Saturday, 16 July 2016

Day 2: Bangkok To Krabi Resort , Ao Nang

Ao Nang Beach
I was super excited this day to begin with. It just a matter of a couple of hours before I could witness an infinity of turquoise colored water and sharp rocks jutting out from the sea.

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 9:35 AM local time from Don Mueang Airport. Don Mueang was nearly 45 minutes drive from our hotel and since it was a domestic flight hence we were required to report only an hour before the flight time. But just to be sure, that we reach on time (people suggested Bangkok traffic was unpredictable at times) we had planned to leave by 6:30 AM itself.

We called the reception to send an attendant to carry our stuffs down. Within 5 minutes the attendant arrived and escorted us to the reception. Our cab was already waiting for us. The check out process was quite smooth and quick. They gave back the security deposit to us in dollars itself :).

All formalities done we were off on our way to the Airport. Thankfully it was early morning hence no vehicular traffic was there in the alleyways, else I shuddered at the thought of the jam that we had witnessed the day before at noon time. As we came from the alley into a bigger road we saw that already many stores were open and also street food vendors were already busy with chopping, frying and dishing out the goodies to people.  It was a bit unbelievable that even at 6:30 in the morning people had such enthu to shop and eat. Had it not been for the flight I wouldn’t have got out of the bed before 7:30 AM at the earliest. But then actually it’s a good idea to beat the crowd. If you are an early riser and want to peacefully do your shopping then early morning is the best time – pleasant temperature, no rush, ample walking space. This format of various timed markets was indeed something anyone would appreciate.

Soon we hit the highway. Any mega city looked pristine in the morning when there was no traffic; Bangkok was also not an exception. The air felt much cleaner and we were cruising at a constant smooth speed.

This day another family was supposed to join us from the airport. The Sharma family – Abhishek, Rajani and their 5 year old kiddo Kangan. From here it was a common trip for both the family. Abhishek is my husband’s colleague. When he came to know that hubby was planning for a Thailand trip this summer, he also decided to join with his family. It was summer holidays for his kid and they usually went for a long trip around this time every year. When we were dilly dallying with the dates of the trip, it was Abhishek who zeroed in on the dates because even before he booked a hotel, he had gotten the return flights from Kolkata to Bangkok as he had got some super cheap deals through makemytrip for this sector. The Sharma family was coming from Bhopal. But they decided to take a longer route to Kolkata via train and then Bangkok via flight.

We were in Maharashtra and either had the option of coming from Mumbai or Pune. We both were in favor of having a comfortable and less tedious route even if it meant a few bucks more. What’s the point if we get a whole lot tired before even the vacation started?  With a tired body one can hardly enjoy anything. So both the families had taken a different route to Bangkok. The Sharma family had arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport in the wee hours of the morning, and were supposed to take the airport shuttle to Don Mueang. There is free shuttle service between the two airports, hence it’s convenient for travelers to go from one to the other airport without paying a hefty amount for taxis.

It took us around 40-45 minutes to reach the airport. The taxi dropped us at one of the gates. We entered the building but after walking for sometime we could not locate Air Asia counter, hence we started asking people but no one seemed to know or maybe there was a language problem. Finally we stopped a police officer moving around in his segway, to ask for direction. He mentioned that we should go to terminal 2. We came out of this terminal and looked around for any signboard saying “Terminal 2”. There was none. And there were hardly any people around to ask for direction. It was nearly deserted. We started walking straight down the direction the officer had indicated.
After a couple of minutes we saw some passengers offloading their luggages from a taxi. Hopefully we asked them about this elusive “terminal 2”. But they didn’t speak English nor did they understand. They only shook their heads.

So we kept walking. There was still no signboard or anything indicating Terminal 2. Finally we spotted a sweeper cleaning the pathway. We asked him and he pointed to the door just in front of us. We confirmed twice with him before going through the gates. Lo and behold we had finally reached the obscure terminal 2. Apparently it seemed that Terminal 2 was for domestic departures.

It’s really contrasting situation inside and outside the building. Outside we could find a soul whom we could ask for direction and inside the place it was buzzing with people. Glitzy food stalls were scattered all around the place. Finally we could see a lot of direction boards giving directions for the check in counters.


If Suvarnabhumi was spectacular, Don Mueang wasn’t far behind. It also looked quite trendy and big.  We had to again walk for sometime before we reached the Check In area. The line wasn’t too long at the Air Asia counter and also there were quite a few number of counters which made the check in process quicker. One thing was we didn’t have to undergo baggage screening for our check in baggages. This could be viewed as a security threat but also it showed that since it wasn’t such a terror prone country, these people trusted the intention of the passengers.

When I was doing web check in for Air Asia flights, it didn’t allow me to book two seats together for the Bangkok-Krabi leg. If I was giving an auto selection option the website was choosing two seats in separate rows not even close to each other, even though I could see many seats available adjacent to each other. Auto selection offered seat allocation free of cost. And if I wanted to pick my own seats it was putting a charge on it. What kind of crap was that I didn’t understand. Maybe it did so, so that in panic you would pay for the seats just because you wanted the family to sit together. I had read the same kind of experience by many travelers travelling in Air Asia. A mother had written in a forum that she and her little kids got separate seat allocations. What I did was I had done the web check in with two different seats only, thinking that it’s a one hour flight. But while doing the baggage drop at the counter I asked the person whether we could change our seats to something side by side. I also requested for a window seats if possible. And surprises I got both the demands met. So you see even if you get separate seats while doing web check-in in Air Asia, you could reach the airport a bit early and ask for changing your seats.


Once we had check-in we decided to grab some breakfast. The Sharma family had yet not arrived. Abhishek had not purchased a SIM yet so he was contacting hubby through airport wifi. But for long we didn’t hear from them so we thought they were yet to reach Don Mueang .

For breakfast we weren’t looking for a Thai spread, rather something to fill up our stomach without burning a hole in our pockets. Any food stalls inside the Airport is expensive so we choose the safer option – Mac D.  We had some hiccups choosing the chicken items from the menu as the sales guy at the counter had difficulty understanding us. Finally we settled for two spicy chicken burgers and fries. The bill came to 247.66 THB which was cheap as per Airport standards.


Usually Mac D provides spare glasses which you can fill up with water. I went to the counter to get some glass but they were totally clueless about what I was asking. After like 5 minutes of struggle someone guessed that I was asking for water. But they didn’t have option of water, only you could get pepsi or sprite, so I dropped the idea.

The burger was good, chicken was very moist and crunchy and tasted better than what we get in our country. We had a lot of time in hand so we spent a leisurely 30 mins over the burgers. Yet there was no sign of the Sharma family. We waited for some more time, but then we felt guilty of occupying a table without having something to eat for a long time. So we decided to proceed for the security check.

The security check was done in a jiffy and we proceeded towards the waiting lounge.The waiting lounge was very huge. It had wide expanse of empty spaces than sitting places. It almost felt like you can play football in the empty area, it was that big!


