Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit – That’s the full ceremonial name, world’s longest place-name, of the city of Bangkok from where our return flight to Kuala Lumpur was at 7:30 p.m. local time. After a bone-cracking Thai Massage and an unwinding at the banks of Chao Phraya River, we took a tuk tuk to the Airport Link Station and sat down for the 40 minute ride to the Suvarnabhoomi Airport. The name in Thai has the same meaning as in Sanskrit – Land of Gold but pronounced as Su-var-na-ppum.
At 6 p.m. we disembarked at the Airport and strolled through the shops. Why did we reach only 1.5 hours prior to departure? Well, we generally travel light, don’t check-in bags. A backpack each is what we take on trips. An hour before departure is always enough; we were, in fact, in early that day! Mj was speculating on what to snack on, as always, and I was searching for the Flight Information on the display board. There were flights listed till 21:05 but our 19:30 one wasn’t there.
“Our flight isn’t in the list” said I while fiddling through boarding passes. “There, that’s’ the return pass”; I stopped mid-sentence and looked up with my mouth open. I passed on the piece of paper to him but he did not need to look at it to know what was wrong. He started running, shouting, “Find the taxi stand”. I sprinted behind him.
We ran to the concierge and asked her, “How long will the fastest taxi to Don Mueang International Airport take?” “At the least an hour, more if the traffic is bad”, she replied. The boarding closes 20 minutes before departure; we’ll have to clear immigration and security check as well. An hour and five minutes is the max that we had at hand. But there was no other way out, there were no Airport Link Trains to the second Airport, a Shuttle bus just left at 6 and the next was at 6:30. It was a packed evening on the roads; that’s precisely the reason why we opt for trains or metros if there is one. One among the 3 taxi drivers standing behind her came up to us and said, “Are willing to spend a little extra? I could try to take you there in about 50-55 minutes”. Did we need any further dialogue? We jumped straight into his cab.
We had no clue as to how much extra he wanted or how he would dodge the traffic? Take small lane shortcuts probably? Reading our minds he said, “I will take the highway. That is usually less crowded than the normal roads but there is a toll to be paid (150 Thai Baht – THB = 300 INR) and the final 30% of the route is a normal road. Can not help.”
The anxious us kept tapping the feet and tracking the distance to destination on Google Maps. Over-speeding on the long winding roads would have been a pleasant cruise under different circumstances. We exchanged smiles with the driver when he overtook the shuttle bus that had left before us. The highway’s empty lanes gave us hope. After what seemed like we already left acres and acres of tar behind us in just over 20 minutes, Mj broke the silence, “I did make a mental note that our flight leaves from the smaller airport in the city while booking the tickets, but totally forgot about it. Why dint you check while you planned the commute? You are the one who always does this Maps thingy”.
“Dude, you’re blaming me? It dint strike you that this wasn’t the airport’s name that you saw while booking – when you bought the train ticket, whilst in the train, after reading the sign boards, just nowhere and you blame me for jotting down the wrong route?” “Okay”, said he, “both at fault”.
Our cat fight dint last long, as we exited the motorway my anxiety and silence returned. Ahead of us lay hundreds of cars, thankfully moving but scores of them. Funnily, the station from where we took the train to the wrong airport was on our left and we’re going towards the hotel where we stayed! If only we had gone straight from the hotel! Would have been under 30 minutes of journey time, sigh.
The driver, did not even ask his name, took to the task as if his flight was due. He snaked through every little gap he found, adeptly changed lanes wherever he could. Were you previously an ambulance driver, Dear Sir? 40 minutes after we got into the cab I saw the Don Mueang International board. But there dint seem to be a straight forward entrance. We had to go around more flyovers, do more U-turns, and take more round-abouts for 10 more minutes. When he pulled up at the Departure gate he had a big grin of achievement on his face. Why won’t he when had covered about 47 kms in 50 minutes. If it was a lousy or a normal driver, the final 15 kilometers would have definitely taken us more time. He said “You won’t miss your flight, not today!”
“Thank You, Thank You”, I yelled as I rushed towards the document check counter. Our travelling light policy saved us time. By the time Mj stuffed all the money he had into the driver’s hands(a well-deserved tip!) and came in search of me, the passports were verified. More running towards the immigration counters.
“Why you come at 7 for a 7:10 boarding time, Miss”, asked the lady at the counter.
“We realised that we were at the wrong airport only after reaching Suvarnabhoomi”, I replied.
“Oh you go to the wrong airpoaa?” , read it in the South East Asian Slang – drag the Oh, compress the you-go-to-the-wrong as if it’s a single word and say it as fast as you can, make the r and t silent in airport and add aa to it – or even better, a aaaaaa. And don’t ask me why it’s a go and not a went.
“Yaaaaaa” said I and Mj in unison. She quickly stamped the passports and we rushed to the security check. A guy who was behind the immigration desk came to the security gates and was telling the officers in Thai why we were late. Or at least that’s what it looked like because he pointed at us and said suvarnaphum , suvarnaphum and the officers went Oooohh. 19:08 we were at the boarding gate with a cappuccino bought with the final 100 THB we had. And with enough time to pee before boarding.
But I wonder, why did the Taxi Driver add a “Not Today” afterthought ?? :O