Bangkok Don Mueang Spotting Guide

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

Rating Movements
Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information    Runways 03L/21R 03R/21L
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.
MISC. 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.
MISC. There are restrooms and several restaurants in the terminal. The glass panels are not being cleaned regularly, so you might have bad luck and the glasses will be dirty when you visit this spot!

At this point (October 2017) the viewing areas are under construction and only a part of the area is still usable for spotting purposes (see comment below by Chris Paul). 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.

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14 thoughts on “Bangkok Don Mueang Spotting Guide

  1. Chris Paul

    I visited Spot #2 mid of October 2017. Very cool spot. The Restaurant (Sky View) was still closed but no other area under construction. Also no issues with Police or Security. They walked by from time to time but didn’t care. Very relaxed.

    Someone mentioned “clean glass panels “. During my visit the glass panels (in- and outside) where totally filthy and haven’t been cleaned for weeks or months. I try to get a patch with fewest dirt but that was actually impossible. A real pity…

    Regards, Chris

  2. ANDY OSHEA

    I visited the viewing area Jan 17 and there was still an area cordoned off but viewing still possible. I was joined by 6 other guys 4 of whom where local. No sign of any Police and it was pretty busy movement wise. Whilst it was 33 degrees and humid outside the aircon was at max chill in the area so this became uncomfortable after a while (for me it did anyway)

  3. Manu

    Hi, it seems DMK is no longer a spotter friendly airport, yesterday in the Observation Deck an AOT security officer ask me to stop to make photo and leave the place without reason .

    1. Jan Post author

      Thank you for the report! That is in fact very unusual and unexpected. Did anyone else have a similar experience? We also know of recent visits without issues, so this might have been an isolated incident.

      1. William Tan

        Whoa ! I spot in November 2016,nothing happen on me.I discover second observation desk in new terminal,same as old terminal.I spotting at DMK for three days.Next week i will go CAN,Guangzhou.I will try to do a new guide for spotter from around the world.

        1. Jan Post author

          Hi William,

          thanks for your positive report! Hopefully most spotter experiences will be like yours.
          Cheers
          Jan

  4. Tawhid Jalil

    Do I need a boarding pass to get access to the observation dek or I just can go there without air ticket or boarding pass? I am planning to go at DMK for a day long spotting. please give me a detail. thanks

    1. Jan Post author

      Hi!
      No Boarding Pass necessary, the observation deck is landside and accessible to everyone.
      Enjoy your day in DMK. But please see the comment and remark in the guide about the terrace closure. I’m hoping that the construction works are already over, but we are not sure. It would be great if you could report back on this for other users.

      Cheers
      Jan

      1. Tawhid Jalil

        thank you so much for the info. I must share some photos and information when I go DMK. I have a plan to visit KHT too.
        is the road side of HKT is closed. I saw on google street view the runway is not visible from road.

        Cheers
        Tawhid

  5. Paolo and Rino ceriani

    spotting day in airport from 11am to 6pm at North terrace We confirm THE observation deck closed for works…..but really IT seems with no workers……
    Very interesting traffic, clean glass panels and good opportunities to make great shots at THE gates in front of us
    We spent a lot of hours for transfer from Suvarnabhumi to Dong muang
    No possibilities with THE bus shuttle without Airline ticket, in THE morning we decided to get THE public bus LINE 555
    From THE airport you get free shuttle A1 to bus terminal and then yellow bus 555 ( not 554 ) directly to don muang airport ( 34 bath and about 10 stops ). 1h20m
    In THE evening from airport bus shuttle to railway MO CHI ( 30 bath )
    From MO CHI train to PAYA THAI ( 36 bath ) where you find THE connection with skytrain to suvarnabhumi ( 25 bath ) in Seven stops and a lot a lot of people
    Transfer time about one hour

  6. Thomas Thalmann

    Hello, I was at 11.11.15 at the Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok and can confirm that it is a small area of ​​the observation deck is just right and left open. But is it enough to make for good pictures through the reasonably clean glass panes. I would otherwise still photos. Sorry for my English, Greeting Thomas

  7. Andreas Ehrhardt

    Hello!

    just wanna let you know that the Observation Deck is under Construction..just a little section is usable. (Restaurant/cafe Skydeck? until to Terminal 2, all shut down.

    Thank You
    Andreas (FRA Spotter)

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