We settled down in two empty seats. In between we got a message from Abhishek that they have reached the airport. It was 8th May and mother’s day. So we called up our respective homes and wished both the mothers. Most of the people sitting in the lounge were busy in taking selfies. There was a couple sitting in the front row of us and for the entire 30-40 minutes we were waiting they were engaged in taking selfies in all poses imaginable. We also took a couple of pics  but got bored of the background soon.

It was almost time for the plane. The Air Asia ground staffs were taking position near the exit door of the lounge. We wondered what kept the Sharma family from reaching still. Finally after some more wait hubby said he could see someone in the distance who looked like Abhishek. I looked back and saw a man walking down with luggages and a small girl hopping beside him. It was indeed them.  We exchanged pleasantries with the other family. Their girl Kangan was a super cute kiddo. She was a bit reserved for initial 10 minutes or so and then she came to full form. Rajani told us that Kangan had enquired whether we had a kid too and once she knew we didn’t she was at peace. She surely likes all the attention to herself. LOL! It was mainly because of her that our trip became even more enjoyable.
We also learned what made them so late. They didn’t web check in and also didn’t include luggage limit which booking the tickets. Hence they ran into a argument regarding the luggage charge. And after that they were also stopped at the security check as Rajani was carrying a deo bottle which was over 100 ml. Abhishek had even tried to reason with the officials that the new bottle was over 100 ml but now the content was less that 100 ml! But the officials made them discard the bottle eventually.

Soon we got the call for the boarding. We walked down the exit gates towards our aircraft. Both families had seats in different rows. The Sharma family was some rows behind us. The Air Asia seats were quite comfortable, much much better than what Indigo offered. Both were low cost airlines but there was so much difference.

Air Asia Food
The Air Asia Menu was also quite extensive. They had asian food items like thai green curry also as a part of the offering. And at affordable prices too. We were already filled with the burgers we had at Mac D, hence I thought of trying out something from the menu on our way back from Krabi.

Bird's Eye View of Krabi from flight
The flight was of 1 hr duration and time just flew. Just before the descent started we could see the wide span of the fabled ocean beckoning us. I felt a rush of adrenaline as the clouds cleared and I saw the sea. It was too far, but still I could spot the limestone mountains jutting out of the turquoise span. Ah what a visual delight it was!I have made it to the paradise!  I tried to capture the first glimpse of the Krabi landscape in the picture.

Soon we landed. The temperature was very pleasant outside. It wasn’t humid as compared to Bangkok even if it was so close to the sea. We nearly had to walk 200 yards to the terminal building from the point where the plane dropped us. With every step I took I was feeling happier. It was just a matter of some hours before I was in the sea.

It was a small terminal building possessing only the most basic facilities. There was only one belt from where we had to collect our luggage. Since there weren’t many people, we got our bags in next 10 minutes. We took an escalator up from where we could get the taxis.

There are several options like taxis, buses, shuttles etc to the Krabi town and surrounding places of Krabi. Bus was the most economical option but the bus wouldn’t provide a door-to-door drop to the hotels. It only stops in the designated bus stops. We didn’t know how far our hotel was from the bus stop so we didn’t take the bus. But actually we later got to know that the bus stop is right outside our hotel gates. So if you are staying at Krabi Resort, Ao Nang go for the bus.

We took a shuttle instead for 600BHT accommodating the 5 of us. Actually its like a minivan which could accommodate 8-10 people easily. We paid for the minivan and were asked to wait outside with the receipt for the vehicle to arrive. We waited for a couple of minutes before the driver came and picked us up.

Krabi was slowly unfolding before our eyes

We were staying in Ao Nang and not proper Krabi town, as we had heard it had one of the best beaches in Krabi and also nearer to the sightseeing places. It was approximately going to take 45 minutes to Ao Nang from Krabi Airport. We drove out of the airport and the scenery began to change. There was so much greenery around and roads were nearly empty with hardly any vehicular traffic.
Krabi, the capital of southern Thailand's Krabi Province, is a town near the Andaman coast. The main attraction of this land is its white beaches and cluster islands. As we left behind the town area the scenery became totally unreal. We could see greenery filled random cliffs all around the roads. Clean gray span of clean roads, quaint single storied shops, restaurants fringed the roads, stunning rock formations, powder blue sky, pink and purple blossoms bursting out of the green hedges and occasional Thai traditional looking buildings. It was a scene straight out of a picture postcard or a Hollywood movie. I was absorbing every single frame in my minds camera.

First Glimpse of the Turquoise Span
While Krabi Town may be the provincial capital of this province, it's the beach town of Ao Nang 20 kilometers away that is tourist central in Krabi. After a long and picturesque drive we reached the fringes of Ao Nang. And the turquoise sea almost sprang out in front of us. That was a real dramatic moment. All of squealed together at the sight of the sea. We drove parallel to the palm-lined stretch of sand, multi shades of blue-green water, dominated by the large cliffs.

Laid Back Krabi-Ao Nang Town
Slowly we saw the resorts coming up in the landscape. We crossed Holiday Inn and a number or other resorts. Every corner of the town had a virgin untouched vibe. There was a relaxed atmosphere all around. And the area was so clean, it added to the beauty.

Krabi Resort Entrance

Finally we reached Krabi Resort around 12:30 PM. The moment we entered the gates of the resort I was spellbound at least. I had read that it was a big resort but how big I didn’t know then. The beautiful laidback ambience is so peaceful that you get rejuvenated immediately. Some arial shots of the resort is given below so that you get a fair enough idea about its location and size. Too Beautiful!

Arial View of Krabi Resort - Picture Courtsey Internet
Arial View of Krabi Resort - Picture Courtsey Internet

Arial View of Krabi Resort - Picture Courtsey Internet
Arial View of Krabi Resort - Picture Courtsey Internet
The reception area was very classy. Typical Thai architecture building. There were a lot of seating places all around. As I had already mentioned in the previous blog that all hotels in Thailand had check in time of 2 PM, same was the case with Krabi resort as well. The Sharma family was more tired than us since they were continuously travelling from 3 days. We tried to talk with the reception in giving us a room earlier but they said that rooms were being set up at that moment so we had to come around later. 
Krabi Resort Reception
So we kept our bags at the reception. The bags were properly tagged and kept together. There were luggages of many other tourists as well. So the hotel strictly followed the policy of no early check ins.

The reception area had washrooms. So we decided to freshen up a bit and then head for having lunch. The washroom was spacious and neat. The first thing that mesmerized us was the soothing lemongrass fragrence  that was omnipresent in the washrooms. Me and Rajani were wondering from where it was coming, then we noticed small oil dispensers placed below the handwash area. The fragrance was so much soothing that we delayed coming out of the washroom just to soak in the heavenly essence!
Day & Night View of Krabi Resort Reception
We decided to have food in the Ao Nang town rather than the hotel and made our way out of the resort. 

The day had just begun for us in Krabi and we had a lot to discover in the next few hours.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Chicken Soup for a Rainy Evening


Finally it has started raining steadily in Pune. The entire state has been struggling with acute water crisis from almost a year due to poor rains last year. Everyone of us were eagerly praying for good rains this year. The rains from past two weeks has helped the water levels get better in the three major dams around pune which supplies water to the city and nearby areas.

