About Me (2)
General Stuff (9)
New York (3)
People I've Met (6)
Preparations and Inspiration (3)
Lurking Around on Travel Sites
In My Own Bed
Pray For It
Seattle and Interesting Uses of Pyrex
Heading to Seattle
Weekend Out of Hippyville
The $330 Trip to the Oregon Country Fair
July 4th, 2004
More Books I've Read
Why Are These People Talking to Me?
There And Back Again
I Wanted To End It All
Summing Up the Gobi
June 15, 2004
I Wanted To End It All
That's right. The last 2.5 days of my life here on the road were the ROCK BOTTOM of the whole time and also qualify as being possibly 2 of the worst days in my life.
Everything seemed relaxed on the morning of June 13, the day I was supposed to fly to Beijing, and connect to Bangkok. I emptied my pack of non-essentials, got a cheap lift to the airport, and sat back to relax at the "happening" airport in Ulan Bator. After waiting for the usual 1.5 hours until boarding time, we were informed that due to a bit of rain and gray skies, our flight would be delayed six hours. Freakin hell, it was only drizzling!!! I sat back and watched Euro 2004 soccer on the TV.
I think the sight of civilization and soccer put me in way too relaxed mood because when I got up to change the channel (some Mongolian show came on), I dropped my passport and tickets. I didn't notice until about 45 minutes later when I had moved to another seat.
Needless to say, I shat myself.
Imagine, I'm in the UB airport, and now I've lost my documents. No one speaks English and I don't speak Mongolian or Russian. I remembered that the woman at the exchange office spoke a bit so I went to ask her where to find security or the police. She invited me in to sit down, probably because it looked like I was on the brink of tears, and I was. When the "officer" came, she told him I lost my stuff and with that I broke down and wept like a baby. After being spit on, I just wanted to leave the freaking country of Mongolia, ya know??
They ushered me to some other office with video cameras and surveillance. I pointed on the screen where I had been sitting and they all began discussing. When asked how much money I was missing and I replied none, all interest was lost in the problem. The exchange woman then asked why it was a problem. I wanted to tear my eyes out with frustration.
At some point, another man, obviously reeking of vodka, kept trying to ask me why I was so upset. I explained and he kept saying "no problem" and trying to sit next to me on the couch. At one point he even trying to put his arm around me. With that I went over to the door and asked if I could call the embassy.
Another man found me the number and I was connected with an very sweet and polite man named David. David had the reassuring accent I wanted to hear- American. Never have I EVER been so happy to communicate with one of my countrymen. Anyway, David suggested I go back to the guesthouse, check back in, and call him when I got there. Before I left the airport, the nice currency exchange lady asked me to leave her the number of my guesthouse "just in case." She also arranged the price of the taxi because I was obviously too stressed out to deal with it.
I promptly called David, who was able to put things in motion for me to have an emergency passport in the morning, and would try to expedite another Chinese visa. As soon as I hung up, the airport called to say they had found my documents!!! I was overjoyed and the daughter of the guesthouse I was staying at (Nassan's) hugged me she was so happy for me. I immediately hopped back in a cab (same one ironically) and raced back to the airport, happy as could be- temporarily. As it turned out, a woman had found my passport and tickets on the floor but then returned home after hearing about the flight delay. She called Air China to inform them and they called my guesthouse. The woman was not then in the airport and I waited very anxiously for her to show up, both to thank her and to get them back.
As it turned out, the flight was further delayed, and I got more and more stressed out. The last of the passengers were being checked in and immigration was closing when a random man showed up with my documents. The lady had decided to catch another flight and had sent this random guy to bring them to me. I thanked him profusely and then RAN to get through check in, customs, immigration, all that.
Needless to say, I was highly worked up by the time I got on the plane. There was no hope of catching my connecting flight to Bangkok so I was going to be stuck in the Beijing for the night. Air China, those bastards, kept herding us on to buses and no one seemed to have any idea about how to proceed the next day. Finally, one ground staff said that it was best to come back at 7am when ticketing opened to get my ticket reassigned. I arrived at the hotel at 1:15ish, tired, starving, and high strung. I shoved my way through the line rudely and got a room key.
I caught the airport bus to the airport and was standing at the ticketing counter of Air China at 7:20AM. I was told that they would take yesterday's ticket and transfer it to today's flight and I nearly fell over- that meant ANOTHER 13 hours in the airport. I flipped out because I had been told to come at 7am. I could have relaxed, watched TV, eaten something, gone for a swim, WHATEVER, rather than sit in the Beijing airport for 13 hours. The Air China staff told me I was lucky they didn't change me for the ticketing change because they aren't responsible for anything.
I enquired why they couldn't transfer me to the earlier Thai Airways flight and they explained that my ticket was the wrong type to do this- didn't my agent explain this? I replied that I bought it directly from Air China and no, they didn't explain this. The man made a face and decided he'd had enough of me so he turned his back on me. I lost my temper, and told them they were dicks. Not my best moment, but I was still tired, hungry, and stressed. I love customer service.
Thirteen hours in any airport is shitty, but Beijing takes the cake. There are almost no chairs, no waiting areas, no decent places to eat, and literally nothing to do. It has no business center for email, and even a lack of phones. I spent eleven of those hours trying to find the balance between moving around (with my pack because they wouldn't check me in being it was too early) and falling asleep on any free chair I could find. Once, after my legs fell asleep, I got up for a few minutes and walked around. When I returned to the three rows of chairs, someone had moved into mine, fair enough, so I sat in a different one. The man next to me made some motion with his hand which I knew meant he was saving it, but I pretended not to understand and didn't move. I was past the point of manners.
Finally I checked in and the gate started to fill up. A Spanish man who had seen me on the UB flight saw me and struck up a conversation. I'm sure he wishes he didn't because after raging all day internally, I told the whole story in more detail than I'm sure was necessary. He was good natured about it and we chatted for a while before boarding.
I have never been so happy to see Bangkok. I arrived, was the first through immigration, got my bags quickly, and got a taxi. For anyone who has read a few of my posts, I hate taxi drivers, and as per usual, this one was a dick. I have been to Suk11 many times and I know how to get there by taxi or bus and this guy was driving in circles. In fact, he just happened to go by landmarks I know so I'm sure he's driving in circles. Finally, I began to tell him off, and surprisingly, 5 minutes later we were there. They he tried to overcharge me (I know what it should cost) and I gave him the fair price, and turned my back.
I walked in and was greeted by Anil of Suk 11 who knows me by sight now. I apologized for being a day later than my reservation but refrained from explaining the reason why. I like him, he doesn't need me to rant at him while he's half asleep.
Today I caught the bus to train station to buy a ticket to Chiang Mai, in the AC section, because I felt splashing out. It was a hassle-free transaction and I was glad for it. Using the buses instead of the evil taxis made me feel better, and I treated myself to a movie and some cheap sushi. I saw the new Harry Potter movie and liked it better than the first two because it's darker and creepier. Damn those kids got tall!!!
Anyway, in a few minutes I'll be off on the bus again to the train station to catch my luxury train north to Chiang Mai, where I will again splash out and stay at a place that costs $8 a night. It's so decadent, but screw it! I want to come home on a good note, ya know? I'll also get massaged and maybe go to a spa for some pampering.
Posted by Claudia on June 15, 2004 06:43 AM