After leaving Yangon, I flew to Kuala Lumpur for an overnight on my way to New Delhi.
I landed in Kuala Lumpur just before midnight and made my way to immigration and customs. I was hoping because it was the middle of the night that maybe immigration wouldn’t be so bad. But it was. It was the longest immigration line I’ve dealt with so far on the trip – I waited about 45 minutes to get through.
With it being about 1am at the point, I went to stay at the Capsule hotel at the airport – yes, a Capsule hotel! So this is one of those hotels you see in “crazy Asia” moments where they have a ton of sleeping pods that are all stacked together and people can rent. I was surprised with how comfortable mine was! It really was just a bed for the night, and given that getting into Kuala Lumpur city takes a good bit of time, it was a great compromise so I could sleep and not have to deal with taxis.
As my luck has it, I fell asleep very quickly. Besides a crying child at about 3am, I slept remarkably well and I don’t think I woke up until about 9am.
My flight wasn’t scheduled until 4:30, but KL built a mall attached to the airport, and the capsule hotel had WiFi, so I knew I could entertain myself.
After I woke up, I wandered the mall a bit. And came across a McDonald’s. Serving breakfast. Have I mentioned how much I have been craving pancakes lately?! I was so happy to see that and to get some pancakes!
I made it over to my flight, which I was excited for. It’s the first time I ever bought myself a business class ticket (not an upgrade, etc… the original ticket I bought was business class), so I was happy for the space during a decently long flight. I was also happy for the decent food, and the tablet to watch movies on…
Because of the six English movies they had, The Sound of Music was one of them. So I have now seen it! I really enjoyed it, and I was definitely tense at the end to find out whether or not they managed to escape!
Then I landed in New Delhi. I decided to take a tour in India because I have heard so many bad things about their treatment of women, and just the general difficulty in traveling there. And, after a month of being the sole logistics-manager, I was excited to outsource the logistics. Especially the airport transfers. I’ve already shared hatred for touts and taxi drivers at the airport specifically, so I was definitely happy to know I’d be met at the airport and from then on, the logistics for the next week would be handled!
I landed, went through immigration and customs, got my bag, and went to get my ride. Only I made it to the group of people waiting for people come off the planes… and there was no sign with my name. No sign with G Adventures. And there were no women at all there (and G Adventures uses a group that supports women to do the airport transfers – so I knew the person picking me up would be a woman).
I walked through the arrivals hall and tried to see if there was another place where drivers were waiting and didn’t see one. I then was like “crap, what do I do?” because of course, New Delhi is the first airport I’ve been in this trip that didn’t have free WiFi. (I mean seriously?! Teeny tiny Mandalay, Myanmar had WiFi for goodness sake.) So I saw a place to buy SIM cards and inquired about the price. It seemed a bit steep, and normally there are multiple companies to choose from. So I was looking for another SIM card sales person at the same time I was looking for what the exchange rate from dollars to rupees was.
And then I saw another group of drivers with signs waiting outside the arrival hall. And I saw women amongst them! So I thought that had to be my person, and I went outside.
Worst. Decision. Ever.
Because my driver was not there. And you can’t go back into the arrivals hall.
So it’s about 100% humidity and probably 100 degrees, and I had no driver. And in another first of the roughly 12 airports I’ve been in in the past month – there were NO SIM card salespeople outside.
I had no Internet. No phone. No way to get to my phone. And I had no clue what I was going to do.
Can we discuss for a second just how livid I was getting by the second? And how livid I still am? I hired a company to handle the logistics, and there they are… failing to handle them. Not to mention, the New Delhi airport is full of touts and taxi drivers who want to rip you off. At this point, I was seeing all of my fears about India (and the reason I hired a company to handle it) brought to light.
I didn’t even have the address of the hotel. My mistake – I should have had a backup plan ready to go if G Adventures didn’t plan well. Lesson learned for next time.
So I took a deep breath and decided I would wait 30 minutes. Maybe they were just late. I spent the time seething and thinking how I should just do my own logistics here on out. Had I arranged the transfer myself, I guarantee that they would have been there, and been there on time, and with more specifics on where to meet. Because I’m excellent at logistics. G Adventures is apparently not. Looking at all of their documentation, there was never a mention of whether the driver would be inside or out, or even a meeting point. I’ll leave that as a suggestion for them.
30 minutes pass. No sign of my driver.
At this point, I was starting to get incredibly worried and was working through backup plans – like finding a hotel close to the airport and booking it for the night, getting a cab there, and figuring it out then. A nice guard let me borrow his phone WiFi to try to send emails to the company and figure it out. I even tried tweeting at them. Don’t worry… they got back to me 3 days later. Glad I wasn’t dead or dying. (And they have 24-hour toll-free numbers! If you’re in the US, UK, Australia or New Zealand. Super helpful when you’re having a problem in India with no phone.)
Once I was able to get online, I now had the emergency contact number for the transfer company. But alas… no phone and no pay phone in sight. I went back again to the pick up area and checked for my driver – still not there.
At this point, I think it was clearly written on my face just how worried and peeved I was. A really nice Indian gentleman stopped and offered to help. I am always on guard, so was quick to clarify “are you wanting me to pay you or to take me in your taxi?” And he laughed and said no, just that it looked like I needed help.
He called the number for the cab company and talked to them in Hindi (whew!) to get it all worked out. That night, he was like my guardian angel. He told them where to send their person to meet me, gave them a description of me (basically all the logistics the tour company should have handled), and about 10 minutes later, my driver found me.
It turns out my driver was late and in the inside pickup area, which is how she missed me.
And that, my friends, is how my trip to India started.
The good news is I survived and learned to perhaps not outsource logistics.