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When We Were Almost Deported

Travel isn’t always about rainbows and butterflies, something that I keep talking about (especially when I am traveling) It isn’t always about fancy places, foods and outfits, there is a lot of research, sweat and sometimes even tears that go into curating some of the most memorable travel moments. Even when it comes to the “ugly” moments, moments that make you go “never doing this again” travel is a great teacher. Failure, mishaps, goof ups, all of them contribute to the learning process, and that is why I will keep traveling till I can.

All of you know about the time in Rome when I realised the boy was probably the best thing to have happened to me….that trip taught me so much about LOVE. Our recent getaway to Cambodia also ended up being an eventful one thanks to a bunch of travel fails. I obviously have to share this story with you ?

Brace yourself. It’s story time!

We flew to Siem Reap on Singapore Airlines, and the journey was comfortable, convenient and uneventful. It is the journey back that was filled with roadblocks. Wish we could have said the same about getting back.

Night before travel- A storm rages on the island, I go to bed early, praying to the Universe to clear the skies by the next day. We need to be on the boat back to the main land by 7:30am, because unfortunately, everything is timed by the minute. If this boat isn’t allowed to go out into the waters, we might be missing our flight back home.

Suddenly it feels so strange, alienated, to be in the middle of all that water, cut off from the land.

Day of travel- 5:00 am

I take my mug of warm water and sit in the kitchenette, looking out at the sea. The skies are clearing, the anxiety of traveling through bad weather is reducing.

7:00 am

The boat gets clearance. We check out and head to the boat. The ride back on the speedboat is somewhat smooth (compared to what rest of the day felt like)

9:00 am

We reach land. The taxi arranged for us is ready to take us to the airport.

10:20 am

We arrive at the airport. It is the size of a tiny mansion, which means not more than 1 flight is allowed to operate at a given point. We have some time to kill, so we sit in the coffee shop and enjoy a cup of overpriced cappuccino.

12:00 pm

Our check in takes some time because Air Asia Cambodia needs to confirm with Air Asia Kuala Lumpur if we are allowed to board, since we do not have a visa for KLN. We show them the transit visa details on the website (only eligible to get this visa INSIDE Kuala Lumpur airport) and KLN confirms the same. We have our boarding passes with us by 12:20 pm.

1:15 pm

We’re all set to take off. The fight duration is 90 minutes.

4:30 pm (Kuala Lumpur time- one and a half hours ahead of Cambodia)

We land in KLN and head straight to the Transit Visa counter. After 10 minutes of silence, the officials ask us to head to the Immigration Office since Indians do not need this visa. We are confused, because how else are we supposed to collect our luggage?

5:30 pm

I am standing in line at the Mc Donald’s counter, feeling nauseous and weak (The Gurgaon guy standing behind me cannot stop talking about Nando’s and it’s taking me a lot of will power to not hug him and tell him how happy I am to know that there is another Indian around me in this strange, rude, scary airport.) The last 45 minutes had been spent in the Immigration Office where we were asked to go back to Cambodia (the word deportation never sounded more scary. I felt my stomach drop, I think even the boy panicked slightly) Upon insisting that we wanted to go back to India and all that we needed the visa for was to collect our baggage, they agreed to do us a ‘favour’and give us the boarding passes for our flight to India (Kochi) Our luggage unfortunately would stay in KLN, and once we reached Kochi, we’d have to file in a complaint and request Air Asia to send us the luggage there.

Here’s the thing guys- it’s totally Air Asia’s fault for not transferring our luggage even when we were flying the same airlines, but when you are in such a position, all that you want to do is get back to a place that feels familiar. I didn’t even bother arguing. I clutched my boarding pass close to my chest, got myself a burger which I needed to eat before I had my medicine for the headache that had started, and sat in a corner near the boarding gate, waiting to get in.

8:30 pm

After 4 hours of imagining the worst (most of them along the lines of what if they come here and find us, and ask us to get back to Cambodia? Excuse me, I have watched a lot of dramatic movies in life) the boarding had finally begun. My heart would skip a beat each time we were asked to show our tickets and passports.

9:30 pm

We are all set to take off when there is a medical emergency RIGHT NEXT TO OUR SEAT. Of course I panicked and took it as a sign that something was definitely going wrong.

10:15 pm

The boy mentions checking in to our next flight from Kochi to Pune would be a good idea since we might not have enough time when we land. As soon as I finish checking in, I drop in a message to Indigo about a possible delay, requesting them to wait for us. We lose Wi-Fi connectivity immediately after this, but *phew* this was done!

We finally take off, 45minutes behind schedule. This is when I realise we would have 30 minutes to land in Kochi International Airport, clear Immigration and then check in to our domestic transfer. All signs of sleep vanish as anxiety takes over for the next 4 hours.

11:45 pm (IST- We are 3 hours behind KLN)

We land in Cochin, sprint through the LOOOOONG airport, clear Immigration, sprint all the way to the Domestic Terminal which is around 1 km away. I am thanking my stars for being fit, this feels like an obstacle race by now.

12:00 pm

Indigo staff are Godsent, no kidding. Not only have they received the tweet informing them of the delay, they are ready to accommodate us in then flight which is ready for the runway (!!!!) They escort us through security and we run up to the plane, thanking them as if they saved our lives.

12:10 am

As soon as we settle into our seats, the flight is on the runaway. We finally take a deep breathe and laugh. We made it! The adrenaline rush means we are not tired or sleepy anymore.

2:15 am

We land in Pune. We immediately head to the Air Asia office and inform them about our luggage. We are told we’d get an update by the next morning.

We head to celebrate homecoming with a cup of filter coffee. Halfway through this cup I ask for the bag that had all the chocolates we got from duty free (worth 11k, because I have no control that way)

The boy sprints to the exit gate near the luggage belt, realising he had forgotten the bag inside. After running around from one counter to the other, he finally gets the bag after paying a fine of 500INR. Our adventure finally ends at 2:45 am.

The next day was spent coordinating with Air Asia in Cochin and KLN, and the day after that we travelled to Kochi to collect our luggage since Air Asia could not get it to us in Pune. Since we had a lot of valuable items in our baggage, spending 15,000INR to go back to collect our luggage wasn’t that big a deal. *sigh*

Lessons learnt?

  1. Low cost airlines suck. If you are traveling international, please save up some more and invest in a good flight experience.
  2. Your country is home. Period. That sense of comfort, or belonging, that joy of getting back to familiar territory is unparalleled.
  3. Traveling together as a couple is a great idea since it helps you figure out how you’ll deal with life together. Once again, the boy maintained his calm while I freaked out internally. Once again, he took charge while I lost control. Once again, he was the only reason I felt calm, secure, safe even in the middle of a panic attack. Once again, he showed me what the true meaning of “constant” is.

As I said, travel fails are as important as travel successes. It takes the good, bad and ugly to teach you something, and I will keep saying this- Travel is the best teacher there is. You will only know if you go.

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