I arrived at the Bangkok airport for my AirAsia flight to Phuket. I tried looking online for the baggage and weight allowance but failed to find anything. When I purchased my ticket, I paid an extra $40 so that luggage was included.
I put my purse inside my small duffle bag and planned to use that as my “personal item,” my medium-sized backpack as a carry-on, and would check my suitcase. I arrived at the counter to get my ticket and a woman pointed to a man to the left who was weighing bags. I put my suitcase on the scale and it showed 22.5 kilos (49.6 pounds). In the U.S., the weight limit of a checked bag is 50 pounds.
AirAsia has a total checked bag limit of 20 kilos (44 pounds), regardless of how many bags you have. The man informed me that the price for an overweight bag is $350 baht ($11.45 USD) per kilo and they round up. I was upset because I had already paid $40 for the bag and I thought this was excessive for a bag that would have met standards in the U.S.
The man then weighed my backpack as the carry-on and said they only allow 7 kilos (15.4 pounds). My backpack weighed 7.2 kilos, so he said he’d let me slide. He instructed me to another counter to pay for the excess weight of my suitcase. I was furious that the information on baggage allowance and the additional fees are not listed anywhere online or at the airport. How was I supposed to prepare?
At the next counter, the woman rudely told me to put my suitcase on the scale. It showed 25.5 kilos, and she demanded $2,100 Baht ($69 USD). Getting angrier by the second, I told her that scale was incorrect because the man’s scale said it was 22.5 kilos. She didn’t care and wanted $2,100 Baht. I told her I’d pay $1,050 Baht. She said I could try the scale next to her, so I moved past the customers at the counter and put my suitcase on that scale. It also showed 25.5 kilos. Getting angrier still, I said I would only pay for 22.5 kilos because that is what the scale showed where the man already weighed my bag.
The woman let me walk 15 feet over to the original scale and put my bag on it so that I could show her. Sure enough, it showed 22.5 kilos. The woman reluctantly said she would charge me for 3 kilos over ($34 USD). She didn’t care that two of their scales were weighing bags incorrectly and overcharging customers. I tried to tell other customers about their shady business practices.
I’m not currently earning an income, so I care about wasting money. The airline was trying to charge me an extra $34 USD because of a faulty scale. I was angry that I still ended up paying a total of $74 for one suitcase that wasn’t even 50 pounds. Southwest Airlines lets you check two suitcases for free, and each one can weigh 50 pounds.
I was even angrier that I couldn’t prepare. If I had known about the baggage fees, I likely would have paid more for a ticket on a better airline that has better baggage allowance, better legroom, and better customer service.
After going through security, we were instructed to board the plane. We were bussed to the tarmac, climbed up stairs, and made our way to our seats. I sat down and couldn’t believe how little leg room was available. I know I’m taller than the average person, but my knees were so smashed into the seat in front of me that they were in a lot of pain. The person in front of me also decided to recline before we even took off.
We took off 40 minutes late, not because of a delay, just because they didn’t seem to follow any sort of schedule. I sat on that plane and decided I would never fly AirAsia again. I have flown other discount airlines and had good service. AirAsia was awful all around.
Some people have said, “That’s why I only fly with a small carry-on backpack that is seven kilos when I fly to Asia. I just bring sundresses and flip flops.” First, even if I brought the exact same clothes as someone else, mine would take up much more space and be heavier because I’m twice their size. I’m not 5’2”; I’m 6’1”. My shoes are also much longer than theirs. Second, I was traveling for eight months, going to varying climates that required both winter coats and swimsuits. I was doing a lot of outdoor activities and needed things like hiking gear. I was also doing city exploring. I wasn’t doing yoga in Bali and lounging at the beach all day.
That’s great that some people can fly with a seven-kilo backpack. I am not one of those people and never will be. I’m also not an over-packer. I brought the things I needed for the weather, activities, and length of time I was traveling in three countries. Trust me; I don’t like lugging around my bags. But I had things like my vitamins and medications, so I didn’t get sick, my keyboard and iPad to write, and the appropriate attire.
After a frustrating but short flight, we arrived in Phuket. I booked the ferry to Phi Phi Island online in advance, which left at 11:00 am. After getting my suitcase, I walked to a booth that had cell phone data. My data was almost out, so I topped it off for $5 USD and received another five GB. I used the ATM and paid a $7 USD fee (not including my bank fees), bought a bottle of water, and looked for a taxi. A man approached me and offered to give me a ride to the ferry for $700 Baht ($23 USD). I explained to him that I needed to arrive to catch the 11:00 am ferry. It was 10:22 am when we pulled away, and he said it would be difficult to make it in time.
The taxi driver was driving fast at first. I called the ferry to see if they would wait for five minutes. They didn’t speak English, so the driver offered to talk to them. He spoke to them in Thai and handed my phone back. He started driving slower and said I likely wouldn’t make it.
