Travel Secret #352
By: Chaavi Doonga
It is with a heavy heart that I write this.
Two weeks ago, I received an exciting invitation for a Press Trip to Bangkok and Pattaya. I had been working hard for the magazine, filing all my stories on time and going beyond my brief to deliver good quality articles. So, when the Editor called to ask if I would be interested in this five-day trip, I was beyond thrilled! I thanked her profusely for the opportunity, but she said I totally deserved it, and yes, I thought I had.
This would be my second international trip, after a whistle-stop tour of Dubai. We would be put up at a stunning luxury resort, and our days in Thailand would mostly be spent shopping, enjoying local cuisine, meeting some fashion designers and relaxing by the beach. Summer is still a good month away, so the weather would be beautiful, too.
How well it was all mapped out in my mind.
During the drive from home to the airport, my mind was occupied with small concerns of all kind. Had I remembered to pack my black dress and heels? Would the other journalists on the trip be sweet or those ultra-smart types? And I hoped my baggage would not be overweight…wish I had weighed it before leaving home.
The policeman at the entry gate examined my passport and ticket, threw me a disinterested but careful glance, and let me in. I strolled over to the check-in counter, where a brisk young man greeted me warmly, and asked for my passport.
I handed it to him, and as he began clicking on his computer, I began, “Could you please give me a window seat upfront? Some legroom would be nice..”
He mumbled something like ‘Let me check,” and continued typing.
A few seconds later, when he spoke, his face looked grim and his voice was different. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I cannot let you check in.”
I would not have been so shocked had the heavens fallen in front of me. I think my mouth dropped open and stayed open. “Wh..y?” I managed.
The man looked sympathetic, but firm. “Your passport is not valid for six months.”
“Of course it is,” I said, indignantly. Hadn’t I checked? Wasn’t it valid till August end? Of course it was. So what was this guy talking about.
“No, ma’am,” he said, holding it out toward me. “See? Aug 31, 2013.” And today is March 5, 2013.
“So? That makes it six months, no? “
“ Actually, no, madam. Your passport is five days short of the six month validity period.”
My brain was badly scrambled by now, but with great difficulty, I counted. Sure enough—I was indeed carrying a passport that was invalid for travel. But I couldn’t let this happen to me…and it was…only 5 goddamn days, right?
I said so the gentleman, but he shook his head. “Even if I allowed you from here, you would be sent back from the Immigration counter. And even if they allowed you to pass through, you would be sent back from Bangkok Airport. They’re quite hard and fast about the six-month validity rule. And you wouldn’t want a deportation stamp on your passport.“
“No, I wouldn’t,” I said. My heart had sunk down to the boots I had bought specially for the trip. I knew, for a certainty now, that I would not be getting into that aircraft today. I called up my parents, who were still half-way through to back home, and asked them to turn around and pick me up. And I picked up my suitcase and began walking toward the exit, thinking, it was overweight indeed…