The Greatest Airport In The World

by Neil Campbell, Jul 26, 2001 | Destinations: Thailand / Ko Samui

One of the greatest things about Thailand is that it is still cheap. There are few places in the world where you can stretch a dollar more. Ten dollars a day will get you a decent meal, a few drinks and a room for the night, you may even be able to buy the t-shirt to prove it with the change.

As long as you don't mind slumming things a little you can live quite comfortably for three hundred dollars a month. There are exceptions to prove the rule of course and your chances of finding even the most plastic lump of cheese for fewer than five dollars are on the anorexic side of slim. Dairy produce aside you can keep yourself like royalty on the most basic of budgets in this charming Kingdom.

With the prices as low as they are it's almost inevitable that indulgence will raise its decadent head at some stage in your stay. Whatever you decide to blow your hard currency on in Thailand you're pretty much guaranteed of a bargain. On a recent trip to Thailand a female traveling companion of mine decided that what she really needed was a pair vertigo inducing platform boots, why do women need more shoes? Anyway apart from the fact that the sight of these great designer shoes bouncing of her backpack was seriously ruining our rugged traveler look, the damn things must have weighed ten kilos.

When the time came for my destined blowout we were just about to leave Phuket and head for the full moon parties on the backpacker haven of Koh Phangan. Having already experienced the R.I.P. (sorry V.I.P.) buses that we seemed to live on I decided that we'd travel with a little bit of style and fly. Our little Bangkok Airways twin engine turbo Prop plane was waiting patiently on the runway as we arrived at the airport, via yet another death defying Tuk-Tuk ride. A Tuk-Tuk is basically a two-stroke taxi, built by ripping out the back of a tiny mini van, replacing it with enough seats for four, covering it in fairy lights and then giving it to a maniac to drive on roads surely designed for a tank.

We purchased our tickets for Koh Samui, where we would leave our little plane for a ferry to continue our journey, at the Bangkok Airways desk for the princely sum of forty dollars. There was no need to book in advance, as our little plane was two thirds under occupied. We had a quick look round a rather boring, yet perfectly functional, airport before we were driven out to meet our little plane.

Once we were all aboard we were presented with refreshing wipes as the sun began its slow descent into the west. A moment later after a perfect take off the entire contingent of passengers was hypnotized by the sheer beauty of the famous Phang-Nga Bay where sheer limestone cliffs and islands loom from the sea like giant stalagmites. James Bond was probably the first to make the bay famous and the island where The Man With Golden Gun held court has been renamed in his honor.

Half an hour or so later we were treated to a light meal of sandwiches and fresh fruit by our ever-attentive crew as we feasted on the delights of Thailand's interior. Mountains, jungles and paddy fields were unfolded below us, like an Escher painting, seamlessly merging into an immense quilt. Although we had left the warm waters of the Andaman Sea behind us the equally warm and clear South China Sea was slowly unfurling itself below us shimmering in the slowly fading light.

Now my girlfriend says I think too much and maybe she's right but I swear I heard a loud bang as we were beginning our descent to Koh Samui followed by a harsh announcement in Thai over the tannoy and the crew quickly bolted and strapped themselves into their seats as the engine on my left spluttered and coughed and seemed to give up. Quite how I was the only one in the plane to notice the chaos is still a mystery to me but any uneasy feelings involving the flight were swiftly dispelled as we touched down in, what I firmly believe to be, the greatest airport in the world.

Although I did see a team of orange boiler suited technicians frantically running towards our little plane as soon as we'd stopped moving. This proved to be about the only sign of activity to be seen at Koh Samui airport.

We were shuttled to the palm tree fringed terminal/thatched hut, in what could only have been an old carnival float, by a team of dread-locked Thai guys straight out of a Bacardi Advert. As our intrepid baggage handlers/reggae band unloaded our packs like each one was filled with nitroglycerin we were all busy doing pretty much nothing and when eventually they deposited them in a circle on the floor of our little terminal. I swear it must have taken twenty minutes before any of the passengers could be bothered to reclaim them. Everyone was simply too busy relaxing in the shade of our little hut watching the rays of the last light filtering through the palm trees like some expensive laser light show.

Personally I was contemplating whether or not I'd just spent the best forty bucks of my life and, whilst wondering, had decided that, whatever happens after I die, my last flight will be from Koh Samui airport, probably the greatest airport in the world.