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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Death Railway

Everyone is probably wondering... "What ever happened to that airline cuffuffle you had while you were in the Philippines?"


My feast back in Thailand

Does everyone remember that idiotic moment when I accidentally booked the same exact flight, twice?


Ya. Not my best work.

Nope.


I’m the first to admit, I have catastrophic attention to detail. Seriously... it's a real thing. I used to include 'attention to detail' on my resume whenever I was applying for a new job… but I’ve since discovered it’s just not a thing for me... and now I’m more comfortable omitting it. It's for the best. The first step is in admitting. Right?


I just get in such a hurry to knock things off my to-do list, that I fail to pay attention to the fine print. I also fail to pay attention to the big print, but we can let that go for now.


Anyway - after numerous attempts to beat their bot, I was unsuccessful. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't manage to get a Cebu Pacific agent on the chat box. It took every minuscule morsel of patience I had to scour through their very convoluted website, trying to get a contact email for customer service. Phone numbers were pretty much useless to me, because my Canadian line is cut off and I can only be in touch via WhatsApp. Many businesses have it… but many do not. Cebu Pacific did not.


It had to be an email or bust.

... and good luck finding the appropriate email.


I must have entered my predicament about 7 or 8 times on their online comment form, each time going into much more detail than the message before. I had all the relevant dates, times, confirmations and screen shots ready at their disposal.


I’m terrific with details when it comes to attempting to fix my mistakes. That's when I shine. No doubt about that.


Anyone & everyone I spoke to was keen to let me know that Cebu Pacific had a horrendous reputation and did not place customer service as a priority. Devastating news. I was depleted after spending so much time trying to cancel my mistake.  Everything I tried ended in failure. Every path led me in circles. International flights have a 24 hour window to cancel mistakes… but did that apply to a Filipino domestic flights?


It didn’t seem so.

Not at all.



It took a couple days but finally an agent got back to me and informed me that Cebu Pacific would be crediting me the cost of my flight mix up. WOW! I was over the moon. Fully astonished! The relief off my shoulders was enormous… but it dawned on me, almost instantaneously, that a credit might not be as simple as a refund. True... I couldn't exactly look a gift horse in the mouth, but credits often represent more hassle than they’re worth, as they usually come riddled with stipulations. I was confident that I would be in for that kind of debacle.


If there is one thing I hate, it's hassle.


For once though, the travel gods smiled on me and it was nothing but smooth sailing.  The process was pretty straight forward. I had to create an account on their website, which I'd already done from the beginning, in my attempt to sort everything out. When I chose my new flight, my credit automatically deducted from the full amount. I loved it. Hands down... most simple transaction I've ever made.


I have nothing but praise for Cebu airlines.


Happy to be roaming the streets of Bangkok once again

I unfairly bashed them… but they pulled through for me. Now it’s their turn to bash me.


I'm the idiot.


I would like to think I learned my lesson and I will never book two identical flights simultaneously, but i'm sure it'll happen again, sooner than it should...


I left the Philippines and flew back into Bangkok.


Bangkok was different this time. I wasn't a novice flying in. I knew what I was getting into. I knew what to expect. I had local currency on me and I knew how to catch the proper train that would take me directly into the city. I knew exactly where I was going and I kinda felt like I was coming home.


I realized one thing - I love Bangkok. I really do.

It's become one of my favourite cities.


Now in saying that, it doesn't mean that I didn't like the Philippines, because I did. Just different vibes.

I LOVE Bangkok.

Maybe it's because there are no beaches here. No sand.

Let's go with that.

From tuk-tuks to temples, narrow alleys crowded with vendors, massage parlours, vibrant culture, incredible food... and more. There is always something new to be discovered in Bangkok. Every step presents a new adventure and I was happy to be back and to be a part of it all over again.


I had chosen a cheaper room in a centrally located area of town, near the train station. I was only back for less than 48 hours and had a tour booked the following day, so I didn't want to make everything too confusing.


I chose a place called The Micro Hostel. It claimed to be a hostel, through obvious name and online presence... but it provided a private room, which is always appealing. I love my ME-time. The name, Micro, should have given it away immediately, but as usual, I was blind to the subtleties...


