Today I had the fucking harrowing experience of misplacing my passport.
I left the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand at the less-than-reasonable time of 7am to catch a ferry across to Koh Samui, to then catch flights to Phuket and onto Siem Reap in Cambodia.
I arrived at the airport with more than enough time to spare, as I always do, and as I walked toward the check-in desk, I had the gut-wrenching spark of realisation that I’d left my passport behind. I knew exactly where it was; tucked safely under my mattress back in my villa on Koh Phangan.
What a fucking idiot. Never have I done something so stupid.
After fruitlessly tearing my bag apart in the hope that I’d possibly packed it somewhere obscure, I resigned myself to the fact that I would miss both my flights in order to go back and collect my passport.
Though I felt like smacking myself in the chops for being such an unusually irresponsible dumbass, I initially wasn’t too worried because I knew exactly where the passport was.
I shmoozed my way into borrowing one of the airport staff’s mobile phones to call the resort to have them grab my passport to keep it safe. This is where things got hairy.
The lady I spoke to on the phone was the very same who had checked me out earlier that morning and she remembered me straight away. Explaining the situation and the fact that I was borrowing someone’s phone, I offered to stay on the line while she ran over to the villa to check.
I sat waiting happily on the other end, smiling and making polite, apologetic hand gestures to the man whose phone I was on.
“Sorryyyy,” I mouthed, “she’s just gone to grab my passport, I won’t be a minute.” I gave him the thumbs up.
Coming back on the line, I replied to the lady cheerfully that, yes I was still there, and waited to hear that she’d got my passport and all was well. This wasn’t the case. I could tell straight away by the tone of her voice that something was amiss.
“Your passport isn’t there, I’m sorry,” she said to me in broken English.
With the hairs rising on the back of my neck and the first uncertain thoughts creeping in, I asked her if she’d checked UNDER the mattress of the single bed.
“The single bed,” I urged, “because you know there’s two beds in that room and my passport was under the mattress of the SINGLE bed.”
I tried to keep my voice flat and even to enunciate my words properly without sounding like a condescending dickhead. I loathe those who speak to people with English as their second language as if their stilted speech somehow entitles us native speakers to talk to them as if they’re deaf and dumb.
“Yes,” she said firmly. “I checked everywhere, not just the single; I checked both beds, underneath, the drawers, the dirty towels, nothing, I’m sorry.”
The panic started to rise in my throat like bile and as the adrenaline hit, I could feel my already sun-burnt face turn a brighter shade of red.
“I, I’m sorry,” I stammered, “but I know exactly, EXACTLY, where I left it. I put it under the mattress the day I arrived and I haven’t touched it since, I know it’s there, it has to be!”
Being in the service industry myself, I know precisely how irritating it is when people speak to you with anything less than respect, so I was very aware of keeping the poisonous panic out of my voice.
“Please,” I pleaded, “please, please, I’m so sorry but can you check again? It’s about mid-way down the mattress, tucked right into the middle out of sight.”
Inwardly I’d already kicked over the nearest rubbish bin in a tantrum and was sitting in the fetal position with clenched fists. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of being out of control in a situation that, usually, could be easily amended.
During the seven minutes while waiting for her to check the room again, I questioned my staunchly Atheist beliefs, prayed to whoever would listen, crossed every conceivable body part for good luck and nearly passed out from unconsciously holding my breath in anticipation.
The wait was torture and brought about no good news in my favour.
“I am so sorry,” she said, with genuine concern. “I pulled everything out, it really isn’t there.”
That’s it, I thought. My passport has been stolen.
I thanked her very much for her help, though because I was so certain I knew it was there, my doubt about her thoroughness loomed over me like a dark cloud.
It’s in these sort of highly stressful situations that you really test yourself.
- Make a plan Louise, don’t panic. No one died, you’ll figure this out.
- Oh why the fuck isn’t the wifi working? I can’t do anything without the internet!
- Tear apart bag again to triple check passport isn’t hiding in a piece of clothing.
- Go back to Departure Lounge, buy a SIM card, get the internet.
- Go back to airline ticket office, explain situation, see if you can change flights.
This is as far as I got before my resolve broke and I ended up gulping for air between sobs while trying to explain to the lady at the ticket office what had happened. I didn’t realise how upset I was until I opened my mouth and words failed me.
“Ca-ca-can *hic* yo-yo-you *hic* help me p-p-please?” I started, while angrily wiping the tears off my face. I’m not prone to spontaneous bursts of crying, so I became more frustrated with myself than I already was.
Once I finally managed to successfully communicate what had happened, the lovely lady at the ticket desk offered to call the resort again and talk to the staff in Thai. What a champion!
I sat, exhausted, in the lusciously air-conditioned office of Bangkok Airways and sipped on ice-cold water while trying to get my post-hysterical hiccups under control. By that point it had only been about 45 minutes from when I’d first discovered my missing passport, but the heat mixed with the stress had knocked me for six.
“Excuse me, Miss?” The lady called to me while softly shaking her head with the forthcoming bad news. “I am very sorry, but they have checked again and it is not there.”
Ugh. Plan Louise, back to the plan. Don’t cry, that’d be an excellent start.
- Google: “what to do if you lose your passport in Thailand.”
- Change flight to Bangkok as will have to go to Australian Consulate.
- Find out if I can fly with just my driver’s licence.
- Book alternative accom in Samui as next available flight to Bangkok isn’t until Monday.
