TG 476 to Sydney, economy class
Having previously been driven by an unscrupulous taxi driver to a remote location and fleeced for double the agreed fare, on this journey from central Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi I'm opting for the Airport Rail Link, which almost never results in extortion. It's about an hour-long journey from the city to the airport, with a change from bus to train, but it's easy and very cheap.
BKK is huge. You know it when you arrive, and you certainly know it by the time you've passed through security and are schlepping to your gate (it's the fourth-largest single-building terminal in the world). The airport is relatively new, having opened in 2006, though with some 60 million passengers passing through each year, it's certainly lost its new-car smell. Fun fact: the impressive, wave-like roof that covers the four-pronged concourse is meant to acknowledge the area's former life as a swamp.
There's a long queue for my Thai Airways flight, though staff are friendly and efficient and I'm processed within 20 minutes or so.
Immigration is a bit of a nightmare today, with a long, slow queue to tackle before moving on to another line at the security scanners. It's a good 40 minutes before I'm spat out into the airside concourse.
FOOD AND DRINK
Technically, BKK has a reasonable selection of places to eat. There are 40 purveyors of food and drink here. However, the terminal is so colossal that you barely see a fraction of the options available, and most are pretty uninspiring. There's literally only two or three places in the entire airside concourse serving Thai food (one called "Asian Corner", which isn't promising), and they're not doing a great job of it. There are, however, quite a few coffee shops, and a couple of fast food outlets if that's what you're into.
The options are better here, though for an airport that's so large you're still not exactly bowled over by choice. Fashion-wise, you'll find luxury brands such as Longchamps, Bally, Hugo Boss, Cartier and Tiffany, as well as more affordable multi-brand stores. There's also plenty of duty-free alcohol and electronics, though they're not particularly cheap.
BKK has free Wi-Fi throughout, though if you can access it you've done better than this traveller. I battle the laborious log-in process for 10 minutes or so before giving up. This is more a functional airport than an inspiring one, and if you don't have lounge access you can grab a Thai massage, rest up in the transit hotel, or wander the endless halls.
ONE MORE THING
BKK has been operating over capacity for some time now, but there's relief in sight, with work having already begun on an ambitious, four-phase expansion project. The first phase should be finished by 2020 and will boost the capacity to 60 million passengers per year (which is slightly below the current usage, but still…).
I find BKK a bit of a head-scratcher: it's mind-bogglingly large, and yet the facilities, particularly food and beverage, are few and far between. Bangkok is a city with a rich culinary heritage, and you can barely find a decent meal at its airport. Suvarnabhumi is also frequently crowded, with long queues and inadequate staff numbers.