Few tourists to Thailand include Hua Hin on their agenda which is a shame. At the risk of spoiling the town with a sudden over run of tourists, this beautiful relaxing town 200 km (120 miles) south of Bangkok is well worth at least a couple of days.

View from our hotel

View from our hotel

Far from the “excitement” of Phuek nightlife and Bangkok, Hua Hin has been enjoyed by generations of Thais for weekends and vacations. Originally known as Samore Riang  or “rows of rocks”, it was adopted by the Royal Family as their seaside resort in the 1920s. Today, it is very popular amongst Thais who come down from the capital for weekends and vacations. After Chiang Mai, it is my second favourite town in Thailand.

Asthetics: 84%
The beach on one side and interesting mountains on the other- what more could one want? Some chaotic developments detract from the place and I get frustrated that so much of the coastline is locked away in private developments and resorts making it impossible to walk along the coast for any great distance. We ended up wading in shallowish water for about two kilometres enjoying the warmth of the water, the gentle breeze, the sun and the view.

Hua Hin beach is about five kilometres long and 50 to 100 metres wide when the tide is out. The rocky outcrop in the picture background is Kao Takiap (‘Chopstick Hill’) which marks the end of the beach and has a lovely Buddha statue on it plus an interesting monastery and 100s of little monkeys.

Photo 11-1-14, 15 30 40

Liveability: 61%
Just over 86,000 people call Hua Hin home, with an estimated 4,000 being foreigners.

Like other parts of Thailand, one has to contend with reports of corruption!

Temperatures sit above 30 degrees for ten months of the year. Hua Hin has a tropical savanna climate with the dry season running from December to April. Monsoon occupies May. Rain is less server from June to August with heavy rains from September to November. Humidity sits just over 70%.

The cost of living figures are here. You can pick up a good four star hotel room for aprund $US40 to $50 per night. You can get a two star room for $8 a night! Street food meals will cost you around $2 a meal- eating well. A local restaurant can cost you around $8 for a meal. You will pay more at Western style restaurants.


One of my favourite Thai desserts

Culture: 83%

Hua Hin has a great food culture with some very famous long term Thai eating places plus a good range of international places. Street food stalls proliferate. Local seafoods are plentiful. We tried the Deep-fried Oyster Pancake (yum), Som Tam Pu Ma (Spicy Crab and Papaya Salad), Steamed Seafood Custard (Haw Mok Talay) plus the amazing custardy Khao Lham (Sticky Rice cooked inside Bamboo). 

In November/December, there is the week long Hua Hin Food Festival! The region hostsa cricket festival, sailing regatta and kite festival through the year.

was disappointed with the night markets near the station. Range seemed really lacklustre and not frequented by many locals. Check out the amazing Cicada Markets, however. Some of the best stuff I have seen at any market in Thailand. They were started as a means of getting young artists and artisans wares known and the concept seems to work. 


Crime: 85%

Crime in Hua Hin is reportedly lower than other beachside cities such as Pattaya and Phuket. Robberies occur as do pickpocketing and bag snatching. Be vigilant and careful.

Transit: 69%

Getting to Hua Hin is possible by train, bus and car. There is an airport with no commercial flights. There are no ferries. We took a bus directly from Bangkok’s main international airport which was easy. We rode the train back for a couple of dollars into the main  station of Bangkok. I would like to take the overnight train for the 971km (603mile) journey to Georgetown, Malaysia and then the ferry across to Penang.

Photo 11-3-14, 16 15 32

In Hun Hin, there are converted pick up trucks that have bench seats in them which ply up and down the main roads of Hua Hin. Called songthaews, they will take passengers for 25 to 50 cents, to almost anywhere in Hua Hin.

Tuk Tuks (3 wheeled cabs), moto bikes and sedan taxis are available pretty readily. Expect to pay around $2 to $3 to get anywhere in Hua Hin by cab. Fares seemed a little higher than Bangkok taxi fares. Uber is not yet available.