Rains always seem romantic from the warm confines of our homes, but once we have to tread the murky waters on the streets it doesnt seem rosey anymore. But this year it has been different for me. I am not complaining even when I get drenched while going to office. Everyone needs the rain water badly this year. So let it rain and then some more.

The usual cravings on any rainy evening are garma garam onion pakoras and steaming chais. Or rather anything thats warm and heartfelt. Since I am not that fond of chais and also try to avoid fried food so my usual craving is for a good fulilling soup. Its another thing that I love soup irrespective of the season. The first thing I check for is the soup listing whenever I visit any restaurant. And spicy crab soup happens to be my all time favourite. I evaluate any seafood joint on the quality of its crab or seafood soup. If I am not hapy with my crab soup then its a fat chance that I will visit the restaurent again, unless they totally floor me with their maincourse offering. Yeah I am that picky about my soups. There are two places so far where I was happy with the seafood soup - Eddie's Kitchen in Camp Area and Bamboo House in Shivajinagar. Especially if you are in camp area and a Chinese food freak then never miss Eddies. They have awesome offerings in seafood varieties. I just wish this restaurent was not so far from my home!

Anyway since I dont happen to get good soups at any local restaurents around my home, I started making a chicken soup at home itself. One more thing, my soups should always be clear soups. I hate thick soups or the ones with a lot of cornflour in it. So when I started preparing my own soup I tried out many combinations of ingredients.  I wanted a hassel free soup which would not take more than 15-20 minutes to prepare and yet be as tasty and filling, so finally I came up with the concotion that totally matched my palate.

This particular chicken soup is super easy to make and needs very little ingredients which are almost always present in our pantry. I have had this soup in breakfast, evening snacks, when I had fever or soar throat, or just to satiate a hunger pang anytime during the day. And best thing you dont need to boil the chicken before hand. It gets cooked in its own juices within the 10 minutes of the soup making.



Preparation Time: 5 minutes  

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Cuisine: Oriental

Ingredients:
  • Chicken - 100 gm
  • Garlic cloves - 7-8 finely chopped
  • Onion - 1/2 small, finely chopped
  • Pepper Corn - 8 
  • Green Chilli - 1 small, finely chopped
  • Dried Parsley - 1/4 tsp (optional)
  • Butter - 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Chicken Bullion/prawn bullion/ Tom yum bullion - 1/4 tsp
  • Salt and sugar as per taste
  • Water - 4 cups


Procedure:

1. Clean the chicken and pat dry. Chop the chicken into small pieces. I prefer to keep the pieces a little smaller than bite size.

2. Grind the peppercorns coarsely. Chop all the ingredients as mentioned above.

3. Take a skillet and heat it. When the skillet is hot, add the butter, ground peppercorn, chopped garlic, chopped onion, chopped green chilli. Let it sizzle for a half a minute.

4. Add the chopped chicken pieces and adjust the salt and sugar. Fry everything on high heat  till the chicken pieces become white, taking care not to burn anything.

5. Add the water. You may increase the water depending on the amount of soup you want. Make sure you adjust the salt and sugar levels accordingly.

6. Add the bullion and fold in. I used Knor tom yum bullion to add to the flavour and colour, but you can also use any chicken bullion like the one that is available from Maggi or Knor. Also if you dont happen to have the bullion you may add a hint of ajinomoto.


7. Let the soup boil on high heat. Add the dried parsely. Parsely is totally optional. Even if you dont add it, the soup will still taste lovely.

After 10 minutes your soup will be ready. Serve the steaming chicken soup a dash of butter.

Note: 
If you are having a cold, fever or headache this soup is a very good remedy for bringing some respite to your cold. I prefer to increase the ppercorn in that case, as the heat from the pepper corn acts as a healer of cold.


Posting some of the views that I am seeing from my terrace. It's hard to find a place in a city with verdant hills as the landscape. I guess I am one of the lucky ones still to be able to enjoy such a view of the could and mountains right from my very own building. Every year I fall in love with the place some more :). 







Sunday, 26 June 2016

Thailand Dairy : Day 1 Bangkok By the Night


After a nice nap we were ready to venture out. Slowly the evening was setting in. We got ready and were out of the hotel in minutes. The Citin Pratunam or similar hotels in the area might seem that they are situated in very crammed up lanes but this was very advantageous also. Within 2 minutes of walk from the hotel you have access to everything that would satiate your shopping spree. And that’s why we come to Bangkok right, to shop till we drop.

Room @ Citin Pratunam
The first thing on our agenda was to get money exchanged and to get a local sim card. I had read super rich near big C mall was the best place for money exchange in Pratunam as they offered the best rates. But what I didn’t know was the closing time of Super rich. We asked a few shop owners for direction to super rich but they all said that by 5 PM it would have closed and it was already 6 PM by then. We were in dire need to get our dollars exchanged for local money. So the next best option we asked. One shop owner pointed to a small shop 2 minutes away and said they offered good exchange rates.

We walked down to the place. It looked like a gift shop. Inside there was a counter and behind that the exchange rates were displayed. They were offering 33 THB against a dollar which was fairly good. We got 100 dollar exchanged. It was pretty smooth process. They don’t ask for any identity of even validate the currency notes. With expressionless faces they take the dollar and give you the equivalent bhats in less than 30 seconds, no questions asked. Wow! And to think of I was carrying a cartload of Xeroxes as id proofs.

We also noticed that the shop was selling SIM cards as well.  I had enabled international roaming on my phone while travelling from India just to be extra sure that we remain connected to our home even if there is a delay in getting the local SIM. But that was a mistake. SIM cards are so cheap in Thailand that you really need not enable international roaming. The call charges are also pretty much affordable plus the 3G is super fast. We ended up not consuming all the call time the card offered as we had rationed the calls back to home initially.


There are a lot of local shops where you can get sim cards, even at the airports and seven eleven shops. We went to the counter and asked for an AIS sim. I had read a couple of networks offer the best signals AIS was the top one among them. All tourist SIM cards come at 299 THB with validity for 7 days and unlimited 3G  internet. It’s a pretty good option for anyone visiting there. The person at the SIM counter was Indian and talked to us in Hindi. He asked only to show the Xerox of the ID card but returned it after seeing. It took 5 minutes to setup hubby’s phone on the AIS network and we were done. The 3G internet was butter smooth and a joy to use. We called our homes for a few minutes each to confirm the calling services. There was different dialing patterns and the guy explained to us which was the most cost effective way.


After we got the SIM and exchange we were at peace to roam around the night market. Pratunam is mainly a shopping district and a very popular destination with the Indian tourists. If not for the banner and hoardings in Thai one would actually think they are in any Indian market. Many places like the Indra Square was brimming with Indian sellers and Indian tourists, mainly Guajaratis.  There were endless maze of small alleyways packed with thousands of fashion stores, and they are so cheap because most of them actually sell at wholesale rates. These shops offer t-shirts, jackets, dresses, jeans, shorts, shoes and accessories, including many fakes. So you need to bargain a lot to get the right price. We saw many tourists carrying a type of wheeled bag, similar to luggage bags in the shopping area. Initially we thought they were luggage bags only but later understood that they were being used to stuff the shopped goods. Can you imagine how shopping crazy people often this place that they need luggage bag sized bags to stuff their loot :) !

