Stranded In Singapore
My excuse was that I’m fuzzy-headed from grief. The travel agent had no excuse — she should know that October has 31 days.
So our “booked through to Chiang Mai” flight turned into an epic 44 hour adventure.
It never occurred to me to check the calendar or even count things on my fingers when the travel agent handed me our booking. We had gone through so many flight and airline options over three days that I didn’t take a second look at the details we’d finally decided on — leaving Brisbane at 2pm on Sunday, arriving in Singapore at 5.40am the next day, then a three hour wait for our flight to Chiang Mai. We’d be back in our apartment by lunchtime!
Except, it wasn’t a three hour wait. It was arriving at 5.40am on the 31st of October and flying out again at 8.50am on November 1. This, I discovered only at check in. The check-in dude handed me our boarding passes and said “your bags are checked to Singapore”. I said thank you and turned to leave. Then, some dazed part of my brain flared for an instant. I turned back and asked why our bags weren’t checked all the way to Chiang Mai. Now it was his turn to look confused — didn’t we want to leave the airport?
The check out dude and I faced each other with matching frowns. What?
I looked at the printed itinerary. I looked at the printed e-ticket. “Is there an October 31?” I said. And then I didn’t say a whole lot of swear words.
We were sent down to the service desk. They couldn’t help. There’s no Singapore-Chiang Mai flight on a Monday. And we didn’t have any way of getting from the airport back to Mum’s, which is more than an hour away. It was already after 9pm and we were already tired. It didn’t seem that we had much of a choice. A 27 hour stopover in Singapore it was.
After clearing customs, my head cleared a little. I called a friend in Singapore and asked if we could stay with him for a night. He said yes, and we were sorted.
Darling Man and I started discussing how we could spend our unexpected stopover in Singapore. A friend has a new baby. We could meet other friends, who’d only recently farewelled us. We could go eat our favourite foods. I felt a strong urge to return to our old neighbourhood, Katong.
Our Singapore Airlines flight was full because a day earlier Australia’s flying kangaroo, Qantas, the national carrier, grounded its domestic and international fleet in a bid to end a long-running industrial dispute. Flights out of Australia were as full as the flights out of Bangkok.
I think we snagged one hour of sleep each. Miss M was a dream. She fell asleep on takeoff and woke up just before we landed, stirring only a few times during the night. I couldn’t believe she slept so soundly, squashed into the too-small bassinet, bent awkwardly, or with her feet sticking up in the air, resting on the sides.
We arrived in Singapore exhausted. Why oh why do airlines think people want to eat at 4am local time? Then we picked the slowest customs queue.
Luckily for our Singapore friend, the supposedly efficient Singapore airport was incredibly inefficient. We arrived at his place at a reasonably godly hour, instead of the ungodly predicted ETA of 6am.
Unluckily for us, our Singapore friend has a three year old. With toys, lots of toys. We were to sleep on a mattress on the floor in the lounge room because the spare bedroom AC was on the fritz. The mattress was next to the toy boxes. The toy boxes were full of noisy toys. Miss M was in heaven. We were in hell.
Finally, thankfully, oh-so-thankfully, she agreed to drink some milk. And halfway through a bottle, her eyelids fluttered shut. A millisecond later, our eyelids slammed shut like heavy dungeon doors. Bam — alseep, finally.
Miss M stirred several hours later and I discovered I was still wrecked. I took another, longer nap, while my friend’s lovely wife herded two screaming toddlers around the lounge room. Darling Man basked in front of the TV. It was a rest day that we sorely needed.
And so we didn’t see the new baby. We didn’t see all our Singapore friends. We saw a select few at our old pub on the corner, mostly invited by our gracious host because we were too zonked to think to do it ourselves.
And the moral of the story is — check your tickets! Don’t get stranded like we did, in an expensive city, because we didn’t double check what our travel agent told us.
The travel agent, when contacted, was horrified with her mistake and offered to pay for us to stay in a hotel. But by the time we got her message we were already settled into our friend’s place. We’ve asked her to pay for taxis and drinks and dinner for us and our hosts. We’re waiting to see what she says.
*This post was brought to you by Antler, the quality cabin bags specialist.
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12 years ago