Vibe: 90%

Hua Hin is a very relaxed and chilled place to be. I found the locals friendly and helpful.


The Verdict

Overall: 79%

I rank Hua Hin as my 62nd favourite that city I have visited out of almost 200. To compare how i rate other Thai cities:

  • Chiang Mai 30th place with 83%
  • Bangkok  97th with 72%
  • Pattaya 119th with 68%
  • Phuket 127th with 66%.


  1. Hua Hin Beach -
  2. Kao Takiap – a headland with a Buddhist temple and views across the beach back to town
  3. Hua Hin Railway Station – Thailand’s most beautiful train station. IMG_3721
  4. Cicada Market
  5. Street food

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Continuing with my Thailand theme,  I found the new program Bangkok Airport to be both compelling and repelling! Here is the trailer:

A BBC TV series, this show seems to find the dumbest people who have ever travelled and matched them with the most horrifically funny airport staff. I could not work out whether to cringe, laugh or cry. Sadly, having been through Bangkok airport 37 times, some of the passengers exhibit behaviours I fear I have seen!\

This is the second reality TV show which is focussing on Thailand. The other was Embassy which focussed on Australians in trouble!

Check out this episode of Bangkok Airport and see what you think:

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Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 12.36.13 pmThailand has a number of low cost carriers (Orient Thai, Lion Air, Air Asia) plus two popular “Premium Low Cost” airlines: Bangkok Airways and Nok Air, both of whom I have flown in the last year. In 2011, THAI Airways board began THAI Smile to compete in this market. The name came from a competition with 2,229 entries.

For this flight, I was keen to discover the distinguishing marks of Thai Smile? Is the brand distinctive?

Booking: 8/10

THAI Smile flies to about 13 domestic and one international destinations and is reportedly planning to expand international services. Confusingly THAI Smile use both Bangkok airports for their services. THAISmile’s parent seems to use Smile to feed passengers into its international networks through Suvarnabhumi International (BKK). THAI Smile also has some routes using Bangkok’s low cost Don Mueang Airport (DMK) in direct competition with Nok Air. This strategy is not only unhelpful for passengers, it seems unwise to have a split hub in Bangkok for operational, staffing and economies of scale reasons.

One frustration reported to me is that passengers with fully flexible tickets to one of the Bangkok airports cannot change to the other even when their fight has been cancelled or delayed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 12.33.35 pm

THAI Smile have their own straightforward (and groovy looking) website but I found that you can also book their flights on the main THAI Airways website. NB Booking through the main system means passengers cannot manage their booking or choose seats on THAI Smile.

The carrier allows 20kg of free luggage (more than Nok’s 15kg)

THAI Smile customers are supposed to get THAI Airways points but many have reported to me that this is haphazard.


Check in: 6/10

THAISmile only offer online check for its two Bangkok airports and Chiang Mai. Nok and Bangkok Airways allow this facility for all airports so a black mark here against Smile!

The check in lines were not too bad at Phuket and there were plenty of staff working. I was only in line for a few minutes.

There was nothing in the Check In process to differentiate THAI Smile from regular Thai Airways or to be honest, many other airlines. Branding on signage was not consistent.

Boarding: 7/10

Security arrangements at Phuket required me to follow international liquid rules i.e no liquids over 100ml (3oz). It means a heck of a lot of passengers were throwing away almost full bottles of water that they had bought in the airport, only to buy new ones on the other side of security.

I had no lounge access.

Boarding was down a very hot airbridge. Phuket is definitely tropical! Very few passengers had hand luggage so there was plenty of spare carry on space and boarding was pretty rapid.

On Board: 7/10

THAI Smile uses 14 Airbus A320-200s. They have orders for six more and options for another five. The all Economy Class configuration of 172 seats includes 16 “Smile Plus” seats in the first three rows of the plane. These guys get an empty middle seat and 33″ of legroom.

The remaining 156 seats are arranged 3/3 and get between 28″ and 31″ of legroom (except at the emergency exit seats). After Nok’s 30″, I appreciated the extra inch.

