airport in thailand

Arriving at an Airport You Can’t Even Pronounce

In the early ’70s, I was stationed in Bangkok. And, after I returned home, I returned there for vacation at least twice or thrice a year. So for the past 35 years, I had been periodically traveling to Thailand. This led me to know Bangkok’s international airport like the back of my hand.

Bangkok’s international airport was Dong Muang until Suvarnabhumi, pronounced as su-war-na-poom, opened in September of 2006.  Considered as one of the world’s oldest international airport, Don Muang currently serves domestic flights and international flights of low-cost airlines.

With Suvarnabhumi as Bangkok’s main international airport, I focused on learning my way around it.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport

Suvarnabhumi means “Golden Land” in English and is known to have the world’s tallest air traffic controller. This airport is located about 30 km east of Bangkok in an area known as Nong Ngu Hao, or “Cobra Swamp.” Thus, what surrounds it are paddy fields.

The architecture of this international airport has a futuristic design and aesthetically beautiful metal and glass corridors.

With the complex covering 32 square kilometers coupled with 360 check-in desks and 120 gates, 45 million passengers a year can be handled by it. It is certainly huge that I had to walk a long distance from the arrival gate just to reach the immigration lines. It truly seemed far-flung for me just getting from one place to the another.

After Immigration

The good side of this airport is that there is a giant electronic display board which indicates where your luggage can be retrieved. Knowing exactly where to get your luggage amidst the numerous luggage carousels helps you quickly be on your way.

Passing through customs after getting bags is an easy task. Actually, in over 35 years of flying to Bangkok, I have never been checked. What you have to dread is the operations of taxi mafia.

Taxi Mafia

Thailand Taxi

With bags at hand, you will go through a crowd of well-wishers and individuals who will harass you. The latter is the infamous touts of taxi mafia. They will ask you where you want to go and assign a fixed rate. At times, they’ll sell you at a metered rate. You still have to be wary of it though since they may utilize an unlicensed vehicle with a tampered meter system. In both cases, you’ll pay more than you should have.

The best you can do is proceed directly to the taxi booth. You will have to pay an additional fee but it is minimal compared to the peace of mind you’re getting. Taxis in this booth are registered and use their meters.

Good Taxi Experience

Amidst the scams and dishonesty of some Bangkok taxi drivers, there are still good ones. I rode a taxi during my visit last year and forgot my credit card wallet in the cab. The driver contacted my hotel and arranged the return of my valuable. I decided to reward him handsomely since everything contained in my wallet remained intact. His honesty saved me from a lot of hassle and the possibility of losing a lot of money.

Other Option

Getting out of Suvarnabhumi airport by cab, you will get to experience a controlled chaos of driving in Bangkok. Another alternative if that isn’t your cup of tea is to ride the Bangkok Airport Link. Not only is it the best choice if your accommodation is accessible by train but you also get to avoid taxi scams altogether.

Overall, Don Muang may not be as busy as Suvarnabhumi but my fondness for it won’t disappear. As for Suvarnabhumi, having been there twice, I have already learned to accept that it is the new international airport and treat it as my close buddy.
Good thing for my next Thailand Holiday, I will be heading to Khon Kaen. I get to land at Suvarnabhumi and fly out via Don Muang which brings back to me memories of my numerous Thailand trips. The upcoming trip allows me to visit both my old and new friend.

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