As mentioned in a previous post, we don't live near London or Heathrow Airport. So it was a hard rush hour slog on a wintery Monday morning (rife with freezing fog, a UK specialty) from our house to Heathrow, along with the numerous poor souls who were all on their way to work.
Because our travel home was scheduled to be especially brutal - two hours by boat then van to Krabi Airport, two plane journeys, then the UK motorway madness back to our house – we booked a car via Airport Cars Lichfield to take us to/from Heathrow. These guys are great; I don’t see the need to ever drive myself to Heathrow again!
Upon arriving at Heathrow’s newly renovated Terminal 2, we found the Thai Airways desk and were checked in with our bags dropped in all of about 30 seconds. Full disclosure: we traveled business class and utilized the dedicated check-in service, thus the speediness of our experience. Thai Airways is a Star Alliance member, so if you’ve been racking up the miles on other member airlines (United, Air Canada, etc.), an upgrade to business is definitely worth it. After security, which was a breeze, we were invited to relax in United’s new Polaris Lounge until our flight was ready to board. Since I was traveling on my British passport, I felt it was only right that I fit in with the natives (including my other half) and get as much free booze down my neck as possible before boarding. The lovely lounge staff were happy to oblige.
The new United Polaris lounge for business class travelers at London Heathrow Terminal 2. Other half not amused.
Boarding was interesting as I had researched the flights and chose to use Thai’s newest London to Bangkok non-stop service on their Airbus A380. Yes, the double-decker one which requires four separate queues for boarding through four separate doors. Once aboard, I was shown to my business class cocoon, where I would spend the next 11 hours or so. It was very comfortable, with a fully-flat bed and many entertainment and storage options. My dedicated air hostess offered me a glass of Champagne, which I happily accepted. She then said, “Now, madam, after you’ve finished your Champagne, what would you like to drink next?” (Where has this wonderful person been all my life and would she consider a permanent move to our guest room as our house hostess?) She then proceeded to recite the entire drinks menu to me, from which I chose the Chablis. She kept topping up my glass until it was bedtime.
In between glasses of wine, I was presented with the dinner menu and selected the Thai options. This is the first flight I’ve ever been on, in any class of travel, where I actually wanted to eat the food I was given. It was fantastic and on par with what you would eat after arriving in Thailand. After my belly was full, I enjoyed a full six hours of sleep on my flat bed, and awoke ready for my Thai breakfast and to take on navigating Bangkok’s super-modern airport.
We landed at 6am local time and a private transfer had been arranged from the airport to the Banayan Tree hotel, where we would be spending the first few days of our holiday. Public transport is very modern, cheap, and easy to use in Bangkok, not to mention quicker than fighting through the clogged streets. But if you’re like us and turn up to every holiday looking as if you have never in your life packed a suitcase because you are dragging every piece of clothing you own around with you, then a driver or a taxi is the way to go. We spent our transfer time alternately enjoying the sunrise over the city and wondering if we had come all this way only to die on the freeway. Bangkok drivers give “lane-splitting” a whole new meaning. There is a six-lane highway connecting the airport to the center of the city, three lanes for travel in each direction. But by the time you get past the toll booth, there are actually 12 lanes of traffic, with two cars sharing each lane. It is organized chaos to the highest level and we didn’t see any accidents. Still, I would just sit back, close your eyes, and leave the driving to the locals here.
View from the Banyan Tree pool, overlooking the Sathorn Road business district.
We were greeted warmly at the Banyan Tree, which is situated in a quiet business corridor, but our room would not be ready for a couple of hours. We joined the other residents at the breakfast buffet, then had a snooze by the pool with a view of the city. Once inside our spacious room, we took a proper nap in preparation for the midnight street food tour that I had booked before our departure…