Something I noticeD is that the seat numbering starts at Row 31 and not Row 1. I noted last week that Nokair starts their 737 numbering at Row 30. Anyone know why?


I thought the interiors were rather dull, especially after the vividness of their website. The airline have partnered with a cartoon company and are adding themed exteriors and more colourful interiors.

Staff were not as exuberant as Nokair or as friendly as Bangkok Airways.

Safety: 5/10

The low key safety announcements were made in Thai and English read out by a member of the crew while the other attendants demonstrated seat belt, life jacket etc

Most passengers ignored the whole process. The people behind and next to me didn’t seem at all keen to put on seat belts.

Take Off

This was one of the roughest and most turbulent take offs I have had for a long time. It even earnt a scream from a passenger and gasps from others.

As soon as the seat belt sign went off, the guy next to me unbelted himself. After the turbulence we had been through, I would have thought he had a clear indication that he should keep it loosely fastened!

Meals:  5/10

At last a distinctiveness!


The snack bag was a very attractive plastic bag with draw strings and an encouragement to re-use. I souveniered it along with half the passengers, I estimate.

Inside was a dried up Danish and a 350 ml (10oz) bottle of water (branded “a smile drink”). Did not really make me smile. Nok Air’s snack was much tastier and Bangkok Airways serves a full meal!

A drink service with fruit juices and sodas (but no alcohol) followed.


Entertainment: 3/10


THAI Smile recently added their own magazine (We Smile) to their seatback pockets. Previously, they were using the main THAI Airways magazine.

A Canadian comedy show played without sound on overhead monitors.  The passenger next to me commented that this same video has been playing for two months now.

There are no plans to have wifi, in contrast to Nokair’s aggressive plans.



In my seat. I notice the bouncing child (see landing) has photo bombed me.

As the plane came in on final approach, the child behind me unbuckled his seatbelt and began dancing on the seat. I must admit, I have never contemplated doing this but it sounded like fun! Unfortunately, to my mind, also incredibly dangerous. I turned around and mimed seatbelt to the enraptured family.

Luggage was very rapidly returned at Don Meung airport.

The Verdict


How many airports are 100 years old? And have such a beautiful custom’s door?!

My Flight Rating: Overall 59% (3 out of 5). I am not frowning but I was not broadly smiling either!

Skytrax: THAI Airways (mainline) has a four star rating from Skytrax.
Safety Rating: Airline ratings gives 6/7 which is higher than NokAir

Positives: Legroom
Negatives: Entertainment, Meal,
Would I fly them again? No. I would choose Bangkok Airways first (I rated 81%), followed by NokAir (I rated 67%) followed by mainline THAI Airways with THAI Smile coming in fourth place.


Pic: saintdriftwood.wordpress

Pic: saintdriftwood.wordpress

Spent a couple of weeks on the road, perturbed at the behaviours of some of my fellow travellers. If you want to be a jerk, stay home. Seriously, it should not be that hard to be respectful:

  1. of the country you are visiting- yes the coffee may be better back home, or the showers are hotter or the internet is faster but  telling people ad nauseum will not earn you a welcome. I was in a store in Sydney, Australia, when a tourist wandered in, pointed to a camera and said “how much“. when told, he retorted in a loud voice “I got that for a hundred bucks less back home” and walked out. How to win friends!
  2. of the natural and built scenery- no chopping things down, carving in initials or stealing stuff! 200 year old trees do not need messages telling others who you currently are in love with
  3. of the people you meet- keep cool and treat people politely. Rudeness will not make you popular. Don’t shout if you do not feel you are getting your way or feel people do not understand you. Find a new way to explain what you want calmly
  4. of the staff who assist you. Treat someone well and generally, you will get good back. When you don’t get good service, find ways to complain appropriately.

I would love to see a frequent flyer points system where people got rewarded for polite and respectful behaviour. Didn’t cut in line? 100 points. Said “thank you” 200 points. Helped carry a bag for an elderly person? 250 points.

