“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
– From ‘To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough’ by Robert Burns
Plan: 20:15 transfer flight from Thailand – Tucked up in bed in pre-booked accommodation in Yangon by 9:30 after a long couple of days travelling.
Reality: Wandering round the streets of Bangkok in the rain at 11 at night, alone, luggage in tow trying to find a place to spend the night.
How did this happen? Well. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had a ‘testing’ day.
I arrived into Bangkok airport, frail and exhausted, at around 6 o’clock local time after two long flights and a transit period in Delhi. The ‘jet airways’ Indian plane food had not made the experience any easier on my stomach. I won’t go into detail on that point. I head straight to the transfer desk stopping to inquire first that my luggage was going to be on the flight – I didn’t want a repeat of Rio. The young women at the desk promptly told me, with smiles on their faces I may add, that I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the country without a visa. What the hell was all of that bollocks I read about a ‘Visa On Arrival’? Absolute nightmare. Clearly my thorough research had been outdated or just plain wrong.
At this stage I had a minor break down as all the difficulties this presented became apparent to me: I would need to go and get a Visa from the Myanmar embassy in the city tomorrow. Of course they gave no helpful information such as how long this might take or where it was – they just guessed a couple of days. I therefore managed to push my case firmly enough to get my flight rescheduled for two days time. I then frantically headed off to find internet – calling the hotel I’d booked to warn them of my delayed arrival as I went.
The major problem in all this was the complete lack of English spoken. In fact, as my story develops the language barrier becomes increasingly crippling. This is actually the first time I’ve been to a country which doesn’t have a European-based first language (or places where pretty much everyone speaks English anyway) so I felt completely isolated.
I found out that it was in fact possible to get a visa in one day – with lots of queuing and a day spent at the embassy to look forward to but I couldn’t really be picky at this stage. So I hurried to the arrivals (being now shut off from the previous desk that’d been ‘helping’ me) and after 10 minutes of frantic searching found someone who could change my flight again to tomorrow.
Great. Well now at least I only had one night in a strange city to worry about. As far as strange cities go, Bangkok is pretty outstanding. It seems like a scene out of a vivid nightmare – a chaotic mesh of roads crossing over each other in the mess and rain. Taxi’s are the least of the evils but even then, you can’t be sure that you’re not about to re-enact ‘taken’ – but crucially without Liam Neeson and his ‘particular set of skills’. I looked up a hotel near the embassy, gave the name to a taxi driver and off we went.
Of course, it’s never that simple. He took me to a different hotel with a similar name. I’d even pointed at a map! It became increasingly apparent that even the taxi drivers don’t have a clue about places in the city. So I had to appeal to another non-English speaking lady at the reception of a hotel miles away from where I needed to be with a price tag as high as Mount Everest on the rooms per night. She thankfully helped me to order another taxi which, of course, had no Idea what I was talking about. I eventually managed to break through with ‘Myanmar embassy’ so we headed there where he promptly dropped me in the middle of nowhere.
Here we are back where I started. I did manage to find a hostel eventually, thank-god. Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be easier.