The journey was more adventurous than the destination

When I was planning our trip to Vientiane, Laos, I thought that the little known country (at least to me!) would be an interesting trip compared to the other usual weekend trips from Singapore. Little did I know that the journey to get there (and back) would be more adventurous than the destination! And the drama unfolded even before our actual journey...

Buying the air tickets

There were no direct flights from Singapore to Vientiane, and so I scoured for flights that would get us there. No direct flights meant airport transfers and connections and so I spent time going through the many airline websites searching for the cheapest flights and the best connections. I finally decided on an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to Vientiane, with connecting flight from Singapore to KL on Tiger Airways.

AirAsia planes at LCCT in KL

Our initial plan was to take a weekend off in end July. However, just when we were about to buy the tickets, we realised that Tiger Airways had cancelled the KL - Singapore flights. As there were no better connection and due to our heavy workload, we decided to postpone our holiday to August. And, so we bought the tickets, started searching and booking hotel and planning the trip.

A couple of weeks before the trip, Tiger Airways wrote to say that they had decided to cancel the KL-Singapore flight. The reason given by the customer service was that it was due to technical difficulties, but I did not believe him for a second. Somehow, all the flights on that particular day of week was cancelled for the month of August. They allowed us to refund the ticket, but that would take 4 to 6 weeks to process. Why was it that airlines could charge us on our credit card immediately, but when they cancel their flights and had to refund us the money, they would take more than a month?

So now we had to find another flight to get us back to Singapore. We had no choice but to book the last Malaysian Airlines flight for the day. It was definitely more expensive and it was from the main Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) terminal, while the AirAsia flight would land in Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). We would have 2 hours transit time, which should be sufficient if all went well.

Leaving for Vientiane

With all air tickets confirmed and hotel booked, we were definitely looking forward to a relaxing break from all the hustle and bustle of Singapore. We checked in on the Tiger Airways flight, had breakfast and slowly made our way to the gate - only to find out that the flight has been delayed. We got nervous  as our connection in KL was less than 2 hours. After a slow and long queue to board the flight, without any smiles or apologies from the staff, we were on our way to KL about an hour after the scheduled time.

We asked to be seated in front so that we could jump off the plane once it landed in KL. The air stewardess kindly agreed. Wonder if this would be how it felt to be in The Amazing Race! Once we landed, we ran out, went through immigration and made our way to the AirAsia counter to check in. LCCT felt like a market place! It was crowded, noisy, stuffy and hot! After running around for a moment, we found the right counter and checked in.

We boarded the plane which was, unfortunately, without air-conditioning due to some problems with the power. It was hot and humid. As luck would have it, there was another delay! A Muslim man refused to sit with women on the flight! When the AirAsia crew wanted him to leave the flight, he refused and sat on the floor. After some shuffling of seats, they managed to sit him at the last row with another man. He looked like he was from the Middle East, and some Europeans on the flight complained to the air steward that they did not feel safe with him on the flight. However, after all the chaos, the engine started, the air-condition was switched on and we were (finally!) on our way to Vientiane.

Reflection of Phra That Luang at Vientiane, Laos

Leaving Vientiane

Vientiane was, in comparison to the drama we had on our journey to the city, relatively relaxing and uneventful. After four days in Vientiane, it was time to leave the city. And yes, as you may have already guessed it - another delay! The delay was about one and a half hour, while our transit was only 2 hours. The Malaysian Airlines flight that we were supposed to be on was the last for the night, and we obviously could not make it on time. So, we called the airline to change the flight to the morning after.

So, with the flight secured, it was time to find a place to sleep for the night. The nearest hotel from LCCT was Tune Hotel - the low cost, no-frills hotel by the same people that brought us AirAsia. I was initially reluctant and would never imagine that I would find myself in Tune Hotel, but thought, "Why not? When else would I find myself stranded in an airport with Tune Hotel nearby?" We made our way to the hotel thinking everything was fine now, only to find that the hotel was fully booked!

Luckily, there was a small shop with tour operator who could arrange for transfers and hotel for us. By this time, I would have paid anything just to get a room and settle in for the night! We managed to secure a hotel about half an hour away, and could finally rest in the poorly maintained hotel. We left for the airport early in the morning to make the arrangement for our Malaysian Airline flight, and was finally on our way back to Singapore.

After all the drama, we were actually glad to be back to reality. However, looking back, I think it was the unexpected that make travels interesting. What's the point of travelling if everything went as planned?

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