Arriving at an Airport You Can’t Even Pronounce

I have been traveling to Thailand off and on for the past 35 years. I was stationed in Bangkok in the early 70’s and I still go on vacation there 2 or 3 times every year. With all of those trips, I knew the Bangkok International Airport like the back of my hand.

In September 2006, the new airport, Suvarnabhumi (su-war-na-poom) opened and the end of the Don Muang era came to a bittersweet close. Suvarnabhumi is now the official International Airport for Bangkok and Don Muang has been relegated to domestic flights. I now had to learn to navigate this new metal monster.

Suvarnabhumi, meaning “Golden Land” is about 30 km east of Bangkok in an area known as Nong Ngu Hao, or “Cobra Swamp”. The complex covers 32 square kilometers, and has the world’s tallest control tower (132 meters). The passenger terminal has 360 check-in desks, 120 gates, and accommodations for handling 45 million passengers a year. Surrounding the airport are flooded rice paddies.

The new airport is an architectural masterpiece of metal and glass and is aesthetically beautiful. My only complaint is that it is a long hike from the arrival gate until you actually reach the Immigration lines. It seems like miles.

On the plus side, as soon as you clear Immigration, there is giant electronic display board which tells you where your luggage is. There are many luggage carousels and knowing exactly which one is yours makes life a little easier.

Once you get your bags, clearing customs is a snap. I have never been checked once in over 35 years of flying in to Bangkok. The next thing you will face is the taxi mafia gauntlet.

Bags in hand, you will walk into a mass of humanity – some waiting for loved ones – most waiting to harass you. They are the infamous clipboard toting taxi mafia. They will pester you, block your way, ask where you go, and never give up no matter how many times you refuse and no matter how many languages you swear at them in.

Having used all of your best football moves, you work your way past the clipboard thugs and head for the down escalator. This will take you to legal and much more reasonable taxis. You will have to pay a small fee – but you will get some piece of mind in return. The taxis are registered, the girls in the booth speak English, and you won’t have to do any bargaining as these taxis use their meters.

If your cabbie offers to take you and not use the meter, agree upon a price and who will be paying for the tolls. This will be your first opportunity to experience haggling in Asia. Have fun.

I can’t vouch for all the taxi drivers but I did find one very honest one using this service last year. I left my credit card wallet in the cab and the driver contacted my hotel and arranged to return my plastic intact. He was rewarded handsomely and saved me a lot of hassle and possibly a lot of money.

Now you will experience the controlled chaos of driving in Bangkok. It is indescribable and has to be experienced. Say a prayer and hope for the best.

If you plan to go anywhere in Thailand, you might be lucky enough to fly out of the old International Airport – Don Muang. It resembles more of a ghost town than an airport but still brings back to me memories of hundreds of trips to Thailand. Being the first thing you see in a foreign country, you develop a fondness for airports.

I guess I will get over it and learn to accept Suvarnabhumi and treat this new International Airport as a new friend. I have been there twice and will return in March, 2008 for another holiday. And, luckily, I will get to visit my old friend, Don Muang, the next day as I head up to Khon Kaen. It will be good to see old and new friends.

A Basic Traveller’s Kit Guide

Never be caught unprepared during a trip. Plan ahead and stuff your bag with essentials things you need. The better prepared you are, the more fun you will have on the trip. Here’s a checklist of what should be inside your traveler’s kit.

*Medicine Kit
Never assume that no mishaps will happen on a trip. Even minor bruises should be taken care of. Always keep your first- aid kit handy.

Treating wounds
Bring along a roll of bandage, safety pins and scissors. Tweezers might be needed to pull out foreign materials that penetrate the skin. Bring ointments and alcohols for treating abrasions. If you are prone to allergies and itching, antihistamine medications like Benadryl should be handy.

Common medicine
Carry along medicines that you are likely to use, like aspirin for headaches, laxative for proper bowel movement and pain relievers. If you have a runny nose, buy a couple of decongestant. Dehydration and motion sickness is common when traveling, consult your doctor on which medicine is appropriate for you.

Prescription drugs
Remember to bring along whatever medication you are taking. Bring enough supply to last for the entire trip.

*Personal Hygiene Kit
This kit must include all your toiletries. This will keep you looking fresh all the time.

Dental
Bring along your toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. Buy a small bottled mouthwash or if you have plenty of supply left, just transfer it to a smaller container.

