Prepaid GSM
Getting around

Part 5: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Dalian, Beijing

29.9-30.9: Munich -> Bangkok -> Guangzhou
1.10: Guangzhou -> Shenzhen
2.10: Shenzhen -> Urumqi
3.10: Urumqi -> Turpan -> Xiaohe -> Urumqi
4.10: Urumqi -> Kashgar
5.10: Kashgar
6.10: Kashgar -> Karakul lake -> Tashkurgan
7.10: Tashkurgan -> Khunjerab pass -> Kashgar
8.10: Kashgar -> Urumqi
9.10: Urumqi -> Dunhuang

10.10: Dunhuang
11.10: Dunhuang -> Chongqing
12.10: Chongqing -> Wanzhou
13.10: Wanzhou -> Yichang

14.10: Yichang -> Shanghai

15.10: Shanghai -> Hangzhou
16.10: Hangzhou
17.10: Hangzhou -> Qingdao
18.10: Qingdao -> Dalian
19.10: Dalian -> Beijing
20.10: Beijing
21.10: Beijing -> Bangkok
22.10: Bangkok -> Munich

15.10:  Shanghai -> Hangzhou
Golden City Hotel Hangzhou, No. 286 Yan'an road, Hangzhou, Tel. 0571-87036888. 396 yuan for a nice elegant little suite, with everything, but a very poor Internet connection (way slower than dialup). Near the lake.
Weather: sunny with clouds and warm in Shanghai. More fresh in the evening in Hangzhou. No rain the whole day.

I wake up at 8:30am, get ready, check my mails and process some photos until noon. Starting from 12pm the reception calls three times on the phone within 20 minutes, asking when I'm checking out. Very persistent. Never mind, at 12:25pm I finally check out and then the trouble begins.

The receptionist only pays 122 yuan back, although my deposit at the hotel was 400 yuan and I payed another 100 yuan at the airport (total is 500 yuan and the room rate is 278 yuan). They claim that the 400 yuan written on the deposit receipt of the hotel already includes the 100 yuan I paid the airport, which is nonsense. A couple of phone calls, lots of discussion and the situation goes on for 25 minutes.

I wonder what I should do, because it's not that much money (100 yuan = 10 Euro), but I'm losing my precious time on this discussion. It's however very irritating, because I hate being cheated. Should I go to the police? This would take hours, would probably be inconclusive and I just don't have the time. On the other hand the amount is small, so sueing with a lawyer makes no sense. And if they refuse to return the money, there is nothing I can do, as I cannot force them. Also, since I need to leave the bags at the hotel, as I will stroll a bit in Shanghai before leaving for Hangzhou, I can't afford to start a big argument with the hotel.

In the end I decide that I will keep a copy of the receipts and post a complaint with the tourist authorities or with the police. It will probably be a hole in the water, but I should at least report this incident.

Generally speaking, it is very easy for a tourist to be cheated in China because of the language barrier. I haven't been cheated so frequently during my trips to China, only because Chinese people are overall very honest, but such an accident could have happened at any time.

I also decide to avoid leaving cash deposits in Chinese hotels in the future and instead use the credit card to secure the room, because in that case it is much more difficult for any hotel to cheat.

So at 12:55pm I leave the hotel and walk to the Bund. I look for the KFC restaurant, which I find after some walking. I eat there because my time is limited and I know what I get (am not in the mood for new surprises right now). After some walking around, at 2:30pm I walk back to the hotel, get my bags and take a taxi to the train station.

At 3:15pm I'm at the huge and crowded train station of Shanghai. It's very easy to buy a ticket to Hangzhou. Surprise, surprise, the next train to Hangzhou only leaves at 5:34pm. That's over two hours of waiting time and I start regretting not to have taken a bus. After I'm told that I may not go to the soft seat waiting area because the ticket is for the hard seat, I change the ticket into a soft seat ticket. The additional fee is 17 yuan for a total of 50 yuan - still very cheap considering the distance. Still I'll probably try to avoid using trains in China in the future, because of the time you lose at the train station and because of all the mess and noise at the train stations.