- Gives me enough time to go back to Koh Phangan to request a police report for my stolen passport.
- Message friend and hostel to say I won’t be arriving in Cambodia today.
- Look at all the paperwork involved with getting a replacement passport.
This is the second point where my resolve broke. I had made my way to an over-priced Irish bar at the airport with the sole intention of downing a double whiskey for my nerves. Upon reading how much paperwork would be needed to gain a replacement passport, I withered with the reality that I would be forced to go back to Australia.
I can’t afford this! I’ve already dipped into the Bank-of-Fiona.
What happens if I can’t fly home?
Could I get all my ‘original documents’ from Australia to Bangkok?
Does it really take three whole weeks for it to be processed? I need to be back in the UK!
Shit, how will I get my visa replaced for the UK? Shit, shit, shit.
I won’t be able to go back to work in Europe!
I’m going to have to get a job in Mildura. Shit, fuckity, shit, fuck.
So on and so forth my thought process snow-balled from there.
I dragged my ass into gear, jumped in a taxi and made my way to the newly booked accom in Samui. Upon arriving, low and behold, I was asked for my passport as proof of ID. Without the threat of bursting into tears again, I explained the situation and thankfully was able to use my driver’s licence instead.
I dumped my bags, changed my shoes and was out the door again in five minutes flat to try and catch the next ferry leaving for Koh Phangan. I had this burning urge to get it over and done with sooner rather than later so I would have more time to prep for the impending doom of complications to come.
Would that it were that easy! I arrived at the ferry terminal to a veritable cacophony of angry voices and impatient bodies shoving against one another.
“Apparently all the bloody boats are full,” said one pissed off punter to another.
Ah of course, I thought. Jungle Party out on the island tonight! Never mind, don’t panic, you can get the ferry later or even tomorrow! But maybe try to plead your case, just in case.
I patiently waited my turn in line and watched all the people ahead of me get rejected one by one. A group of desperately hopeful people waiting for stand-by tickets lurked near the ticket window like vultures circling a carcass.
I approached with little hope and even less expectation, but explained my situation nonetheless.
“I know the boats are full because there’s a party on the island tonight, but I’m not going to party,” I said, matter of fact. “I’ve been in Koh Phangan all week and I left my passport behind this morning. I really need to get it back today, please. Look; here’s my ticket from the ferry this morning, I’m desperate, please let me on so I can get my passport back.”
Much to the disgust of the vultures nearby, I guiltily grabbed my ticket with an inward feeling of glee for the day’s first sign of good tidings. I could have kissed the cashier for being so compassionate toward my cause.
Back on the ferry I stared fretfully out at the crystal blue water, willing the boat to hurry the fuck up and remembering that only a couple of hours before I was staring wistfully at the water, thinking about how serene everything was.
Upon disembarking, and with an angry burst of energy, I propelled myself past all the taxi-hustlers and made a beeline for the resort. It’s only about a 15 minute walk from the pier, but as I stomped my way there with a face full of purpose, I cursed myself for having not put on sunscreen like I normally do after my morning shower. Thinking I was going to be indoors all day, I hadn’t put any on at all and the sun was searing the backs of my legs like a slow-cooked BBQ.
Arriving at the resort, hot, bothered, thirsty and anxious, I had to sit in the shade for a bit to compose myself. I didn’t want to go screaming into reception with a mouthful of suspicions and a face like a beetroot. One of the resort dogs recognised me and came over happily wagging his tail to keep me company for a bit. God I want a pet so badly, they really do fix everything.
As I slid open the door to reception, I had the plea already on my lips; “please, please, please can I check the room? I need to see for myself that my passport isn’t there.” I didn’t even get that far. As I stepped into the room and took off my sunnies, a resounding cheer of “heeeeeey,” went up around the office.
“She came back!” One said.
“Oh darling! You came back, but what about your flights?” Said another.
“Here she is! Lucky girl!” Came from someone at the back of the room.
I looked around in bewilderment at all the smiling faces as the main receptionist opened her top drawer with a flourish and pulled out… My fucking passport.
I coughed up a half laugh, half strangled cry and sank down onto the nearest chair. Sitting there with my head in my hands, I watched as a couple of tears dashed onto the tiles and quickly evaporated. Jeebus, how many times in one day do you need to cry Louise?
I stood up and grabbed my passport, embracing the lady in a tight, sweaty hug. I thanked everyone in the room profusely, made jokes about my own stupidity at leaving it behind in the first place, and shouted that there’d be a round of drinks at the bar on me. Needless to say, the very first thing I did, post-passport-saga, was sink a couple of much needed beers.
As I sat, appreciating my beer and rubbing a cold bottle of water up and down the back of my neck, a girl who I did a cycling tour with the other night came to sit with me.
I explained my day and everything that happened. She laughed, shook her head at my craziness and said to me that everything happens for a reason; that apparently, I’m blessed. Though I don’t necessarily believe in everything being fated for us, it’s a nice sentiment to think that I may have avoided something else sinister today in my quest to retrieve my passport.
At 9pm, a mere 12hrs later, I’m lying here writing this, shirtless and sweaty, willing the aircon to do more than spew out a lukewarm breeze. I’m struggling against an eyeball-splitting headache that’s been left in the wake of the adrenaline I’ve had pumping through my body since 9am this morning.
I’ve re-booked my flight to Siem Reap, now with a stop-over in Bangkok and only three days late.
Moral of the story? Don’t be a fucking peanut; know where your passport is at all times.