Bangkok airports/visiting as a tourist.
I like Thailand. I definitely plan to visit this fascinating country many more times and I am still counting the smiles that I encounter each time I visit. Tourism is a big industry for Thailand, so when you welcome a guest to your home should you not present your best at the door ?
There is a thing called "visa-on-arrival" at the Bangkok airport. This applies to people from a few select countries like China, India and Russia (and others). So you end up going through a visa application process in an immigration office at the airport. If you have an American passport you do not need to apply for a visa, you just head straight to the entry counter and have your passport stamped for a short term tourist visa.
Back in the 90s this visa-on-arrival office was not too crowded, by 2000+ it was almost like a zoo, badly in need of major crowd control. I remember being jostled around for hours with my line not moving an inch towards the counter but just me being shoved around like in a mosh pit (rock concert crowd craziness).
Then the new Suvarnabhum airport opened and it's name is Sanskrit derived meaning "land of gold", I thought things would get better but not so. There was no mosh pit and the airport looked very nice and modern, but the crowds of tourists were overwhelming.
I was asked to show $500 USD, well I never carry that much money in the US, less so when I am on travel. I asked the customer service girls how can I access a Bank teller machine in this part of the airport, but they all seemed more adept at putting on makeup. I got frustrated and I decided to skip my Thailand trip and fly straight to my next destination. Then my Thai airline rep pointed me to the bank area and I managed to withdraw $500 USD (the real American green).
Back at the immigration counter I noticed that several 100s more had gotten ahead of me in the queue. When I was asked to show my $500 USD, I opened my wallet and a peek was all that was needed to get a nod, no counting or showing any bank reciepts.
Now the next hurdle was the actual entry counter where my stamped passport will be checked. 2 young girls manned the post and were constantly chatting away, when they needed a break they would look at a passport, else they would continue ignoring the long waiting lines. When I came up to the counter I was asked ridiculous questions and was almost denied entry for no valid reason.
Finally I was through and then the very next day I see this huge article in a Bangkok major daily on how the airport was buit with almost no services for the employees, and how they had to improvise (like sleeping on the floor of the immigration booth) to get some much needed rest. Somehow this explains a lot.
I will be going to Thailand again and I hope that this time around the airport will be much improved.