Summer 2010: Notes from our trips to Philippines and Thailand

Emirates is the most kid-friendly airline we’ve ever flown, followed closely by China Airlines. For our flight from and back to Lagos James got a kit and mini backpack with stuffed animals, activity book, mini book (Dr. Seuss), crayons, and toothbrush.

The new Dubai terminal has free McLaren baby strollers at Departure/Arrival gates, wow! This would have been great if James did not throw a hissy fit being strapped to another seat after being in his car seat for two flights, 5 hours and 8 hours each.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is the nicest airport we’ve ever been to. Immigration personnel let traveler with babies and kids go to the first available counter. One lady even got out of her seat to escort us to her counter. It would have been great if they have play areas like airports in Taipei, Hong Kong, Incheon, and Seattle.

You can mail letters and parcels from the Bangkok airport. Their post office is open 24 hours daily.

You can get free 15 minutes of wifi Internet access in the airport; just check the Information Counters for usernames and passwords.

Compared to Taipei and Incheon, the airport hotel in Bangkok is our least favorite. It’s expensive ($138 for 6 hours), and the first time we used it a year or two ago we couldn’t sleep because we could hear everything, including the vacuum. It’s built right on top of the departure gates and not part of the plan, so the floors and partitions are sound-proof concrete. The rooms have little charm, but were at least spacious. The shower had rust stains althought it’s fairly new, and we soon found out why when I ran out of water while shampooing, and when it came back the water was brown. But having said that, we don’t regret checking in cause our flight was at 1:30 am, and we liked checking in 6 hours early then take turns having dinner and browsing around the Duty Free shops while James is enjoying the DVD movie and his toys in the hotel room.

For the same price or $20 more (after taxes) you can check in at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel in front of the airport. It’s 5-10 minute walking distance through the parking lot; but there’s also a hotel shuttle. The hotel has a lovely swimming pool, spa, and well-equipped gym on the second floor. Because I registered with its mother company, Accor Hotels, we got a better deal booking online and got upgraded with VIP privileges which included free internet and breakfast. It’s no ordinary breakfast: they offered assorted cheese, cold cuts, smoked salmon, pastries and cakes, plus waffles in addition to the usual bacon, toast, and omelet.

Bangkok airport is my favorite simply because it has almost everything that you forget you’re in an airport and not a shopping complex: Boots pharmacies, Family Mart (like 7-11) shops, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Starbucks, and local restos like Coffeeworld, Cafe Nero, that serve Thai, Chinese, and Japanese meals. I also enjoyed browsing the book shop, souvenir displays, and of course some brand name shops like Kipling, LeSport Sac, and Jim Thompson. Never actually went inside Ferragamo, Bulgari, Gucci, Cartier, or Chanel cause their prices cost as much if not more than our plane fare 🙂

The Bangkok Airport Train is now running, although its website states the commercial service of the 28km link will begin on Aug. 23. The station is underneath the parking lot, and is accessible by elevators and escalators from the terminal, and also by stairs from Novotel.

If you subscribe to or monitor the Cebu Pacific website you can buy plane tickets for 1 peso ($1 = 45 pesos). I added them to my Twitter for similar deals in the next future, even though I think their GoLite fare is ridiculous … with a discount of P100 if you don’t have a checked-in luggage. They have international flights to Bangkok, Hongkong, Incheon, Beijing, Osaka, Jakarta, Singapore, Shanghai, Macau, and Taipei.

Cebu has the best play areas for children in malls. You can pay for 1 hour, 2 hours, or unlimited rates for your kid to play in a jungle gym (with slides, trampolines, tunnels) or play house (with kitchen sets and ride on push toys). Our favorite play house has rooms and accessories for pretend play, from kitchens and beauty parlors, to a mini mart, clinic, and police station with a jail! Rates range from $3-4/hour. But next year we might be spending more time in bouncy castles and mechanized rides if not the video games arcade.

It’s much cheaper to buy toys and children’s clothes in Thailand and the Philippines, and some are actually of decent quality. Even licensed products like Toy Story and Disney characters are reasonably priced. I still miss the wood toy shop in the Emporium that lets kids play with their samples. But at least stores like Tesco don’t mind kids playing with their bikes and toys. If only Toys R Us and Toy Kingdom were like that.

The Terraces at Ayala in Cebu is a good place to eat — lots of restaurants with outdoor tables, so James can wander to play with the escalator, fountains, and park while we take turns eating.

If you go to Bangkok’s Chatuchak market before 9 am many shops are not open yet, but it’s also cooler and much less crowded. Between 10-11 am is probably the best time, because after that tourists and shoppers come in hordes.

The best deal we got in the Philippines this summer is the broadband in flash drive for laptops. We buy minutes from mobile phone companies, which means we have Internet wherever we go in the country: in the airport, in our hotel room, etc. There are pre-paid and post-paid options thru Smart or Globe. I’m sure Thailand has it, and even Nigeria’s MTN is offering it now. It would be nice if we could buy it in US airports, too.

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