OCTOBER 2014 My journey began in October 2014 when I made the first of many trips to Khon Kaen via Bangkok, Suvarnabphumi airport. The 16 hour journey started in London Heathrow, where the night flight was just the beginning of the adventure. I was flying with EVA air; having tried to look for flights myself and discovering the whole concept was a nightmare I eventually settled for booking the whole caboodle with DIAL A FLIGHT travel agent.
It wasn’t difficult getting to Bangkok because there were many airlines going there, it was co-ordinating with the internal flight to Udon Thani that was the issue. Because the timing of said flights needed to allow time for baggage collection and also check in for the next flight. Despite being told the extra check in was unnecessary, that information was mostly incorrect and became a time consuming element of the journey especially because I had taken my rollator and had wheelchair assistance.
The London Heathrow T2 end was fairly okay with check-in via the massed row of airline check-in desks; although people are supposed to book in via the machines I was in the economy plus section (having decided to go this route on a what-the-heck-you-only-live-once basis), so was sent through to the quieter check in desks at the back of the huge hall.
I was then directed to the special assistance area where I was processed and then wheeled through to the initial boarding card check, then the obligatory x-ray and scanning area. I had no idea about tablets and phones, so had left them in the hand baggage, only to be delayed while they got me to open the bag and retrieve my tablet for separate scanning.
Being in a wheelchair you’re given a personal scan and light frisk and you’re supposed to remove your shoes but I never do, claiming I can’t get them back on - which is partly true - but on a subsequent trip I noticed there was now a shoe horn available, so will need to play it cool on future trips and not protest too much!
At “disabled check in gate” A 34 I was left to wait for transfer to the gate, but I always like to go off and walk around a lot because it’s a long flight to be sat down. I try to take the wheelchair (in the absence of my rollator that was put into baggage, as this gives me stability and some where to put my bags) much to the surprise of the staff who are amused at this situation seeing me wander off pushing the chair that they brought me in.
Later, the staff take you on the “beep-beep” buggy a long, long, long way to the real gate to wait for boarding. I had previously walked from the plane to the main exit after I discovered no assistance was waiting at the aircraft and I could not hang around because a taxi was picking me up. I don’t recall the flight but I know I was a lot fitter then; even so it nearly killed me! Nowadays I always “wait” for help. But if there are problems, it is usually the UK end where I experience issues.
EVA air was great and the extra cash I paid gave me a bigger seat and different meals. The flight was pretty mundane (read: long and boring) and all the usual things applied to the flight such as the toilets being very tight on space, the small gaps (even in economy plus) for your elbows and the fact that the person in front can whack their seat into recline without a concern for the fact you’re then left with even less space while trying to eat food.
Bangkok has two airports but the main one is where I landed and would subsequently depart for the hour long internal flight. Once landed the list of tasks involved having to go through customs, collecting your baggage then going to level 4 to book in for the domestic flight. This was made difficult by the wheel-chair guy not having much English, the rollator being
classed as special cargo (arriving to a different baggage belt) and a tight window of time.
Suffice to say I eventually got my luggage and rollator and made it up to the 4th floor, booked in for the internal flight (with Thai Airways) and was taken to the gate to wait. The service was, on the whole, pretty good and unfortunately better than the UK (a common experience I discovered with foreign airports).
Again, the flight was mundane and I arrived safely at Udon Thani and was met by my host Graham (dating agency owner) who would take me to the hotel near to his Office. It was an interesting first experience of Thai hotels, with the room décor being in need of updating and the cleanliness of the bathroom in need of work, it was a bed and sufficient for the time I would be there.
My next meeting a day or two later after this disappointing experience was with Tad. She came up 95km from Khon Kaen, a good 2-4 hours by coach. What is more, she did the journey three times in all, twice for afternoon dates with me and the last for four days in Udon Thani.
We did hit it off during our time together doing quite a lot of activities including going to the Mall and to a Temple plus delicious meals in the restaurant. I was fairly certain I wanted to continue the relationship even with huge language difficulties, not including my lack of understanding of the culture and of dating Thai ladies.
Pretty much from day one we talked via Tango and Messenger sometimes for hours about nothing. In the beginning there was a lot of difficulty in communication unlike now when we can talk a lot more (but still with minor problems) and for those harder times there’s the nephew who has good English and can help me out.
I had decided that there were no reasons why we shouldn’t get together and get married ASAP; although it would have been really useful for the agent to have offered some advice, having done all this himself and had helped quite a few couples. I got nothing except after the fact information, when it was too late.
I could have asked if I knew what I knew now; however being a novice I didn’t know much nor what I should ask. The biggy questions such as how much was the dowry going to be if any, how much was the wedding, and how much were the visitor visa, marriage certificate and registry office costs going to be.
As it turned out, most of the agency “costs” were 15,000 baht (£300); so the visa application process and the registry wedding arrangements and the actual visa itself were all the same cost (15,000 each), but that was on top of a dowry of 250,000 baht (going to the family) that was negotiated after the registry ceremony when it was too late! I got it down from 300,000! It could have been more, Graham gave stories of 1m Baht or more.
These costs were in addition to the initial agency fees of 29,000 baht to sign up for meeting ladies. I later discovered the agency had a contract with the ladies to pay the agency 30,000 baht when they get married. I got into a big disagreement with Graham about the transparency of this fee, which was according to him, was none of my business. His argument for not disclosing was HE did not need to because my wife could have told me of the charges herself, but didn’t.
Anyway you live and learn. Partly why I set up my own agency!
Once back in the UK and a few weeks later via Tango, I asked Tad to marry me and told her I would come out in December. I wanted to ask her Dad for permission even though she said it wasn’t necessary. I used DIAL A FLIGHT again to arrange the flights but didn’t get economy plus seating as it was far too expensive. The price was almost double the previous cost due to booking it too late in the year (November) and the fact that people go home for new year.
The crazy thing about booking in for the flight home, unlike the inward journey, I could check in here and my bags would go all the way to London without being picked up in Bangkok. I could also go through the “transfers” channel, rather than coming out and going to the check in desks.
This was because Udon Thani was an “international” airport and could check in people for the entire route, unlike Khon Kaen where you cannot.