Then I walk to the soft seat waiting area, where I wait for about two hours in the cafe. The drinks are not cheap, but there is a power socket, so I can review the photos I took today with the notebook computer. Some promising panoramas of the Pudong new area.

The train station is modeled a bit after an airport. It's not as open as a train station in Europe. There are security checks (bags have to be X-rayed) and you are only allowed in if you have a train ticket. You may only proceed to the platform 10-15 minutes before your train is leaving. Overall the train station is clean and well organised.

The train has some delay, only leaving at 5:41pm, instead of 5:34pm. The wagons of the train have two levels and the train is quite full. On the train they sell some dinner (10 yuan for rice with chicken and vegetables - good value).

The train arrives in Hangzhou around 7:40pm, without any intermediate stops. The next challenge would be to find a hotel, because I have no reservation. I wanted to make a reservation at the Shanghai airport, but the guy there told me that there was no need, as there were lots of agents in the Hangzhou train station and I could make the reservation there. He also gave me a toll free number I could call to make a reservation.

Well, there are no hotel reservation counters at the train station in Hangzhou and the number the guy gave me is not toll free, at least not on my mobile phone. The problem is also that I have almost no money left on the phone, so I can't make a reservation on the phone (I do in fact call, but the operator has no suitable options).

I lose time and at 8:20pm I finally jump into a taxi and ask the driver to bring me to a hotel. Some driving here and there, and finally at the second attempt, before 9pm I am settled in a hotel. The transfer took too much time - from hotel to hotel six hours have passed. I decide to avoid if possible to travel by train, in any case check the timetables in advance, and to have hotel reservations in advance.

In the evening I walk around a bit through Hangzhou, in the west lake area. This is an elegant, chic and expensive area, with lots of shops with luxury western goods and five star international class hotels. Looks like this is the Montecarlo of China, home of all rich and elegant people.

16.10:  Hangzhou
Golden City Hotel Hangzhou. Despite the slow Internet connection speed, it is possible to make phone calls with acceptable quality with Skype, which is strange, because I'm not able to surf the net and download my emails with the room net connection and instead have to rely on a dialup connection.
Weather: warm, sunny sort of a light blue sky, but very poor visibility. Today the air over Hangzhou is not clean. No rain.

It seems that Hangzhou really shines at night, because during the day, the city does not look so impressive. The major problem is the air which is not clean and therefore limits the visibility. There may be tons of temples in the area around West Lake (Xi Hu), but they are not that special, if compared to other temples elsewhere in China and abroad. But at night Hangzhou looks great with all those lights and the lake.

Around 11am I get out of the hotel and look for a place where to have some food. I head towards the Pizza Hut restaurant in the road parallel to the lakeside road and have a pizza. The pizza is ok, but pricey at 58 yuan (more or less the same price as in Germany).

After the lunch, around 12:10pm I get out of the restaurant and take a taxi to the Lingyin temple. The temple is, well, so-so. Another me-too temple, if you have already seen lots of Chinese temples before. But this one is less nice than other temples I've seen before. And the entry tickets are pricey. You have to pay 35 yuan just to be allowed to walk into the Lingyin compound. Then you have to pay another 30 yuan to visit the temple, for total cost of 65 yuan. The LP China of 2002 mentions a ticket price of 20 yuan. So they must have more than tripled their ticket prices in just four years.

At 2:10pm I take the cable car to Bei Gaofeng (Northern peak), from where I hope to have a nice view over the lake and Guangzhou. Not a chance, the dirty air limits the visibility considerably and in the far distance everything looks like a homogeneous grey. By the way, the cable car costs 40 yuan (go and return).

Around 3:30pm I'm down and try to get a taxi. I'm not the only one, there are also some Chinese who are waiting for a taxi. Obviously the Chinese don't queue and don't care who arrived first. So it takes some effort and time to get a taxi. I'm back in the hotel at 4pm, then get out again around 4:30pm.