Mirco = microscopic.

~ mini.

~ pocket-sized.

~ smallish.

~ model.

~ small.

~ pocket-size.

~ tiny.


Pocket size has to be my favourite of the selection... and a perfect descriptor for what I encountered.


After I booked, they sent me a series of messages, continuously confirming my stay. They were abnormally concerned that I would fail to show, and kept telling me that if I didn't confirm, they would be forced to give my room away. Seemed quite odd. I assured them my booking was my word, but for some unknown reason, I couldn't seem to convince them until I literally walked through the front door. It was definitely a red flag, but I ignored it due to the price.

At first glance, I'll admit I was a bit shocked at the state of things. The place seemed more of a family's hoarding den than a hostel. Every step of the lobby was in complete disarray and there was an overabundance of stuff.... everywhere.


Everywhere.


Some of it was piled as high as the ceiling. People, which I presumed to be family members, were just lazing about, seemingly unconcerned that the room was filled beyond capacity. As ironic as it seemed, considering the clutter, I was required to remove my shoes and was given a pair of flip-flops to wear while inside. My 'bed' was located up four flights of steep stairs, which is fine for anyone without a bum knee and a heavy pack... but I endured the pain and clambered my way to the top without complaint.


My room was... indeed, pocket sized. There is no better way to describe it.


It was more of a closet than a room. When I say closet, I mean closet.

Almost cave-like. Definitely cave-like.

I am confident when I say, "I think I booked Bangkok's smallest room."


When I was in Amsterdam, I remember I booked a room on a 24-hour layover there and they boasted that IT was Amsterdam's smallest room. This one blew Amsterdam out of the water.


Could you swing a dead cat in this room?

As horrendous of a saying as that is, the answer is no.


Hard no.


I could barely move at all. There was about a half metre of workable space between the wall and the bed . That was it. There was no window and the shared facilities were down the hall. The walls in my private closet didn't quite reach the ceiling, leaving about a foot gap so that I was very much exposed to the nocturnal noises surrounding me. The hacks and the hoarks and the snores and the various midnight conversations.

From what I could gather, I was the only traveler there. The others seemed to be locals, which led me to believe I was staying in some kind of half way house, as opposed to a hostel.


The following day, I was set to do a tour up to a small town west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi.


On the famous railway...

For those of you who are wondering, Kanchanaburi is the town best known for the Death Railway and the infamous railway bridge that crosses the River Kwai. During WWII, allied prisoners of war were forced by the Japanese to construct two parallel bridges. Both the railway and the bridge have become symbols of the human suffering that took place during the conflict.


I was really looking forward to my outing.

As much as I get annoyed with most of the tours I do, I had put a lot of faith into this one. Perhaps it was the historical significance.


I don't know.


As much as I complain, I do like to sign up for tours from time to time. It gives me the opportunity to take a load off... let someone else do the work and usually, on usual occasions, it's the perfect opportunity to meet travellers and make new friends.


Maybe not so much on this tour.

How was I to know though?


I was the first to be picked up... and might I mention for future reference, it was 6am. At exactly 6am, my guide, Rach, rolled up and grabbed me for my tour. From there, we headed to meet another van with two other travellers inside. One was an older gentleman from Australia and the other, a young Indian doctor.


I don't recall their names, but I can't really be confident they told me them.


The Australian gentleman was,.. to put it mildly... a real prick.


He barely spoke one word to us and always looked annoyed. I tried to initiate conversation on a few occasions, but was shot down each and every time. At our lunch stop, our guide had allocated a specific table for our group. Drinks and cutlery were set up for us. I grabbed a plate of food from the buffet and made my way over to join the table. The Australian was the only one seated at the time. As I sat down, I made a polite and conversational comment about how wonderful the buffet spread was. He completely ignored me, not even casting a glance in my direction. He sat there, his face in his phone, not even acknowledging my arrival at the table. It was beyond awkward. I had no idea what to do. Yes... I took it personally. It was hard not to. After 5 more minutes of surviving his ignorant behaviour, I picked up my plate and went to join a young Australian couple who were dining at the table directly across from us.


Bye, cranky pants.


The Indian doctor?


