Over the last week, I went to Phuket, to the idyllic Koh Lanta, then back to Bangkok for Songkran and self-deportation. I will write up all of these things this week. This post was intended to be that write-up, but I’ve had such an eventful morning getting from Bangkok to Manila, I thought I’d share my Monday so far. Note some of the events in this post unfolded while I was writing the post.
With my experience of Songkran over earlier than I would have wished (another 48 hours would have been perfect) it was time for me to leave my beloved Thailand towards a place that I have no doubt will become my new crush, the Philippines.
We got back to the hostel at 0330. This was going to be tuff. I had a warm shower and washed my clothes. I knew they wouldn’t dry in 2 hours. I’d have to put them in a carrier bag and then take it out 6 hours later in the Philippines smelling less than delightful. #BackpackerProblems
Getting to the airport
My alarm went off at 6am. Only 2 hours of sleep but completely worth it. I had agreed to share a taxi with somebody the night before. The taxi would pick me up outside the hostel at 0630. We agreed a 10-minute window, both of us would wait until 0640, if the other didn’t turn up, it was fair game to get to the airport alone.
Ryan was a no-show. But, at 0640 a cab drove past, he was happy to take me to the airport on the meter, that’s the kind of luck I needed after so little sleep. 210฿ to the airport (c. £4) not bad.
At the checkout counter the Cebu check-in attendant asked for an outbound ticket from the Philippines. I haphazardly said I didn’t have one and smiled. She insisted that I need an outbound ticket. Those of you who know me will be aware of my inability to experience, convey, or even fake a sense of panic; even if a truck full of TNT, coated with Nitroglycerine in wooden boxes put in the back of the truck with woodpeckers was hurtling towards me at 300mph I may just step out the way, shrug my shoulders and finish whatever sarcastic sentence I was in the middle of. Sensing her slightly panicked state on my behalf, I reassured her that it’s absolutely fine that I don’t have a return ticket and that I can simply just buy it in the Philippines. I warmly smiled again and nodded affirmatively.
She said with some more urgency that the computer wouldn’t let her check me in without departure information. My gut told me that once again smiling and reaffirming that everything would be fine may not work. “What departure information do you need?” I asked hoping that a flight number was all that was required; that could easily be found on Google. “Flight number and booking confirmation number”. She said you have 45 mins to book a flight either with Cebu or another airlines. She apologised again saying there’s nothing she can do. I said I’d be back.
I hopped onto the free WIFI at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. For my own sanity the first thing I googled was “foreign office philippines entry”. The first hit was what I was looking for. The UK Foreign Office page for the Philippines. Sense check over, it was there clearly:
Evidence of onward travel
Entry to the Philippines may be refused if you are unable to produce evidence of return or onward travel – for example an onward or return air ticket.
Next I tried to find a noncommittal solution to my current predicament. I Googled “Philippines to Indonesia by boat”. They surely couldn’t expect me to have pre-booked a boat ticket. I could describe my exit route and hopefully that would be okay. Alas, Google said no. Apparently there hasn’t been an international tourist shipping route between the Philippines and Indonesia for some years now.
Next up was to work out the date 30 days from Monday 13th April (I would be given entry to the Philippines for 30 days as a tourist) and start searching for reasonably priced flights. On just two hours sleep I had to decide where to go. The temptation to hit take me anywhere on Skyscanner and find a cheap flight to ‘wherever’ was almost overwhelming. No seriously. I’m highly price elastic right now and at low price points there aren’t many places that I’m not indifferent between.
But, having had repeated conversations with my parents of meeting in Indonesia in May, as well as having heard some spectacular things about Indonesia, I selected Bali as my destination. After fiddling around with the dates I booked a £100 flight from Manila to Bali. With more time I’m sure I could have worked out a cheaper and more fun route but time wasn’t on my side.
I walked back to the excessively polite check-in attendant, once again with a warm smile on my face. I showed her the information she needed to help me to get on the flight. Once done, she smiled at me once again with a look of relief on her face on my behalf. As I zipped up the cover on my backpack I over heard the guy on the counter next to me getting very irritable and loud.
[Okay, the next conversation happened exactly as written below, verbatim. Those of you reading who are slightly more vocal in debates – you know who you are, yeah I’m talking to you – will wonder why I walked away; and those of you who avoid confrontation like the plague – you know who you are, yeah I’m talking to you – will wonder why I let the conversation got that far instead of just walking away.