Around 5pm it is starting to get dark. I continue to walk around the lake and am back in the hotel at 9pm. On the way back to the hotel I meet a Chinese guy who lives in Canada who says that Dalian is a beautiful city. Should I stop there?

17.10:  Hangzhou -> Qingdao
Hotel Santiago, somewhere along the coast in Qingdao. 600 yuan for a huge suite, which at first sight looks luxurious (do I need so much luxury?). At second sight it appears that this suite is old and in desperate need of renovation. There are two TVs, but no Internet line in the room. The 16300 dialup Internet access also does not work.
Weather: sligthly overcast in the morning in Hangzhou, warm, the sky becomes more overcast at the airport. Fresh, windy and overcast in Qingdao.

After getting up at 8am I get ready and at 9:10am I'm down in the reception asking where I can buy a plane ticket. The receptionist checks with the travel agency he knows and says that the 12:30pm flight is full and that there are only seats available on the 5:45pm flight. But this flight is too late and I would arrive after dark in Qingdao. I have some breakfast then look for a travel agency. In the end I find one in a higher class hotel near my hotel. There I buy a ticket on the CZ6765 China Southern flight at 12:30pm - 1st class for 1460 yuan (hopefully my wife is not reading this), because the economy class is full.

At 10:30am I take a taxi to the airport (95 yuan), arriving there at 11:10am. The check-in procedure is fast and smooth. In the China Southern first class lounge they have a computer with Internet access. The plane takes off with some delay at 12:45pm and is quite full. It's an old and decrepit MD82 and the overhead compartments above the first class seats are full with emergency and training stuff, leaving no space for bags of the 1st class passengers. Overall the China Southern first class does not give you a first class service.

The plane lands in Qingdao airport at 2:10pm, 20 minutes later than planned. I walk out of the plane and retrieve my suitcase, then look for a hotel reservation counter. There is no such thing at the Qingdao airport, and while I walk around and look for it, I get adopted by a lady who sells taxi trips. She will bring me to a hotel in Qindgdao for 80 yuan (that is, her husband).

Now begins the odissey. It's about 2:30pm and it will be 4pm before I am settled in a hotel in Qingdao. It looks like there is a conference or convention in Qingdao and all rooms are booked. In any case I end up spending 600 yuan for a huge suite.

At 4:30pm I fetch a taxi to the Huashi Lou. It's along the beach and around there there are lots of wedding couples doing photo shooting. It appears that Qungdao is a beach resort for the Chinese, who are attracted by the colonial architecture. The setting is not bad, with the sea and all those beaches, but the city is not too attractive, and certainly can't compete with a European beach resort. There is no pedestrian area for instance, with shops and restaurants. The beaches are nice, but not that big, and the sea ground is rocky and full of stones.

At 5pm I take a taxi to the Qingdao Ying Binguan building (ticket is 15 yuan, but you don't have to go inside the building, there is nothing to see anyway, and you can save the money). This is supposed to be one of the most astounding pieces of German architecture in Qingdao, according to the LP guide, but in reality it's not so special at all.

After that I walk towards the town centre and at 7pm I have a dinner in a restaurant. They ask me to pay in advance for the food - unbelievable. Then I slowly walk back to the hotel, arriving there at 9pm.

The 16300 dialup Internet, which worked fine in all places where I had been before, does not work here in Qingdao. Don't know why, the telephone number is fine, but you cannot use "16300" as ID and password here.

18.10:  Qingdao -> Dalian
Hotel Merro, Zhongshan road 112, Tel. 0411-83631991, Dalian. 348 yuan for a room, relatively small, but quite comfortable. Good quality, price seems reasonable. The Internet connection (Internet through the powerline) does not work when I check in, but works on the next morning. The 16300 dialup Internet access also does not work (you get an invalid used id message).
Weather: more or less overcast the whole day in Qingdao, with the clouds cover occasionally thinning up giving a blueish sky and the sun poking through. But for most of the time the sky is covered by a clouds layer. Fresh and windy in Qingdao, but you can walk around in a T-shirt. 18°C in Dalian.

