Besides Suvernabhumi, Bangkok’s Don Mueang Intl. Airport is an important gateway for Thailand’s capitol city. The airport has been closed closed in 2006 but has been reopened just one year later to handle the upcoming low cost traffic. Air Asia and Nok Air are the main carriers and due to its colorful liveries its always worth to make a stop at this place.Before it’s closing in 2006 the Bangkok Don Muang International Airport (later renamed Don Mueang) was the main international gateway for the city and handled all of the traffic, which then moved over to the new Suvernabhumi Airport. After its reopening in 2007 for some domestic flights the airport became really busy again in 2012 when all of the low-cost carriers moved over from Suvarnabhumi to reduce congestion there. As of 2013 the airport handled almost 16,5 million passengers. Due to the airline separation between the two Bangkok airports you will not find any of the flag carriers with long-haul flights here, but only a handful of low-cost airlines. Most of the traffic is generated by Nok Air and Thai AirAsia. Furthermore you will find occasional flights by Orient Thai, AirAsia, City Airways and new startups Thai Lion Air and Thai Air Asia X (operating long-haul flights). Especially Thai AirAsia brings in quite a few specials colour schemes, which are very easy to catch here.
Additionally the Royal Thai Air Force has their headquarter at the premises and that means that most of their fleet is based here. They always operate from the military runway (see below) and if you are a bit lucky you can catch a few of their planes. You should be warned about two major disadvantages about spotting in Bangkok, but the traffic definitely makes up for these shortcomings.
Furthermore the Royal Thai Air Force Museum is located on the eastern side of the airport in walking distance to Spot #1. The museum is open daily (except national holidays) from 9 AM to 4 PM (as of 2014) and entrance is free. You will can find a same smaller airplanes, but also bigger ones like the Fairchild C-123 or Boeing 737-200 in the museum. Most of them can be shot quite well, but there are also a few which a too crammed in.
As Bangkok lies in a tropical dry and wet climate zone you will very rarely see clear blue skies here. It is very common that the sun is only comes out 30 minutes or even an hour after sunrise and it also disappears way before sunset in the haze. Furthermore the spotting locations at this airport are a bit far from the action, so you will need a good lens for shooting here.
Written by Jan Seba / Visited March 2014
|3.700 m||3.500 m|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||Not required|
|Car||Not required, always use a taxi, but make sure the driver uses the taximeter. If you are doing a longer trip from BKK to DMK for example it is also okay to go with a fixed price. It should be between 300 and 400 THB oneway.|
|Restrooms||Inside the terminal building.|
|Drinks/Food||Inside terminal buildings and at some other locations (mentioned below).|
|Hotels||There are a few hotels around the airport, but it is advisable to stay near BKK and just do the trip to DMK from there.|
|Season||It is best to visit during the winter as the sun is too high during the summer.|
|Runway Usage||03L/21R||This is the preferred runway for the scheduled traffic because it is closer to the terminal.|
|03R/21L||While this runway is the primary runway for the military base located on the east side of the airport, it is also occasionally used for scheduled traffic. When the other runway is busy with departures, landings will also come in on this runway. During peak times it can happen that there are even more arrivals on this runway than on the other.|
|Spot #1 – Small Cabinet – 21L/21R Arrivals Morning|
|WHERE||This location is found directly on the big Phahonyothin Road. Show this name to your taxi driver, if you are coming from Suvarnabhumi you probably have to tell it is in Don Mueang first. But then you have to make sure your driver does not drop you off at the airport, so it is useful to follow the taxi drive on a smartphone using GPS.|
|WHAT||The one major advantage of this location is that you can shoot arrivals on both runways and still have a good angle for the 21L, as it is also frequently used (see Runway Usage). The downside is that the 21R is very far away, but you should still be okay in terms of heat haze. Still the quality of the images will be way worse and the main reason to use this location is the 21L.|
|TIME||Best light conditions in the winter are from 7 AM to 12 PM, though the sun might already be a bit too high around noon.|
|MISCELLANEOUS||You can also use the cabinet for seating and sun protection. There is a 7-Eleven across the street.|
|OTHER||The Royal Thai Air Force Museum is located a short walk south of this location. The entry is free of charge and well worth a visit after a spotting session in the morning.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Close to 400mm for an A320 on the 21R and 200mm for an A320 on the 21L.|
|Spot #2 – Glassed Viewing Terrace – Taxiway, Runway 03L/21R Arrivals & Departures|
|WHERE||Getting to this location could not be easier, just let your taxi driver get you to the Airport terminal (which they will understand without a map. Inside the terminal there are basically two viewing terraces, which are both behind slightly tinted glass (which can easily be edited out during post processing). There is one area on the northern side and one on the southern side of the main departure area. As of now they are not connected, so you have to choose between them (more on the choice see below).|
|WHAT||There is a large variety of traffic you can shoot here. First there are arrivals and departures on the runway and then most importantly the aircraft taxiing on the taxiway, as this is closer than the runway. This can be used both for 21 and also 03 ops. With 21 you will get them taxiing to the runway and with 03 taxiing to their gate after landing. Furthermore you might catch a few of the planes during pushback when their gate is directly in front of you. But this could also pose a problem, as they can cause heat haze and also obstruct the aircraft on the taxi- and runway, so you might have to switch between the two terraces based on gate occupancy. For 21 Ops I would suggest to use the northern side of the viewing terrace, because you have more opportunities to shoot the aircraft taxiing to the runway for departure. But if you want runway action the southern terrace would be best. Action on the other runway (03R/21L) cannot be shot as it is just too far away and also obstructed by trees on the golf court.|
|TIME||Best light conditions in the winter are from 3 PM to 5:30 PM.|
|MISCELLANEOUS||There are restrooms and several restaurants in the terminal.
At this point (September 2015) the viewing areas are under construction and only a small area is still usable for spotting purposes (see comment below by Andreas Ehrhardt). We are not sure how long this will take and how the viewing area will be affected by the construction works.
|FOCAL LENGTH||230mm for a B738 on the runway and 160mm on the taxiway.|