21 hour travel day turns to 42 hours of utter hell

Ever have one of those days? Those days that everything seems to go wrong? Monday, April 26th 2010 was one of those days. Today reminded me of a scene in the movie Benjamin Button. That if just one damn thing went right it would have changed the entire outcome. But instead, it turned into the worse day of travel in 300 days around the world. And the thing about it? It was fucking preventable.

Today was the day we were supposed to be going back to Canada. The end of our trip. Going home to deal with our loft, see friends and start decompressing from our trip and preparing to get back to the world. We had just spend the last 10 days at a posh resort in Koh Phanang. We wanted our end of the trip to be perfect and come back to Canada on nothing but a high note. We had it all planned. A ferry from Phanang to Koh Samui at 12.30, flight to Bangkok at 2.15pm, Bangkok to Taipai at 5.05pm, Taipai to Vancouver, Vancouver to Calgary. 21 hours of travel and we would be home. Unfortunately the universe had other plans.

Our hotel told us that the ferry from Koh Phanang to Samui would take 30 minutes, and 15 minutes to the airport. So we got on the boat at 12.30pm. But the boat had other plans. Two ferry’s full of people came in at the same time which caused a ruckus on the dock. We were on the boat, but the boat just sat there. Until about 1.00pm. Slowly it made it’s way to Koh Samui, and we had a bit of hope. But it was misplaced as the trip took 55 minutes, and at 1.55 we arrived at the dock.

Running with our bags we begged a taxi to take us to the airport as fast as possible. We found a great driver who busted ass down the roads, but kept getting slowed down. First a bunch of scooters. Then a dump truck with opposing traffic. In the end we made it to the airport just to see our plane fly away. Though we had hope, as it was Bangkok Airways, known for good service.

Doesn’t that look like a face that you can trust will take care of you?

So we talk to the ticketing agent who booked us a flight in an hour, for a small fee of $60. But the plane wouldn’t land until 4.40, 25 minutes before our China Airlines flight was due to take off. They suggested to carry on our bags and arranged to have someone meet us in Bangkok on the tarmac to escort us to the international terminal and catch our flight. They called ahead and said it would be taken care of. Sounded great to us!

But because we were carrying on our bags, we had liquid and items that couldn’t go on. I gave away my moonshine rice whisky that I picked up in Pai (more on that in the coming days) to a taxi driver who seemed extremely pleased and ran off to share his loot to some fellow security guards on their break. We were starting to run late as this all took time and we ran to the security with all of our bags. This is when things started to go downhill.

“Sir, do you have bullets in your bag?”

“Uh, yes, I guess I do… ” How do you answer that question? I had forgotten all about the empty shells from the shooting range in Phnom Phen. I was going to make a cool art project for the people who donated money to ensure I didn’t shoot live chickens. And I had the empty shells in my bag. Which apparently you can’t bring on a plane. Who would have thought?

They searched my bag again, and found my swiss army knife that Steve had given to me in Switzerland. There was no way I could convince them to take it onboard, and I couldn’t mail it. Luckily the super nice security lady offered to mail it to me. The day started to look up a bit, but we were holding up the plane and had to run to the tarmac.

We put our bags in the back of the plane, told the stewardess about our problem and that we needed to get off right away in Bangkok. Everything seemed fine at this point, and it looked like Everything was turning up Milhouse. But really, it was turning into the constant diarrhea you get in SE Asia.

I’m starting to feel like Jack Bauer here… tick tock tick tock

The plane lands at 4.40pm. We had 25 minutes to get to our gate, should be enough time. We grabbed our bags and ran out onto the tarmac looking for our Bangkok Airways representative. But of course, nobody had a fucking clue. The people on the tarmac told us to get on the bus with everyone else and someone would meet us inside. Inside, there was no one. We ran our asses off to the international transit point, and sweating (it was 37 degrees after all) we saw a Bangkok Airways representative. Great! But she had no idea what we were talking about. Neither did the other person who came, or the security guard standing there.

I could see where we had to go! We had a stupid sticker from Bangkok Airways that was supposed to let us through, but they refused. Saying we had to go to the 4th level because we didn’t have our printed tickets. The printed tickets they were supposed to have for us at the gate. After 10 minutes of calling around, we ran to the 4th floor looking for China Airlines with all of our baggage. All 75kg’s of it. In the heat. For about 1KM. Trying not to knock over everyone. In our flip flops. Fucking hell.

