Thursday, July 15, 2004

Day 1 - City of Angels
(posted @ 6:23, July 23, 2004 )

4:30 a.m the AVIS taxi we booked arrived at the condo to take us to the airport. It was a balmy  morning and by 4:45 a.m. we were the first in line at the Singapore airlines counter at the NAIA.  With 2 large suitcases and 3 hand carried bags, we waited till 5:20 a.m. when the counter opened and we managed to check in hassle free.
At the immigration counter, it turns out that the officer validating our passports was a former student of my father. Way back when he taught at the Cavite City high school.  What a coincidence.  My father was whisked away for some reminiscing so I kept myself occupied by reading "The Da Vinci Code".
By 07:35 a.m it was time to board SQ 071 at Gate no. 6.  My seat was at 49C - a window seat which is something I always request for when I fly.  I like looking at the scenery during take-off.   The flight was a bit turbulent once it was over the South China Sea.  Have you ever noticed that everytime meals are served during a flight that is the time when it gets turbulent?  For breakfast, I chose the parsley scrambled egg, chicken chipolata, tomato and hash brown potatoes with tea, breakfast roll and a glass of orange juice.
We landed at Changi Airport, Singapore at 11:45 a.m.  Here is where it gets nasty.  It seems the Singapore government doesn't trust the security measures undertaken at NAIA airport. So the minute you step out of the aircraft, the first thing that greets a weary traveler is the intensive security check.  By intensive I mean really thorough.  They open all your hand carried bags, you go through the radar and if anything beeps you are frisked from head to toe and told to go back through the radar until you are 'noise free'.  We just had an hour to connect to our Bangkok flight so I was worried we couldn't make it on time.  When it was my turn to go through the security check, I had to empty my pockets of coins, ballpen and I took off my rings.  For some strange reason, as I passed through the electronic machine, it beeped.  The lady frisked me and found nothing on my person.  She told me to pass through it again thus halting the whole line.  Guess what?   It rang again and again - I believe it was 3 times before I was cleared.  After the third time, she asked if I had any metal implants or braces and I said No.  I guess it is just my magnetic personality that made the device crazy.  LOL  It was pretty embarrassing because I kept the flow of passengers.   By the time this whole fiasco ended,  it was already 12:43 p.m.   So we ran all the way to gate E21 to catch our flight.  From gate F40 to gate E21 it was fairly a  long distance.  If you have ever transited at Changi Airport you will know what I mean by loooong distance.  We were all huffing and puffing and hauling our asses off because our flight was to leave by 1:05 p.m.  SQ 64 SIN - BKK (1 hour 55 mins).   Now you won't believe this BUT there was another security check before we could enter Gate 21.   If you thought the first one was tedious, the second one was irritatingly stressful.  They open all your bags, luggages and inspected every single item.   Yes every single item!   Arghhhh.  I was ready to faint from running from the previous gate to this one and here I was being asked to go through the detector 4 times.   Yes 4 times!!!!   WTF!!!  Still not able to find the source of any metallic device on my body, they asked for my boarding pass and wrote some technical term on it.  During the flight I kept trying to decipher what RTG P 23-945  meant!  It really ruined my mood and I couldn't wait to disembark from the plane to reach Bangkok and the hotel. 
At exactly 14:25 we landed at Don Muang Airport, Bangkok, Thailand.  The path leading to the immigration counters was another very long walk.  All sort of nationalities were present. It seems 7 airlines all landed in a span of 10 minutes apart so the whole airport was swarming with passengers.  I was too tired to walk fast and we just decided to take our own sweet time.  At the immigration section, as expected there was a long line.  All 8 counters were full.   You can judge the tourism arrivals of a country by the number of immigration counters open at any given time.  By the time we lined up there were 12 counters open and all of them were full. We didn't encounter any problems since we don't require visas to Thailand being part of  ASEAN.  But I noticed some tempers were flaring at the other counters where certain nationals didn't have the proper visa required to enter Thailand.
So finally we were in Bangkok, Thailand - the Land of the Free, the City of Angels.
By 4 p.m. Bangkok time which is 1 hour behind Manila time, we checked into our hotel.  3 star hotel with 4 star facilities and conveniently located in the Pathumwan district of Bangkok

Adjoining rooms 1507 and 1509

The view from the window of my room 1507 is the BTS Station and Erawan Shrine

Right across Arnoma hotel is the Zen Department Store which is part of the Central World Plaza complex

We were all very tired from the flight and decided to rest a bit before we explore the surrounding areas. By 6:30 p.m. we hopped on the free shuttle bus which took us to the Central Department store in Chidlom district. Since it looked like any ordinary shopping mall we decided to take the BTS train from the Chidlom station to go to Siam part of Bangkok. I had no idea that to get to the station one needed to go up a steep flight of stairs. Half way up I had to stop. It was really high. Midway, my mother experienced shortness of breath and my father told us we better just forget the idea and just take a taxi instead. It was ridiculously high really. There was a very kind Thai couple who stopped and gave my mother some mineral water and helped her back down. Good Samaritans, God bless their kind soul! They even flagged down a taxi for us and told the driver where to take us since it was obvious he didn't speak a single word of English and everytime we asked him something he kept saying OK and smiled. LOL So we reached Siam Center, Siam Discovery Center and had some sumptuous Thai food. Don't ask me what! I cannot remember the name. But it was tasty and not too spicy. Thank God because all of us except my mother are allergic to very spicy food. By 9 p.m. we were really exhausted and our feet hurt from walking all over the mall. We decided to head back to Arnoma. Since the mall beside the hotel was still open, we peeked inside to check the prices of items. The thing with shopping is to automatically convert the currency into your own currency and if they are cheaper then buy. If not, forget about it. It turns out most of the items are still cheaper here in Manila. Oh and I almost forgot, we all had a relaxing foot massage right there at the mall. For 199 Baht for 1 hour, I had started to drool as I dozed off while my feet were having a foot spa massage. LOL Our day ended by strolling along the pavement in front of our hotel where after 8 p.m there was a daily night bazaar. People selling everything from picture frames, shoes, hankies and several bric bracs.

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