Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport

Airports are not among my 50 – even 100- favorite places to visit. For the most part, its steady stream of anonymous people rushing around to get out of the place lends this sub-community an impersonal and unfriendly character. My personal recollection of airports has been better in reference to my childhood experiences, but of late, they have stagnated into a plateau of indifference. To my memory, there are but a few airports I regard with fondness (read: me in relaxed mode). I can mention Siem Reap’s “intimate” airport (although it also has a pricey airport tax of $20). These days, like most people, I can’t wait to get out of airports.

I am posting this piece on Bangkok’s pride and joy not because it is the most impressive I’ve seen but because of my recent SEVERAL encounters with it – count them: 7 times in a month! In this case, “familiarity somehow breeds relaxation”. I was fascinated with its architectural design.Though unintentional, I found myself clicking snaps every time I am there. Its design reminds me of the cross section of a nautilus; or a building in The City (London) where the skeletal framework is highlighted instead of hidden within walls. I also recently saw a photo of Japan’s Kansai International Airport (http://japanvisitor.blogspot.com/) which reminded me of Suvarnabhumi – although the former was designed by an Italian architect.

Stepping into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport ((Thai: ท่าอากาศยานสุวรรณภูมิ) is an awesome experience in itself. Pronounced “Suwanapoom” (I even saw a restaurant literally called “Suwanapoom”), this airport also called New Bangkok International Airport, took 3 decades of planning, and it shows! It serves all international and domestic flights in and out of Bangkok. It officially opened in September of 2004, thus any recent visit would benefit from its new veneer.

Here is what wikitravel says about SIA: Designed by Helmut Jahn of Murphy/Jahn Architects, this airport has the world's tallest control tower (132.2 m), and the world's third largest single building and airport terminal (563,000 m²), a little smaller than Hong Kong International Airport (570,000 m²) and the current record holder, Beijing Capital International Airport's Terminal Three (986,000 m²). Suvarnabhumi is one of the busiest airports in Asia and Bangkok's primary airport for all commercial airline flights. The airport inherited the airport code BKK from Don Mueang after the older airport ceased commercial flights.

It has a "space age" design that inspires. I like its spaciousness, the wall-to-wall kaleidoscopic murals peppering the vast sections, the easy access, and its “sleepless” atmosphere that makes wee-hour arrivals comforting, instead of the eerie and alienating feel of huge airports like Heathrow (or KLIA and Jakarta’s Soeharno Hatta if you arrive at 2 or 3AM)! Taxis abound anytime! Forex counters are open 24 hours! Restaurants and shops can be accessed easily at anytime as well. In short, a traveler can have a restful journey knowing that any of his travels will be a convenient experience with regards to the many quirks that goes with transfers!

One thing everyone has to remember though: the picture taking process upon arrival or departure at the immigration counters takes FOREVER so 3 hours is a safe time to arrive at the airport for your check in. NOT 2 hours! THREE hours! Unless you wanna experience the unpleasant and unnerving feeling of somehow not quite making your flight which happened to me 3 times – and I never learned!

Shops at the domestic wing.

Air Asia flight to Chiang Mai.

The nautilus.

Suvarnabhumi's Courtyard Garden (this photo only courtesy of wikitravel)

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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