Here’s the deal – my bag was stolen in Phuket. I called the US Embassy in Bangkok, and Steve, the weekend Duty Officer was most helpful – told me that I need to file a police report, get to Bangkok and be at the embassy by 7.30 am Monday morning.
Step 1: File police report (in English and in Thai by the Royal Thai Police)
Edwige was kind enough to max out her ATM card and give me all her cash, and she gave me her ATM card to use the next day. Who does that! The world is full of people who take your breath away. We take a tuk tuk to the police station – and somehow managed to enjoy the ride even though we had a lot on our minds. The police report shows iPhone as the first on the list, and around #9 on the list is passport. Shows where my priorities lie!
Step 2: Get to Bangkok
Since I do not have ID anymore, I cannot take the quick 1 hour flight from Phuket to Bangkok. I take the bus – 15 long, long, long hours. But I told myself repeatedly that I had wanted to see the Thai countryside so now here was the opportunity. The whole making lemonade out of lemons mindset. Edwige even gave up her cell phone so that I could stay connected. We bought a local sim card. The tricky thing was that the phone did not have much juice left in it, so I had to use it sparingly, only for emergencies. Well, this was one hell of an emergency!
Step 3: Contemplate life, friends, and family, and the pickle I am in
The bus ride started out being amusing because I watched The Expendables dubbed in Thai! And then a horror movie– somehow, it’s not half as scary in Thai! The countryside really is pretty, lush green, rolling hills, glimpses of the sea. The bus was freezing though – I gave myself an ache just huddling against my backpack to stay warm. I thought about what I could have done differently and then quickly talked myself out of that line of thought as the goal was to survive this and make it back to Singapore. I thought some about the good stuff in life and lots about how life can suck twice over. To get myself out of the funk, I tried to focus on the logistics of making it back home - I texted Gregor to help me figure out what to do when I got to Bangkok at 2am. And he replied with “I am looking forward to this blog entry!”
Step 4: Kill time between 3am and 7.30 am
Khao San is backpacker mecca in Bangkok. Took a taxi there and even at 3am it was bustling with life. A concert had just finished, and people were milling around and all the activity made me feel safe and un-alone. Checked into the first hotel I found (no sharing a dorm for me!), showered and tried to sleep for 3 hours. Quick 3 hours, if you ask me.
Step 5: US Embassy
Took a cab to the embassy. Did not get stuck in notorious Bangkok traffic. Told myself that there is a God making sure that everything lines up. At embassy a few minutes shy of 7.30, went through security in a jiffy, was filling forms, taking photos, paying fees and was all done by 9.30. The office told me to come back at 2pm for my passport – I could have kissed him! I should have kissed him. This is where I want to pause, get down on my knees and thank the US Embassy. I know I am being a tad bit dramatic, but really, I have tremendous gratitude for how respectful, understanding, and quick they are. I hope to never see them again! Though I will send a thank you note once I get everything back online.
Step 6: Figure out money to get back to Singapore
Found an internet cafe, did some searching for flights, Gregor wired me money to a Western Union. It would seem lame to be mushy-gushy over ones friends for what they do for you, but mushy gushy I shall be! Between Edwige and Gregor, they managed my return to Singapore beautifully. While I was in Thailand, Edwige emailed work, Gregor blocked my cell phone, etc. And, good Consultants as they are, I had a status report in my email from them!
Step 7: Thai immigration
Hugged the passport office and took my new passport and dashed off to Thai immigration. In under an hour (more money, more photos, more photocopying), Thai immigration stamped my passport and I was on my way to the airport. Woohoo! I literally was willing there to be connecting flight.
Step 8: Wrangle a seat back to Singapore
Apparently, Thai airlines cannot sell tickets 4 hours prior to flight take-off, and I was at the counter 3.5 hours prior. Nonsense! I was not going to let some silly rule stop me from completing this odyssey, with everything connecting so beautifully and seamlessly. I had a discussion with the lady about how she really can be helpful, if she’d try. And she did try. 30 minutes later I not only had a ticket but she ensured that I got a great (lots of leg room) seat too!
Step 9: Singapore immigration
Efficiency, thy name is Singapore. Walked up to the immigration officer, who smiled (11pm, I needed a smile), asked a few questions (since I had also lost my Singapore visa/work permit), and cleared me. I was one happy, exhausted girl. Gregor came to get me from the airport – and here’s the best partà With a bag to replace the one I lost. Same brand, same everything. Or like the Thai say, same-same-but-different.
That’s the story, folks.
1. Show gratitude: A lot of people made all of this happen in a seamless way - Gregor, Edwige, Bangkok US Embassy, Thai immigration, Singapore immigration, Thai airways ticketing lady
2. Replace passport, phone, sunglasses, just stuff – This is a lot of work. 8 days in and I am still working on all this.
Not to do
3. Over analyse
And yes, there are a handful of pictures. Click.