Here's a real-life travel situation and a potential way to solve it.
Koh Samui remains a popular destination for people seeking a beach or tropical holiday in Asia's, and perhaps the world's, Teflon®-coated tourism spot, Thailand. The RMB remains strong against the Thai baht (THB), and, well, Thai food certainly hasn't declined in its appeal, nor have the Thai people become less friendly or helpful.
However, Koh Samui suffers from almost as much of an airfare monopoly as Hong Kong does. Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways basically have the place sewn up, and prices are inordinately high as a result. A non-saver fare runs about RMB 1,850 roundtrip, from Bangkok to Koh Samui. That's over RMB 900 each way for a one-hour flight. That money would cover a lot of coconuts and pad thai and other fun stuff. If only there were another way. It's also a jumping-off point for scuba diving mecca Koh Tao and full moon party island Koh Phangan.
Upon the recommendation of a Thai friend, I discovered a nearby gateway that isn't monopolized by the local aerospace concern: Surat Thani. Although travel to and from Surat Thani adds at least two hours to the journey to Koh Samui, requiring a bus ride from the airport to the coast followed by a ferry ride, roundtrip airfare there from Bangkok is less than half of what a similar flight to Samui costs. Koh Samui International Airport remains the world's loveliest boutique airport and also served me the best fresh coconut I've ever had (lots of coconut water, sweet, cold, tons of coconut meat inside), the cost is prohibitive. Expect a full report upon completion of my trip there in early July.
Elsewhere in Thailand, Bangkok remains a cornucopia of delights. Although it's a tad hard to find, Feedpoint Food and Bakery will make people looking for US East Coast comfort food very happy. Yes, we know, non-Thai food in Bangkok? Actually yes – Bangkok's diversity and internationalization makes it a great place to eat any number of different cuisines. Anyhoo, go to Feedpoint for bagels, bagel sandwiches, and brownies. We highly recommend the smoked beef with double meat and cheese, it's a reuben second only to Dan Ryan's in Hong Kong. I forget how much it was, but it was well worth the hike. Proprietor Eric Seldin is a native New Yorker who knows his bagels. On the way there or back, stop at Asok's extremely funky, travel-themed shopping mall, Terminal 21. And if you're looking for great Middle Eastern food, try the lunch special at Beirut Restaurant in Ploenchit Center across from the JW Marriott on Sukhumvit Soi 2 (the one in the basement, not the one on the ground floor).
More soon from the road. Greetings from Sri Lanka and wishing everyone safe and happy summer travels.
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Photos: Steven Schwankert/the Beijinger
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