We were not looking for clothes and accessories shopping but something which would be unique to this place that we could carry back home.  Most of the I love Thailand printed T-shirts are also sold in India in any wholesale market. My suggestion would be not to spend on the clothes as, the quality is also compromised since the price is low.

The main road was brimming with like thousand people at the same place. At places it seemed like elbowing thought he crowd was the only option we could move forward. Added to this was the intensive heat and humidity. It was like only 10 minutes from hotel, my makeup came off due to the sweat. We were sweating profusely, almost like we were just out of the shower. Take along a couple of hankies with yourself just to be fully armed against the sweat. Initially it was pretty discomforting. But everyone was in the same state and still we didn’t see anyone care about it. Soon we also got used to it.


The heat was making us thirsty. We saw a number of stalls selling some colorful bottled juices. We approached one of them selling a green coloured juice and asked what was it. The young guy at the stall said it was lemon juice. This was the first time I saw lemon juice having a colour. And no in Thai juices they didn’t add extra colouring. I tool a medium sized bottle costing 30 THB. Looked a tad expensive but the drink was very  very refreshing. Lemon juice and salt mixture but tasted nice.

We crossed the Baiyoke Tower II on our way, 300 meters and 88 stories, it is the tallest and one of the most distinctive monument in Bangkok. We kept walking towards the main road by asking people for direction. We wanted to go to the Big C supermarket, as I had heard it was good for shopping. Well so was the many other malls like Palladium, Indra and others but we were already late and didn’t have much time to check out all the popular malls in the area.

There are different markets in Pratunam based on the time of the day. Morning markets, day markets, night markets etc. But throughout the day you can see some sort of markets open to entertain the tourists. When we walked towards Big C, we saw some shops closing their shutters at 6 PM itself while at other places shops were just opening. It was kind of amusing.


One thing that I didn’t mention earlier was street food stalls. They were everywhere wherever you went. Authentic local foods sold by the locals along the roadside. If you get hungry with all the shopping, no need to fret. At every 2 minutes there is a lot of street food lined up in small makeshift shops. And a disclaimer, walking by the food stalls might offer visuals which is not for the faint hearted and certainly not for pure vegetarians. Huge chicken roasts, baked fishes, fried squids, pork on the stick and a multitude of shocking non vegetarian items stocked up on display. Though for us it was a pleasant sight to behold, there was food everywhere and being foodies nothing could please us more. We had promised ourselves at the onset of the tour that once we are in Thailand absolutely no Indian food for us. I was not ready to pay for simple daal rice in thai bhats costing double of what it is in India. So the numerous Indian restaurants on either side of the road were of very little interest to us. But Thai food definitely was piquing our interest.

 Though it was hot, but we loved the walk. Once we reached the main road the crowd diminished. One thing we noticed in Bangkok was the color of the Taxis – pink, orange, purple, yellow, green- name the colour and you would have a taxi in that colour. That was a pleasant change from the yellow-black ones we were so used to in our country. Later I read about it and learnt that there is a colour coding applicable for these taxis - “The single-color are company taxis, personal taxis in cooperation or alliance and rental company taxis. These color include bright green, bright sky blue, red, orange, yellow, blue, pink, purple, violet and tan. The bi-colored taxis are in 3 kinds including yellow-green, red-blue and yellow-orange. The yellow-green are the personal private taxi. The red-blue are the rental taxi. The yellow-orange are the company taxi”. We also saw the famous tuk tuks, which was something similar to our autos or totos of Kolkata.

On way we came across a street seller selling hats. Since from next day our beach vacation was starting hence we both needed hats. We tried out many hats and finally settled for two of our choice at 150 BHT each. Happy with our first purchase we kept walking. In distance we could see the neon lights of Big C mall. After a while we crossed a long line of open air street restaurant under the flyover. The sitting arrangements were very basic but the place was buzzing with people. The food aroma around this place made us hungry but it was not yet time for dinner so we walked on. We decided we will have dinner at this place only.


We reached Isetan supermarket in front of it we saw two temple like monument in front of it with Vishu like idol. We had also seen ganapati idols at places. People were praying in front of the idols and lighting incense sticks.  We took a few snaps and moved on. We came across another cluster of street shops. Hubby tried on a couple of shades just for fun while I checked some of the trinkets on sale.

There was also a stretch of shops which were selling different fruits, fishes, jewelries. Thailand has so many types of fruits to offer. Some of them very new to us like the Mangosteen, Rose apple, Durian or Rambutan. They resembled some of our fruits but tasted different. I tasted only Dragon fruit and Thai Oranges while in Thailand. Both were good.


My mother had told me that people usually buy gold or silver from Bangkok as they are very cheap. There was a couple of shops in this market selling silver. But we were in doubt about the authencity of the metal hence decided to skip.


We were really hungry by this time so we picked a stall with considerable crowd to buy something to eat. It had different fried non veg items on stick. The man handed over a plastic packet and asked to put in the packet whatever we liked. We picked two stick with chicken fry and two stick with fried chicken liver. He took the packet checked the content and told the price. The price was by the piece. It came to some 40 THB for all of it. Damn cheap. Just as we were paying I noticed on one side of the cart some fried things which looked like larvae fry.

“Err what is that supposed to be?” I nudged hubby pointing in that direction.

He looked and didn’t say anything.

“Is it really worm fry or something?” I almost said in a horrified note. He was laughing seeing my expression and said “Possibly”


I didn’t look at that part of the cart and walked away. After stabilizing a bit we started eating. Both the sticks were very scrumptious.

Big C is nearly 1 Km from Citin Pratunam. But the multiple pit stops we made made it look like we had come a long way. We bought a couple of cute jute boxes from a street shop. Hubby wanted to gift it to his boss.


Finally we entered the Big C mall. Till now we had forgotten that there was any kind of weather apart from hot. The moment we entered the mall it appeared as if we had entered the heaven. The gush of cold air from the central air-conditioning felt unreally soothing. All the tiredness vanished and we walked with renewed vigour into the shops. We came across several gift shops. One of the particular gift shops had a nice collection. I selected some fridge magnets which is almost a ritual with me whenever I visit any new place. There are many fridge magnets on my fridge from different places which talks about all the good times we had in those places. Hubby brought a set of key chains and nail cutters as gifts for our relatives. There were beautiful wooden dolls also in the shop, I particularly liked the cat dolls but the price was very exorbitant. Hence we didn’t buy them. The old lady at the shop gave us nice discounts after hubby kept bargaining. He wouldn’t budge without buying in the bargained price and she would not relent. But at the end she gave us the things at our desired price and we promised to come back again.


