Friday, October 12, 2012

How I Survived a Day in Bangkok Without My Pocket Money

Have you ever traveled without your pocket money and your ATM card? It would be a little convenient if it’s just a local or domestic trip, but what if it’s international? Worst, what if you are travelling solo?

Well, here’s my story.

September 19, 2012 (my mom 64th bday)

I had my things fully ready, a day before my much awaited trip to Bangkok and Laos (for my second solo backpacking). Weeks before, I bought some Thai baht bills from BDO and exchange some peso to dollars. I’m not used to having different kinds money in my purse, so I set them aside from my remaining peso bills for my taxi fare… travel tax and terminal fee in NAIA. Confident enough that I was able to keep my money intact and safe in my backpack, I hailed a cab and proceeded to the airport.

I was keening to try the self-service check in, but it was off line, so I went to the queue… secured my boarding pass… paid t he extraneously expensive travel tax and terminal fee,  passed the ever masusungit Immigration Officer… and waited for my flight  at the boarding gate.

While waiting, curiosity hit my uneasy mind to check my pocket money. Lo and behold, there's nothing. Seriously, I couldn’t find it. I had to unload all my belongings, one by one from my backpack, trying not to cause a scene in the boarding gate. I cannot hide it, the tension – I can feel it in any part of my body. I called my boyfriend. Before heading to the airport, I went to his apartment to leave half of my luggage – because my mom will carry it for me. I will meet her in Bangkok after my Lao backpacking. So, upon realizing about my missing treasure, I immediately called him. Worse comes to worst, he was fast asleep like a newborn babe – and his cell phone was on silent mode. No matter how many times I tried to call, it was the annoying voice of Vhong Navarro on his voicemail that irate me.

I didn’t know what to do. There were a lot of unreasonable ideas that came to my mind, but I had no strength to make a move. I wanted to go back home, but I only had 20 peso bill in my purse. I left my atm card to my boyfriend so he can withdraw some money and hand it to my mom when she arrives – besides, I cannot use  my atm in Bangkok. It was raining hard that night, that even if I’ll be able to go back home, get the money, there won’t be any guarantee I can get back on time to the airport – I barely had two hours before the flight when I realize I had no money at all.

Maybe after almost a hundred missed calls, my bf answered the phone in his i-just-woke-up-out-of-bed voice. I wanted to cry upon hearing his voice. No drama. I then asked him to check the bag I left him and other possible options where I could have left the money. After some time, he found it – I wanted to cry even more.

So he found the money, what now? He may be my superman, but he cannot super speed to the airport and hand it over to me. I was hoping for an advisory for a delayed flight but there were no signs. Part of me tells me to just rebook the flight- but the other half of me wouldn’t just allow that to happen – the price of a new ticket won’t be easy to swallow.

I was really expecting my boyfriend to be ranting about my carelessness, which happens very often when I’m travelling. But he remained calm – and managed to transfer the energy to me. He told me to proceed to my plans – and he’ll just send me money through Western Union the following day in Bangkok. Confident enough that there will be a Western Union branch inside Bangkok Airport, I agreed to his plan. Besides, I only need at least five thousand pesos. This is my allotted budget for my trip to Laos. And my mom will just bring the rest of my money for our Bangkok holidays.

Minutes later, I saw myself inside the craft, filling up the Thai Immigration arrival form. I cannot believe I just boarded the plane with no money but my 20 peso bill.  I have always wanted to experience something remarkable in any of my trips, just like other travelers, but I never expected this kind of event to happen.

Touchdown Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

I was really praying that there’s a Western Union branch in the airport. But to my horror, there’s none. And no free wifi. Grrh... Suddenly, I miss NAIA Terminal 3. Haha. I walked around, as If I have money. I went to one of the tourism kiosk and get my copy of Bangkok map...

In one of the tourist info kiosks, there is a free 15-min internet for every visitor. I took advantage of it and sent an email to my bf, informing him about my current situation. Then I hopelessly proceeded to the ground floor – where City and Airport Express line can be found. True to what I have read, there are a lot of benches in the area, where you can rest your bodies for hours while waiting for your morning train schedules.

Did I just seriously make it to Thailand without any money? That’s what first came to my mind when I sat in one of the benches. Even if my boyfriend will send me money, how will I go to the Western Union branch when I don’t have a single dime to buy for my train ticket. Though I had my credit card ready, still most of the establishments in the airport would prefer cash.

While walking in the ground floor, looking for the good spot to lay my tired body -  I saw a Filipino-looking woman. Blame it to our Asian blood, unless you start talking, sometimes you can be a victim of a mistaken identity.

