We almost missed taking advantage of the complimentary hotel facilities at Bangkok. Four copies of the voucher had come in from Delhi and were sent to us by courier. The agent had told us that we would get a room at a hotel compliments of the airline, but we would have to pay for the visas.
Thai airline staff at the airport are not a helpful or welcoming lot. Neither are the security and airport staff. Maybe it is because of their lack of fluency in English. We were sent here and there without clear instructions about how to proceed to get the hotel accommodation. Finally we reached the person at a Thai airways counter who registered our arrival and eligibility for hotel facilities. She kept one copy of the voucher and returned the others to us. We found out that we would have to pay 1000 Bahts (Rs 1,318) for each visa. We were informed that the hotel is far from the airport. On the basis of the travel agent's statement that we would have a room and the knowledge that hotels unlike "bed and breakfast" places don't serve any free food, we worried about what the taxi would cost us to get to and from the hotel, plus breakfast and lunch. We thought that would be too much, if we had to get back to the airport 3 hours before for the international flight check in, and so we decided to just sit at the airport. After about an hour, when I looked at Roshini she looked really worn out and since the crowd at the "visa on arrival" counter had reduced I asked Roshini whether we should just go ahead and spend the amount of money needed to take advantage of the hotel room. Roshini agreed to do it, and so she went to get 100 US $ changed. After the process started I thought to myself I should have got the Aus $ changed instead. (Didn't think sharply because of all the doubts and worries and maybe even otherwise I may not have thought of it right away). While waiting for the currency exchange chap to complete the transaction, Roshini looked at the hotel voucher and saw that the room came with complimentary breakfast and lunch, and then I spotted the little box for "transfer" also ticked.
So we now happily got the visas. We needed one photograph each and in the packet returned by the travel agent were a passport photo each which were given extra to her. Having got the visas we "dared" out of the airport and we were met by a uniformed man. The uniform was not of the airline or the hotel. So I thought he may be one of those agents who try to lure customers to the hotels they represent. But he told me that he would take us to the car to take us to the airport. When he put the vouchers in his pocket I got a little nervous because I would have none to present to the hotel. He handed the vouchers to another man in plainclothes. He took one and returned two. He entered our details on a pad he had and asked us if we needed to get around Bangkok. We told him we were going to just sleep because we were tired. Right where he was there were swanky, new cars with liveried chauffeurs. I thought that he would be calling for some beatup car or minibus emblazoned with the name of the hotel, but instead it was to one of these swanky cars that we were directed.
As we rode in airconditioned comfort, we discussed the fact that the people who work on the outside of the airport were more friendly than those who worked on the inside. We concluded that the others must have some sort of permanent/regular employment which meant that they didn't have to work at being charming, whereas the agents for hotels and transport companies, would need to keep the tourist happy to keep them coming.
The car took us through posh areas and finally we were in more crowded areas, and the roads kept getting narrower and narrower, until it turned into a narrow lane in a rather seedy-looking area! I wondered about the kind of hotel and room we would be getting. The car stopped in a road where there was absolutely no place to park in front of a building that obviously had no space for any parking, not even underground. We went down from ground level and rode a lift to the lobby. Abracadabra! The reception area was posh. We checked in and we were asked to proceed to breakfast directly as we had arrived at 9.30 and breakfast would close at 10. While entering the hotel we had not looked upward and didn't think it could be a tall building. We were told to go to the dining room located at the 43rd floor. That was the topmost floor and the dining hall was surrounded by glass walls. We found a table next to one wall. Buffet breakfast. Roshini went in for some Thai food, but I prefer a sweet breakfast and stuck to fruit (very sweet pineapple, watermelon and papaya) and pancakes with jam.
After that we went to the room, which turned out to be a suite. Not fancy but good. One room with a TV, a stocked fridge, and a table and chairs, plus facilities for making your own cuppa. Both this room and the bedroom were airconditioned, though the one in the bedroom was quite an old AC and not cooling efficiently. The bathroom had liquid soap and shampoo dispensers instead of individual packets/sachets of them for the guest that one gets in other hotels. Having a bath with liquid soap from a dispenser is not easy at all.
Roshini went to sleep straight away while I had a bath. She had her bath just before we were to go down for lunch. After my bath I too slept soundly. Lunch was Thai food--a terrific variety of meats and fish with steamed rice or noodles, fresh fruit and a Thai sweet for dessert. The sweet was not one that I would ever like to eat again--an insipid jelly with a thin sweet syrup.
After lunch we went to some shops just outside the hotel where Roshini bought a skirt and a pair of thongs (chappals, not beachwear). Then it was time to get back to the airport. When we checked out the car had already arrived.
En route to the airport there was a huge traffic jam at a road near the airport. The driver got on his walkie talkie to talk to traffic operators/controllers and diverted to a much longer route explaining that there had been an accident and it was not likely to clear up for a while. What service! No taxi service in India would provide that kind of service.
To think that we would have missed the wonderful facilities worrying about what it would cost us in Indian rupees. Moral of the story: when outside the country stop converting everything into rupees and having a panic attack (if not a heart attack) and enjoy life.
We got into Delhi a bit late because of air traffic. We waited a long time to collect our luggage. Then I remembered that the Delhi airport workers have the habit of taking off luggage that had already gone round on the conveyer. And there it was among all the luggage.