It was already pretty late by then and shops were closing down in the mall. We saw an escalator going up. We went towards it to go to next floor. A lady stopped us before the escalator. She was offering strips of paper with some herbal moisturizing cream trials. We took two of them and went up the escalator.  We applied the cream while going up and were mesmerized by the amazing scent of the cream. We thought of checking it out again while coming down.

The supermarket was situated in the upper floor. The look and feel of the supermarket reminded me of the American Walmart or Costco supermarket. It was huge. The collection of items was exhaustive, especially food items, preserves, sauces, cosmetics, ranges of alcohol etc. I had made up mind to buy as many Thai spices and preserves as I could hence it appeared like a treasure trove to me. My situation was almost like a kid in a candy shop, whatever I was picking to take a look seemed interesting and I was almost squealing with joy at the wide options I was seeing in front of my eyes. Even hubby agreed that the collection was amazing. One is really spoilt for choices in every section. But we didn’t buy anything that day as we thought about the weight constraint in Air Asia, which was our flight for the next day to Krabi. We simply browsed through the sections and made a mental note of what all we were going to buy during the return journey to Bangkok after three days. This supermart might not appeal to people looking for budgeted clothes and accessories but it fitted our requirement to the T.

We came out of the floor and headed for the area where we had met the lady who gave us the cream trials. But seemed like her shop was closed. So we thought of coming back when we were in Bangkok. By 9:30 the mall was almost having a deserted look apart from the supermart area. We came out and headed for the open air restaurant we had come across before.

The restaurant area was still brimming with people. And after some wait only we could get a table. It was hot and humid again and the restaurant had installed fans near the tables which made it a bit bearable. The menu was very exhaustive and we were confused like hell what to take and what not. We decided to go with something whose name was familiar to us. Seafood Tom yum soup looked familiar. We wanted some rice to go with it so we asked the girl attending our table about rice.

She looked at us quizzing and repeated “Rice?”

The food
Her expression told us that it was something she was hearing for the first time. Now it was our turn to be surprised. Thailand was a country in which rice was as popular as in India and here our waitress stood with a blank expression. We tried animated ways to make her understand what we wanted. She looked pretty helpless and summoned another young boy who was equally clueless.

We were so exasperated at their expression that we didn’t know how to explain it to them. Then by chance I asked “Fried Rice?” A wide smile spread across her face as she heard something familiar “Fried Rice , yes yes we have” she said.
The Street restaurant
Both the parties were finally relieved and we ordered seafood fried rice with seafood tom yum soup.  Why did we order a soup with rice you might wonder. Well we had seen the soup was thick enough to go with rice as a gravy hence the combination. It was a short wait and the steaming hot food arrived. The quantity was huge for two and the prices were very very affordable, hence we were super happy.  The food tasted as good as it looked, no wonder the place was brimming with people even at 10 Pm in the night. Squid if extremely cheap in Thailand. Hence whenever we had ordered sea food in this country we got a combination of prawns and squids in it. Squids might not appeal to people who are having it for first time. But both of us had it earlier so we were kind of okay with it though we preferred the prawns more. The rice was mildly spiced and the soup was very tangy. Combination was a bit weird but worked with us nonetheless. We also ordered coke to drink. They gave a bucket filled with ice cubes along with the coke. Due to the heat we had to drop the cubes frequently into our drink to keep it cool.

After the scrumptious dinner we were filled to the throat almost. The walk back to the hotel was really required to digest some of it. The shops along main roads were already closed so it was kind of deserted but e didn’t feel scared walking alone. We saw the trash collecting trucks were collecting the trash during night itself.

Tender Coconut Drink
The market near our hotel was still buzzing with activity. God knows when this area closes down. We were very tired by that time and decided not to linger outside anymore as we had an early fight the next day. We had already informed the hotel about the early check out and for arranging a cab to the Don Mueang Airport next day. Like Suvarnabhumi Airport, the connectivity to Don Mueang was not that good via skytrain. Only taxi or bus was the option. For Bus we had to change a lot of stops also at that early hour it could be confusing, so cab was the only option even though it was an expensive option.

We retired to the room soon after. Coming back to AC was a relief. We changed quickly and went to bed watching some Thai comedy show.  The main tour was about to begin from the next day.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Thailand Dairy - Day 1: Pune to Bangkok

May 7 : Pune to Bangkok


This time the destination of our annual holiday trip was Thailand. A lot of planning went in to finalising the places, hotels and trips. But every phase of planning was a lerning experience for me. While planning a trip, I came to know a lot about the country and culture of Thailand.

Finally the D day had arrived. All the planning and hard work of past 3 months was about to get paid off. I was feeling a bit edgy and super happy at the same moment.

We had a early morning flight hence the plan was to hit the sack as early as possible. But the final packing, checking the checklist, clearing the trash, ensuring every minute detail was taken care of all these took much time and we ended up going to bed at 10:30 PM.

Our flight was at 6:05AM. It takes nearly 45 minutes to reach the airport from our home. So ideally leaving home by 4:00 AM was the thing to do. But when I had earlier contacted Indigo Customer Care just to be sure about the Check In time I was informed that I need to check in at the airport at least 2 hours before the flight time, which is the usual norm for an international flight. But the Pune-Kolkata leg was a domestic flight so I expressed my surprise over the 2 hour thing. The customer care executive seemed totally unsure and finally ‘recommended’ me to be there 2 hours before just to be sure! So now we needed to leave home by 3 AM. Hence the alarm was set at 2:15 AM. Which practically meant that we were just going to bed just as a ritual. But I was not complaining at all. My heart was racing all around the place and I simply wished the 3.5 hours to zoom past so that we can embark on our holiday!

We had so many options of transportation to choose from – Ola, Uber, local auto etc. But we decided to stick to good old Wings radio cab. Though they charged more but their service was bang on time. I had a disastrous early morning booking experience with Ola hence I didn’t want to repeat the fiasco.
The cab arrived before time and within minutes we were into the cab. It was pitch dark outside and there was hardly any soul on the roads apart from a few cars zooming by. We engaged in a friendly banter with the cab driver. When he knew that we were from Kolkata, he expressed his long standing of desire of visiting the shakti peeths of Bengal. We talked about Dakshineshwar, Goddess Kali and all kinds of spiritual things. It actually felt good. The day had started off well.

Traffic less Pune roads are like a dream come true. You feel like you have gone a century back when there were no gas guzzlers on the streets. It was pure bliss cruising through the empty roads. We reached airport by 3:40 AM. There were hardly a few cars in the departure area. And in the departure lounge there were even few people. Most of the people were dozing off in their chairs. The baggage screening belts were non-operational and not a single ground staff of any airlines was seen anywhere. This confirmed my doubt that we didn’t need to come 2 hours before departure to airport for a domestic flight. But we could do nothing except sit and wait. After playing candy crush, sugar crush, criminal case, for umpteen times and checking and rechecking whatsapp for the possibility of any night owl sending cool midnight messages I could still manage to pass only about 50 minutes. When I was just about deliberating the fact whether I too should seek a corner chair and doze off I saw a gaggle of yellow blue uniformed air hostesses making their way in. The jet airways crew was in. Everyone stirred in their chairs. Soon the jet screening belts whirred to life and passengers started queuing up. I was wondering where were these damn Indigo folks?  After like 15 more minutes later which seemed like an eon, we finally saw the Blue uniformed ladies.  As soon as the Indigo ground staff was spotted a long queue formed behind the Indigo baggage screening belt. No it was still non-operational but we Indians can never give up the temptation of reaching first everywhere. Finally the belt was started and we got our bags screened.

