The flights from Hurghada through Cairo to Bangkok went amazingly smoothly. We arrived too early at Hurghada and had to sit around for an hour and a half before we were allowed into the airport, where we sat and relaxed for half an hour before the flight arrived. We were boarded and in the air within 20 minutes!
50 minutes later we were landing in Cairo, with Corinne complaining that I’d slept half of the flight.
Our bags had been directed straight through to Bangkok, so it was a simple matter of strolling through the transfer gates and off to the boarding gate for Bangkok, which we were 4 hours too early for, so we sat and had a vastly overpriced drink (54 LE for a Stella – please! I had a half bottle of Omar Khayam red instead at 100 LE). We did, however, find sushi available in the airport.
Somehow we were first to board the plane in Cairo. A huge monster with 3 seats to each side and a central aisle of 3. The bloke sat next to us moved seats 3 times, while the 3 girls in front of us also moved seats, leaving us with just the one bloke in front and 3 seats for the two of us. Built-in screens in the seats with TV, movies and a complete games system were at our fingertips.
The in-flight food was pretty good, as we’d ordered the seafood option for both meals. There was no booze available, but the half bottle of vodka we’d picked up in duty free went well with the Sprite.
It was a long flight, but the French pilot got us there about half an hour early, meaning that the entire trip had been about 7.5 hours.
BKK airport is huge and involved a long trek to get to Immigration 2, which was full and so we were directed to Immigration 1, which was also manic. There must have been about 5000 people trying to get through passport control all at once. We patiently queued and finally made it through, then headed to the baggage carousel where our bags were already picked and waiting for us.
A quick discussion along the lines of “where the hell do we go now” saw us heading out of exit C and hoping that the airport transfer that I had booked online would be waiting. No such luck.
At the information desk, a local chap offered us a limousine to our hotel for 1400B (£28). We refused it as I knew it was over the top and the information desk lady told us that a public taxi would cost us 600-800B. More reasonable. She then did a hard sell to us on the various trips and tours that we could take in Bangkok. We left, slightly disgruntled and found a queue outside for the public taxis.
A more orderly system of taxi allocation i have never come across. Wait in the queue, then you’re given a ticket from the machine that tells you the parking bag, registration number and name of the driver you will be getting. Taxi on the meter.
We got in our taxi and headed out of the airport and over to our hotel, which took about 30 minutes. 247B on the meter, 60B in tolls, 50B airport charge and no complaints from the driver when I gave him 400B (£8) and told him to keep the change.
The hotel was down a back street but inside it was luxurious, spotlessly clean and purple!
The studio suite was an apartment in itself and, whilst not having a view, had a beautifully appointed bathroom, utterly comfortable bed, 2 TVs, sofa, work desk, kitchen table, kitchenette – everything we needed.
Wandering out of the hotel, we turned down the free tuk tuk and strolled the back streets. We found a restaurant that didn’t serve Thai food and so continued on, until we found ourselves at a dead-end by the canal. Retracing our steps, we managed to make out way to the junction halfway down Soi 13 where it met Soi 11 and chose a restaurant called Chili Culture. Good choice! The menu was extensive, especially in the area of starters and we began ordering with gusto.
Day 2 saw us waking up around lunchtime. We decided to explore the local area rather than do any organised tours and so left the hotel again and walked up Soi 13 towards Th Sukhumvit. First stop, the Sportsman. The dimly lit interior belied the size of this bar. We grabbed a couple of stools near the bar and I ordered a Kilkenny Red – the first non-lager I’d had in 4 months. The bar was fairly soulless with TV screens everywhere, each showing a different sports channel. The back of the bar was filled with professional pool tables and there was a professional darts-playing area also.
Leaving the bar we continued up to Th Sukhumvit, which is the main street through the Sukhumvit area and a 4-lane dual carriageway. The pavements are busy with pedestrians, shops, street sellers and touts. We turned down the next street into Soi 11 and were rewarded with a strip of hotels, bars, restaurants, massage parlours and more lined up before us.
Wandering down the street, Corinne mentioned that she was hungry. By the time we had passed the third restaurant she had become quite insistent and so we stopped at Marco’s Eat and Drink and ordered lunch.
