15 May 2008

getting back to singapore

sunday, 7am: we had an early breakfast at the hotel. we were not sure when our next meal would be, as we were determined to stay in the airport and wait for the airlines to be back in operation. we hoped for at least one flight, any flight, to get us out of myanmar and into another place. we were getting worried. and we knew people back home in singapore and in manila were getting worried, having heard nothing from us since yesterday.

we didn't even wait for the travel agent to fetch us. we had someone from the hotel get us a cab to take us to the airport. fitting six people into a tiny cab wasn't that much of a hassle, not when you're from manila. on the streets we passed, people were starting to clean up the debris. there was traffic everywhere. what was, on our first day, a city that impressed us with its rural charm and cleanliness, was now reduced to this:

there were a lot of people at the airport. the guards were not letting people in. only those with tickets were allowed to go through. a lot of other tourists, several we saw at the hotel, were also there. a crowd was gathering in the lobby, as people were asking for updates on their flights from several airline crews. thai airways had already put up a sign that they cancelled their flights for the day, until further notice. the phrase "until further notice" concerned us. how long will it take for them to get their airport running again?

thankfully, chilli d and chilli n were determined to get a status on our flight. they sought out the jetstar people, who came up with the same answer everytime: they were not sure yet if their planes will come in to yangon. we can contact their main office in the city to check on the updates. well, if the phone lines were down, how were we supposed to contact their office? do we risk paying $40usd for a taxi ride to the office only to be told the same thing? we didn't think so.we stuck by there, camped out at the lobby, waiting for news, any news that could tell us we were getting out of the country.

10am: the manager from the travel agency arrived. no good news from him either. but he said there might be updates in the afternoon. we agreed with him that we will stay put in the airport for updates, while he will check if the phone lines are available again. chilli a, d and i went with him to a local market to buy food for the group (bread and chips).

12pm: by this time, all of the airlines posted their notice of cancellation for flights. almost all of the tourists went back to their hotels. but the six of us, we stuck it out there. our travel agent was going to pick us up at 5pm. with no way of contacting him, we hung out at the airport.

for the whole afternoon, we tried to amuse ourselves. there were several rounds of charades where someone got a new nickname, there was singing, dancing, picture-taking, making videos. and there was talk. talk about how we missed singapore (which i personally didn't know was possible), how we hoped friends we told about our trip knew what happened to us, where our next trip would be (yes, after this one, there most definitely will be, only the next destination will be one where phones worked). we were eating small portions of the bread we bought for fear that we might not get served dinner at the hotel, and we dreamed of food..junkfood, fast food, any food.

5pm: a few minutes before our travel agent arrived, our singaporean hero from the day before came to the airport to check on his flight, which it turned was the same as ours. after the "van-stuck-in-mud" incident from yesterday, we felt we had bonded. i think that's what happens when you share a difficult moment.

mr. lin told us he went to the singaporean embassy and was able to make a phone call home. of course, we thought to go to the philippine embassy the day before, but were told that it was about an hour from the city, and with the storm and all, we just chose to go to the hotel. we also thought to go there the next day, but we didn't want to miss our flight, just in case the airline opened again.

our travel agent had some good news. the phone lines were working! we all eagerly went with him to the office, and quickly scrolled through the phonebooks of our useless phones. each one of us made two, even three calls each to friends and family who were in singapore and manila. we didn't mind the expense ($3usd per minute!), just as long as we heard familiar voices on the other line.

after that, our stay at the nearby hotel was more relaxed. it didn't matter that there was no electricity and no running water. the staff at the hotel provided us candles (actually, we also bought candles earlier), and even took our orders for dinner so they can buy it for us at a store close to the hotel.

dinner by candlelight was over in less than 10 minutes. we slept early that night, charging our energies for the next day's airport challenge.

monday, 7am: we packed up early and went with our travel agent. it was the same scene as yesterday. only this time, there were more people. tourists, locals, they were all around. the airlines were open! woohoo!!

the only problem was, our supposedly 10am flight delayed (again!) for three hours. we hadn't had breakfast and there was no canteen at the airport. we had one loaf of bread for six people. the only thing we were looking forward to was the in-flight meal when we got onboard.

1pm: the plane finally, finally arrived! we boarded up, our "hero", mr. lin, included. but alas, they announced that they will not be serving meals on the flight. instead, they served packets and packets of cookies, and nuts, and kept the drinks coming.

and at last, after three and a half hours, we were back in singapore! never before have we looked forward to walking through changi terminal's halls. we turned on our phones to find a lot of messages from friends and families, worried about us. missed calls, voice messages..i think the chillis will agree with me when i say, those messages made us realize how a lot of people care for us.

we were then off for our first real meal of the day: fried chicken at popeye's! yep, we were definitely back in singapore.

overall, i would have to say, this is one we all will definitely not forget. more than the really beautiful sights we've seen (sights i would recommend to anyone to see at least once in their lifetime), i think this trip made us get to know each other a little bit more: our quirks, our strengths, our attitudes. and it made us appreciate what we have right now, appreciate the friends who genuinely are concerned for us.

so the question is: can i go through that whole experience again? honestly, i wouldn't. but if i had to make another difficult trip, i would definitely want to be with the people i was with in myanmar. let's just hope there's no big cyclone to get caught up in this time. i could do without that.

*going home*


  1. I agree dudette, myanmar is beautiful and it is more beautiful because i travelled with the right set of people :)
    i also agree that the event served as an acid test on people who are really concerned for us. It kinda helped me clean-up my phone book list :p
    I learned a lot of culture from the place, but i learned alot about life and friendship from you guys :) *kleeeeeeeeeeeenex!*
    more importantly, i learned that we all can grow in separately without drifting apart.
    so dear ays, i'll see you again in our next get-away trip :) and glad to meet you again in singapore :)

  2. Anonymous9:02 AM

    o nga! :)



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