We probably had more transport difficulties on this holiday, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand 2001 than any other, for some strange reason; perhaps the itinerary was a little ambitious for its era:
Having to jump the border between Laos and Thailand on 19 February 2001 in order to catch a flight – click here for that story – was probably the pinnacle, but we’d already experienced some problems.
On 8 February I noted, in Phnom Penh:
First stop, the National Museum, then back to hotel to sort out problem over airline ticket.
I can’t quite remember what this problem was, but I think it was an absence of airline tickets for our flight to Vientiane in our ticket pack on arrival at Phnom Penh. This one was resolved easily enough I seem to recall.
But somehow, when we later flew from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, someone made a mess of the Laotian domestic ticket vouchers (which were all in one book), accidentally removing the Luang Prabang to Vientiane vouchers as well as the Vientiane to Luang Prabang ones.
On 15 February, when our lovely guide Prasauth took us to the airport for our Vientiane flight, we were voucherless for that flight/ Although it was very clear to all concerned that the airline handling people must have made a mistake on the first leg, the official refused to let us on the flight without either the vouchers or the full fare being stumped up again; a few hundred dollars.
Prasauth, who was unusually white haired to start with, looked even more white haired and pale when this problem unfolded.
I tried to get the official to understand, through Prasauth, that if I did pay for the flight a second time (which naturally I would do rather than miss the flight) there would be one heck of a palaver when I got back to London to get the money reimbursed, especially as the problem was undoubtedly caused by an error by the airline handling people at Vientiane.
But it was more than the official’s job was worth to let us on the plane without a voucher. Indeed, he’d have to pay the money for two flights himself if he was two vouchers short.
Then I had a bright idea.
“What happens if we give you the vouchers for our next flight, Vientiane to Pakse?”
Turned out, that would be OK. The official simply had to have one voucher per passenger. It didn’t need to be the right voucher.
I then suggested to Prasauth that he call his colleagues in Vientiane, explain what had happened and get them on the case to rectify the problem in time for our flight to Pakse the next day.
Everyone agreed that this idea would work. Indeed, by the time we landed in Vientiane, less than two hours later, our guide there, Wang, already had reissued tickets in his hands ready for our trip to Pakse the next day.
As for Pakse airport, I am very proud to be the Dull Men’s Club reporter on airport carousels for that airport – click here. And I bet some Ogblog readers thought I was a nobody.