Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Bangkok Story

I have actually been wanting to reenact my Bangkok drama here on this blog, but I've told it so many times to so many different people that honestly I've become quite sick of it. It was nothing heroic or anything anyway. But I guess I'll indulge you readers one last time.

It was Tuesday night 8.50 pm Bangkok time when we landed in Bangkok. It was a long 12 hours flight and I had watched 3 movies and 2 TV episodes, listened to 2 whole albums, slept very little, ate quite a lot, and was insanely tired. It was 3 am Auckland time by then and I was just dying to bathe and hop into bed. After taking my 27kg suitcase from the belt, passed immigration, I made my way to the Novotel Hotel counter where I was supposed to board a shuttle to the hotel. I was given a free night's stay in a Deluxe room with free breakfast the next morn and I had been bragging about that non stop to whoever I spoke to online before I left. I had seen pictures of the rooms from the Novotel website and I was pretty excited. =)

There were a group of us and we waited. 5 mins. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. No bus came. This Latin speaking guy started phoning Novotel Hotel and shortly after a hotel bellboy came to greet us. He said the shuttle bus could not come (I didn't bother asking why) and so we had to walk across to the hotel which was about 10 minutes away on foot. Okla...i thought. My bags had wheels anyway.

Got myself checked into the hotel, I still had no idea what was going on, and apparently neither did the hotel staff. I asked what time breakfast started, reconfirmed if there was going to be a shuttle service tomorrow morning since it didn't come tonight and when I was reassured that it operated every 10 minutes 24/7, I was happy. Went to my room, ran a nice warm bubble bath, played the music on my laptop and soaked forever. After the shower I felt quite fresh, no longer that sleepy. I waltzed around the room restlessly, wrote a note to Dennis, then decided to call it a night at about midnight.

At 3 am my eyes opened. It was insane. I was still jetlagged obviously. I tried going back to sleep but i kept waking up again at 3.30 am, 4 am, 4.20 am until finally at 4.30 am I bounced out of bed and decided to take yet another ultra long bath. I took time to decide what to wear, and even applied on make up thinking that in less than a few hours I'd be seeing my family and then my favourite boy. I wanted to look good. When I was finally satisfied with the way I looked, i made my way down for breakfast at 6 am. I had a hearty breakfast (thank God). I stuffed myself with an array of international delights and was the first time i was truly truly satisfied in a long long time. Happy, I went back to the room, packed up my things and proceeded to check out.

And then, the nightmare begun. The bell boy came to help me with my luggage and asked me where I was headed. I said I wanted to check out and he looked at me half sorry, half wondering what a idiot i was, and told me "Sorry cannot check out, madame. Airport closed." My jaw dropped in disbelief. I double checked with Reception. And then it hit me. There were people sitting around the lobby with bags in tow looking...lost. I spun on my heel to face a big plasma screen on the wall showing CNN. To my horror I saw what was going on in the airport. I asked the Reception what could I do, and they told me to go back to my room, relax, and check back again in midday.

Feeling rather uneasy, not scared, just uncomfortable, I went back to the room and flipped on the news. It was about 7 am and there was a good 4 hours till noon and I felt so lost. I texted my parents using my Vodafone and asked them to text Dennis for me. I paced around the room, tried sleeping for a bit but all I could think of was what if I never got home? I grew more and more anxious. Never have I felt so clueless.

Noon came after what seemed forever. But a very sorry voice told me on the phone that the airport was still closed and they had no idea when it would be open. And then they told me that I needed to let them know if i wanted to extend my stay by 2 pm. Obviously, I wasn't going to. So once again I paced around the room, stared out at the airport, until 2 pm came and I checked out. I plomped myself down on the lobby couch and stared off into space.

About 30 minutes later this Vietnamese guy, Tung sat down next to me. He was on the same flight as I was from Auckland. We soon became friends, chit chatting and sharing our predicamant. We played battleship (he taught me how) and tic tac toe (which he called somethind else) to pass time. We munched on my NZ strawberries and cookie time cookies. By 6 pm, we were famished and Tung said there was a food court just at the entrance of the airport that was waaaay cheaper than eating in the hotel. So I lugged my heavy bags and we both went for dinner.

After dinner, I lounged around the airport, but on the ground level, so i saw nothing of the riot. But i heard them loud and clear. They were singing their national anthem over and over, cheering and yelling following this speaker. Both Tung and I tried to get some sleep on the airport benches but they were hard cold metal and I had my laptop with me and the yelling and cheering woke me up every 5 minutes so I gave up trying to sleep. After a couple of hours, I told Tung I wanted to go back to the hotel. I wanted to sleep in the hotel lobby coz it'll be much more comfortable. I thought I'd be going back alone, but he came along.

