Don’t Try to Fight the Travel Gods
Don’t try and fight the Travel Gods. They will win. Because they’re bigger than you, and smarter than you. Yesterday, while trying to make the trek from Koh Phangan to Hanoi was a perfect example of what they’re capable of. All the forces of the universe were represented in full force. They know what’s best, but they don’t always play fair.
It all started with a flight I booked through SkyScanner, a third party flight site, which I never like doing because they usually wash their hands of all responsibility when it comes to ensuring your travel goes smoothly. Unless, of course, you fork out a little more money for travel insurance. The airlines, on the other hand, see that you didn’t book through them so they pretend they know nothing of your ticket. This particular trip, however, required two legs served by two different airlines, and putting that itinerary together yourself isn’t easy.
Travel tip: if you do plan your itinerary using a third party site SkyScanner or Kayak, and find one that is handled entirely by a single airline or ones that are members of the same alliance, always check to see if you can get the trip directly from their site. The same price is usually available and they’ll take better care of you, make it easier to make changes and let you earn miles for your flights, which doesn’t always happen the third party route. You may just end up with miles for that particular third party site, which are about as useful as a Canadian penny (this is not a shot at the Canadian currency, on the contrary, it’s a compliment for having discontinued the penny so although it has rendered it useless, the move itself is applauded and I hope that other countries *cough* ‘merica *cough* follow suite).
The flight was scheduled for my last allowed day in Thailand before my tourist visa expires, and it was based on an uneducated decision to fly to Hanoi this time of year and work my way south to Ho Chi Minh City. Everyone I spoke to recommended the opposite as, contrary to many places in South East Asia, Hanoi does have a winter. There may not be snow, but it will not feature the comfortable, tropical climate I’ve come to expect. Well, I booked through a third party so I was stuck and therefore the ticket stood: from Koh Samui to Bangkok at 10am, arriving at 11:30, followed by my flight to Hanoi, at 4pm. Over 4 hours to make that connection so I didn’t even blink at the prospect of travel insurance.
The Travel Gods had other plans and started executing well ahead of me. The first thing I would have to do to catch my flight is take a ferry from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui. There are two piers in Koh Samui: Bangrak, which is very close to the airport, and Nathon, which is about a 45 minute taxi ride. Unfortunately, boats to Bangrak start later and the first one would not get me there on time for my flight. That means I would have to take an extremely early 7am boat to Nathon, to make time for subsequent taxi ride.
To make matters worst, upon arriving in Koh Phangan a few days ago, I rented a motorbike right at the pier and let them know I’ll be returning it when I leave. This would save me a few bucks on the taxi from the pier to the hostel, where I would have rented one anyway. Unfortunately, the rental place would not be open at 7am. I therefore had to drag Jannik, my new German friend who I rented the bikes with, along with me so he can wait for them to open and take care of the return after I jet off on the boat.
Once the Travel Gods saw I had figured this one out, They did everything in their power to prevent execution: we woke up before 6am on departure day, quickly packed and stepped outside… into a raging monsoon. The strongest one that I’ve run into on this trip, and of all the days. The road to the pier is very hilly and we were warned that it can be very slippery in these conditions on a bike. We tried to call a taxi but even they were having trouble in this weather and were extremely booked.
Not seeing any other options, we hopped on and promised to go slow and careful on the brakes. Huge kudos to Jannik for braving that with me. We were both entirely drenched when we arrived at the pier. My shoes never dried that day. And to make matters worst, the rental shop was open and running when we got there. Told you They don’t play fair.
On the ferry to Koh Samui, the waves were crazy, it was still raining, and it was all I could do to keep a warm bowl of noddles I had purchased while on board from coming back up. I took comfort in thinking that I was home free. I was on the boat and should make it to the airport with time to spare.
Indra, the deva of rain and thunderstorms, didn’t even blink. I had made it to the airport, but the plane hadn’t. At noon it still hadn’t. In fact, Indra didn’t stop the rain and let the plane land until 2pm, the exact time that would get me to Bangkok just after my flight to Hanoi had left. Asking for a replacement ticket, or credit, was futile. As mentioned, both legs were with a different airline and neither wanted to take responsibility for a flight missed due to weather conditions.
After a couple of long arguments in Bangkok, where I let the airline representatives know that I’d really like to get to Vietnam today so I don’t have to spend the night in an airport as well as overstay my tourist visa in Thailand (although apparently one day is ok), they let me know that there are no other flights to Hanoi today, but that they can get me to Ho Chi Minh City for a reasonable B2000.
Lightbulb! I get it Travel Gods. I had made a bad decision to start with Hanoi and thought there was no way out. You knew better. And man is it nice and warm here!