I guess such a system already exists. The Buddhists call it karma. And I think people who behave like A###holes have to contend with that reality!

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The CEO of Nevada based online retailer Zappos has reiterated that he has flirted with the idea of running an airline following customer requests.

For those who do not know, Zappos started as a shoe retailer and grew annual sales from one million to one billion dollars in eight years.

Zappos is known for their obsession with customer service and their desire to blur the line between work and play: We seek to WOW our customers, our co-workers, our vendors, our partners, and in the long run, our investors.

The company recruits new staff based on how well they treat their airport shuttle driver! All new staff have to work in the company’s call centre for two weeks. The company will pay people to quit if they are not dedicated.

In the cut throat world of airlines, is there room for a player focussed purely on customer service? What would a WOW airline look like?

Here is a clue:

There are a few destinations in the world that immediately spell party. These include: Bali, Ibiza, Miami and Porto Heli (Greece). The list also needs to include the small southern Thai island of Phuket which is invaded by 14 million tourists  every year.  They come to get massaged, swim, snorkel, eat, drink and dance. Many do not know why they go to Phuket, just lured by its reputation as a fun place.

IMG_0849I first came to Phuket just after the 2004 Tsunami had ripped through. It did not capture my heart! I came back this week to see if I liked it better.  The first step is to know how to say Phuket as saying it the wrong way can cause some embarrassment:

Asthetics: 77%

Phuket is Thailand’s biggest island at 576 km2 (222 sq miles), roughly the size of Guam or the Isle of Man and slightly smaller than Singapore. It sits in the Andaman sea, 863 kilometres (536 miles) south of Bangkok. Seventy percent of Phuket’s area is covered with series of dramatic mountains running North to South.

I divide the Island into five parts:

  1. The Western Coast with a series of beaches (some gorgeous and some ruined) with some very ugly architecture, poorly planned developments and pollution. It includes the “party town” Patong as the key centre.phuketmap
  2. The beautiful interior which is less explored by tourists including The Phra Taew National Park
  3. Southeastern Phuket including Chalong Bay and Rawai Beach which seem to be more popular for Thais to visit
  4. Phuket Town/City- Fewer visitors ever step foot in this town full of beautiful architecture reminiscent of Malaysia’s Penang
  5. The gorgeous smaller Islands off the coast of Phuket ncluding Phi Phi and Similan National Park.

Its well worth planning a visit to each of these regions while you are in Phuket.

Liveability: 40%

When I visit a place, I am interested in not just visiting that city but what it would be liked to live there. In July 2005, Phuket was voted one of the world’s top five retirement destinations by Fortune Magazine and number one according to a HSBC survey of 4127 expats from more than 100 countries. The Mercer  Quality of Living Ranking is less kind to Thailand giving Bangkok only 117th place out of 230 cities. Phuket may rank a little higher than the more crowded capital.

The biggest attraction is the lower cost of living. This article gives an interesting perspective on how much you need to live on in Phuket. Average prices are listed here. Four star hotels start at $US29. For $US40 to $US50, you can get a really nice place. Allow for an average $US5 for breakfast and lunch and $US10 for dinner and you will do really well.

Another feature of liveability is climate. Phuket features a tropical monsoon climate with little temperature variation.The average temperature is above 30°C (86°F) for ten months a year!  Top annual temperature averages 32 °C (90 °F) and the lowest is 25 °C (77 °F).  Dry season runs from December through March and wet season is the rest of the year resulting in  2,200 millimetres (87 in) of rain a year. Too hot and sticky for me.

Residents also have to contend with pollution, corruption plus complicated visa and property ownership rules.

Culture: 73%

Phuket’s estimated half a million population is a melting pot of:

  • Sea Gypsies, the Island’s oldest inhabitants who are still practicing animism,
  • indigenous Thais and Thai-Chinese who are mostly Buddhist
  • rural ethnic Malays who are Muslim
  • foreign workers from Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines
  • plus tens of thousands of retired Western expatriates and
  • the aforementioned 14 million tourists a year.