I wake up initially at 8am, then sleep again and wake up at 10am. I'm ready by 11:30am, then go down and briefly check my mails in the business centre of the hotel. At 11:55am I finally check out. I meet again Kevin (the hotel guy) and ask if I can book a plane ticket. Yes, it's possible, we do that in the business centre of the hotel. I get a plane ticket to Dalian, leaving at 10:50pm for 380 yuan. Through Kevin I also book the hotel in Dalian. Then I ask Kevin if he knows a seafood restaurant. Oh, didn't you know we have a seafood restaurant in the hotel? Ok, so I have some fresh fish with rice. I try to order some vegetables, but can't manage to do that, due to communication problems (what are "cold" vegetables?). Overall Kevin is a friendly guy, just in one case he says I should eat the fish with the chop sticks because we are in China here. Have you ever tried to eat an entire fish with chop sticks?

It's 1:30pm when, after the lunch, I finally manage to leave the hotel and start exploring Qingdao. I take a taxi to the TV tower (entry fee is 30 yuan). Nice view over the Qingdao peninsula, but today the sky is misty so the visibility is limited.

At 2:20pm I'm down again and walk towards the road, where I catch a new taxi. This time I get off next to the German Protestant church. Interesting to find such architecture here in the Far East. In the same area there are several buildings in colonial (German) style.

Until about 6pm I walk around in the area. Lots of Chinese (probably tourists) walking along the promenade, but I'm the only westerner, except for another guy who apparently also got lost in Qingdao. It looks like Qingdao is very popular among the Chinese, but pretty unknown among European travellers.

At 6pm I have a dinner in a Japanese restaurant in the Bestejahre building near the train station. Again I have to pay in advance, which is strange. By the way, I can't find any Chinese restaurants in downtown Qingdao, only outlets of fast food chains. After that, at 7pm, I do some shopping in the nearby shopping complex, then fetch a taxi initially to the hotel where I take my bags and then to the airport.

At 8:35pm I'm at the airport. Since it's too early to check in, I download the images to the computer. Surprise, surprise, there is a free WLAN access point at the airport. Until about 10pm I process my emails, do some web surfing and process the images. Then I check in. The plane leaves on time at 10:50pm. The flight is quite rough, lots of turbulence.

The plane lands in Dalian at 11:20pm, after just 25 minutes of flight. Then everything goes very fast. By 11:37pm I've retrieved the luggage, skipped the touts who sell taxi trips (long queue of taxis outside waiting for customers anyway) and am in a taxi to the hotel. At 11:55pm I'm checking in at the reception - wouldn't have imagined that things go so fast.

19.10:  Dalian -> Beijing
Qian Yuan International Business Hotel, No 19 Dongzhimen Nongcheng, Beijing, Tel. 84001999. 520 yuan for a nice room in a very new and elegant hotel. The room is high class, complete with a high speed Internet connection (really high speed, fastest I've experienced so far in China), there is even an LCD TV hanging on the wall. Despite the price the room is a bit high, good value, recommended. Very functional room, easy to do work at the computer. If you are a businessman travelling across China, stay at this hotel.
Weather: in Dalian overcast and then heavy rain in the morning until almost noon. Around 2pm the sky opens up and becomes blueish (not really blue, but what can you expect from China?), then closes again. Quite fresh at 16°C and it becomes colder in the evening.

I wake up initially as usual at 8am, then sleep again and wake up at 9am. The sky outside does not look that great (is heavily overcast) and it soon starts to rain heavily. The Internet connection in the room works surprisingly well this morning and is also quite fast (downloads are possible with around 30 KByte/s sustained), so I finally download the access logs of the past five days and process my emails.