I managed to make myself pretty comfortable on a couch. I was just dozing off when suddenly Tung woke me up, cursing and swearing in his mother tongue. He said he just blew his year's savings on a hotel room. Then he took my bag and said "Come. Let's go." I was kinda in a daze and i tried my best to tell him that I'd rather sleep in the lobby, simply because I wasn't keen to pay him half the room rental which would come up to almost 100 USD. But he took none of my excuses and dragged my big heavy bag up so I just followed. It was already close to midnight then and my head was spinning. In the room, still cursing and swearing, Tung threw his bags aside, kicked off hsi shoes and just said "I left, you right". And then he collapsed on his bed and that was all I heard from him for that night.

I tried to sleep but I couldnt help feeling more and more homesick. In my head I kept thinking of what I could've done had i reached home then. I kept picturing Dennis and I, hanging out. Not being able to contact him was killing me. I started thinking and all of a sudden the idea struck me. I could bus from Bangkok to Hatyai! I was so sure that was possible! I literally watched the sky brighten and waited till about 6 am. Then i freshened up a bit and texted my mum asking her to call the hotel room. When she did, when I heard my dad's voice, my own started to shake and quiver. I felt so frustrated to be stuck there with no money and no answer as to when I will be going home. I told them I wanted to bus home. And to my disappointment, my idea was shot down. My parents were worried it was too dangerous. They wanted me to get in touch with Thai Air to get me a place to stay in the city. And wait for further notice. And then the floodgates opened and I cried for every ounze of frustration that had build up over the hours and days. I hadn't even realized that Tung had woken up until he slipped me some tissue. I wanted to go home so badly at that point...

What happened after that was a series of phonecalls to the Malaysian embassy and Thai Air, both of which passed me from ear to ear but nothing was gained from them. I bugged the concierge downstairs for info on bus tickets and they told me it took 13 hours to travel to Hatyai, and the cost was about 830 Baht. I managed to withdraw some cash from an ATM machine from my kiwi account. My mind was pretty set on taking the bus but i continued to bug Thai Air for my parents' sake. And then, in the midst of my frantic phonecalls, a phonecall came in and a chinese man asked me in Mandarin if my father was Mr Siah. I was surprised. But I was ready to take a chance on anything at that point.

My Mandarin was never very good but on that day it somehow came out flawlessly. I arranged with the man to be picked out and taken out of Novotel as soon as possible. While waiting I spoke to some Singaporeans who then led me to a Malaysian girl who wanted to get back to KL as well. I told her my bus plan but she didn't seem too keen. I tried to help her but she said she couldn't leave just then, so i had to wish her all the best.

I sat anxiously and waited. A white Kiwi man sat next to me and I told him my dad managed to get someone to come get me. He told me I was very lucky and I couldn't agree with him more. And then a firm hand touched my shoulder, and Mr Neo, that chinese man, was as much of as hero as Superman was at that point. He took me out, back to his office. With internet connection i was able to communicate with my parents and with Dennis!

Things went on well after that. Mr Neo got his staff to purchase a bus ticket for me. He brought me out for some food, then later got someone to send me to the bus station. Our meeting was brief, but Mr Neo and his staff were my knights in shining armour at that time. =)

The bus journey to Hatyai was long - 13 hours. But something Mr Neo's staff told the bus driver, made him treat me like VVIP. I somehow got a little more attention than other passengers in the bus, which was quite funny.

Anyway, my solo journey ended when my parents met me at the Hat Yai bus terminal. I hugged them like I never hugged them before. I was so extremely relieved.

And then it was another 6-7 hour drive back, where I spoke relentlessly to mum and dad all the way back. haha...

That was my little adventure. I learned a lot from it. I learned that I'm not as strong as I'd like myself to be. I learned I was able to do things I was usually too afraid to do. I learned my Mandarin is pretty decent. I learned that I am actually a relatively calm and clear headed person when it came to making decisions. I learned that my family goes through great lengths to save me. I learned how much I loved Dennis. I learned people are kind.=)


慧沁 Wai Sum said...

Lucky girl!! Hatyai flooded after you came back. You made the right decision at the right time!

Anonymous said...

what happened to the Vietnamese guy?

Tisha said...

Oh dear!!So you did get caught in Thai's political situation.
Well you can say you did witness History in the Making!! xp

Pan Mee was super freakingly yummy I reckon!! *JEALOUS!*