Suvarnabhumi Airport
One more funny thing with the Indigo guys. I have taken a lot many International connecting flights earlier in other countries. One, I am allowed to do web check in for both segments of the flight and two if I am having a connecting flight with the same operator then baggage is internally transferred by the operator themselves. Both the things were not allowed in our case by Indigo. I got to know from customer care that since it was a domestic international combi flight hence I cannot web check in, god knows why! And two I need to check in my baggage at Pune, collect baggage at Kolkata and then again check in baggage at the counter in Kolkata by myself.  The window period between our two flights was hardly 2 hours. So I was a bit tensed because usually it takes a lot of time to collect your bags and we had to go from domestic arrival terminal to international departure terminal in Kolkata which I was not sure how far. So I did the next best thing available – asking for confirmed assistance at Kolkata airport both while going to Bangkok and coming back. I was assured by the customer care rep that as soon as I would arrive in the baggage collection hall someone would definitely be there to assist us. I am really sad to say just because it’s our country we didn’t bank much hope on this assured assistance. And good that we didn’t. Because there was no such person who came for us. There was in fact no ground staff of Indigo available at the arrival carousal. When after walking for long in the Kolkata airport we saw someone from Indigo we informed them about this and he didn’t seem any less concerned about it. My good old country! Only one thing good was that they followed international norms for baggage. If you have an international connecting flight with Indigo they allow up to 20 KG in the domestic leg as well. Not sure if the same rules would still apply if you have two different operator for domestic and international segment.

Suvarnabhumi Airport
Okay so as I was saying I was not allowed to web check in earlier, this meant that getting a desired seat was totally impossible.  What I didn’t anticipate was that getting a seat together would also be impossible. And exactly that’s what happened. We got two middle seats 4 rows apart. Okay so the experience with Indigo was getting sourer. I was cursing the fact why didn’t we book a bit earlier while the Thai airways flight was still cheap. Our bad.

The security check was quick enough and then we went to the first floor to wait in the departure lounge. Though 5:30 AM was not a time to feel hungry, but since we were awake from 2 AM our body was already sending hunger signals. We got some sandwiches just to stall the hunger pang. We thought that we will have proper brunch at Kolkata airport. While we were waiting in the lounge we heard faint kitten calls. First I thought it was just my imagination. How could possibly a cat be anywhere near first floor departure area. For a while I didn’t hear anything else. Then I actually saw something. A mama cat with her little kitten going around the lounge! I was astonished beyond words. All the small kids in the waiting area gathered around the small kitten who seemed people friendly. I deliberated for sometime if I too join the kids in cuddling the kitten will the other passengers think I’m nuts? Should I behave in a more sophisticated manner as expected by a woman of my age? Then I thought what the hell? I am a cat lover and there right in front of my eyes was a tiny little kitty, does anything else matter? So I got up and went after the kitten. After sometime got hold of it and brought it to my chair. The other passengers seemed amused at my antics but I couldn’t bother less. Soon hubby also joined in. He is equally a cat lover. We played with them for long till our flight departure was announced.
Kitties @ Pune Airport
The flight from Pune to Kolkata was quite uneventful. I was in the middle seat so anyway I didn’t have anything better to do than catch up on my sleep.  Once in Kolkata airport, it was a long and frustrating wait before we got our baggage from the arrival belt.  After collecting the baggage we scurried towards the International Departure area. Now after Kolkata airport has been revamped for good or bad, one needs to simply run a marathon to reach from point A to point B. There are more empty places than vantage points in the whole airport and it makes things a whole lot confusing especially when you are in a hurry. We walked and walked and walked and then walked some more until we reached an escalator which indicated for departure. Funny enough we couldn’t locate a lift anywhere. So we somehow fitted our huge baggage on the small step of the escalator and reached upstairs.  Then I noted it was the usual domestic departure area that I always accessed while coming to Pune from Kolkata.  A bit confused we went towards the check in line where a ground staff informed us we need to go thought the baggage screening first and pointed to a screening machine at one corner. Ughhhh as if checking in all over again was not painful enough. We waited in the long queue and got our baggage screened and tagged and then came back to the check in queue. Now the same baggage person checked our ticket and told us with a deadpan look – “Oh you need to go to international departure area this is domestic”.  And heaven forbid where was this international area? I dared to ask. He tilted his head and pointed to some area far far away which was not even visible from there.
Suvarnabhumi Airport
Just by thinking about the distance we had to still cover and looking at the time we had in hand for once I thought why not give up this whole idea of boarding the international flight and just go out of the airport, take a cab home and have a week chilling out at home. I was beyond frustrated at that time. We half ran half walked to this international departure area. Guess what the farthest aisle was for Indigo and we did have to screen our bags again because for international flight they had different screening tags.  Due to so much delay in these procedures I was almost sure that we are not going to get a seat together again. But surprise, we did get seats together that too in the second row and one of the seats was a window seat! Wow, some fairy somewhere was sympathetic to our plight. Once the boarding pass was collected and baggage dropped we headed towards the immigration queue. Boy the size of the queue gave us a heart attack. We barely had 30 minutes till departure and the line in front of us looked like the great wall of china. Nonetheless we took our positions.

We had already given up hopes on eating anything. But I was in dire need to use the washroom. So Hubby kept the line while I decided to make a quick visit to the washroom. Guess what again, the nearest washroom was near the intersection of the domestic and international areas. This was seriously getting unrealistic. As if the whole gamut of airport and ground staffs had pledged to make our lives miserable in each and every imaginable way. It took me nearly 10 minutes just to go and come back. The line had moved quite a bit by then thankfully.

Clearing the Immigration was possibly the easiest thing we had done in the whole day.  After the immigration we had to just reach our mentioned gates. We were feeling quite hungry by then. But we couldn’t see any food courts nearby and we thought we will have brunch on flight with whatever they had t offer. Though strangely we saw a lot of passengers moving towards the gates with packed Thali lunches. We wondered why. Food would definitely be available on flight, though it might be a bit pricy, but was it really necessary to pack a thali for the flight? Little did we know the surprise that lay ahead of us.
Suvarnabhumi Airport
There was still some time left before the flight so we browsed through a bookstore nearby. I bought a couple of books to read in-flight. The boarding call came like 15 minutes before departure time and everyone boarded the flight right on time. After settling down my first thought was to check out the food offerings. Usually there was a time when Indigo would serve different meals according to the time of the flight. Gone are the days, now they serve only fixed snacks on all flights. Still I hoped for something different. When I went to the Menu page I got the shock of my life. Not only the same snack items were listed but now the cost was marked in USD!!! And it was not a direct price conversion from INR to USD but a 3 times costlier deal. I will give you an example. The cookie box which costs about 60-70 INR (cheapest snack on board) was listed as $3 (still the cheapest one on the menu in terms of USD)! You get a big cookie box in the Walmart at about $2.50! This was fleecing customers like anything! No wonder everyone was carrying the thalis. It seemed we were the only ones unaware of this.