It seems to me that these melding has resulted in four dominant cultures co-existing on the Island. As a visitor, you may choose one or all of these to experience:

1. The Tourist Bubble. For many tourists, Phuket allows them to go somewhere “foreign” but in actuality never leave home. This is represented by the McDonalds, Burger Kings and Hooters outlets jostling cheek for jowl for the prime spots across the island next to Pizza, pasta and steak houses. Restaurants, stores, tours and hotels all offer services in English, Russian, Swedish or Arabic or whatever your native tongue is, minimising the need to leave a tourist bubble. What you will find hard to locate is delicious, flavoursome Thai food. The stuff I found in large parts of Patong is a dull imitation of what is one of my favourite cuisines.

2.  The sex trade.  Centred around Patong’s Bangla Road, the Mecca for so many tourists, are the bars “stocked” with young Thai, Burmese and Russian women looking for “customers”. Phuket is full of older men strolling around hand in hand with much younger Thai girls. Some of the men remember to take their wedding rings off- others don’t!

3.  Thai traditional lifestyle. I suspect few visitors will see or experience this slice of Thailand which is mostly found in the interior. Well worth more than a cursory glance.

4. Contemporary Thai culture.  My advice is to follow Thai people around for a more authentic Thai experience! They seem to know the best places to eat and shop on the island!IMG_0835

Phuket is brilliant for water themed sports: ski-ing, snorkelling swimming and scuba diving as well as sun worshipping. Bar live is prolific. The shopping I would leave to Bangkok.

You will find relaxing massages on every street corner- most are “legitimate” massages. Tattoo parlours occupy every other corner and many farangs (foreigners) seem to consider a tattoo a vital rite of passage whilst in Phuket by the number I have seen.

 Crime: 80%

Unfortunately Phuket appears to attract a range of unhelpful elements resulting in a crime rate that is higher than some other parts of Thailand. There are a lot of “rip offs” of tourists including taxi and tuktuk fares that are outrageous, poor quality tailor scams, pickpocketing and bag snatching.

In addition, many tourists seem to believe that the laws of Thailand do not apply to them resulting in arrests for drunk driving and drug use. Since the 2014 coup, there appears to have been a concerted effort on making Phuket safer.

Sadly, the biggest cause of foreign deaths are in fact drownings. Follow the warning flags on the beaches.



Transportation: 58%

I smiled as my Mini Van travelling from the airport to my Patong beach hotel pulled up outside a small “travel agency” on the side of the road. All of the passengers were “ordered” out and escorted into a room where we each individually faced an agent. Discovering that I speak some Thai, have been to Phuket before and have Thai family meant I was out of there in less than 50 seconds. Others were less lucky as the agents tried to persuade them by varying means to change hotels or book tours, dinners or cruises. We left 15 minutes later. This is one example of the notoriety transport in Phuket has earned. Controlled by a small group, taxis, mini vans and tuk tuks resist anyone trying to break into their high priced monopoly.

The army last year has begun a process to do this including requiring meter taxis at all times. In addition, Uber has apparently arrived in Phuket so things may be changing.

Local buses also link parts of the island to Phuket Town between 6am and 6pm. Fares cost less than a dollar per ride. They are a cheap and slow way to see the island. There are few links between resorts. There was an airport bus to Patong but that seems to have gone by the wayside.

Vibe: 70%

If you are looking for a party town where things seem safe but different to home with beautiful beaches, then Phuket is for you. If you are looking for a more authentic Thai experience, go somewhere else. Me?  I fear that  Phuket is losing its beauty and Thai identity to an avalanche of partying tourists. I was disturbed nine years ago and remain so today.


The Verdict

66% - I rank Phuket 126th out of the 182 places/cities with a population of 100,000 or more that I have visited  in the world.

Look out for:

  1. Phuket Town -the beautiful historic city
  2. Sunset over the Andaman sea
  3. Phang Nga Bay (including James Bond Island)
  4. Big Buddha, Wat Chalong and Phuket Temples
  5. Phi Phi Island


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Would you watch a 5 hour boring movie for 2500 frequent flyer points?

