And as we landed, Mark decreed we'd fly direct flight from now on in, unless it was absolutely impossible or very expensive! He hates hanging about and being uncomfortable.
This was the first time I'd been in Suvarnabhumi International Airport, and it was a pleasant change from the old BKK international - it was very 1960s American-esque airport, very green and lots of smoking rooms! The new terminal is sleek, modern, with lots of stainless steel and huge gargoyle-demon guards decorating walkways! We got through immigration in about 20 minutes. However, the huge number of people who don't fill in their arrival cards properly really holds things up - our immigration officer sent people away to fill them in and join the back of the queue again, others were letting people fill them in at the immigration desks, making things very tedious for other travellers - some of whom were NOT happy!
Our luggage came out pretty quickly and we found our driver on the other side of the security checkpoint - thankfully we didn't get stopped. It wasn't that we were carrying anything bad, but opening cases and unpacking things is SUCH a nuisance. Mark had lost his luminous green metal luggage label between Manchester and Bangkok but there was nothing we could do about that!
Mark was getting tetchy that I wouldn't tell him if it was a private car transfer between the airport and the hotel. I knew that's what we'd asked for but somehow we were getting seats on a coach. I thought it best to keep quiet and he surely wouldn't shout at me when he found out we'd be travelling with others? Fortunately it was just us and an older man from our flight in a min-van so Mark wasn't mad!
Our guide who met us was called Pom, and he gave us welcome to Bangkok packs with info about the tours Pacific World (Airline Network's travel agent in Thailand - Trailfinders use them too). He started pushing trips straight away - now, I had been determined we'd do things ourselves, like the Grand Palace, but as Mark whispered to me - Pom knew all the history, etc, and we got to queue jump when we were with him! So we went ahead and reserved two places on the Grand Palace tour the next morning, and also two places on the trip to the Floating Market the day after that - it would have been WAY too much hassle to organise that ourselves.
We had to wait 20 minutes for our driver for some reason, so I went out to the little supermarket outside the terminal and got us 4 cans of Diet Coke, a tube of Pringles, 3 rolls of Mentos - less than 120B, which is less than £2, i.e., amazingly cheap for us. It was at this point Mark realised what I'd said about Thailand being cheap didn't only apply in 2003, the last time I was there!
As we headed into the city I rang my parents in Scotland to say we'd got here - they tend to worry! We got to the hotel within about 30 minutes. Because I'd stayed at the Bel Aire Princess before, I knew it was down a side street which was really busy and crazy - but I could see Mark looking as if, where are we going! As we pulled up outside the hotel, he relaxed a bit when he saw how nice the hotel was, and once we were inside he was fine. Pom made sure we were checked in and said he'd pick us up at 7.30 the next morning for our Grand Palace tour.
We found out we'd been upgraded to a Club Tribeca room, which is the level of rooms aimed at business travellers, with Internet connections, etc. It was lovely - big, clean, good air-con and nice bathroom. We unpacked pretty quickly and headed down to the hotel restaurant - Tiffin - for something to eat because we couldn't be bothered wandering to find somewhere as it was 9.30pm. The food was fabulous, and not too expensive. We shared yummy spring rolls to start and I had Pad Thai, which was wrapped up in a fried egg (I realise that's quite common but I've never had it like that before) and Mark had beef and mushrooms in black bean sauce, which was also very nice.
We headed out into the street Soi 5 Sukhumvit and explored a bit. There's a Foodland supermarket where we ended up having breakfast in every day, and a few stalls as well as the Amari Boulevard hotel. The area around sois 3-7 is kind of the Arab/ Muslim end of town, and there were a lot of women in burqas in the area. There was a night market on Sukhumvit Road, selling everything from camouflage baby clothes to the usual fake watches, clothes and DVDs. We saw a fairly nice oil paining of tuk-tuks on the Khao San Road, in muted colours (beige, brown, etc), but because we so much as looked at it, the stall holder was on us like a flash!! She promptly turned her calculator over and there were three stickers saying 'I'm Deaf', 'How Much' and 'Thank You'. She frantically showed us bigger versions of the painting (making me think they were mass produced, obviously) and more colourful versions. When we said how much - despite apparently being deaf and at the other end of a fairly long stall - she ran at us tapping at the calculator! She definitely had a problem hearing us when we said we only had about 200B on us, and she wanted 500 for the picture - we said we'd be back but she clung limpet-like to my arm for a good few minutes before we managed to break away!
After a brief stop at Foodland for some toiletries and cans of Diet Coke to keep in the room fridge, we headed back to the hotel to bed - we were shattered, and looking forward to a good sleep!