The trip that my friends and I have been planning since the first quarter of the year would have ended as a big flop if not for our quick thinking and decision-making. A typhoon warning on Christmas day didn’t dampen our mood as we discussed what to pack and made last-minute purchases. We planned to go to the airport at 2:30 a.m. for our early morning flight to Bangkok the day after Christmas.
At 1:30 a.m. I received a text from the airline stating that due to typhoon signal #1, our flight has been canceled! My first move was to check the next available flight which was the evening of the same day. So, at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m., the three of us went to the airport to rebook our flight hoping that we can make it on the same day since there were only two flights to Bangkok per day.
Finally, after patiently waiting for our turn for more than two hours, we were able to talk to an agent. The next available flight was on the evening of the following day. We cannot afford to lose two full days in our itinerary because we have another inter-city flight to catch.
It’s a good thing the lady told us there’s a 7:30 p.m. flight not to Bangkok but to Phuket. Wait a minute – Phuket! Factors to consider – how far is it to Bangkok, how long will it take by bus/plane, and how much? Even if the Manila-Phuket rebooking is free of any additional charges, we had to book on a different airline from Phuket-Bangkok to save travel time.
We gave it a go and made the changes, went home to get some sleep after we booked the last Air Asia flight out of Phuket so we can get a few winks in our hotel in Bangkok before going out the next day. The afternoon of the same day, with a lot of deja vu feelings, we were back at NAIA Terminal 3 and excitedly waited for our flight.
After two hours, we finally landed in Phuket! But alas, when we got to the immigration area of Don Muang International Airport, hundreds of tourists were already there. I thought we were lining up for a rock concert! Never in my life have I seen a very huge crowd waiting for passports to get stamped. It was 10:30 p.m. and the flight to Bangkok is at 11:55 p.m.! Will we be able to make it? Language barrier aside, one of us approached a flight attendant and asked for help. Luckily, we were allowed to go to a different immigration officer and without further ado, got stamped. It was like having a fast pass in Disneyland.
The next hurdle was waiting for our luggage. I guess the gods of luck were on our side that night because they came out of the conveyor belt ahead of the rest. We still managed to take a groupie before looking for the exit to the domestic terminal. Upon seeing the Air Asia counter on the top floor, we showed our tickets but were told we had to take a bus to get to the domestic terminal because we were still inside the international terminal. The Thai lady looked like she didn’t have anything else to do that night because she left her post and accompanied us to the bus. She talked to the driver and even took our picture and sent it to the domestic counter so they’ll wait for us. That was the closest chase on a flight I did, or so I thought.
We were able to make it to our Bangkok hotel and get a few hours sleep before venturing the next day. I’ll write more on our Bangkok adventures in another blog entry.
Our chasing planes didn’t end on the day we arrived. Fast forward to day 3 and we found ourselves at Suvarnabhumi International Airport on our way to Hanoi. Well, we thought we were early for our flight that afternoon so we took our time to eat a Thai lunch before passing through immigration. Biggest mistake! The lines at the immigration were so long and it was so chaotic we didn’t even know if we were in the proper line.
Desperately looking for an officer to help us since our flight is boarding in about 10 minutes, we found no one. So we asked the kind couple in front of us to allow us to get ahead of them, which they did. That wasn’t the end of it though for we had to queue for the secondary inspection of our hand-carried bags and it just seemed like forever. Time was running out! As soon as we got past that, and after looking at the screen for the correct boarding gate, we ran through all the maze of shops inside Suvarnabhumi to make it to our flight on time. I swear I won’t pass through this busy airport in the near future. I forgot that Bangkok is the top most visited city in the world.
Throughout our trip, we felt like we were in an amazing race with all the huffing and puffing we did. We were so glad to reach Hanoi safe that evening and looked forward to a different adventure for the rest of the trip.