I'm not feeling too well this morning, probably because of all the cold wind I caught in Qingdao yesterday. I slowly get ready and check out at 11:10am.  Then I book a flight to Beijing in the business centre of the hotel (500 yuan, leaving at 8:20pm).

It's now almost noon and it has stopped raining, so I start my tour of Dalian. Dalian has wide streets and huge buildings, with interesting architecture. The city is clean and sort of pleasant. The standard of living appears to be relatively high. Surprisingly there is a 20 yuan entry fee at the Laodong park, which is high given that the park has no attractions. Lots of socialist architecture here and there. I also see a good number of buildings in western style, perhaps in Russian style (later at 6pm, when driving to the airport we pass by some houses which look Russian).

The city may be neat and clean, but there is a lack of sights and historic buildings. I can't find a single Chinese temple for instance. So it's strange that the Lonely Planet guide lists Dalian as a primary attraction in China. Dalian looks like a modern American city with lots of skyscrapers and wide streets, but is by far not as nice as for instance Seoul or Montreal, which have some historic and cultural sights and are much more livable (shops and restaurants are spread around these cities instead of being concentrated in a few locations as is the case with Dalian).

I can't manage to find a single Chinese restaurant in the entire centre of Dalian. Don't know why. So I end up (as usual) having some food in fast food chains (Pizza Hut and a Japanese noodle restaurant chain). In the entire afternoon I only spot a small side road with food stalls and a small food market.

Overall Dalian is clean and looks impressive with all those skyscrapers and western brand shops and ads everywhere, but is not that livable. There are for instance almost no cafes or pubs around - you have to go and look for them, they are few and well hidden in some shopping complex.

In the entire afternoon I only spot six western (Caucasian) people, of whom five are Russian (probably tourists). Otherwise there are only Asians here in Dalian.

At 6pm I take a taxi to the airport, arriving there at 6:30pm. Since it's still too early for checking in, I process the photos of the day. At 7:20pm I check in and proceed to the gate. At 8pm somebody announces that our flight is delayed, from 8:20pm to 9:10pm. This is the first delay I experience on this trip.

By the way, as I write this at 8:44pm, I still have no hotel booking for Beijing, but hope that at the airport in Beijing there is a hotel booking counter.

At 10:10pm we touch down in Beijing Nanyuan "airport". This may be an "airport", but what kind of airport! There is nothing here, just an empty building. There are no conveyor belts, so you have to pick up the luggage as it is unloaded. Outside some taxis and private cars are waiting for customers. There is also a shuttle bus which fills up soon. And there is no hotel reservation counter. All I understand is that we are about 30 km southwest of Beijing.

A man with a car agrees to bring me to Beijing for 100 yuan (I guess I could have paid less, but never mind). I explain that I have no hotel booking. No problem, several phone calls while he is driving and I'm booked in a four star hotel in Beijing in the Dongzhimen area for 520 yuan per night, not exactly cheap.

By 11:20pm I'm settled in the hotel. The room is quite nice, can recommend it. But I wonder if I could have got a lower rate with a better reservation.

20.10:  Beijing
Qian Yuan International Business Hotel, Beijing. This hotel has a good shower.
Weather: totally overcast the whole day in Beijing and really cold. I didn't expect such a low temperature.

I get up at 9am, have a look outside of the window and since the sky is heavily overcast, I'm not in the mood for rushing to get ready. So I end up leaving the hotel only at noon. Then I have a lunch in a nearby restaurant (Yunnan style), where the food is good, but the waitresses are unfriendly.

At 1:30pm I jump into a taxi to the Summer Palace, since I don't have any better plans for the day. It takes a bit over half an hour to reach the place and the entry ticket is 30 yuan. The Summer Palace is actually very nice and interesting and today it is full of tourists (many tour groups). It is not a palace, but a big park around a lake with many palaces and pavilions. I guess this place would really shine if the sky were blue and the sun shone. The Kunming Hu lake is big and there is a ferry boat which connects the place below the pavilion on top of the hill and the arched bridge connecting to the small island.

