Travel Musings: A1 Bus to Don Mueang Airport and the Airport's Magic Food Point Food Court

I'm finally now getting around to begin writing about that Thai trip last year. It was my 4th trip overall but it was my first time to parts such as Phuket and Chiang Mai. As usual, I'll be sharing with you pictures and words about all the glorious eats that I had there but I'm looking to also share some tips and advice to hopefully be of help to other future travelers.

Kicking things off in my Thailand post series from the trip will be a look at some tips and advice about Bangkok's very own Don Mueang Airport.I ended up passing through Don Mueang Airport six times on this recent trip so I became quite familiar over that short span of time and thought I'd share this post with a few tips and info for any future travelers passing through including where I found one of my favorite airport restaurants in the world!

About the Airport

Like most major cities, Bangkok has two airports for air travel; Suvarnabhumi Airport is the newer and larger airport that most international travelers will use whereas Don Mueang is the older airport that's mostly in use for domestic flights but has begun taking up more short international routes as well.

Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) has the distinction of being Asia's oldest commercial airport having begun flights from back in 1914. The airport grew in popularity but was temporary shut down and then re-opened with the opening of the shiny new Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) back in 2006-2007.

Now, DMK is the home hub for a number of low cost carriers including Nok Air, Thai Lion Air, Orient Thai Airlines, and Thai AirAsia. So if you're taking a domestic flight within Thailand, you're highly likely to be using DMK. It also services many routes to other SE Asian countries nearby such as Singapore, Malaysia, HK, Vietnam, Laos, as well as China and Korea. In fact, the airport has busily been expanding since its reopening with the newly renovated terminal 2 planned to open quite soon.

Due to its many decades of service, it does show signs of its age and the overall ease and comfort isn't quite as slick as Suvarnabhumi but it's still a perfectly fine airport for any travelers.

Getting to the Airport
Unlike Suvarnabhumi, there isn't an airport link within the city to DMK. There is a train railway link that goes from the center of Bangkok (Hua Lamphong Station and also known as Bangkok Railway Station) but other than that, your options to get to DMK are to either take a taxi or bus.

Taxi
Taxis, as most folks familiar with Bangkok will know, are rather inexpensive in the city and shouldn't come out to more than 350-380 baht in most cases (depending of course where you begin from and traffic conditions). If you take the expressway to DMK there's a toll that's added onto your cab fare which the passenger is responsible for paying. In my experience, it seems cab drivers are inclined to take you through this route saying that there will be traffic if you take the local roads. In some cases, they are correct- such as if you're cutting through the city at traffic hours- but in a lot of other cases, it's definitely not so... so you'll need to use your judgement and ask the locals on their recommendation.

In most taxi experiences overall in Bangkok, I've rarely encountered any issues with cab drivers but whenever it's to the airport (DMK or BKK) there always seems to be a bit of potential shady business which, I have been extremely lucky to been mostly saved from by my local friends.

The point I'm trying to make is that if you're visiting Bangkok and you're taking the cab to either of the airports, try and get someone local (your hotel, a friend, your guesthouse owner, etc) to help you in reserving and correctly settling on the route and fare estimate before you hop on.

Bus
If you're feeling a bit adventurous and/or have some time and freedom, the other option you have is to take a bus. The main drawback of taking a bus over a cab is that you're sacrificing the convenience of being picked up and dropped off door-to-door straight to DMK.

But there are advantages to taking a bus over a cab in that sometimes it can be quicker, such as during rush hour, and that it's a whole lot cheaper. If you're backpacking or just in the middle of a frugal trip, as long as you're ok with sacrificing a little bit of convenience, you can get to the airport for about a tenth of the price of what it would cost you via taxi.

There's a number of buses from the city you can take, however depending on the bus and route, you may or may not get an air conditioned bus. I happened to take the A1 bus from Mo Chit BTS which are air-conditioned and it was easy to find and use. The directions are as follows:

At Mo Chit BTS, just head towards the exits for Chatuchak Park. The exit stairs for Chatuchak Park splits left and right but you want to exit via the descending stairs on your right. Just 30 meters or so from that BTS exit will be a clearly marked sign for the A1 bus by the road.

A1 bus stop by Mo Chit BTS station, next to Chatuchak Park

It comes every half hour according to the website and I only waited about 10 minutes or so. On board, just pay the 30 baht (yes, only 30 baht) for your bus ticket and the bus will head north to eventually arrive at Don Mueang Airport in about 15-20 minutes. If I recall correctly, the bus stops twice at the airport- first for the airport's business building and then for the airport terminal itself so you'll want to get off at that second airport stop.

Eating Cheap and Local at DMK's Magic Food Point (Food Court for the Airport Employees)

One of the universal gripes about any airport in the world is the fact that the foods they serve are either:
A. Pale imitation dishes of local food
B. Some commercial fast food chain

And let's not forget the fact that whether you go with A or B, the prices are usually jacked up quite a bit from what you'd usually pay anywhere outside the airport.

My flights through DMK during my recent trip were mostly early morning flights which made me have to hustle to avoid the notorious morning traffic in Bangkok and get to the airport as fast as I could. With no time to grab a meal beforehand, I knew I had to find somewhere decent to eat within the airport for many of my trips passing through DMK.

Without expecting to find much, I was doing a search online when I came across whispers of a semi-secretive place called "Magic Food Point" within the airport. This elusive food court is actually intended for, and used by, the airport's employees for their meals, snacks, and refreshments so it offers real local dishes, catering to local tastes, and at unbelievably low prices- especially by airport standards. Right away, I knew I had to go but I was a bit daunted by the confusing directions that people seemed to give online.