But the problem was we were terribly hungry. And after seeing the unaffordable prices our stomachs started growling even more. I had a lot of INR cash on me but we had limited USD and Thai Bhat and that too in bigger denominations. I asked the air hostess if we can pay in INR equivalent of USD but she straightaway said a No. Only Thai Bhat or USD we were informed. It was a difficult decision to break the $100 currency note into lesser denominations just for buying a box of cookies but we did it finally. The loose change we got back is not usable as no one would convert less than $10. The lessons and experiences seemed piling up throughout the day.

Bangkok Sky View
First glimses of Bangkok City from the flight

It nearly took us 2 hours 30 minutes to reach Bangkok from Kolkata. When we were nearing Bangkok the clouds that had blocked our view so far slowly faded away.  The first glimpse of Bangkok seemed like a maze of canals and farming lands. But the demarcation was very linear, very uniform. It almost seemed like someone had marked the entire land with a ruler. We could see temple like structures and some high rises interspersed between the landscapes. We could also spot the Chao Phraya River looking like a giant silver serpent. The airhostess announced the local time before landing at the Suvarnabhumi airport and we adjusted our watches accordingly. Thailand is 1.5 hrs ahead of IST. We were given the arrival and departure forms which we had to fill in before landing.

The temperature was quite balmy at 38 degree centigrade. We were informed that first we need to visa on arrival, clear the immigration and then collect our baggage from conveyor belt 19. The excitement came back to me and made me forget all the sour experiences we had till then.

Aarival Departure lounge - Photo Courtsey Internet

Beautiful Artwork on the walls @ Suvarnabhumi Airport
We exited from the plane and after a short walk down the ramp we reached the airport. The lounge was done in a beautiful soothing shade of mauve and there were orchids placed at strategic locations. The whole place was aesthetically beautiful. We followed the signs and kept walking. Now Suvarnabhumi airport is like huge. We walked for what seemed to us like ages, maybe like more than 15-20 minutes. But thankfully there was walking escalators which reduced the stress of walking so much. Plus the whole airport was very pretty. There were traditional Thai fresco and murals all over the side walls. We were swooning over them as we walked. I wish I had taken pictures of the art works but we were so tired that we wanted to finish off the formalities ASAP. Now after walking for like 15 minutes we wondered whether we were going the right way or did we get lost somewhere. The arrows still indicated a left or a right towards the Visa on Arrival but we thought of confirming. Fortunately we saw a help desk sort of facility somewhere and confirmed with them that we were on right track. After walking for some more time we finally saw the Visa on Arrival section. There was a desk like structure outside the room where some people were asking something while rest of the foreigners were running inside. We thought of going inside first. There was a queue inside. We saw a board having a listing of what all things are required for Visa on Arrival. There was a mention of some form which we didn’t have. So I asked an Indian lady standing in front of me where I could get that form. She told me with a blank expression that she didn’t know anything; they were already given all documents by their tour operator. So I stayed in the queue while hubby went outside to check at the desk. He came back soon with the required forms. The queue was moving steadily and filling up the form while walking was a daunting task. By the time I reached the end of the queue there were still some text boxes to be filled. The lady manning the line literally screamed at us and asked us to come to side. She was doing the same thing with everyone who didn’t have everything matched to the T. So we quickly filled up rest of the stuff and got the documents in place. The lady gave a dirty look at the documents and kind of shoved us in front of one of the counters. Me and hubby went to separate counters. The men at the counters appeared even less friendly. They took the Visa money, passport ,documents  and gave us a token number and didn’t tell us what to do after that. When I asked the person he rudely told me to “go there” pointing to god knows where. We were still confused so I asked one of the other officials. That person also pointed to some direction without saying anything. So we walked in that direction. It was a waiting area where there were other similar confused looking Indians asking each other what was going to happen next.

Suvarnabhi Airport - Photo Courtsey Internet
After a while a lady came holding some files and started calling the token numbers. She was handing out the stamped passport to everyone. After we got our passport immigration counters were just behind the waiting area. We completed immigration formalities and finally moved into the baggage claim area. The belt was almost empty. I could however locate one of our bags on it. When I was lifting the bag from the belt a security person came and asked for my boarding pass. She then cross checked the baggage tag with the one on my boarding pass. She also informed that rest of the unclaimed bags were collected and kept in one place and pointed to a direction. It was a good measure actually to prevent passengers from mistakenly or intentionally taking someone else's bag. We walked down to the area and found the other bag. The guy who handed our bags seemed like the first Thai person who gave us a smile. We smiled back.

After we got our bags we remembered we were still very much hungry. It would be quite late by the time we would reach our hotel so we had to eat something before that. We came out of the baggage reclaim area and spotted some food stalls.

The first food stall had some tiny sandwiches lined up in the freezer. We asked the lady at the counter did they have any chicken sandwiches to which she gave a confused look. After asking for two three times she said , “no English” and called another lady from inside. The later informed us chicken was sold out, only ones in pork and ham was left. So we moved to the next one. It was a pastry shop and we were looking for some real food so we skipped that too. The next one was a bit far away. Some of the items written on the board in front of the shop caught our attention. Thai red curry fish and rice we decided. I happily asked the burly women at the counter can we have two of that to which she gave a really nasty look, turned her back on us immediately and started talking with another lady sitting inside the shop. Wow is this the kind of hospitality we were going to experience in Thailand? Why everyone seemed so irritated and angry we pondered.

Whatever our hunger problem still remained sorted. I told hubby lets walk down the corridor maybe we will spot something. But our energy and patience was also draining fast now that we were also dragging along our big baggage. Like a god-sent visual we saw the icon of food court a few yards away. It indicated to the floor above. Thankfully we found the escalator too quickly and just as we went up we saw what our sour eyes were waiting for – lines of proper restaurant in Thai, Japanese, Italian etc.

We went us to one Thai restaurant which had the least walking distance. The menu had real food but the prices were a bomb. We selected the ones costing the least – prawn fried rice with egg on top and chicken kung pao and rice. While we waited for our food to arrive a Thai lady in a skimpy yellow suite came walking from the adjacent restaurant and asked my hubby “Do you want beer?” We were a bit surprised that how can someone from another restaurant advertise their beverage in a different restaurant and what made her choose us?  Maybe because we were sitting just at the entrance and rest all were ladies in this restaurant. We politely declined her offer and she went away.

Prawn Fried Rice @ Suvarnabhumi Food Court
Chicken Kung Pao with Rice @ Suvarnabhumi Food Court
Meanwhile the food arrived. The quantity looked really sad and mine was looking quite bland as well. But we were so famished that all these technicalities didn’t matter. The prawn rice was really bland in taste as it was in look. It was steamed rice and steamed prawns together with bare minimum seasoning, even salt. While the kung pao chicken was really good. The first taste of Thailand left us with mixed feelings.  After our hungry souls were satiated and we blew more than 600 THB we were ready to take our next transport – the skytrain.