We arrived at 11:07 am, and the ferry was gone. Great, now they care about leaving on time. I went to the company’s booth that I bought the ticket from, and they said I could board the next ferry, but it didn’t leave for four hours. They recommended I buy another ticket with a different company that was leaving at 12:30 pm. I didn’t want to hang out at the ferry terminal for four hours, so I bought another ticket for the 12:30 pm departure for $600 Baht ($20).
I bought some breakfast, used the toilet, and boarded the boat at 12:10 pm. It didn’t leave until 12:42 pm. I was frustrated. Did I just get swindled? Perhaps. The taxi company and boat companies sell tickets as combo packages. They all work together. Maybe my driver told the ferry to leave on time, and he slowed down, making sure I missed it. The man who sold me the ticket for the ferry I was on tried very hard to get me to buy a new ticket and buy it fast. And this one didn’t leave on time, like most things in Thailand.
The ferry took a couple of hours to arrive at Phi Phi Island. Most of the tourists were French and German, so I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I got off the ferry when we arrived and walked to my room. I booked it through Airbnb, but it was actually a small hotel.
There are no cars on the island, so you must walk everywhere. The fancy resorts that are farther away and up hills have men with carts that come and get people’s luggage for them. My hotel was cheap. I would not be getting any such service. I wandered through the narrow streets full of shops, tattoo shops, and restaurants, getting very turned around.
It was sweltering and humid. The real feel temperature was 108 °F. I eventually made it to my hotel hot, sweaty, and out of breath. The woman showed me my room, turned on the air conditioning unit, and said, “I’ll show you the safe later. Maybe you could cool down and take a shower?” Wow, I must have been a hot mess.
After cooling off for 15 minutes, I asked the woman what she recommended that I do while I was there for a few days. She recommended that I hike to a lookout point that evening, watch the sunset, go to the beach the following day, and then go on the boat that my new British friends told me about.
Harry, Dave, and Charlie from England were on Phi Phi Island. We met in Chiang Mai the week before. I sent them a message letting them know that I had arrived and was about to do a hike to a lookout point. They said they were actually on their way and told me to hurry up and they’d wait for me.
I changed my clothes and wandered through the narrow, winding streets. The island has two large landmasses with mountains on each side, but the middle is a skinny stretch of land. The skinny stretch is where the bulk of the hotels, bars, and restaurants are. I couldn’t tell which direction was the beach, and once I finally found it, I didn’t know which side of the island I was on.
Harry called me and tried to help give me directions. The guys didn’t have cell service in Thailand, so they had to use WiFi. Harry would walk into a bar to use the WiFi so he could message me. I was walking on the beach and trying to make my way to the bar they were at. Then Harry called me and said they saw me in the distance and were worried that I was too far away. They didn’t want to miss the sunset, so they continued and said they’d see me up there.
I told Harry there were two paths to the lookout point. One uses a ton of stairs, and the other is a pathway. The woman at my hotel recommended I take the stairs because it’s hard but gets you there quicker. The path is long and takes a while to get there. Harry didn’t know about the steps and said they were just going to follow the path. I found the steps and said I’d see them up there.
After ten minutes and many, many stairs, I arrived at the first lookout point. It was beautiful and I took the opportunity to take some pictures and catch my breath. The island has mountains too, which really adds to the scenery.
It took another ten minutes to arrive at the very top. It was crowded, and there was a small store selling drinks and popsicles. I bought a popsicle and sat on a large rock. The view was incredible! I could see the majority of the island, the mountains, lush trees, and the ocean.
Off to the side and a little farther up, there was a bar and restaurant. To enjoy the view on their rooftop, you needed to purchase a drink. I bought a beer and sat at a tall table. Next to me were two French girls and a guy. I had run into those French girls at the first viewpoint, and they were very rude and self-absorbed, taking tons of pictures at the sign and ignoring the fact that others were waiting. The girls looked like Paris Hilton and didn’t seem to notice that I existed. They sat next to me, drinking their coke and smoking their cigarettes.
I tried to ignore them and just focus on the view. I looked around for the guys on the rocks below me but couldn’t find them. It turns out they ended up at a different viewpoint. There weren’t many people on the rooftop bar, and it was more enjoyable. The bugs started to come out once it got dark outside, so I started the trek back down. I stopped at a restaurant and ate some Pad Thai before heading back to my hotel. I took a shower and was so exhausted that I fell asleep with the light still on.
That day was extremely frustrating. It felt like nothing was going my way, and the world was against me. The beautiful sunset helped end the day on a better note, but I just wanted to sleep. I wanted to wake up refreshed. I wanted the next day to be better. I needed the next day to be better.
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