Remembering Why I Love Thai People – The Hard Way (Part 1)
Last weekend, I quite comprehensively proved that even those who have been travelling practically professionally for the better part of a decade are still prone to making the most rookie of mistakes. One rather monumental error led to a sequence of progressively more stressful situations which were each made more bearable by the sheer charm of the Thai people I encountered along the way.
My journey was supposed to be a quick and cheap jaunt up to Kanchanaburi for a long weekend. There was an airsoft event there on the Sunday, so I booked the Monday off work to give me the time to get back to Phuket, booked flights with AirAsia and booked a cheap but comfortable and convenient hotel. I made sure that the flights would give me a little bit of time in Bangkok along the way, too. I wanted to buy some new gear for the event.
Cometh the day and I used Grab to order a taxi to Phuket Airport. The driver who showed up was very nice. Nicknamed “Oown” – the Thai word for ‘fat’, which he pointed out was quite appropriate – he spent quite a lot of the near-hour-long journey talking about his business and the mentality behind it. He was extremely motivated, but also fully aware of the needs of his passengers. He told me that he will not employ drivers who tailgate or drive like lunatics, which was a relief to hear, as Phuket taxi drivers are somewhat notorious, in that regard.
We got to the airport safe and sound and, just as we were pulling into the entrance, I started mentally gathering my gear, thinking about what I would need next and which pocket it was in. My passport was naturally my first priority but, as I ran an inventory of the various pockets of my clothes and bag, I realised that it was not in any of them. I knew exactly where it was: the arm of my sofa, back in my apartment.
I laughed and told Oown that I’d made a really stupid mistake. I knew that there are regular flights between Phuket and Bangkok by AirAsia and other budget airlines and that booking onto the next available one could be easily achieved. It would cost a bit more than the original booking, of course, but not cripplingly so. Astonishingly, Oown spent a lot of the first half of the journey back to my apartment apologising, saying that he usually checks with his passengers to make sure that they have everything they need. I repeatedly told him that this was my own stupid fault and no one else’s, but it was a very charming gesture.
Nearly two hours later, having driven all the way home, grabbed my passport and a couple of other bits I’d forgotten in my rush to pack that morning, then driven all the way back to the airport, I finally paid what I owed. One of the major advantages of having been randomly assigned Oown was that he is one of the cheapest drivers available. While the Grab ride cost 850 baht (in accordance with the company’s rules), the other two trips were only 700 baht each – cheap, by Phuket standards. Even then, Oown kindly rounded the 2,250 baht total down to just 2,000 baht. I would highly recommend the guy, if you’re coming to Phuket. You can contact him directly on +66 85 458 7698.
My next obstacle was Phuket Airport’s security. Naturally, as I was travelling to an airsoft event, I was bringing my BB gun with me. As I detailed in a previous article, I’ve succeeded in getting it on planes in the past and have since flown with it about four more times. The first and most important step is to openly declare it before it gets picked up by the security scanners. I did so, and was immediately told “cannot”.
Great, I thought. I’ve just spent over 2,000 baht on booking a new outbound flight, plus 2,000 baht on taxi rides, and now I’m going to need to call Oown again to get a ride home!
Fortunately, I have kept all of the previous permits I have been issued for my BB gun (as shown), and showing them always act as a calming influence. If security officials see that there is a precedent for letting me through, they instantly relax. Sure enough, someone was sent off to find a superior, who took one look at the gun and waved it through.
While everyone was filling out the paperwork, the guard was even saying, as others have in the past, that it’s a nice gun. He didn’t speak any English but, between hand gestures, general tone and the little Thai I speak, his meaning was pretty clear. The fact that I barely understood a word he said didn’t seem to dissuade him from enthusiastically holding a conversation with me.
The flight to Bangkok was unremarkable, though the landing was a little dicey because the pilot hit the brakes a little hard on touchdown, causing me to slide forward and nearly right off my seat! My travel problems would continue in Bangkok, but that will have to wait until later in the week. This post is already getting too long, so I’m going to break it into two. Watch out for the concluding part on Saturday!
My endorsement of Khun Oown and his taxi service is entirely voluntary. He had no knowledge of this blog at the time of our journey together and I made no promise to promote him. I do so purely to support a good man and a great business.