I spend almost three hours at the Summer Palace, then at 5pm I fetch a taxi to Tiananmen square, arriving there half an hour later at 5:30pm (58 yuan). Tiananmen square is a very interesting and photogenic place. However it gets dark pretty soon, and I start looking for a restaurant where to have dinner. That's not an easy task, because there are no restaurants at the southern end of the square where I am. It is also complicated to cross the street because the entire square is fenced (and by the way, the entire square is constanty monitored by the police or the military).

While I'm looking for a restaurant a Chinese girl approaches me and asks if I'm American. No, I'm not American, bye bye. But wait a minute... this girl could help me find a restaurant (and has a friendly face). So I approach the girl and ask her about the shopping street with restaurants which should be near the Tiananmen square. She is delighted that I'm approaching her. She shows me on the map where the street is (Wangfujie) and then suggests that she will walk with me there. Well... ok.

So we start walking there. She studies English at the university and wants to practise her English. I'm not a native English speaker but my English is fluent and in any case, this girl desperately needs to practise her English. It has happened frequently to me in China that girls or young women have approached me trying to be my guide etc. and until now I've rejected these offers because they could be scams (for instance, girls bring you to a pub or restaurant and order expensive drinks). But this girl makes a honest impression and it's entirely plausible that she wants to practise her English. There are lots of girls like her in Beijing and probably not enough tourists or international travellers.

In any case we finally arrive at Wangfujie and here she suggests that we should go to a tea ceremony. Hmmm....? She suggests that she will pay my dinner and that I pay for the tea ceremony. I make another proposal, suggesting that I pay for her dinner and that we skip the tea ceremony. Well no, she insists on going to the tea ceremony. So is it after all the expensive drinks scam? I also wonder what this tea ceremony is. The last Chinese tea ceremony I attended was when I married my girlfriend. So we split, and I spend the rest of the evening walking around Wangfujie (very elegant shopping street by the way), having a dinner and get back to the hotel at 9:30pm.

21.10:  Beijing -> Bangkok
Hotel SC Park Hotel, 474 Praditmanutham road, Bangkok. 1800 Baht for an oldish room. No Internet connection in the room and the A/C has no thermostat. Also, this place is quite far from the airport.
Weather: overcast in Beijing the whole day, it even starts raining at the Beijing airport at 4pm. Quite cold in Beijing. 

I wake up initially at 9am, then sleep again and am woken up by the alarm clock at 10:30am. You might think that I get a lot of sleep, but the reality is that I've been sleeping for the past week or so every night at 1 or 2am. All places I've visited were so interesting that it was difficult to get back to the hotel in the evening before 9-10pm (in fact I could have easily been out every evening until 2am or so). When I'm back in the hotel, I hook up to the Internet, process the emails, surf the net, download and pre-process the images of the day and write the travelogue. All this computer work easily keeps me busy for up to three hours or even more. So when I have some waiting time at the airport or when I'm flying, I use it to process the emails and write the travelogue.

This has been so far an extremely interesting trip, but not exactly a quiet and relaxing one. Just consider that I've covered over 12000 km over the past three weeks with nine flights, a boat trip, a train journey, a bus journey and two car trips within China and today I have a 3500 km flight from Beijing to Bangkok.

This trip has has only been possible due to the availability of cheap flights within China, bookable on short notice. In Europe flights are more expensive and if you book them on short notice, you have to purchase a business class ticket.

Anyway, since it's late, I rush to get ready and am down in the lobby for check out by 11:50am. I then take a taxi to the Hilton hotel where David, the brother of my wife, is going to meet me for lunch. The Beijing Hilton has undergone extensive renovation and now has some very cool new restaurants and bars. Some of the women who work there are very attractive and could easily work as fashion models. It's overall a very luxurious place.

