London to Bangkok and Udon Thani
Today I will once again slip on my traveller’s shoes and shut my front door behind me to set off on the long haul from London to Bangkok and Udon Thani. It’s a route I know well, and one which for the best part I’ll be pinning my faith in the knowledge that Etihad Airways will deliver me, pampered and in one piece, safely to Suvarnabhumi International Airport…. fingers crossed.
My journey will start with a 90 minute afternoon (01:30 pm) coach ride from my hometown in the county of Wiltshire to London Heathrow Terminal 4. I always enjoy the ride because sleeping on a coach comes natural to me, and I have the uncanny knack of being able to wake up just minutes before arriving at Heathrow…. famous last words?
I usually arrive not too long before Etihad’s check-in desks open and after weighing in my luggage, selecting my flight seats (normally right at the back), I will disappear outside to savour the chilled evening air and smoke two or three cigarettes. Why does Heathrow penalize smokers so much. From there it’s a pigeon-paced shuffle through passport control to the rainbow hologrammed world of credit card duty-free shopping. This time I’ll be on the hunt for jasmine scented perfume for Wonderful Wi.
Four hours after leaving my home I’m usually sat in Etihad’s plush guest lounge with a couple of hours to kill before boarding my flight to Abu Dhabi. The flight is scheduled for half past eight in the evening.
After a six and a half hour flight I’ll arrive in Abu Dhabi with enough spare time to buy duty-free cigarettes and a litre of Jack Daniels before snatching an hour or so in one of Abu Dhabi’s splendid guest lounges.
Like London and Suvarnabhumi, food and drink are free in Etihad’s Abu Dhabi guest lounges (there’s smoking rooms too) and their first class service and amenities are a welcome sight and stop-off for a weary saddle-sore traveller. Although on my last trip Etihad had limited my Silver Guest Card membership to usage of one of their three guest lounges at Abu Dhabi. That’s still not too bad a deal considering the quality of their guest suites.
By the time my Etihad flight to Bangkok taxis to take-off my travelling shoes will have shuffled, stretched and wept for just short of 16 hours since clicking my front door shut. That’s the cue for sleep.
Did I really sleep that long, I wish. On the six-hour flight to Bangkok I may, if I’m lucky, sleep for three hours. I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times but the adrenalin rush which comes with the buzz of touching down in Thailand can remodel the looks of the most wearied of Rip Van Winkle holidaymakers to those of a wild child teenager wielding a can of spray paint. It’s a wonderful feeling landing at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. It will be six in the evening and I’ll have been travelling for more than 21 hours.
Getting from the inside of Suvarnabhumi airport to the outside can be a long process. Immigration often has long queues and the pigeon-paced shuffle of Heathrow transforms into a tortoise-shell crawl at Suvarnabhumi. After finally completing immigration, I’ll pick up my suitcase from the ‘carousel of fun’, then hopefully waltz through ‘nothing to declare’ without any inconvenience. I’ll then cash travellers cheques in arrivals and at long last feel I’m back ‘home’. Well almost. They’ll still be the small matter of negotiating the 560 kilometres that separate Bangkok and Udon Thani.
My preference when flying with Etihad Airways is to book a morning flight from London which arrives early morning next day at Suvarnabhumi. That allows me to get a connecting flight to Udon Thani, but landing in the evening takes away that option.
Suvarnabumi International Airport’s bus terminal operates a coach service to Nong Khai, leaving at 21:00 hours, and its route travels via Korat, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. The fare to Udon Thani is around 500 baht and the seven and a half hour journey gives me plenty of time to catch up on lost sleep. A comfortable seat on a coach guarantees shut-eye for me. The coach pulls into Udon Thani bus station at about half four in the morning.
I’ll grab a coffee, smoke a few cigarettes and then take a samlor (tuk tuk) ride to the apartment block Wilai has booked. And then comes the sheer relief of taking off my traveller’s shoes.
Total travel time…. just over 32 hours, but to me the trip is worth each and every second of my time.
“Total travel time…. just over 32 hours, but to me the trip is worth each and every second of my time”
I second that. Dragging home to Thailand on a long-haul is something. The drive to the airport. The wait. The one or two long flights. Landing in Bangkok. Getting through immigration and customs. And then finally, the relief of being in a taxi. For me, the sweet spot is driving through Bangkok from the airport on that last stretch. On that drive I always reflect on how much I love this crumbling city. Yeah. Even after it’s pissed me off again. And again. It’s still my cherished home.
So here’s a “Welcome Home, Martyn”, a wee bit in advance 🙂
Have a good trip Martyn. I live near the airport, and it is a bit cloudy here today. It is a long journey, but I sort of miss the exciteme of arriving in Thailand.
Paul – I didn’t notice you waving when I flew over your house. If we could bottle the excitement of arriving in Thailand then this time next year we’d be millionaires.
Catherine thanks for your lovely heartfelt comment.
I really enjoy the two coach journeys. Stepping out from the cold here in the UK onto a warm coach is bliss. And I get a nice sleep too. I also love travelling and dozing on the night journey from Suvarnabhumi. When we get past Khon Kaen I snap awake because I know I’m only a little over a hour away from Udon. I’m gonna enjoy each and every hour of the trip big time.
I’ll catch up with your latest posts when I’m in the village on Sunday. I’m hoping to meet the famous Frogblogger (Pete) on Saturday night. Looking forward to that.
Cold to warm – absolutely. And REAL rain (not that wimpy stuff).
Say “hello” to Pete. I’d ask you to give him a hug from me but as you won’t even wear pink shirts, I’ll bet that’s totally out too 😉
Catherine – Hugs are out but hellos are in. I’m now off to a bar near Swindon bus station. Thailand here I come.
Such a lllooonnnggg way for you Martyn. But worth it I’m very sure! Happy holiday.
Snap – My apologies for replying so late but your comment and a few others got completely overlooked.
Any time in Thailand is happy days for me.
Welcome back to the LOS and you second home , have a great time while you’re here and I’m sure Wilia is glad for you to be back , I hope you found the Jasmine perfume, the ladies love that kind of gifts . Take care and give Wi a big hello from Ciejay and Me.
Malcolm thanks for the welcome and I’m sorry I’m replying late. I found the perfume and Wi is over the moon with it.
I hope all’s well is Kanchanaburi.
Haven’t travel in quite a while and reading your article made me think. Time to get on the road, and I was thinking that I havent been to Thailand except a stop over in Bangkok, but this dosen’t count. So thanks for your post. Thailand here we come.
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Giorgio – I hope you make it back to Thailand because you’ll just love it.