Virgin America has created “BLAH AIRLINES FLIGHT 101″, a boring, beige and dull five hour and forty-five minute flight set in real time on a flight from Newark to San Francisco. The passengers aboard seem pretty creepy, the pilots bored and tired and the flight attendants over perked.


The film’s trailer can be viewed here:

Already almost one million people have already watched the film on YouTube since the film was uploaded in October, 2014! (Did they skip parts of it -like I did?). The big screen premiere is 10th April as part of the official DIFF Festival Line-Up. The airline has invited Elevate frequent flyer program members and social followers to join the screening. Any festival-goer who makes it through the entire 5 hour and 45 minute film screening will score 2500 Elevate points – the equivalent of a reward flight!

The full movie is below. Let me know how much of it you can watch? (As already mentioned, I fast forwarded it). I know I would not make it through the full showing and can already kiss those 2,500 points good bye.

The risk of this film, of course, is what happens if a Virgin America flight ever approximates Blah airlines? So far my experiences with VX have been universally positive with one exception when they could have better handled a delayed  departure. Still, I rate them as my favourite US airline (with JetBlue in number two place).

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IMG_0799Today, I was one of three “farangs” (foreigners) on a Nok Air 737 completely full of Thai people travelling from Bangkok, Thailand to Phuket. I could not work out if this was a random coincidence or do most foreigners not choose Nok? Me? I have wanted to fly the bright yellow Thai “Premium Budget” carrier for some time and today’s flight gave me that opportunity! Nok is the 90th airline I have travelled with since I started flying in 1968! Nok means bird in Thai. They are largely a domestic operation with an international flight to Myanmar.
Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 4.44.32 pm

Booking: 10/10

Nok’s Booking engine is very simple, very straightforward and very clear. There are excellent how to instructions with screen illustrations. Not seen those on many airline booking sites.

Three types of fare options are sold:

  • Promotion – snack, 15kg luggage
  • Eco – above plus seat assignment
  • Flexi – 20kg luggage plus the ability to change flight dates for free

Unlike some other budget airlines, not paying for insurance and extra luggage is easy. Air Asia foist their insurance on you and many find it is hard to unselect and end up paying for something they did not need or want.

Uniquely, Nok allows more payment methods than any other airline I have seen including at branches of a Thai bank, at 7/11 Convenience stores (which are ubiquitous in Thailand), as well as via Credit Card or direct debit.

To reserve a seat, one has to finish the booking process and then start a new process by entering your booking number. Not sure why it cannot be included in the booking process? I was not able to access one of the premium seats (first row and two emergency exit rows).

Check in: 10/10

Like booking, check in was easy and fast. Nokair allows check in via its own app, or via its website. A downloadable boarding pass was provided and was also sent to me via email.

If you are ever in Bangkok, make sure you are going to the correct airport as the city  has two airports. Most discount flights including Nok Air leave from Don Mueang, which is also spelt Don Muang. It is north of the city. I have had to comfort some people at the other airport Suvarnabhumi who have realised too late they have made the trek to the wrong airport!

At Don Mueang, Nok Air has three rows of counters, all of which have their own entrances where your check in baggage is screened.

  1. Frequent Flyer (Nok Fan Club) Check in
  2. Northern flights eg Chiang Mai
  3. Southern flights eg Phuket

There was also an empty counter for the new (but grounded) NokScoot venture.

Domestic flights open for check-in and/or baggage drop off two hours before departure.

With only carry on luggage, we went straight to the boarding gate (via security and one of the many coffee shops that are dotted throughout Don Mueang airport). The airport is a little dated but has amazing floor to ceiling windows which are good for plane spotting!

The airline provides a free shuttle car from the security check point to the boarding gate for passengers with children, and/or elderly and/or physically challenged persons as well as monks.

Nokair provide free wifi while you are waiting. At the landing page, one enters your unique  booking code and voila free (but slow) wifi!