Now, I had this terrible idea in mind – very terrible and disgraceful, that I needed to put a hard mask on – or I'll end up somewhere else. Haha. I introduced myself to her … and I went straight to my point – I needed her help – I needed money. When everything is doomed, you’ll always find the strength and power to survive. (kapalan na ng mukha at lakasan ng loob.) All I needed was 250 baht for a Thai sim card and extra bucks for my train fare to the nearest Western Union branch. I tried purchasing sim card using my credit card, but they won’t accept it. I had no choice but to act upon this shameful idea of borrowing money from a total stranger. Why do I need a Thai sim card? So my bf can call me and update me on how and where to get my money. And in this traumatic situation, I would badly need someone to talk to. If only there’s a free wifi in the airport, they’ll be no need for a simcard.

Anyway, the lady, ma’am Rita, she was really astounded when I told her my story. Who wouldn’t? How dare me travel without any money, and bother other tourists for few bucks. Worse thing, it was her first time to travel to Bangkok, and she had me to start her memorable trip. It was hard convincing her to lend me some amount – I had to show her my passport, my ticket, my hotel reservations, my other supporting ID’s… I even offered her to take my notebook for a while, in exchange for the money I was borrowing. But she didn’t. I just insisted she hold new Unified ID for her reference. At that time, in that particular situation, she was my only hope. While talking to her, I was silently praying that God will touch her heart. C’mon, she has all the reasons in the world not to believe me or just ignore me, but thank God, she has one pure heart, and she saved my life.

So I was able to buy a sim card…and save an extra 50 baht for my train fare to the nearest Western Union branch. But it wasn’t easy looking for one. I was talking to my tech-savvy boyfriend who made all the efforts to find a Western Union branch close to my 50 baht airport train fare. It took us hours to settle things before I surrender to sleep at around 5am. We’ll just have to wait for the office hours to process what we’ve talked about on how to get my money.

September 20, 2012

 patingin tingin, di naman makabili.. hahaha

I arrived Bangkok minutes before midnight… it was already 12 noon the next day and I can still see myself lying in one of the benches in the lower ground floor of the airport. J sent the money as early as 830am, but he had to make some follow up calls to the Western Union customer service based in Bangkok to ask the nearest WU branch to any station of the City Line airport link (maximum fare for City Line airport link is 45baht, I still have 50baht.)

showcasing my ever reliable winter socks... malamig sa airport eh..

Finally, after all the waiting and calling, J told me that it was the branch near Phaya Thai station where I can get the money. Actually, it’s nearer to Victory Monument station, but I can no longer afford another train ride, so I had to walk for at least ten minutes to get to the branch itself, but that’s fine with me. Good thing I had my ‘pantawid-gutom-baon’ to survive the troublesome day.

After getting off Phaya Thai station, I walked to the bank… and finally received my money.  *sigh* What a relief!

in memory of my first train ride in Bangkok

Thanachart bank, 3rd fl Century The Movie Plaza, Phaya Thai, Bangkok

Once I received the money, I went straight to the hotel where ma’am Rita and her friend were checked in. But they weren’t there. I asked the reception if I can leave the money to them because I have a train to catch to Laos, but they refused. After few text messages, she replied and asked me to see them in Platinum Mall, which is a few steps from their hotel. I rushed to the mall, and met them again. Paid her the exact amount I owe, with so much debt of gratitude that I could ever imagine in my entire life. We had a little chat, and I got totally startled when they told me they work for NAPOLCOM (National Police Commission)… Malalagot talaga ako kung hindi ako nakapagbayad.. Haha..! – I think it was the first time I laugh hard, since I arrived in Bangkok.

Before, I used to think or dreamed of unusual experiences during my travels... the likes of missing the bus, sleeping in the station or someone else’s house… but I never imagined this would ever happen to me. Nah. ‘Be careful what you wish for’ may sound a cliché but sometimes it can be an eye opener.

Now I have this funny experience to top my most embarrassing and trauma-challenging moment of my life. I have learned my lesson the hard way. I still can’t believe I made it – well, maybe when you are in the same situation, you’ll realize, it’s the fittest that survives… and you’ll just have to endure whatever that disastrous scenario you are in. Besides, God will always make a way. I already charge it to experience, and hopefully it won’t happen again… I think once is enough for a (now) sober traveler.


  1. You're so easy to tease. And yes, your friend is just fine. Well, except that he keeps putting all my things away and trying to clean up. Now I can't find anything. He's compulsive.
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