My first Thai Green Curry in Thailand for 15 years and it didn’t disappoint. Corinne was also rather pleased with her choice of lunch. It was a lovely spot to watch the parade of people, taxis, tuk tuks, street vendors and more passing by. The waitress informed us that the best way to drink the beer was on the 3-for-2 offer, so I took her advice and did so.
We continued to stroll down the street and ended up at the canal again. This time we jumped onto the water taxi and headed 3 stops up into Central. Great fun jumping in and out of the boat – health and safety in the UK would have a great time banning this service.
Arriving at Central we left the ferry and walked down the main street. Very busy, filled with shops selling all sorts. Literally everything, from plumbing supplies, chandlery, shoe shops, more massage parlours, sweet shops – quite overwhelming. We crossed the road at a bridge and walked back on the other side of the road. There wasn’t as much of interest over that side so we crossed the road – a dangerous proposition in itself, then commented that nobody else was crossing the road and wondering if we would get a ticket for doing so.
At the side of the canal was an interesting looking restaurant named “Best Seafood”. Quite a claim. We sat down at a table and I went inside to get some drinks, only to be told “no food”. We’d arrived too early (again). We sat with our drinks and watched the boat traffic, which was quite enlightening to see the locals going about their business, with the occasional Buddhist monk interspersed.
Menus came out onto the tables and so we ordered some food. Within that choice were “shrimps legs”, which Corinne had decided to try. What a find! Lightly tempura-battered, gently fried shrimp legs are a snack that should be available on every menu and gives me a way of using more of the shrimp that I used to be able to , when cooking. Gorgeous! We ordered another portion.
The water taxis are extremely frequent, so when we decided to head back to the hotel we literally stepped onto the boat and off we went.
Back at the hotel it was time for another dip at the pool before heading over the the Sportsman for a couple of drinks before bed. The bar was patronised by middle-aged men with young Thai girls hanging off their arms, so we had a couple of drinks before going back to the hotel for a final nightcap in the hotel bar.
Waking slightly earlier the next day, we took the free hotel tuk tuk to BTS Nana, the station for the skytrain, which turned out to be just at the top of Soi 11. We wandered down Th Sukhumvit, weaving up and down Soi 9, through to Soi 7 where lots of scantily clad ladies (?) beckoned me into their massage parlours. Between Soi 5 and Soi 3 we found a food plaza, where there was a place called “Middle East Hotel and Restaurant”. We looked around and realised that there were a lot of Arabic and Turkish looking people around, with a smattering of Indian-looking people. The menus in the restaurants were indeed offering dishes that we were familiar with in Egypt.
The manager of the hotel chatted to us and proudly proclaimed that his chef was from Cairo and so we would surely like to try some of their Egyptian food. We politely told him that we were in Thailand and had just come from Egypt, so Thai food would be preferred. They had a Thai menu as well but, as the Tilapia was swimming in a tank next to the table, Corinne decided against the fish. The food here was good and we relaxed and watched a completely different social group pass by.
Back at the hotel after walking back, we bathed and went out for food – the destination had already been decided as Chili Culture for our last night in Bangkok. On the way we looked for a massage parlour but couldn’t find one! We ended up walking halfway back up Soi 11, having disturbed one lady at her “work” down a side street, seeing another massage shop as full and finally entering a busy shop, Senz, I think it was called.
There were two beds available and so they sat us down and we had a rather enjoyable and relaxing foot massage (which included legs upper arms as well). 500B (£10) for the 2 of us for an hour of being pampered. Nice.
Heading back down to the restaurant we came across a street vendor selling, amongst other delicacies, squid on a stick. 2 squid skewers and a sausage on a stick and off we wandered. Delicious! It really was lovely food.
Up early and packed, we checked out and ordered a cab to DMK airport. We arrived at the airport 3 hours before the flight and so couldn’t check in. Oh well, time for a quick meal in The Noodle restaurant upstairs.
We headed to the boarding gate, which was quite a distance away and sat down in the corridor with hundreds of other travelling folks. I had my first Double Bacon Cheese Whopper in years and we had a couple of drinks at a bar near the gate.
The flight was about half an hour late, but we finally got on board and arrived in HKT Phuket airport an hour and a bit later, where our pickup was waiting for us – a large 16 seater all-mod-cons minibus – all to ourselves.
The hotel had a large menu of Thai food so we were just in time to order dinner which they sent out for and we ate it by the pool when it arrived. Good start to the Phuket trip.