Boarding: 8/10

This was via jet way and was both efficient and smooth. Strangely enough, there were no scanner units for people with boarding passes on their mobiles, so staff had to write down the details of those passengers to later manully enter them into the boarding system. Not very efficient!

The numbering system on Nok Air’s 737, for some inexplicable reason starts at row 3o. Anyone know why?

Carry on luggage is 7kg. On this flight, few people were carrying hand luggage having taken advantage of the airlines’ generous 15kg limit so this left plenty of room for my small bag and computer case.


On Board: 6/10

IMG_0810 The cabin Crew gave a very friendly welcome.

I am not a fan of 737s, despite having flown on 283 of them! The cabin on this 15 year old 737-800 was looking very tired.

Seats are 30” pitch and 17.2″ wide. Emergency exit seats have much more generous leg room. I do prefer 31″…



We pushed back two minutes early and after a long taxi, we lifted smoothly up into a surprisingly clear Bangkok sky.

Meals: 6/10

Nok Air flights always include a complimentary snack (I cannot imagine Thais travelling anywhere without access to some food!). In this case a 100ml container of water and two Auntie Annie’s pretzel bits served in a paper satchel. A nice touch. It was a fair amount of packaging for something so small, however. Service was with very broad and friendly smiles.


The airline also sells on board crisps(chips), chocolates, Milo drinks plus T shirts, cushions, pens and backpacks and other souveniers. The price of their water on board was double that of the bottle I bought at the airport convenience store!IMG_0818


Entertainment: 1/10

There was no entertainment provided on this flight. Last year Nok Air launched free wifi on board but only two planes have it installed so far. This was not one of them.

The airline has a free magazine Jib Jib (Cheep cheep) which was mostly in Thai. There is also a digital version.

Safety: 6/10

The safety announcements were spoken in Thai first with the staff demonstrating the procedures. They were then repeated in English as the cabin crew moved through the cabin checking on passengers.

You cannot officially use electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

Of concern, was that one of the seats in my row did not have a lifejacket. The container housing it was empty. (I always check that there is a jacket there, because there are a group of stupid idiots in the word who think it funny to remove life jackets from planes as a souvenir and/or joke).


We came in quite fast into the beautiful Phuket airport touching down 11 minutes behind schedule.

Once on the ground, there is something delightful about taxiing to the gate and seeing boats floating beside you in sparkling water. Another unique touch is that Nok Air welcome you to your destination in three languages; the first being the local dialect, of your destination, then Thai and then English.

We deplaned via gangway into the airport. The staff waid us in farewell.


The VerdictScreen Shot 2015-04-07 at 4.53.46 pm

My Flight Rating: Overall 67% (3.4 out of 5).

Skytrax: Nok Air has a three star rating from Skytrax – which I think they more than live up to. is  Skytrax customers rate them at 72%.
Safety Rating: Airline ratings gives 4/7

Positives: Staff friendliness
Negatives: Entertainment
Would I fly them again? Yes. If faced with a choice between Air Asia and Nok, then Nok all the way.  Bangkok Airways, however, impressed me over Nok Air.

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In forums and conversations since the tragic Germanwings crash, people have been lamenting that flying has become more dangerous. One person sad to me “you hear of all of these crashes and you wonder of its safe to travel anywhere

The word “hear” is an important one. I am old enough to remember Entebbe in 1976 when terrorists seized and diverted an Air France plane. The astonishing crash between two 747s in 1977. In 1985 there were multiple hijackings, bombings and crashes including the horrific  Japan Airlines  747, crash into Mount Osutaka which  killed 520 of 524 people on board,  the worst single-aircraft disaster in history. 1996 saw the downing of Valujet into the Florida glades. etc etc

But with a different news cycle and no social media, these crashes made it onto the news for a short time and then faded. Today, we have live crosses, tweets, Facebook posts and continually updated stories. It feels to the general public that flying has become more dangerous. This is despite the reality that flying is safer than ever. While there are more people flying, there are actually fewer accidents and much lower deaths than there were a decade ago.

fatal accidents


How do we shift the perception that flying has become more dangerous? Do we need to? 

