These two days after the contest was over were the longest and the most depressing days for me as there was nothing much to do except watch the winners get all the limelight and say a goodbye to the other girls heading for their respective countries. All I wanted to do was to go back home but after my terrible experience in Bangkok, the thought of spending another night there, en route to Bombay, filled me with dread.
I was leaving Manila today and was filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. The organisers had just given me some cash to use for the hotel stay in Bangkok and I was supposed to make all the arrangements myself. I reached the airport well in time for check-in as I had some excess baggage and had requested the organisers to help me out. Despite their assurances Philippine Airlines staff stopped me at check-in and asked for a hefty fine of US$165! I tried explaining, complaining but once again everything fell on deaf ears. I refused to pay a cent so I opened my bags and took out some of my stuff to carry in hand luggage. After I was done with the rearranging and repacking my hand baggage consisted of 4 plastic bags, 1 hand bag, 1 vanity case and 1 purse! All this juggling did not eliminate my excess luggage fine just brought it down to US$120! And I had no choice but to pay. After that I headed for immigration and then to the gate struggling with all my hand bags as trolleys were not allowed after a certain point.
My flight was quite pleasant and comfortable in contrast. It was a light flight and the aircraft was practically empty so I could stretch my legs and take a nice nap. However once we landed in Bangkok I was anxious once again about my stay. I struggled to stand in the immigration counter queue for a full 15 minutes before my turn came and when it did I realised that I had not obtained my visa on arrival! So staggering I first went to exchange my USD for Bahts and then to the visa counter where I spent 300 bahts for my visa and 150 bahts for my photograph! As I was just leaving that counter a lady came running up to me with a vanity case that looked exactly like mine…..apparently I had forgotten the case at the exchange counter! Once again by the time I reached the baggage carousel there were no other passengers around which made me realise how long I had taken to reach there. Someone had taken my bags off the carousel and they were standing there looking lonely waiting for me. I quickly settled all my bags onto a nice trolley and headed for the hotel reservation desk. I gave my budget and requirements to the lady in the following order of priority:
–close to the airport
–american breakfast included
–transport to and fro included
A quick dialogue followed and all was settled for Hotel Siam Beverly at a total cost of US$108 for one night!
The next day I woke up early to do full justice to my American breakfast and then headed for the sightseeing bus tour. We were taken to two Buddha temples which I enjoyed seeing. I suddenly felt very good about myself, very confident after having handled the hotel booking and getting such a good deal! I felt like rewarding myself and decided to do some last minute shopping. I asked the tour operator to drop me to a street market which was not very expensive. She dropped me off to Indra market writing down the hotel address in Thai for me since I had to find my own way back to the hotel. I had a good one hour to shop which I did and feeling much better and happier now that I was going to Bombay soon, I hired a ‘tuk-tuk’ (small rickshaw) and showed the address to the driver. He smiled confidently and I sat down and started dreaming about my flight back home. After one hour of driving around in some narrow lanes I realised that he did not know the address at all. I yelled at him and asked him to find out as it was already 2.00pm by then and I had to leave the hotel by 3.00pm for the airport! After another 15-20 minutes he finally got me to my hotel, I jumped out from his ‘tuk-tuk’, literally threw his fare at him (I was very upset) and ran up to my room. I finished my final packing carrying more stuff in my plastic carry bags as I was determined not to pay any excess luggage duty this time and I left for the airport in the hotel van.
At the airport I was pleasantly surprised that I was not asked to pay for any excess luggage and now wished that I put more of my hand luggage into the suitcases as these were getting increasingly heavy to carry! But that did not stop me from buying a bottle of whiskey for my father at a duty-free shop. I am sure I looked like one of those nincompoop first-time plane travelers as I entered the aircraft carrying all these plastic bags, struggling to walk up the aisle. After I had deposited all of them in the overhead racks and mentally made a note of their final number, I sat down and relaxed. I had an excellent flight and I must have been smiling throughout as one of the air hostesses came upto me and asked me if I was going home after a very long time and I say “Yes” with a full smile, eyes beaming!
The flight was perfect, the landing was smooth and I was so happy to be back in my country that I just could not wait to get my bags out and run. I had never so happy in my life to see my father when I saw him just outside the aircraft, He had used all his special contacts to come all that way inside the airport, almost inside the aircraft to fetch me and to me he felt like a true super-hero at that time.
As I walked out I was giggling to myself and all the earlier problems that I had faced seemed so trivial that I was amazed I was actually worried about them! Having lived a sheltered life all throughout, I thought I was not very equipped to handle odd situations but this trip made me realise that wasn’t true, that I was quite capable of looking after myself. I give full credit for this to my parents who not only protected us and gifted us with all the world’s comforts but also gave us enough freedom to experience life’s realities and empowered us to take our own decisions with confidence and courage.