Monday, August 9, 2010

Mumbai transit.

I had already experienced the chaos of the security check in Mumbai the week before. So i waited patiently while the Indian officials turned a simple screening procedure into a complicated and stressful hour of everyones life. The real problems, however, only really started on the other side of the metal detectors and x-ray machines.
                          There was no information about onward connecting flights. No screens, no announcements, nothing. Being a fairly seasoned traveler i can usually work these situations through without having to ask anyone. I was just about to doubt my own capabilities when i was approached by an airport official. He sidled up to me, and with a couple of furtive glances in each direction, asked me if i was traveling on to Bangkok. I said that i was. With that, he leaned forward and scratched "gate 12" on my boarding pass with a well chewed biro. Then he leaned in even closer and told me not to tell any other passengers as it could lead to a situation of overcrowding down at the gate. I nodded in a conspiratorial manner and assured him that i would keep his secret. Tapping the side of his nose with an index finger he melted back into the crowd.
                          As i neared the bottom of the escalator to gate 12, i could see that the airport authorities fears had already been realized. There were hundreds of people milling around in a state of confusion. I slipped into the only vacant seat i could find and as i did so the portly Indian lady next to me sprang up and threw me a nasty glare. Gathering her pashmina about herself she stormed off.  Strange..   Her seat was immediately taken by a forty something English guy with a strong west country accent.
                        "First time in Thailand is it"? was his opening gambit.  I've never really thought of myself as being overly gregarious but at this time and place i just didn't want to get into conversation with my new friend. I decided to let him prattle on and just punctuate matters with the occasional word and a nod here and there.  It turns out he was on his way to Thailand to marry a girl that he had met on the final night of his last visit to Pattaya. They had kept in touch and ,at her suggestion , had decided to get married.  He motioned towards a Joe 90 style executive briefcase between his legs and informed me that it contained twelve thousand pounds. He was giving it to the girls mother as a sort of "fee" for her daughters hand in marriage. His young lady would be taking the money to her mother and returning to meet him in Pattaya in a couple of days. My heart sank. I was filled with a mixture of sadness and anger towards this lonely, gullible individual. He had been spun and fallen for every line in the book. Over the next 10 minutes he droned on about family eye operations and sick buffaloes.
                                         I was beginning to hatch a plan in my mind for snatching the case in Bangkok and jumping into the nearest taxi when a garbled announcement came over the P.A. I didn't catch a single word of it but the gate was now open and everyone was pushing towards the fleet of buses waiting out on the apron.  The cause of all the confusion now became clear. Jetairways were trying to embark 4 separate flights through the same gate at the same time. One to Muscat, one to Munich and two to Bangkok. It was just pot luck if you ended up on the right bus. Maybe i was just lucky but lots of people were not. It took ages to round everyone up and deliver them to the correct aircraft. I had been buckled into my seat for well over an hour before we finally started the slow taxi out to the runway for take off.
                                     I have no way of knowing what became of the hapless guy from Devon but i'm pretty certain of what became of the contents of his briefcase. Should i have given him some cautionary advice? Maybe, but he wouldn't have listened. I've seen it so many times before. He had a terminal dose of Thai fever and was on a collision course with heartbreak and possible financial ruin. I wish him luck but for some people there is no cure.
                                   We rose slowly into the night sky. Then, banking left, we headed inland leaving the lights of Mumbai blinking far below. Next stop Bangkok. But i wasn't home free yet!


  1. I have found this to be a really tricky situation to deal with. If you say something the other person can really take it the wrong way. If you don't say anything you feel bad. At least if it is someone you sort of know you could send an anonymous letter.

    I think at the end of the day we all have to travel our own path. We can try and help people when we can, but sometimes people need to make their own mistakes. I know that the knocks of life taught me a lot more than the advice of other people.

    Who Knows? Maybe it will all work out for this fella. Some of the most stupid things I've ever done have led on to good things later.

  2. Hi Paul,
    Maybe you're right. Let's hope so for his sake. I've made a life out of doing stupid thigs and everything always seems to turn out well for me. Just luck i suppose.

  3. I did everything wrong when I first moved to Thailand - I was so naive. It has all worked out remarkably well though; in fact I wouldn't change a thing. All those stupid things got me where I am today.

  4. Interesting post.
    You were right to say nothing, even though it was against your better judgment. He would have thought that you were pissing on his barbecue if you'd said anything and probably become shirty with you as a result.
    It's not possible to protect people from their own stupidity.

    All the best, Boonsong

  5. Hi Boonsong,
    I've seen people i know quite well in the same position and presented them with certain proof that they were being mugged and they just don't see it. As i said, sometimes there is no cure!

  6. Great story again, Tom. Duly noted: don't fly back home with a stop in Mumbai.

    [From my experience if not going direct, Dubai is actually quite good - if credit cards are kept away from the missus]

  7. Hi Jon,
    I booked at the last minute and it was just about the only flight in my price range for the dates i wanted. I've had stopovers in loads of places going to and from Thailand over the years with Mumbai and Jordan being on my list to avoid if possible.

  8. I can't wait to hear what happens next, travelling can be a bit like being a character in a novel sometimes. If it makes you feel any better, I have the same effect on Indian women too. Not sure what the go is there?

  9. Hi Snap,
    I seem to have the same effect on ALL women!!

  10. Tom a great post, I love your style of writing, especially your dry wit.

    I think you did the right thing with regard to the Devon soul. He can thank his lucky stars his briefcase wasn't bigger and laser eye operations aren't the 'in' rural thing.

    I've read a lot of bad things about Jet Air and Mumbai, you've further convinced me I'm doing right by sticking with Etihad.

    Keep the posts coming, paradise found in thailand is turning into a cracking read.

  11. Hi Martyn,
    Many thanks for the praise and encouragement.
    Given the choice, i always try to fly direct with EVA AIR. Unfortunately, on this little jaunt,my budget and required dates took that choice away from me. Sometimes it's tough being an international jet-setter!