We keep talking, talking and talking, and could have done so for two or three more hours, but I'm on the TG615 5:25pm flight with Thai and was actually thinking of doing some shopping before leaving Beijing. So around 2:30pm I break off and jump into a taxi to the Wangfujie shopping street. By the time we are there it's almost 3pm and there is practically almost no time left for shopping. I only manage to quickly buy some cakes at a bakery, before at 3:05pm I jump into the next taxi back to the hotel. There I fetch my bags and we continue driving to the airport. The drive to the airport only takes 30-40 minutes.

At 4pm we are at the airport. I check in, pass through the customs, health, immigration and security checkpoints (lots of controls!) and around 4:30pm I'm at the gate. Then it's a long wait, because the Thai Airways flight is delayed. What a big contrast in comparison to the super-efficient Chinese carriers. At 5:15pm they finally start boarding the plane (instead of 4:55pm). Then it's a long wait inside the plane. At 6:17pm, almost one hour after the planned 5:25pm departure, the plane finally takes off. The plane, an oldish Boeing 747-400 "Jumbo", is very full. So many people flying from Beijing to Bangkok this Saturday.

The plane lands at 9:50pm with 40 minutes delay in Bangkok. Then it takes a very long time to retrieve the luggage. I only manage to get the luggage at 10:40pm, then proceed with Shirley and Alissia (we meet again here) to the exit. Outside the arrival area is smallish and full of people. Luckily there is a hotel reservation counter where we get a hotel booking. As it turns out this hotel is not near the airport, as we asked for, but is somewhere in Bangkok, and in fact it takes almost one hour to get there by taxi - we check in almost at midnight, having left the airport shortly after 11pm. The taxi drive costs a whopping 300 Baht, including the highway tolls.

Welcome to Thailand, the country of the inefficient people. If the Thai people keep on like this, Thailand will always be a developing country. China is quickly becoming a developed country, because the Chinese are hard-working and efficient. I haven't experienced such a mess as here at the airport in Bangkok while in China. 40 minutes delay, then 45 minutes waiting for the luggage, then almost one hour driving looking for the hotel. We were supposed to land in Bangkok at 9:10pm, but in the end only managed to check in in the hotel at midnight. In a Chinese ariport, if the arrival time was 9:10pm, I would have been in a hotel max. one hour later.

22.10:   Bangkok -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: sunny and hot in Bangkok, but the sky is only light blue (some very thin clouds layer)

I wake up at 7:30am local time, then try to sleep again but can't really. At 9am the alarm clock goes off and we get up. The shower in the hotel is actually very good. At 9:30am we have a breakfast in the hotel (the buffet breakfast is not too bad), then check out and by 10:30am we are in a taxi to the airport (165 Baht, less than yesterday's 300 Baht), and arrive there at 11 something am.

This morning there is no queue at the airport and the check-in procedure is fast. When I change the remaining Chinese yuan into Euro, the bad surprise comes. For the 3200 yuan they only pay out 255 Euro - that's a loss of 65 Euro if compared to the interbank exchange rate and approx. 75 Euro if compared to what I payed for these yuan. It's a 23% exchange rate loss - very, very heavy. But I have no other option, because in Munich it's unlikely that I will be able to exchange these yuan into Euros.

After this comes the next unpleasant surprise. We have to pay a 1500 Baht service charge fee, even if we are just transiting through Bangkok and our tickets already include the airport tax. It also doesn't matter that Alissia is only two years old - they want 500 Baht also for her. Next to us is a couple of tourists, also transiting through Bangkok, who arrived earlier this morning and made the mistake to briefly get out of the airport. They also have to pay 500 Baht each.

I'm getting tired of Thai Airways and Bangkok. Thai plane tickets are ridicolously expensive and then there is this service charge fee nonsense. I'll try to skip Bangkok in the future.

The plane leaves about 20 minutes late and is almost full, which is surprising given that we are in the low season. The flight leaves with a small delay, then lands on time in Munich.

Copyright 2006 Alfred Molon