How We Were Flying To Koh Samui For 51 Hours
We were traveling in Europe this summer (2018). Most preferably the southern part that we haven't seen yet. We've visited Budapest, Slovenia, Venice, Northern Italy, Rome, Barcelona, Gran Canaria. It's all was interesting, and we've got a little bit of unique experience in each country. I'll share more details in a different blog post, but for now, I'd like to share our story of how we were flying for more than 51 hours from Europe to Koh Samui, Thailand.
A Decision Was Made In Gran Canaria
That was a crazy journey. It's all started with our decision to go to Southeast Asia when we were in Gran Canaria. This Spanish island has its uniqueness and culture, but after 2 weeks there I honestly got bored. I've heard so much cool stuff about Canaria islands when I was very young. Basically, I've heard that it's really cool if you go there. So that seemed a great idea to explore it since we've been to Spain and Barcelona was out of our budget. Especially in the summer touristy time. Long story short, I didn't find an island vibe that I expected to feel there, but actually, it was the island, and that was crazy for me. So I randomly checked if there are good deals on Skyscanner from Europe to Thailand. And I found a great one.
Scoot airlines is a Singaporean company that just a month ago started flying to Berlin and back to Singapore. I've read about it a little bit and even watched video on YouTube how the first plane came to Berlin. Also, $440 per person one way to Bangkok with a quick layover in Singapore seemed great. So I booked it and started planning our travels towards Berlin to go to Thailand from there.
Of course, we couldn't do Thai visas from Germany. Since it's not our home country. So we decided to go for the visa on arrival. Meaning, we needed to book in advance a bunch of tickets, hotels, etc.
So I booked tickets to Koh Samui from Bangkok and found Airbnb in the good area of the island. Also, we needed an onward ticket from Thailand as one of the requests to get the visa on arrival. We didn't have return tickets because we weren't planning to be back in Berlin. So I booked tickets to Kuala Lumpur which is a great deal if you fly there, let's say, from Krabi. And basically, it's a good city if you need to get out of Thailand by the end of your visa or if you want to go somewhere else in Asia because of a variety of connecting flights.
Our plan was clear, tickets booked, and after one more week in Gran Canaria, we boarded on our flight to Barcelona and then flew to Berlin from there. We spent a fantastic week in Berlin before our flight to Bangkok, and that's where our adventures started.
First thing first, I've got an email from the airline in the evening about our flight. There was info about the delay on 2 hours. At first, I thought it's even better because we could go to the airport a little bit later than we initially planned. I don't really like early flights and waking up at 5-6 am to go to an airport is always stressful for me. But right after that, I decided to check the airport schedule in Berlin to make sure that the info is correct. There was an old timing for a couple of hours. So I decided to wake up early and recheck it. Since it was Sunday and if you're in Europe you understand that many people just don't work on days like this. Perhaps no one would update that info.
They updated the info early in the morning, and that was really a delay. So we took our time and went to the airport a bit later than planned beforehand.
The check-in and everything went smoothly, but the interesting part started when we went to our gate.
We were departing from Tegel Airport which is old, and even the gate we had for international flight have nothing but seats, one food stall with basics and coffee and duty-free with the size of a room. That's not a problem when you aren't waiting for hours your flight.
Our flight was delayed a couple more times. The gate was crowded, and there were also a couple more gates and people are just everywhere: on seats, walls, floor. Eventually, they've canceled our flight and said that our aircraft is broken, they can't fix it and engineers can't let it fly because of the safety reasons. It was a hot day, but you'll never believe what happened next.
We Were Surprised
The team who were supposed to board us announced that we need to go by bus to arrivals, collect our luggage, go through passport control and go for vouchers.
I wasn't expecting this. Yes, we were waiting in line for half an hour to get our luggage then half an hour more in line for vouchers, but actually, they provided us with the hotel in airport area with dinner and breakfast. Also, they said that they will be fixing the plane and the next day we'll fly to Singapore and there the airline will change our connecting flight to Bangkok that we missed because of the broken one.
It was a decent hotel in a beautiful quiet area near the forest and even with a pool. Clean and comfortable room.
The dinner was as in a restaurant. I ordered salmon, with rice and veggies. Also, a free drink goes with the meal. How cool is that?
