Wednesday, August 18, 2010

in limbo

Oh, hi there. I bet you thought I'd be in Bhutan by now. Well, so did I.

I'll pick up where my past post ended. I left Hong Kong Tuesday morning, arrived at Bangkok, spent less than two minutes clearing customs, found my luggage and met my ride to my hotel. Smooth, smooth, smooth. Since I ended my job on Friday and flew out on Sunday, and given that I had just 18 hours in Bangkok, I decided to treat myself to a very nice hotel room near the airport for some well deserved relaxation. It was a major indulgence but the plan was not to go into the city at all, skipping that frustration and exhaustion for some down time in luxury.

I swam in the posh swimming pool in the hot afternoon and later in the evening, I napped in the king-sized bed and I enjoyed a Thai dinner. I could see the Drukair jet in its parking spot on the tarmac from the hotel. Everything was simple now. The stress whirl-wind of the past couple of weeks was beginning to ease.

Yesterday at 3:45 AM, I was at the Drukair counter with all my luggage and documentation, ready to board that long awaited flight back to Paro.

When the check-in agent wrinkled his brow at my paperwork and took it to show someone else, I got a little concerned. Nobody likes to see their documents being scrutinized closely. He returned and told me simply that my visa documentation was insufficient and that I was not allowed to board the flight.

What I had in the way of visa documentation was a page signed by the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showing my full name, passport number, visa number and a statement that I was permitted to enter Bhutan. It was the only document I had been issued and I had been told that it was all I needed. Apparently, what I actually needed was a page with all this same information but which was specifically addressed to the Station Manager of Drukair. Because the visa letter was not directly addressed to the airline, it was meaningless.

So, I was not allowed to fly. And I was very upset and I unintentionally caused a bit of a scene. You must understand, I'd traveled 12,000 km and had very little sleep over the previous 48 hours - I was fragile. Various people tried to console me including kindly Anna from Germany who is also going to Bhutan to work pro bono, and a gentleman named Karma who tried to tease a few smiles out of my tears. But I was at a complete loss. It was 3 AM in Bhutan and no government offices would be open by the time the flight departed. I couldn't do anything. I didn't know if perhaps I was never actually granted a visa and had made the trip so far for nothing. If I was able to get the visa paperwork resolved, how was I going to afford to buy a new Drukair ticket given that I'm now unemployed? Also, how was I going to contact the phone-less friend who would be picking me up to say that I was not on the flight? And there was no flight on Thursday so at minimum, I would be stranded in Bangkok for two days. I could not return to the hotel I had left because I could certainly not afford more than one night there. In summary, I was powerless and overwhelmed with confusion and disappointment.

It's now Thursday morning. I found myself a cheap-o motel with wifi near the airport. As soon as offices opened in Bhutan yesterday, the proper paperwork was obtained for me. The re-booking of the flight is the trouble now. Yesterday, I went on a big expedition into the city to find the airline office and was told everything was fine and that I would get a new e-ticket within an hour. That was almost 18 hours ago and there's no e-ticket yet. I'm waiting for 9 AM to arrive so that I can call the office and find out what the latest problem is. Maybe I'll fly tomorrow but maybe not. That's all I know at the moment. Oh, and also I packed no clothing suitable for Bangkok in August so besides all the other issues, I'm very uncomfortable in the heat.

That's it for now.

Updated an hour later: After some frustrations with outdated or wrong numbers on the airline website, I was able to use a connection for more direct help in the matter and the re-booked e-ticket was sent out within minutes of that call. So things are in better shape now and I will try my luck at the airport again tomorrow morning.


Les said...

Oh man oh man! What a frustration! I'm so glad that everything has finally worked out - have a great flight!

Little Opal said...

Oh, holy frustrating! I hope that eticket works out and you're where you want to be really, really soon.
Hang in there, A!

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