Photo courtsey Internet
There are actually a few options one can choose from while travelling from Suvarnabhumi to the Hotel. The first is a shared shuttle vehicle provided by your hotel or in general any shuttle service . Depending on the size of the group the vehicle size will change. But its a flat 800 THB per person in the shared vehicle to any point within the city. If you ask your hotel in all possibility they will send such a vehicle. Also the Indian travel agents will book you in shared shuttles if you are taking packages from them quoting that its the most cost effective transport means. In fact they will also say if you take a private car it will cost you more. Which is possible half true. By personal car they don't mean the usual taxis, personal cars are like the ones you can book in any Indian city for private travel.  Which brings us to the next option the metered taxi. The metered taxis are a good way to travel within the city if you are new in the city. The prices are fair enough and you don't need to go though the hassle of knowing at which stop to get down to, which usually is the case if you are taking a bus. The metered taxis are available in the floor number 1 of Suvarnabhumi. Next is the option of Bus. I did find a BTS stop somewhere close to my hotel but still it seemed like a long walk in the google maps. So after some more R&D I stumbled upon the best possible option to reach Citin Pratunam Hotel where we were going to stay for the night - the skytrain. The BTS Skytrain runs through all important downtown disctricts and major transport hubs in Bangkok, from Mo Chit to On Nut (Sukhumvit Line) and National Stadium to Wongwian Yai (Silom Line). I knew about the metro service in the city but I found the direct connectivity between the Suvarnabhumi Airport and Pratunam area just the day before. If you are staying in the Pratunam area and staying at any hotel located near to Citin this is the cheapest and fastest way to reach your hotel. While the taxis take roughly 40-45 minutes to reach the skytrain only takes about 20 minutes to reach the nearest station Ratchaprarop. The pink line in the below image shows the airport skytrain route. 
Rail Map

The skytrain is located in the basement of the airport. We followed the signs and reached the ticket counter pretty quickly. It cost us 40 BHT/person from Suvarnabhumi to Ratchaprarop Station. Metered Taxis would take about 450 TBH. We got a plastic round token instead of a paper ticket which we scanned at the entry gate. Almost in every 10 minutes there is a train. So one doesn't have to wait too long also. The door positions of the train are marked on the platform so the queue forms accordingly. 

Once the train came the boarders boarded the train in a very disciplined manner. The people from the train alighted first. Then without rushing in the people who were about to board the train boarded it one by one. There was enough time for everyone to get on the train. 

Ours was the last but one station, so we settled down comfortably. The sky train journey gave us a chance to see the greater Bangkok pass by our window. We could almost see the entire Bangkok city just by sitting in the train. Initially we didnt see many high rises, mostly there were residential and industrial complexes spread around the landscape. As we gradually moved towards the downtown area, the skyscrapers slowly made their appearance along the sky line. The city looked just like any modern Indian city, it didn't appear like a foreign country to us at all :). 
Ratchaprarop Station
There are within the train announcement about the next station so you can be ready beforehand. Finally we got down at the Ratchaprarop station. Frankly, I had a lot of trouble pronouncing the station name before I finally got it right. But it was fun. before we could even figure out which direction to go to, the entire crowd which had alighted with us had disappeared. The station was completely empty when we started walking towards the elevator. We were not sure which floor to go to so we came a floor down. There we saw some security people and asked them the direction to our hotel. They couldnt understand Citin Pratunam, finally an old man said " you want to go to Pratunam Hotel I will show you". He asked us to follow him. We Indians are almost taught to suspect any stranger who is very willing to help. Thus we were a bit hesitant at first. We thought maybe he will ask for some token amount since he was guiding us. But in the end he came across a good guy who was just showing us the way :).  He took us to the basement which opened to the main road.

We thanked him and proceeded towards the road. There are two options from here. You can take a taxi if you have big baggage and not in a mood to walk. The other option is to walk. I knew the hotel was roughly a 10 minutes walk from the station. So despite of the fact that we had two big suitcases each we decided to walk. One more reason was that I had read that the hotels in this area are situated in very narrow lanes hence its difficult for a taxi to find the way at times. So to save time and money walk was the best option.

The first thing that hit us when we came on the road was the weather. It was terribly hot and humid. Within minutes we were sweating like pigs.Even Mumbai is humid but its nothing compared to this. It almost appeared like we had come out of the shower.

Train crossing on the road
We had to cross a junction point which had some railway tracks. And sure enough we were lucky to see the local train pass in front of us. There were no signals on the road for indicating a train is coming. The train came and went very casually. People stopped while the train passed and then it was back to normal. That was something new for us.

We kept asking people for directions and walking. The whole area looked like old Mumbai with the exception that everything was written in Thai. Soon we reached a lane which had many street shops selling clothes, food, accessories and what not. It almost appeared I had reached Laxmi Road in Pune. It was total chaotic and confusing. There was a lot of Indian restaurants in the area and most of them had a person outside their restaurant locating Indians in the crowd and advertising about their restaurant. One such Sardarji saw us and began inviting us to his restaurant. We asked him the way to our hotel instead. Finally from his direction we reached a narrow lane in which our hotel was situated.

Citin Pratunam
The lane was so crowded that it was difficult to locate any building and we almost missed the building. I had read in tripadvisor about one of the front desk staff named Rabbit, being very helpful. Incidentally she was present at the reception when we came but she didnt appear any more helpful than any normal frontdesk person. In fact both the staff at the desk were quite cold in their approach. It is a rule all over Bangkok that the check in time in any hotel is 2 PM. It was almost 4 PM when we reached the hotel so we were eligible to get the rooms immediately.

We asked for rooms in the new building at a higher floor as suggested by all tripadvisor guests. Higher floor room would ensure the street noise didnt reach up to the room. Though they provided room in the new building but they could only provide a room with twin bed. We wanted to rest quickly so we agreed to the room. I had read the hotel required the guest to deposit 1000 THB during check in as security amount which is refunded on check out. But we didnt have that much THB with us, only dollars. We told the same to the reception person. He told then we should deposit $50. $50 is obviously more than 1000 THB, plus keeping that money with the hotel meant it cannot be utilised for any shopping either. We were not happy with this policy. They could have kept the charge lower so that tourists are not required to block the big amount. Anyway we paid in dollars and after that we were given the room. They also provided the wifi details with the room keys.

The new building is just a short walk from the main building. Also there is a seven eleven bang opposite to the new building, so in case you need anything even at odd hours you can go to this shop. The Spa of Citin Pratunam is also located in the new building, so if you are planning to frequent the spa often then staying in the new building is a good idea.

Soon we reached our rooms. The rooms were not much to talk of but still pretty decent at the price offered. Neat and clean rooms with fairly sized beds, TV, in room safe, fridge and payable snacks and drinks.

We decided to freshen up and take a quick nap before we venture out to experience Bangkok by the night.




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