Don Mueang is Asia’s oldest continually operating international airports. Its actually owned and run by the Royal Thai Air Force, who have a golf course in between the airstrips.
Originally opened as a Royal Thai Air Force base in 1914, it began accepting international flights with the arrival of a KLM Airlines flight in 1924.
The first airfield in Thailand is actually now the site of Royal Bangkok Sports Club, which is down the line closer to town. This was established in 1911 following a visit to Thailand by Orville Wright 7 years after he co-invented the first airplane.
It has an impressive war history: During WWII, the airport was used by the occupying Japanese Imperial Army, and was bombed and strafed by Allied aircraft on several occasions. It was also a major command and logistics hub for the United States Air Force during the Vietnam war.
It was once the 14th busiest airports in the world, and 2nd busiest in Asia, but since the opening of the gigantic Suvarnabhumi Airport on the other side of town, Don Mueang has been relegated to Bangkok’s second airport and de-facto low-cost airline hub. It was actually closed for a short time in 2006 when Suvarnabhumi was opened, as it was the policy of the Thai government to have only one major airport in Bangkok. However, hight landing fees and safety concerns led low cost airlines to lobby for its temporary re-opening, which has now become permanent. Yet, further investment into the airport has been politically difficult, and it increasingly looks like a relic of decades gone by.
The Royal Thai Air Force still owns the airport, and operates the 1st Air Division from there. Between the two airstrips sits the Air Force’s golf links, which includes a drive across a taxiway – a red light signals for play to stop when there is a plane approaching. If you are ever unfortunate enough to get stuck at Don Mueang for a number of hours, there is a Royal Thai Air Force museum a short taxi ride away on the opposite side of the airfield from the terminal.
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