Hair
Carry along your favorite brush, comb and shampoo. Stuff in your hair spray, hair cream and gels if you are using one.

Personal effects
This will include your make-up kit. Remember to bring only the cosmetics that you are likely to use. Carry with you a handy mirror. You can bring your manicure set too.

Skin protection
Keep your skin healthy by putting on sunscreen and lip balm as often as you need them.

Bathroom needs
Bring along with you sets of toilet papers, soaps, towels and washcloth.

*Emergency Kit
This includes the stuff you might need like flashlights, lighters, pocket knife and duct tapes. Mobile phones are important in case of emergency, be sure to bring your charger and an extra battery.

*Leisure Kit
For added fun, you can bring along your travel journal, reading materials and the locale’s language book. Make the most out of fantastic views with your binoculars and your camera.

There is no such thing as a standard traveler’s kit. It varies upon the place and the activities you’ll do in a certain place. The above kits are basically the essentials. Be sure to keep everything checked and have a fun trip ahead!

A Guide For A More Enjoyable Train Travel

Although traveling by air is the fastest way to move from places to place while traveling by car is convenient and comfortable and traveling by bus is the cheapest, not one of them can be compared to the unique experience trail travel could give.

Trail travel might not be the most popular way people move. This could be because of the length a trip could take compared to air traveling. Another reason could be the monotony of sights that might bring boredom to passengers. Another could be the price one single train travel could cost compared when taking a bus. All these contribute to the decreasing popularity of train travel but it does not mean that train travel is not good at all. In fact, with a little wit and personal creativity, one could enjoy train travel.

1. Expect to travel for long hours. In this way, you don’t have to look at your timepiece regularly or ask a crew with the most annoying question you also would not want to hear: “Are we there yet?” Keep in mind that if you are crossing state boarders, train travel could take more hours than driving your own car at your own phase. And sometimes, train schedules are not met so you don’t have to nag every crew with the train schedule.

2. Relax and enjoy the scenery. If you are traveling during daytime, you could see sights that might not be possible to see if you are traveling by plane, bus or car. Try to enjoy the scenery. You can even bring binoculars to help you see more views closer.

3. If you are a reader, this is the best time to read. Trains are more stable than bus. So if you would like to read without controlling the motion of your hand with the book, the train could provide you with stability. Bring a book of your favorite author. You can also consider finalizing your report if you are going to present it on meetings.

4. If you are not into sightseeing and reading, you can bring your portable CD player or iPod. Bring your most favorite albums you could bring. Or, if you have an iPod, you can store all your songs to your library. Make sure you have spare batteries.

5. Be friendly and polite. If a person asks favors from you, be more than willing to do it. Train travel would offer you new acquaintances and friends.

6. Do not intrude other people’s business in the best way you could. Respect other people’s privacy.

7. Talk to the crew nicely. Although they would not throw you off the train if you shout to them, doing such is not proper. They are well trained and very friendly, be nice to the crew.

8. Take time to meet other people. Since you expect to be on the train for several hours especially if you are crossing state borders, you wont be doing so much. You can roam around the train and meet other people. This is the best time to have someone to talk to.

9. If in case you are traveling with your children, make sure you provide them with lots of activities. Bring along activity books, quiet toys, color pens, crayons, papers, reading material, coloring books, and video games. In this way, you keep them entertained.

Checking Accessories that You Need in Traveling

So, finally you have found the time for your deserving break. You have already planned what to do on the big trip. Everything seems to be prepared. But what happens when you forget your favorite digicam and you only discovered it when you’re already nearing the point of your destination?

Why does it happen that every time you go out of town, you always forget an item or accessory that you only remember after you left the house? If you are lucky, you usually forget small things like a toothbrush, where you can buy one in the nearest store.

But what happens if you forget, for example, your digicam? Or how about your raincoat in a rainy season? How about the travel supplies you usually forget? If you’re lucky, it’s a simple accessory like a toothbrush, which any hotel will have in their gift shop. But what if you forgot a more important product, for example, a rain coat? Or a backpack you’ll be using for a hiking trip?

What are all the travel accessories you need?