Either way, please be warned: remove any items of jewellery from your fingers and hands before proceeding to read, you will slap your own head reading this and I’d prefer you didn’t get hurt.]
“So I need to book a flight? I can’t possibly be the only one in this situation. It must happen to a lot of people. How can you let that happen”, he loudly said in his American accent at the check-in assistant.
I turned to him and replied, “Yeah it does. I just had to buy a return ticket.”
“It’s crazy, how can there be no information. They must surely have to warn you. It doesn’t sound right.”
“I went and looked it up on the UK Foreign Office website, it says the entry requirements clearly, a return ticket is needed.”
“Yeah, but nobody really reads the words, do they!”
“I suppose, then, that’s really our fault.”
“No, that’s not my problem.”
I chuckled trying to lighten the mood, “Well, it is our problem. Because we have to buy a flight now.”
“It shouldn’t be my problem. Not these days. This is going to go on Google and then they’re going to have a problem.”
“How d’you mean it’s gonna go on Google? And who’s they? And why is it their problem?”
“Man this is gonna go on Google and then they’re going to have a massive problem! They’re gonna regret doing this. When this goes on Google they’ll be sorry”
“How d’you know somebody’s not already written about it? Did you Google it?”
The words came into my head, but I didn’t say it…”D’you think if you had Googled it and read the words you may not be in this pickle?”…I just walked away keen to get through security.
Okay fellow readers, you can put your jewelry back on. I desperately hoped I wouldn’t be sat anywhere near him on the plane. It turns out I probably won’t show distress at the thought of a volatile truck hurtling towards me, but lock me in a metal can in the sky next to somebody like that and I would probably become volatile. Things I probably would have pointed out:
(1) You are not always right
(2) Google isn’t a message board, you can’t simply ‘put things’ on Google
(3) Even if you get things onto Google most people won’t read it
(4) You clearly have Google and love Google, maybe use Google before you try and put things on Google, allow me to help
(5) Also just read the email you got from Cebu Pacific:
Valid Passport and Visa
You are responsible for ensuring compliance with the immigration, custom and other legal requirements of any destination you have flown from, or will fly into or over.
a. Passport should be valid six (6) months from the date of your departure.
b. All the applicable visas should be secured, including transit visas.
c. Printed copy of your onward or return ticket should be readily available.
(6) Don’t use “Yeah but nobody reads the words” as an excuse for you stupidity and as a way to deflect blame onto others
(7) Realise by your own logic, putting something on Google is pointless if “nobody really reads the words”
(8) Don’t blame a check-in assistant for a Government’s foreign policy
(9) Don’t blame an airline for a Government’s foreign policy
(10) Don’t blame a check-in assistant for your inability to Google
(11) Don’t blame an airline for your inability to Google
(12) Don’t shout at somebody trying to help you – treat people like people – we’re all human
(13) In the words of Ricky Gervais, “Just because you’re offended, doesn’t make you right”
Feel free to add to the list in the leave a comment section, I’ll happily re-post the funniest of your submissions.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t read the email, but then I wasn’t outraged. Also I think I read the entry requirement a month ago, but chose to ignore it because I’ve found most countries to not actively enforce this requirement.
Also I’m not saying we should read everything, I know there’s a few situations when we collectively don’t ‘really read the words’
What I’m saying is, don’t be outraged when that comes back to bite you in the arse.
On the plane
Once on the plane, I found my seat. Once the cabin doors shut I was relieved not to be sitting next to, nor in the vicinity of the aforementioned charater.
While I busily tapped away on my laptop writing up this blog post, my ears pricked up when I heard the flight attendants saying over the speaker system, “Cebu Pacific Air are committed to being leaders in innovation which is why we have developed additional services for you convenience…” They had my undivided professional interest. They continued [I started typing this down instantly so this is more or less verbatim!]
“For a small premium you can enjoy the luxury of picking your own seat. For a small premium fee you can order your food before boarding the plane. Simply go to www.cebupacificair.com. To bring you the best service we can on this flight, we offer a comprehensive duty free service onboard”.
Shake a stick at that Apple, you’ve just been schooled on innovation. Also I hope they’ve patented these innovations lest somebody steals them.
I am now safely in Manila. Happy Monday