So, to help out fellow hungry travelers getting through DMK, I've provided instructions and pictures on how to get to Magic Food Point and a peek at how it is there:

Finding your Way to Don Mueang's Magic Food Point

Let me begin by getting the word out that you do not need to step out of the airport to find and get to Magic Food Point. Many of the instructions I read online gave directions to get there by walking outside the airport. You can do so if you really wish but in Bangkok's usual 30+ degrees Celsius temperatures with humidity, do you really want to lug your bags and get there by walking outside? Nah, I didn't think so either.

Magic Food Point (which I'll refer to as MFP from here on) is located in the lower levels of the airport's office building which is connected to DMK through a long walkway. To find this walkway, inside the airport, you'll want to face the airport gates (not the airport entrance) and head all the way to the inner left corner. There, the entrance for the walkway that connects to the office building is sandwiched between the bathrooms and a Taurus Coffee Bar.



The signs will indicate you're walking towards DMK's office buildings which is exactly where you want to go. The hallway is long and along the way you'll pass by the offices of the local airlines and airline employees coming in and out.


If you walk a good 150-200 meters you'll eventually get to this wide open area. As soon as you do, turn left and walk along the walls to your left and in just a few meters you'll see a pair of elevators on your left


You'll want to take the elevator down to the ground floor where the parking lot is.


At ground level, as soon as you step out of the elevator, on your right you'll see a street and across it, Magic Food Point :)



For your reference, the food court is open from 5 AM to 11 PM.


Inside, you'll see a bunch of tables laid out with all the different food stations encircling the tables. You'll note right away that you may be the only non-local there- a sure sign that an airport McDonalds this is not. Each food station has different dishes from made-to-order som tams, noodle stir fries, saffron rice and chicken, chicken rice, curries, and more. There's even a selection of local sweets, desserts, and beverages (like Thai iced tea, coffee, juices) available.


But before you go off to order food, you'll need to follow MFP's pay-by-coupon system by purchasing some coupons. Upon entering the food court, look right and you'll see someone at a cashier under a sign that says 'Coupon'. Buy a set of coupons (you can buy in 50 or 100 bahts) for however much you think you and your party will need. As a point of reference, most food dishes run between 30-60 baht while non-water beverages are between 10-20 baht. For me and my friend, we each had a full meal plus two iced coffees for about 120 baht (about $3.75 USD) total for the both of us!

Don't worry if you find yourself with leftover coupons after your meal as you can refund the leftover coupons for cash- so long as you refund on the day you purchased those meal coupons).


The meal coupons have their baht prices and dates stamped on it. Take the coupons, browse the food stations, and order and pay with the coupons :)


Though most of the menus at the food stations will be in Thai, they usually have some English food pictures and food displays. If communication is failing, simply smile and point at what you want and hand over them coupons!



On my first visit, my buddy and I got the Hainanese chicken rice...


Som tam...


And crispy pork


Granted, like most Thai eateries, the serving sizes are probably a lot smaller than whatever country you're from but at those prices of being about 1 to 2.50 USD a plate, I wasn't complaining. If you're still feeling peckish after, just pick up another dish or two!

We were pretty stuffed after this and the total price was less than 100 baht for these three dishes alone (plus free soup). And the food was infinitely better than what you could have picked up at the McDonald's inside (and at a real fraction of the price!).


As it was still only about 8 or 9 AM by this time, we decided to get our caffeine fix and get some iced coffee from the beverage station. In addition to your coffee varieties, the beverage section also serves Thai iced teas, mochas, lattes, green tea, and more. The picture doesn't show it, but the iced coffees were enormous! Far richer and better than any coffee I found inside the airport and at such great value.

If you're getting straight black coffee though, note that in Thailand they almost always automatically add syrup so if you like your coffee black and bitter (like my soul) then make sure you ask them to leave out the syrup. Note: Correct me if I'm wrong, my Thai speaking friends, but I believe the way of asking for no sugar is "Mai sai namtan."


On another time I passed through DMK's MFP, I went with the saffron rice and chicken leg. It was one of the more expensive options at MFP but still nothing crazy. Maybe like 65 baht or something (and again, with free soup!) Also another tip: there's no free water here but a big old bottle is only 5 baht which is a hell of a lot cheaper than the water being sold inside the airport!

As for heading back to the airport, just go back the same way you came- back up the elevator, through the long walkway, and back into the airport terminal. Easy peasy.


The third time I swung by MFP, I was there way too early (yes, even before the 5 AM open time) so I missed out... ㅜ_ㅜ I resorted to buying a sad, soggy sandwich inside the airport (as nothing else was open) and I ate that miserable thing while longing for my dear, MFP.

Really, MFP is a gem of a place so if you're at Don Mueang and have time to kill with an appetite to feed, don't hesitate. Just go. It's by far the best value airport meal I've had in any airport in the world. Two thumbs up for Magic Food Point! :)

Comments

  1. like your post! it really helps for us cause of the 7 hours transit time at DMK.

    we also want to visit Wat Don Mueang - Phra Arramluang near the airport, can we walk there? or do we have to take a taxi?

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanks so much for sharing! your clear direction to MFP is very useful. We found the place easily.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for your clear instructions to find magic food point. We found our way there today without problem. But may be it's not a hidden gem anymore, we saw a group of tourists on bus arrived to get food.

    ReplyDelete

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