Sometimes the best-laid plans can come undone – especially in travel. When that happens, even though it gets really stressful at that moment, it gets funnier with time.
Tathagata and I are meticulous planners. We plan everything down to the T so that there are no surprises that we can’t handle. When we went to Pattaya for our honeymoon in 2018, it was our first trip abroad. So we were extra careful.
We went over the entire plan a million times to make sure we weren’t missing anything. We double-checked our tickets. Virtually checked out pre-booked activities. All the transits in between were accounted for. Bags packed and re-packed. All set and ready to go!
When we landed in Bangkok, we couldn’t wait to get our honeymoon started. We had a whole city to explore and we knew just where we would go.
A 3-hour cab drive deposited us and our bags at the hotel. Our check-in time was 2:00 pm and we were early by 2 hours. We had no complaints because the waiting area was straight out of a rustic dream. The hotel lobby had a long, broad walkway right from the street leading up to the reception with open spaces on both sides. The length of the walkway filtered out the street noise, giving it a calm, laidback vibe. The high ceiling was arched and lined with wooden beams with slow-moving fans and lighting weaved between them. The exposed ceiling set the tone for the entire space. The open spaces on both sides had lots of not-heavily-manicured landscaping. Plants were aplenty. The sunlight looked warm and welcoming on the leaves. Both these spaces had small ponds teeming with fish. The décor reflected the cool comforts of the beach. The chairs were comfortable. We sank into them and sipped on our welcome drink. Nothing could dampen our spirits.
Or so we thought.
After about 15 minutes, the lady at the reception walked up to us and wanted to allot our rooms while we waited so that we could move in as soon as the rooms were ready. We followed her to the reception desk and produced our booking receipts. She gave it a once-over and started typing the names into the computer. Gradually her smile started to fade out. She couldn’t locate our booking in their system.
In our marriage, I do the panicking. And I was inching closer to it with every re-check. Tathagata sensed it instantly. He steered me back to the oasis of a waiting area, seated me down and ordered another drink for me to cool my nerves while he did the heavy lifting.
A few minutes later, I saw Tathagata walking back to me. He has this perpetual straight face that gives away nothing. I have given up on trying to discern emotions under that face now. But in 2018, the relationship was pretty new and sitting in that chair, sipping on the cool orange drink, I tried my best to drill through and catch anything that his face would spill. Nothing. It was only when he spoke that I knew it was good news. Turned out, there had been a miscommunication between our agent and the hotel about our booking. It was sorted pretty quickly. Moments later, we were ushered into our room with our bags.
The rest of the trip went pretty much as planned. The sea did so many good things to my soul. The cuisine was top-notch. The locals were always smiling. We loved everything we saw.
For the final leg of the trip, we were to be picked up from the hotel at 8 in the morning for a day trip with sight-seeing halts and taken to Bangkok for a rest-stop at a hotel after which we would board a flight back home. The trip to Bangkok was to happen in a shared cab with at least 3 other families who would be picked up from different hotels. We decided that we wouldn’t stay out late the night before since we had to pack our things before going to bed. We aimed to be bathed, fed breakfast and sitting pretty in the lobby before 8 am the next morning so that we don’t hold up anyone else’s plans.
Little did we know that the universe had other plans for us.
When you are on vacation, your mind seems to follow its own clock. The sea air had pumped our brains full of adrenaline. Everything seemed possible and our schedule seemed to always have room for an extra hour to hit the streets and be a part of the Pattaya nightlife. So we ended up roaming the streets without a care in the world, stretching our schedule too thin. One hour led to another and then another until we lost track of time. By the time we returned to the hotel, it was too late and we were too exhausted to pack. We decided to catch a couple hours of sleep and wake up early to pack. So we pulled our shoes off and hit the sack immediately.
The next thing I remember is waking up to the phone ringing beside the bed. Eyes closed, still dreaming, I picked up the receiver. A sweet voice from the other side said, “Ma’am, your car is here.” It took a couple of seconds for the information to register in my brain and then it all came back to me. I looked at the watch. It was 8:15 am. Shit!
Everything pretty much went belly up from there.
I took a look around me and I instantly realized that there was good news and bad news. The good news was that we had slept in our last night’s clothes which meant we didn’t need to change. The bad news was that almost all our suitcase contents were strewn around the room, which meant we had a lot of packing to do and we needed to do it yesterday. You know what I mean!
I pushed Tathagata awake. What followed next felt like a small-scale cyclone. We took to the clothes first. We picked them up and heaped them on the bed. I rolled them into a ball, dropped them in the suitcase, pushed the lid down with all my strength and Tathagata zipped it up like his life depended on it. I took care of the toiletries next while Tathagata shoved the shoes in the bag. We then combed the drawers to ensure we weren’t leaving anything behind. We tagged team for 10 minutes for all our belongings until everything was packed and zipped. We didn’t have time to brush our teeth or even look in the mirror. We didn’t care. All that mattered was the cab doesn’t leave without us.
We then called the reception to help us with the bags. I went with them and supervised their depositing in the cab while Tathagata handled the room check and bill clearing. A few minutes later, we were seated in the cab with apologetic looks on our faces. The other families were furious and frustrated with us and were staring us down with angry looks. The cab driver was fuming and probably muttering expletives under his breath. We were late by a whole 30 minutes and we had jeopardized everyone’s schedule. The tension inside the cab was intense. If you took a knife to it, I’m sure you would’ve heard a loud snap!
But thankfully it didn’t last long. As we moved out of the city, everyone started to return to their merry selves. The air in the cab somewhat cleared up. People were even coming up with conversation starters. We felt lighter and began to relax. It was a vacation after all. Not everything goes as planned. But the cab driver never smiled. You cannot make everyone happy, you know. In the Land of Smiles, we had managed to wipe the smile off one person’s face. Now if that isn’t something, I don’t know what is.
By the time we reached the hotel in Bangkok, we were famished. Freshening up was long overdue. Once bathed and fed, we felt like human beings again. Tathagata was instantly at ease and went off to sleep. I dared not close my eyes. We had a flight to catch in a few hours and I wanted to be on it without another mad rush. So I watched the city welcome the evening through the window beside the bed. And then it was time to leave.
We hadn’t unpacked since we weren’t staying the night and I didn’t want a rerun of the morning. I woke Tathagata up, we got ready, put our shoes on and were all set.
Rolling the suitcase out to the elevator, I caught Tathagata’s reflection on the long mirror that covered the length and breadth of the wall. His perpetually straight face had twisted into an almost teary one. I realized that he had fallen for Thailand and he had fallen hard. It pained me more to look at him than it did to leave. But we still had that flight to catch. So we shook the feeling off momentarily and kept our eyes glued to the watch. Nothing should be out of place this time. Not even a hair. Just as expected, things went pretty smoothly. Seated in the plane, I finally calmed down.
As the plane took off into the night sky, we promised to return and make more memories out of this wonderful country. Even if it’s a cab fiasco. Or a booking mix-up.