TOPIC ASIA MAGAZINE

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

The main airport in Bangkok moved from Don Muang to new premises, 30 kilometres east of Bangkok in 2006. The enormous edifice has some supporters and many detractors, but is now capable of flying up to 45 million passengers annually and has the tallest traffic control tower in the world and the second largest terminal building.

Suvarnabhumi, meaning “Golden Land” was 45 years in the planning and from the start was plagued by problems and disruptions including changes of government, charges of corruption and general mismanagement. However it is now the main entry point for most visitors to Thailand and is a central hub in South East Asia. Most major airlines service the airport and it is a popular stop-over point for those travelling from Europe to Australia or New Zealand.

Once inside, finding your way around can be a challenge due to its vast size and confusing signs. There are seven concourses labeled ‘A’ through to ‘G’ with ‘A’ and ‘B’ for domestic travel and ‘C’ to ‘G’ handling all of the international routes. Seven levels also add to the enormity of the airport experience with an observation deck on the top level and the arrivals area, passenger facilities and departures on the mid levels.

Although escalators and moving pathways provide some relief there is no getting away from the fact that you won’t escape the airport without rather a long hike. If transferring from an international to domestic flight you need to leave plenty of time as the gates almost deliberately and frustratingly seem to have been placed as far apart as humanly possible.

However, the shopping is excellent. If leaving Bangkok then you want to go through customs and immigration as quickly as possible as once through to departures there are a larger variety of shops and comfortable seating areas, as well of course as the airport lounges.

King Power seems to have the monopoly on the duty-free shopping with at least every third or fourth shop bearing its logo. Recently there have been a number of claims of scams involving this shop, with customers being accused of shoplifting when not given receipts. Therefore make sure you always ask for a receipt and check your bag for any extra items popped in without your knowledge.

There are also a number of newsagents, pharmacies and eateries. The main restaurants and cafes are on the sixth level and include well known fast food and coffee shop brands.

If you are arriving in Bangkok and looking for transport then the most common way is by taxi. Again there have been a number of taxi scams come to light, including the fact that the main cab company has put up signs informing passengers that all other taxi drivers are not to be trusted and should be avoided. In fact just about any taxi you find at the airport is going to be fine as long as they agree to put on the metre. An average cab ride into the centre of Bangkok costs 400 baht.

Another option is to take the inexpensive and generally reliable service on regular and express buses which go from the airport to many of Bangkok’s tourist destinations. A shuttle bus from Level 1 will take you to the Transport Centre where you will find the main bus terminal.

With problems such as lack of toilets, cracking runways and collapsing infrastructure now seemingly repaired the airport can be enjoyed for the architecturally ambitious project that it is. It is large, modern, offers all the facilities and services you could possibly require – including excellent massages – and most importantly will either usher you into exotic Bangkok or help deliver you to your next destination.