The next morning after a fantastic dinner, rested and ready for new adventures we went to our breakfast. It's also was very good. Right after that, we've checked out from the hotel, and they arranged shuttle buses to the airport terminal. The driver said it was never like that for a long time in this airport that a flight could stay for a day and a night because of technical reasons. Also, he said that it surprises him even more that it's happened with the new plane as we had.
The Second Attempt
We've checked in, passed customs once again and hello again the gate where we spent half a day just yesterday.
They fixed it! We were boarded successfully, and our plane took off without any problems. I don't exactly know what was broken, but we were flying to Singapore for 12 hours, and it went smoothly except micro turbulence moments.
Despite that, it's not the longest flight on the Earth it was pretty much tiring to fly for 12 hours without stops.
At first, I tried to get maximum from the time I had and do some work that does not require Internet, then read a book, listened to podcasts. But actually, after several hours of flying it's getting hard to do something meaningful, and you basically start procrastinating by watching movies, ordering some snacks, going for water, trying to get some sleep and watching movies. Maybe it's because of a bunch of hours sitting at one place (stretches are not counting), perhaps because of the dehydration.
When we landed in Singapore, the guys from crew said that there were arranged tables to resolve our issues with connecting flights before our arrival. So that we need to go by a number that depends on a destination.
We were hugely surprised again. When we made it to the table in the transit zone of the airport they gave us a stack with flight tickets to the next flight, we were already checked in, and our bag goes straight to this flight. Also, they gave us a hotel, voucher for breakfast, the guys said that they will pay for the taxi to the hotel and back to the airport and they even provided us with a document for visas so we could go out from the airport.
It was so convenient to have a hotel even for several hours to prepare ourselves for the next flight and get some healthy food at the breakfast buffet.
Still tired, but a little bit refreshed we went to the airport and got some coffee not to fall asleep while waiting for the next flight. The airport in Singapore is fantastic. It's one of the cleanest and well developed. I like the automatic immigration system where you just scan your passport and fingerprints before going to gates.
Also, Scoot sent 100SGD vouchers that we can use in next trips with them.
Yes, there was a delay and circumstances, but the airline did the best what they could from their side. And I don't feel like they owe me an apology or something. Because they compensated for everything in the best way possible. All I can say is a huge thank you to all the people who helped us during our trip for their understanding and hospitality.
We flew 3 more hours to Bangkok and then we needed to pass the immigration and get visas on arrival.
Do Not Do Thai Visa On Arrival If You Have Alternatives
A note to myself: do not go for visa on arrival in Bangkok. It's way too long and bureaucratic process. It is not worth the time, efforts and money. One of the previous Thai visas I got was free, and no questions were asked by immigration officers. The opposite thing is with visas on arrival. It's expensive, they check every hotel, check in / check out dates, flights, immigration card, visa form. Also, you need to wait in a line to apply for your visa, then wait until you get your passport with the visa and the 3rd step is to go through immigration officer to get it stamped. It took an hour if not more to go through all of it. The process seemed more difficult than in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Finally, we're in Thailand. However, Bangkok is not our final destination. We still need to fly to Koh Samui, and we missed our flight along with the previous one that was from Singapore.
So the first thing we did is we went to change the flight that we've missed in the Bangkok Airways office. They've checked everything and told us that we can do it, but because of the difference in price of tickets that we had and tickets on the day we arrived in Bangkok we needed to pay the difference.
The good news that in 2 hours we were boarding on our flight to the island and it was less than a 1-hour trip. Feels really quick after all that we went through.
The cool thing about our Airbnb is that our host Steven understood our situation and refunded the first day of our booking that we didn't use because of our flight delay. And his place is really good if you have more than basic needs like having a gym, cool location, quietness (it's a rare thing in Thailand), a small kitchen to make breakfast.
There is a bunch of places and cheaper options to stay on Koh Samui, but if you're searching for comfort you can check his place here:
This was indeed an adventure: many places, waiting time, thousands of miles in the air.
I want to say thank you to all the people who helped us. It would be much more difficult or even impossible to handle all of this without their help.
I've heard horror stories about people who stayed in airports for 24, 48 hours at the gate waiting for their flight because the previous one was canceled. And no one helped them, even a travel agency where they booked their tours.
It's a cool thing that there are examples like we experienced ourselves. So we could not blame, but say thank you.