In Thailand Nok means bird. “Premium low cost” domestic carrier Nokair after ten years  of operation commands a healthy 27% chunk of the country’s  domestic market and a healthy profit margin. Nok has not expanded internationally with the exception of a couple of routes.Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.55.32 pm

This was due to change this year. Nok has joined with Singapore Airline’s low cost arm Scoot, to form low cost international carrier called imaginatively NokScoot with the slogan: Fly Awesome. Literally the name means: Bird leaves suddenly and quickly!  This new venture is 49% is owned by Scoot and 51% owned by Nok. The carrier aims to link China, Japan and Korea to Bangkok’s Don Mueng airport.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.55.55 pm

Nokscoot obtained their air operator’s certificate from Thailand’s DCA on 30th October 2014. They began selling tickets for their first services  which were scheduled to begin May 10th. The company will be starting with Boeing 777-200s inherited from Singapore Airlines.


In the meantime, a  January 2015 International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit of Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) found a number of issues which the authority needs to fix. The audit reportedly gave Thailand’s air safety standards a rating of just 36% compared to Singapore’s 98.9%. The ICAO noted significant safety concerns and demanded the DCA develop a plan to fix them. This follows ICAO issued warnings on the Thai airline industry since 2009. For example, despite the number of airlines registered in Thailand increasing from 12 to 63 in a decade, the DCA has not grown its staff team and is severely stretched.

DCA’s first remediation plan submitted in March was rejected by the ICAO and has to be resubmitted by May. Other countries that have Thai registered airlines flying to or from them have become concerned including Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). The Bureau advised the DCA that it will not allow Thai registered airlines to increase their flights, or change routes to Japan.  Korea and China have followed. Australia, the USA and the UK are monitoring.

As a result, NokScoot has found itself unable to get the permission it needs to fly its  destinations. While there is no doubt being cast on Nokscoot, they are victims of this larger issue.

The new airline is now giving refunds right through to October, 2015. No doubt there is some frantic hoping going on at NokScoot!

This situation is mirrored across many other countries in the developing world where technological support for aviation, crew training and legislative oversights are not keeping up with massive growth in air traffic. Interestingly, almost every major air accident since 2009 has involved an airline from the developing world (with the recent exception of Germanwings). This is an unacceptable situation which the world needs to remedy. Flying needs to continue to become safer for all countries not just First world nations.

Meantime, I am flying Nok (a little nervously) on Tuesday. This will be the fourth Thai registered airline I have flown. The others being Thai Air Asia (never again), Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways. Nok is one third owned by Thai Airways (who also have their own low cost subsidiary: Thai Smiles). Airlineratings give them a safety rating of 4/7. Skytrax rate them a 3 star airline.

I have flown and enjoyed Scoot before. They are the best low cost carrier I have flown. I gave them a score of 74%. They have been operating for three years and are making the transition from second hand 777s to new 787s. Airline ratings give them a safety score of 5/7. Skytrax says Scoot is a 3 star airline.  Skytrax interviewees give the carrier a rating of 7 out of 10 which is good for a Low Cost carrier

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dialectLearn these seven basic phrases of the native language(s) of the place(s) you are going to:

  1. Hello (eg Bonjour, Hola, Guten Tag, Salaam, Namaste, Sawadee Krub)
  2. Thank you (merci, Gracias, Danke, Shukrun, dhanyavaad, Karp Khun Krub)
  3. Good bye (au revoir, adios, Auf Wiedersehen, ma’a as-salāmah, namaste, byebye)
  4. Where’s the toilet? 
  5. Help (Au secours, Socorro, Hilfe, ilHaʿni, maḍaḍ, chûay dûay)
  6. Yes (Oui, Si, Ja, iewa, Haji, Shy)
  7. No (Non, No, Nein, la, Nahin, my)

It is not that hard, the locals will appreciate you trying and it may help you get your point across.

Any other essentials? Maybe “how much”? or “Please?”


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Yell No


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