With the withdrawal of the tanks from the Royal Plaza at the weekend, people of Bangkok had to look for another new attraction. They found one with the newly opened Suvarnabhumi Airport. The latest and biggest tourist attraction in neighbouring Samut Prakan. According to a television report that I saw early Sunday morning, officials were pleading with the public to delay visits to the airport. The number of sightseers were outnumbering the passengers. Traffic jams were being reported on the spacious airport roads and families had been spotted inside the terminal having a picnic of som tam! I just had to go and see the chaos for myself.
I left home at 9.20 a.m. and headed for the airport. This was my second visit. (Please read A Tour of Suvarnabhumi Airport). This time I wanted to go a slightly different way. I think one of the good things about this new airport is that you can approach it from many different ways. This should help to cut down on traffic. However, although the new airport is in my home province of Samut Prakan, I still had to struggle through local traffic before I could get to the main highway. Hopefully, once they have opened the Outer Ring Road, things will speed up.
The road signs this time seemed to be better. Obviously someone had been reading about the problems in the local newspaper and decided to stick up a thousand or so new temporary signs. However, as elsewhere in Thailand, these signs don’t always tell you the best or quickest route. They just say, “Oh, you can go down this road here and you will eventually end up at the airport”. What they don’t say is, “Please ignore this sign because if you drive a bit further you will find a more direct route which will save you a lot of time.” When I was driving through Bangkok during the coup, I spotted many signs along one road that said “turn left” at just about every intersection. Until finally I saw one that said that you must “Turn left AND right”!
As it turned out, I made a mistake of turning off the highway at the first sign. Looking at the map when I got back home showed me that this road actually sent me away from the airport a bit. Next time I will continue on the highway for the second or maybe third exit sign for the airport. When I eventually arrived at the airport, nearly an hour had passed. Then I got hit by the traffic jam. It wasn’t actually that bad as it was still relatively early. However, a number of locals had parked their cars alongside the highway in order to take pictures of the airplanes on the runway. One family was having a picnic in the back of their pick-up. A lone policeman was trying his best to move them on but there were just too many of them.
I must say I was impressed with the surrounding area of the airport despite the confusion. It covers a much larger area than Don Muang and so there is room for growth. However, they do need to work on the signs. I wanted to park my car but was faced with a confusing choice: turn left for “parking lot” and turn right for “car park”. I guess they wanted the Americans to go left and the English to go right. Whenever I see a bilingual sign, my eye automatically goes to the English. So, as I was driving, I didn’t have time to read the Thai on both. I only managed to see that “car park” in Thai was “building to park your car”. So, I went there.
There was a long queue for the first car park, but luckily I could see ahead that there was hardly anyone heading for the other car park building. The first few floors were full but I soon found an empty floor. It is a bit scary parking because there are no walls. Just a wire mesh. You just have to trust the concrete block at the back of your parking space to stop you backing too far. From where I was parked, I had to walk up the stairs two floors to the access bridge. The lift wasn’t working. The corner of the stairs on each floor had this one foot gap which would be easy for a child to slip through and fall to their death. On some floors they had put up red tape to try and stop this happening. But, some floors just had the big gap.
Everything about this new airport is big and spacious. It is certainly impressive and you can see why they call it the “Pride of Thailand”. If only they can sot out these teething problems. I arrived on the third level and made my way up to the departure hall on the 4th level. The ceilings were massive and the giant windows let in a lot of light. At the far end I could see people making their way up to an “observation deck” on the 7th level. So, I joined the line and made my way to the top.
From the roof of the terminal I had a good view back down to the departure lounge and also to the people lining up in passport control. However, it wasn’t such an unobstructed view looking towards the runway. There was another building in the way. Anyway, there were so many people leaning against the glass that I couldn’t see much. It reminded me of the time I went to the opening weekend for Siam Ocean World in Bangkok. Way too crowded. By this time I badly needed a visit to the rest room so I went back down to the departure hall.
The first toilet block I visited was packed with people. Unbelievably there were only 4 urinals and I think 3 or 4 cubicles. My local petrol station has like 20 in a row and there is hardly anyone there. I walked on to the other end and found a mirror version of this toilet block. Same story. A long queue. I was supposed to be doing a tour of the airport but it was turning into a quest for the rest room. Next I went down one floor to a level that had lots of restaurants. This sounded promising. The first toilet I found only had two urinals and a long queue. I then carried on to look for the mirror version of this toilet block a bit further down. Same number of urinals but less people. I was desperate. I hope they sort this problem out soon.
Having now relieved myself I continued with my tour. I needed to gather information about the airport for people who were intending to fly to Thailand. On our ThailandQA.com forums we were getting a lot of questions that needed to be answered. First and most important question, How do you leave the airport? A very good question. Let me try and answer that with the different options you have. But first, the confusion.
I went down to Level Two as this is the arrival hall. A number of people kept asking me if I wanted help, so as not to look like a tourist, I made up a story that I was coming to pick up a friend who was flying in from Singapore. The information board clearly told me that the plane had already landed. However, I was a little curious why there was a big C on this board. If this was Exit C, where were A and B? And who will come out of those gates? An important question if you are coming to meet someone.
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