When going on trips, whether it is big or small, check out if you have a complete set of your travel accessories. What accessories should I bring? Among the most obvious are:

– Suitcases

– Travel clothing

– Toiletries

-Travel appliances (electric razor, travel alarm, hairdryer)

These, however, are just the basic accessories. You will see that the more you travel, the more you need things other than suitcases, toiletries, and travel clothing and appliances. For example, did you think that you should have brought a small nice neck pillow in a long train ride or flight? Or, what if you get bruised from a hiking trip, do you have a first-aid kit close at hand?

Here are some accessories that you might want to bring when you take your next trip:

– Binoculars

– Music player

– Mini-flashlight

– Camera

– Clothing steamer

– Mini-umbrella

– Luggage rack

– Door alarm

– First-aid kit

It would not be surprising that you might have additional options to this list, or you might have a list entirely different from the list above. And when you check out stores and Internet sites that sell travel accessories, you would learn that there are many products out there that you thought you never needed but turned out to be the contrary!

20 Safety Tips for Budget Travelers

1) When taking taxis from an airport to your hotel, travel in the more expensive airport taxis and ensure that the drivers have official identification. Never take a taxi waiting outside the airport grounds.

I know this sounds extreme, but it is by far better to be safe then sorry.

2) When traveling from your hotel to the airport, go with a taxi recommended by the hotel.

Again, taxi’s can be very dangerous. I can’t express that enough.

3) Try not to arrive in a new city or town late at night.

This can just go wrong in a number of ways. It is much easier getting checked in during the day time and security at night in certain areas is just horrendous.

4) Travel in a group if possible.

Since when is traveling in numbers not a good idea?

5) Learn the basics in the local language before you arrive. Don’t expect that people will speak English.

English is becoming more widely spoken these days, but you want to be sure. You should always check on these things before your arrival.

6) Keep your valuables hidden.

A money belt is great if it is an option that you willing to look into. There are many different styles of money belt. One of the most popular is an “over the shoulder” style wallet on a strap that you were underneath your top. This makes it very difficult for a thief to make off with your valuables.

7) Avoid going on your own to remote areas/ruins where tourist would be expected to go. Seek local advice or take a guide.

8) Read the guide books and talk with other tourists to find out which areas are best avoided.

9) When leaving discos late at night take a taxi home no matter how close your hostel is. Outside most discos you’ll find a street vendor selling cigarettes. Usually these people know all the taxi drivers and can recommend a safe one.

10) When arriving in a new town, keep to your original plan and stay in the hostel that you have decided on. Don’t let the taxi driver persuade you that your hostel is fully booked and that he knows a cheaper and better one. He’ll be working on commission and the hostel probably won’t be in a safe part of town.

11) Even better, when arriving lane/train in a new city, try to reserve your hotel in advance, preferably with a hotel that has an airport/station collection service.

12) Don’t wear expensive looking jewelry.

13) On public transport have your day pack close to you at all times, preferably with the straps around your legs or padlocked to the luggage rack. On buses your backpack will normally go outside, either on top of the roof or in the external luggage compartments. On long distance buses ask for a receipt for your bags. On short rides just keep a careful eye out each time the bus stops to off-load bags. In the event of having your bags stolen, stay with the bus – you will probably require a declaration from the bus company accepting responsibility for the loss in order to claim any money from your insurance company.

14) Leave your valuables in your hotel safe when making day trips or longer tours. Obtain a receipt not just for your money belt/wallet etc. but for its contents, with each item listed.

15) If you have to leave your passport and credits cards together, place the credit card in a sealed envelope and sign your name across the flap. This way when you return you will know that nothing has been tampered with.

16) If planning on going to market areas, crowded streets, fiestas etc. don’t go with all your valuables. Leave them in the hotel. If you’re planning on buying something expensive keep your money safely in a money belt. Try to be discreet when opening it! To protect small change in your pockets you can stuff a handkerchief in after.

17) If the pavements are really crowded, especially in market areas, walk in the road.

18) If you suspect someone is following you, stop and stare them in the eye until they go. If you really get a bad feeling about a place, go with your first instincts and leave. Bag slashing is rare nowadays but for added safety you can wear your day pack on your chest.

19) If it’s on your back try to walk without stopping. If you need to stop, sway your pack gently from side to side so that you can feel if anyone is tampering with it.

20) When putting your bag down on the floor, to take a photo or just to sit in a café, remember to put your foot through the strap. Not only will it be impossible to snatch, you also won’t forget it! This is the most common type of theft – tourists forgetting bags in cafes and on returning to ask if anyone has seen it, you’ve guessed it, it’s gone.