Enter WTF angry Scott

By the time we made it to the international check in, there was nobody at the China Airlines desk. Or the ticketing office. Or on their ticketing phone number. It was 5.20pm and they disappeared like the VC in the Chu Chi Tunnels. And guess what? Nobody had a clue how to help us out. We managed to contact a China Airlines number who said we could go to Taipai tomorrow, but there were no flights to Vancouver in the next week.

At this point we started to lose it. Bangkok is going through massive civil unrest right now. People are dying on the street, grenades are being launched and it looks like a massive crackdown on the protesters is about to happen by the army. There were a ton of military in the airport itself. For the same reasons I wouldn’t travel to Mogadishu right now – namely self preservation – I didn’t feel comfortable putting Dee and I in the middle of this for the next week or two or three. Even the Department of Foreign Affairs has advised Canadians against non-essential travel to Bangkok because the ongoing political demonstrations in the Thai capital “have been marked by violence, death, and injury.”

`The security situation is very volatile with significant potential for further civil unrest, violent clashes, and attacks,” the department warned in an updated advisory Monday.’

The trains are shut down, malls are closed, army and protesters are roaming the streets. There are advisories from Britain and USA to avoid it at all costs. So we took the hint. We didn’t want to hang out in a Bangkok hotel for a week or more, only to have the airport shut down like 2 years ago and be even more stuck.

So I tried calling Orbitz, who we booked our flights with. After dropping the call a couple times, I was told that the China Airlines ticketing office was closed and they couldn’t offer me a refund. I had to wait for 2 hours for them to open. What kind of BS is that? I booked via Orbitz, but they say they’re just a booking site and we have to contact the airline. What’s the point of booking through a travel company if they’re not going to help you when things go south? We waited and waited, tried calling 7 times and were finally told too bad that we had to stick around Bangkok until China Airlines sorted it out.

Okay, now we are just sad and want to head home…

At the end of our ropes of this travel day from hell, we just went and booked a flight to L.A. From LAX we can fly to Calgary and be back in Canada and make at least one of our flights that we booked from Calgary to Vancouver on Thursday. But really, what a fucking day.

If just one thing had happened our way, we would be touching down in Canada right now. If there was no full moon party, two boatloads wouldn’t have come in. If there was not so much wind, we would have made it in 30 minutes on the boat. If the cement truck wasn’t driving 20KM’s an hour, our taxi would have made it on time. If Bangkok Airways actually made a phone call like they said they would, someone would have met us on the tarmac to escort us. If we didn’t waste time with the idiots at the international transfer point, we would have made it to the checkin and through security. If someone at China Airlines was actually there to talk to, we could have settled things.

But no, not one fucking thing went the right way today. And this is why April 26th is now going to be a banned day. On this day I’m going to do sweet fuck all for the rest of my life. Stay in bed. Don’t go out. Hide under the covers.

But luckily we found a flight from Bangkok to Seoul at 12.15AM on April 27th and had 5 seats all to ourselves. We then went to the Korean Airlines lounge and received 40% off the entry price because we were in transfer. And now have free internet, buffet food and unlimited Jim Bean Bourbon and red wine to forget about all these troubles. And it seems that I drank all their Jim Bean Bourbon, and they’ve replaced it with Johnny Walker Black Label 12 Year scotch. Nice. Plus a shower which was like heaven after losing 20lbs in sweat running around like the Tasmanian devil. Plus we have an emergency exit for our 12 hour flight to LA, and two seats to ourselves from LA to Calgary with some friends waiting for us on the other side. It looks like April 27th is the day everything turns up Milhouse.

Watch out Bangkok Airways, Orbitz and China Airlines… the wraith of Scott is coming your way!

The only thing left? To get a refund from China Airlines. They’re easily going to sell our tickets to people on standby, because frankly, everyone wants to get the hell out of Bangkok right now. Let’s hope Orbitz/China Airlines is going to take care of me. Otherwise I’ll get so angry another volcano will erupt. I’ve gone way overboard on a $100 rip off, this is 2k gone. And for that much, I have all the time in the world to be a pain in the ass.

So there it is. Our day from hell. What turned into a happy 21 hour travel day is now 42 hours of travel back home. Where absolutley everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The only good thing? We’re still alive and slightly drunk, heading back to Canada. Hopefully the custom officers at LA won’t be the usual assholes that they were when we last went through the US a bunch of times. But that’s entirely another story about the complete incompetence of customs and airline security staff.

Bangkok Airways, Orbtiz, and China Airlines has made us feel like a piece of trash today.

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