Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"We only accept payments in peso" and other firsts: Thailand adventure

"Peso lang po tinatanggap namin", the guy at the Travel tax booth told me. Uh-oh, I'm screwed. Paying the travel tax at the airport was a first for me because I got used to traveling with all these details already taken cared of. No amount of pakiusap with manong can force him to accept payment in US$. He just directed me to the arrivals area and have my money changed there. So I did and finished the whole check-in business much later than I expected.

Another first for me: We had to change gate twice prior to boarding. And I mean gates separately located in two different wings. I didn't find out why we were bounced back and forth like that. Nobody from the ground staff really gave a clear explanation. Maybe I just didn't care anymore. In my mind, this trip is really showing signs of becoming an adventure and I decided to just wing it and have fun.

The flight arrived at past 1:00am local time. My luggage was the last one out so there was a moment of mild panic when I thought it somehow got its way into another plane or something. Imagine standing alone looking at an empty carousel and all the people have happily left with their baggage already...tsk.

Next first: I had no accreditation (AD) card, no information about transportation and booking arrangements, nothing. Good thing I asked James (my co-umpire) before I left if he knows the details about the arrangements for us. It was comforting to know that we were on the same boat, that the only thing we can count on was the fact that there would be an information center at the Bangkok airport.

Yet another first: Still no AD card at the SEA Games information/accreditation center at the airport. Worse, they can't seem to find my application for accreditation. Argh! The protocol and accreditation people wanted me to go to Korat because maybe my accreditation is there, they said. Say what?!? Korat is like hours away from where I should be. Not that I don't want to go to Korat, Wushu will be played in Korat so I want to go there...but after I finish what I came here for, which means I need to be in Pattaya, not Korat. Buti na lang there were two Pinays there from the PSC who somewhat helped me (assured me actually that there's also a Secretariat in Pattaya and they probably have my AD card).

Again, first: A sleepy driver was roused from his sleep in the van reserved for delegates. He was then told to bring me to Pattaya. I was the only passenger. There were not much cars/vehicles on the highway so he was really stepping on the gas pedal while I sat at the back praying that he doesn't fall asleep. But manong was such a good driver, I got in one piece at Pattaya after 1 hour, 50 minutes of travel. I checked-in at the hotel at 4:30am.

See, more firsts: No AD, no contacts with the Philippine delegation, nothing. I made sure I was up by 8:30 to hunt Nicholas Ee (who is the Asian Rowing Federation Technical Delegate) or the rest of the FISA people. I haven't found them still, but I bumped into Steve Banta and the Philippine rowing team, which was even better. Finally, kababayans! But I can't really spend much time with them since I'm supposed to be neutral here so I guess I won't be hanging out much with them. I hope they do well in the competitions.

Finally, the AD card: Processed in front of me, thanks to the copies of the documents I kept in my email account. Buti na lang kasi, in the SEA games, you don't exist as a player, coach, official, volunteer, etc. unless you have an AD card. Maybe I can sleep now. It's been a long night.

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