Sunday, April 20, 2014

Luggage goes AWOL

Day 15 Onwards to Siem Reap

Tien picked us up as organised at 9am and we headed out through Hanoi’s chaotic traffic to the airport.  What a delight he is, punctual, organised and really knowledgeable about all things travel related.  His English is excellent and our conversation was wide-ranging… politics, the global economy, tourism, infrastructure. He and Cham work 7 days a week and have not had a holiday since they started their tour business more than 3 years ago.  We wish them nothing but success and will happily recommend them to future travellers to Vietnam.

It amazes us how the Vietnamese can do these cool mosaics on the road to the airport but cannot tile a bathroom without getting cement & grout all over the place.
Flight to Luang Prabang was uneventful and the same for the flight from LP on to Siem Reap.  We got through the visa on arrival no trouble .. same procedure we have witnessed 3 times before – you hand over your passport, a photo, your completed form and your US$20 and watch your passport travel down a line of about 8 or 10 ‘officials’ till the one at the end calls your name… it takes about 2 minutes.  Through immigration in 30seconds.

Then we head to the luggage carousel .. we know you can easily get through visa and immigration before your bags arrive so initially we were not too concerned at all.   But when the carousel for the flight that landed after ours started to turn we began to wonder… and so did all our fellow travellers.  Finally the American guy with the kiwi wife and 2 yr old came storming out of a little corner office yelling “they left all our bags in Luang Prabang”  … it seems that somehow Vietnam Airlines had managed to leave ALL the luggage in Luang Prabang.

The increasingly frazzled lady in the ‘lost luggage’ office offered the pathetic excuse that “it was only a little plane – no room for luggage’ .. what the hell – they had brought the luggage from Hanoi with a completely full flight (only 70 people) and I’m not sure why ours was even offloaded in LP since it was tagged all the way through to Siem Reap.... but we were luggage-less and assured that it would come ‘tomorrow .. we bring a big plane with room for all the passengers and their luggage AND your luggage’  It’s due in at 4.30pm so with luck we should be reunited with our stuff some time after 6pm.

Gotta love the wording on their forms in this part of the world ... 'Property Irregularity Report" ... code for how badly have we stuffed up!
All this time, Suwan was waiting outside for us and it was a joyous reunion when we finally emerged.  He had brought Rithika with him - first time she'd been to the airport.  She is now 13 and growing up fast, still painfully shy but her English is getting much better.  She is now in Year/grade 7,  doing well at school and Suwan told us very proudly that she is 2nd in her class of 45.  Boy am I glad I don't teach in a Khmer school!  We chatted in the car on the drive into town and to our hotel. 
 We had had arranged to meet up with fellow Trip Advisor tragics Lynn & Michael from Denver Colorado so I got a local SIM card and rang Michael.  We met under the Pub Street sign and headed for the Khmer Kitchen.  What really interesting people and great company they turned out to be.  Over several beers and plenty of great food we chatted for hours.

Plans were made to visit Koh Ker on Monday – it’s one of the distant temples that very few tourists visit and will take a couple of hours by car to get there.  Will ring Suwan  and organise him to drive us.

Next stop was the markets – since we had only the clothes we stood up in – or rather our clothes were by now so sweaty & probably stinky that may well have been able to stand up by themselves… we need some replacements.  In our hunt for deodorant,  western sized knickers & swimmers (among other things) we noticed quite a number of people we’d seen on our flight and who were obviously in the same boat.

The Sonolong is lovely, the pool is fantastic and a good temperature.  I remember the Day Inn on our first April visit – it was like getting into the bath.  Our room is on the first floor and has a lovely outlook from the verandah through the gardens to the pool area.  And for $45/night including breakfast, it’s great value.
Balcony room on the top floor
No plans for Sunday and no easter bunny in Cambodia so we'll just hang around the hotel, swim, relax and wait for our luggage.  If it doesn't arrive I guess it's back to the markets - you can really only keep washing the same shirt in the shower for so long!

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