He was a photo taker and off taking photos at every opportunity he had. A real shutterbug. You know those people that have to capture every single monument, morsel and moment? He was so busy taking photos of everything, he hardly had time to socialize or realize what was going on around him. His obsession overlapped onto us from time to time, with excessive selfies and requests for groupies, but after the first few dozen we all made it clear that we were done with the fame.


It was obvious how irritated cranky pants was getting by the continued requests for group photos, but the Indian doctor seemed quite oblivious to the scowls.

One could argue that the guide was equally as bad. He was continuously trying to take individual or group photos of us. I had to turn him down a few times too.


"No, I don't need a photo standing beside a bomb."

"No, I don't need a photo of me standing by a grave."


We paid our respects at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and the JEATH War Museum. Looking back at my own photos, I realize that I looked quite delighted in all of them. Ecstatic, actually.


Odd, considering it was such a somber occasion.


Despite the company, it was a very moving and thought provoking day trip. My enormous smile was not exactly the perfect way to acknowledge the atrocities committed by people in World War II history. I'm quite ashamed of my demeanor in these pictures...


I should have looked more solemn.


From Kanchanaburi, we were able to board a historical train that took us for a breathtaking jaunt along the Death railway. As it rolled along towards Nam Tok, the train winded its way through the lush landscapes, along the sheer cliff mountain drops alongside the Khwae Noi River and over the picturesque Wang Po viaduct.


While on b0ard, one of the staff was making her way through the carriages, snapping photos of various passengers. When she reached me, I smiled at the camera to be polite. At the time, I was sitting right beside Mr. Cranky Pants. We had been assigned seats and unfortunately, for the day, he was my lot in life. The conductor was a stickler too, moving from carriage to carriage, clipboard in hand, ensuring we all remained in our allotted seats. He was terrifying.


Me and cranky pants

Once the train started rolling and the conductor disappeared, most of us chose other seat options to be closer to the window and vantage points... or to get away from miserable passengers.


I had all but forgotten about the girl who had been previously been taking photos of us all, until nearing the end of our journey and she was suddenly standing in front of me, with a vintage ticket she had designed. It was 100฿ to purchase.


I took one look at it and burst into laughter.


Sure... it was a nice reminder of a memorable occasion... but... I was in the photo with Cranky. She thought we were a couple!!!


OMG!


I guess I can't blame her, as she didn't know... and I did feel bad for the effort she put in to it. She was so proud. I decided to purchase it and keep it for prosperity.


Our final stop was up a mountain to feed some wild monkeys.

It didn't really seem fitting for such a historical excursion ... but who am I to judge?


I did judge though... only ever so slightly...


Should we really be giving wild animals food????

Doesn't habituated feeding lead them out of their natural habitat?????


The guide kept forcing the bag of corn on me.

"Throw it monkey!!!" he kept yelling. "Throw monkey!" "Throw MONKEY!"


No.

No, thanks.

"I'm good."


None of us actually threw food to the greedy monkeys. I think Rach was quite disappointed. Guess he didn't get the 'zoo' crowd he initially anticipating.


Next... we got stuck in Bangkok rush hour for 2 hours. TWO HOURS. I'm not making this up. Perhaps had we not stopped to contribute to the demise of the nation's monkey population, we would have avoided the horrendous traffic.


Maybe?


We were supposed to be home by 5pm.


At 7:30, after being in the van for 13 & a half hours, I opted to tackle the traffic on foot and quickly made my escape. I couldn't take one more minute of stop and start.


Cranky pants had jumped out long before and ran off without a word of goodbye to any of us.


Tour over. It was only an hour's walk back to my pocket sized broom closet, but the walk seemed a refreshing option and the Christmas decorations definitely made it a delightful, Hallmark-like stroll.


What a day.


Did I mention I love Bangkok?

Not traffic though.

Definitely not traffic.

2 Comments


Janet Chalmers
Janet Chalmers
Dec 14, 2023

What a great adventure - I love the pocket size accommodations and will definitely put the Bridge over the River Kwai on my bucket list. Not missing much here - rainy and cold today!

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Joanna
Joanna
Jan 10
Replying to

Thanks for writing, Janet!!! I just saw this. Apologies for not responding earlier :-)

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