here (the above pic is taken from the net and doesn’t showcase the long queues I am talking about:)) and we found ourselves at the wrong end of a long queue. I can’t also say that the visa officials were entirely efficient. But to their credit, we were granted visa with minimum questioning.