It was a sleepless night. I was checking my phone constantly to see what the time was. I was awake a 525, time to get up. Although I had fell into a deep sleep the cell phone blared the alarm. Packed my things quickly and went down to the lobby of the Nasa Vegas hotel where I had spent the night and waited to get my deposit back. In the room there were many things that looked "free" although I figured they were not free...toothbrush, peanuts, scented soap bars, etc. I assume the wait for my deposit was to see if A) I had broken anything and/or B) If I had really eaten the entire stack of mints. While waiting in the lobby a few overweight, bald and gray haired foreigner men dwarfed mini ladies clad with short skirts, high heals and makeup so thick I could hardly see the white of their eyes. At 530 in the morning, as the couples stumbled into the hotel lobby, appearing very drunk, I assume it must have been a long night...
After checkout, I walked across the street to the 24hr 7-11 the famous store on almost ever corner in urban Thailand. I bought banana bread and a yogurt. Back on the street, it is still very dark. I cross the street to the Airport Link train. The gate is still closed with a guard out front. I gesture to the officer, he says "Hai Min" which I remembered means about five minutes. After a few minutes, his radio rings and the ten or so waiting people who understand Thai, start walking towards the gate and it opens. Style points! I walk with them and hear the train coming as I ascend the escalator. I wanted to get on the first train to the airport. Had the train already passed?. On the second escalator, I see a LCD screen above indicates the countdown until the arrival of the train: 29 seconds remaining so I began to run up the remaning stairs. I make it to the train right as the doors are closing. After sitting down the train accelerates to a silent but rapid pace of nearly 160kph. I'm stoked I'm going to get to the airport quickly, cheaply and early. After the train arrives, I bust up a few flights of stairs to the Air India check in. To my surprise, even though its barely 6am, the check-in is open for a 850am departure. I get in line and my heart rate begins to climb. I remembered a well learned lesson from my youth studies in martial arts: breathing regulation. I was nervous. Thoughts were running through my mind: "Does Air India did have transit clearance to pass the Delhi Airport without a transit visa?"
The day prior I had been denied boarding my Air Asia flight to Delhi with a connection with SpiceJet to Kathmandu. The ticket agent said since I didn't have a transit visa, I would not be able to connect to another airline. Although I had been prepared to deal with some wacky situation in Delhi regarding the transit visa, I was surprised to now find out that I wasn't actually going even have the chance to reach Delhi to deal with it. AsI began to discuss the situation with the check-in clerk as valuable minutes ticked away. As the discussion was a lengthy one, I missed the flight. In the end though the talking didn't matter much because no one at the ThaiAirAsia staff in Bangkok was going to let me on that flight.
Caught by surprise I knew I was in a bit of trouble. I scrammed around the airport trying to find Nepal Airlines and Thai Airways. I knew those airlines had direct flights to Kathmandu. Thai airways would sell me a flight for $500 cash, which I didn't have and the personnel at Nepal Airways were no where to be found. I went to the airport Internet cafe, and at $10 an hour, I decided to take the train to Ramkamheng, a district of Bangkok I was at least familiar with and I knew had abundant internet for less than a dollar an hour. Within the next hour, I made Skype calls to the American Embassy in Delhi, Indian Embassy in London (USA was still closed). A vast and comprehensive search on the Internet did not turn up why I had been denied boarding. Kayak.com offered a $300 alternative with Air India. I called the Air India offices in Delhi, London and Dubai and neither could give me a definite answer if I could transfer without a Transit Visa. Deciding to take my changes, I bought the ticket, ate some pad Thai on the street corner (topped with crushed peanuts and with exhaust billowing from passing buses) and went to sleep at a hotel.
Back at the Air India check-in desk the lady began flipping through my passport. My heart rate again increased. I hadn't drank enough water the night prior. I was sweating...was I going to pass out? I was very, very nervous. After all, I had to be in Kathmandu in 8 hours and had already gambled a lot of money trying to get there. How could I approach my credit card company telling them to cancel the charge? "But Sir, did you actually make the transaction? Says here that the purchase was made from a Internet Cafe in Bangkok Thailand." Do they hire hackers? How good are they?
Then the check-in clerk asked me "Do you have a departure card?" My stress level dropped a bit. Yes I do, its right here. "Great," she says, "Do you prefer aisle or window." "Well actually I'd love a window seat on the left side of the plane to see the Himalaya," I reply. "I think I can do that for you," she smiles. Then she printed my boarding passes. "This is your boarding pass to Delhi, and this is your boarding pass to Kathmandu." At that moment my stress level dropped and I looked to the ceiling. "Gracias al Senor" I muttered to myself, perhaps this transit saga was coming to an end.
Then I walked back to the Air Asia desk and asked the customer service reps if they could credit the flight they denied me boarding on. After about an hour of standing in various lines and talking to people in various versions of busted English, they said they credited my account.
I went to the gate and got on the plane. Easy flight to Delhi over the delta region of Myanmar and Bangladesh. When I landed in Delhi about five hours later again my stress level rose. Would I actually be able to transit here without problems? I passed through various forms of security, immigration, etc, and began running to the gate. However, my next flight to Kathmandu was delayed about two hours departing Delhi due to thick fog. When I finally sat down on the flight to Kathmandu with the seat belt fastened, I then realized it was a done-deal. I was going to make it to Kathmandu after all. Great views out the window just like the year prior. "This is the Himalaya," I thought to myself, getting fully stoked.
Passed immigration without a hassle and found my old friend Urja at the exit of the airport. Chris just a few minutes later. Take a taxi through a dark dusty city to familiar faces at the Cafe de Patan. Josh is stoked, just finished a 130 mile run through the high Himalaya. Work begins tomorrow. Now, time for bed. My 48 hour journey from the La Union, Philippines to Patan, Nepal has come to a conclusion.