Travel gets busy around the holidays. Bangkok doesn’t do Thanksgiving, of course, but Christmas does show a lot of air travel, people coming and going to Asia, and of course New Year’s is a big deal. So what do you do if you are in Bangkok on a layover?
The airport itself isn’t the worst place on earth to get stuck. There is some free WiFi internet inside the terminal. Just stop in at one of the information desks and fill out the form to get a code. It only lasts 15 minutes at a time, unfortunately. Many gates have free stand-up internet kiosks as well but hardly the place to linger. Duty-free shops are endless so shoppers should be satisfied. Restaurants offer the Western fast-food joints Burger King/Starbucks/Dairy Queen, plus a few local varieties including a branch of the Thai chain Mango Tree — but nothing is going to knock your socks off. Here’s a list of the restaurants at Suvarnabhumi airport.
Look for the Royal Project & OTOP (One Tambon One Product) shops. These sell products from projects initiated by the King that showcase original Thai products. Good stuff though not necessarily cheap.
If you need to relax, look for Chang Foot Massage & Spa on levels 3 and 4 or take a nap in one of the day rooms (in Concourse A on Level 3 or Concourse G on Level 4). Just outside the airport is the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel which has a pool, spa and fitness center.
As for things close by, there isn’t much. The airport is a goodly distance outside of Bangkok. If you have say a six-hour chunk of time or less, I don’t recommend the long haul.
For the love of Rudolph, will you make it back to the airport in time? This is for the ballsy traveler…
Call this the Amazing Race Bangkok Airport Version. If you think you have the time and are willing to risk it, venture into the city for a quick run to one of the major tourist sites.
The express train can get you into the city to Makkasan Station (City Air Terminal) in about 15 minutes, but there’s little there to see; the city line takes about 45 minutes but goes all the way to Phayathai where you can connect into the Skytrain to get around the city a bit.
Warning: coming back to the airport be sure you have enough time to get back through immigration and then security. Lines can get a little long at immigration if the perfect storm of departures is on. This can mean one hour just waiting to re-stamp your passport. But security is typically rather efficient anyway.
The Erawan Shrine is right under the Skytrain track near Chit Lom Station.
You can connect into the Skytrain at Phayathai Station. You could take a taxi from here to Wat Pho or the Grand Palace for the photo ops. Traffic is a frighteningly unpredictable (but likely bad) variable. Motorcycle taxis are an option as are tuk tuks for what would likely be a stiff price. The Skytrain could take you to Siam Station for either the glitzy mall at Siam Paragon or the cheaper stuff at MBK (walk from Siam or take the short trip on the transfer line to National Stadium station.) Be aware that all the trains stop running at midnight.
I’m saying it’s possible. I’m not saying I’d recommend it though unless you have a very long layover.