When I Was Left Penniless at Bangkok Airport

My return flight from Bangkok was at 9.45 at the night but the bus from Pattaya dropped me at the Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok at 4.45 pm. I had flat five hours to loiter around. The first thing I did was to get my boarding pass. I got it in a jiffy. While going for immigration clearance I saw Currency Exchange counter. An idea crossed my mind why not get my Thai currency exchanged in Bangkok itself because I would be landing in Lucknow at around 1 at night and I was not sure whether I will be able to get my currency exchanged there.

On my previous foreign visits I did not exchange currency (procrastination being the main reason) result is I am left with USD, Euro, LKR (Sri Lankan rupees). I wanted to be cautious this time and exchange all my TBH (Thai Baht). So, when I saw the first currency exchange counter at the airport I went there and exchanged TBH into INR. I looked at my watch it was 5.30 pm. The departure time was still a far cry.

I completed the immigration process that took hardly few minutes and then I landed at the duty free zone. I was amazed at the glitz and glamour of that zone. Products of big brands were at display. The liquor shops were choc-a-bloc with people while eateries were making quick business. The airport has all the popular brands as well as some niche products including cosmetics from L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Sulwhasoo, Biotherm, Nars, Lancome, Shiseido, Kiehl’s, Clarins, LA MER, Urban Decay, CLINIQUE and SK-II. Famous brands from fashion world such as Longchamp, Samsonite, Kipling, LeSportSac, Benetton, Mandarina Duck, Lulu Guiness and Victorinox were showcasing their wares

While walking through the aisle I reached near a shop named LUXURY COGNAC. I was looking at single malt and scotch of different brand I suddenly realized I am penniless – literally. I have got INR in my wallet which is practically useless here.

What to do now.

I started feeling nervous. I sat down on the bench wondering what to do now. Suddenly I felt I am hungry. I had my lunch at around 1 pm. I looked around. My gaze stopped at Tastes & Travel and Dean & Deluca two eateries full of people. The sight activated my hunger pangs. I shared my predicament with family members through Whatsapp. My elder brother who is frequent traveler suggested I should go to some Indian tell him about my problem and exchange some INR with THB.

I dropped the idea believing people will think I am mad. Now, I was felling thirsty and started looking for water outlet where I can get some water to drink. Airport staff told me I need to buy water. I checked my wallet again. I had two 20 THB currency notes and some change. I went to the counter and enquired about price of water bottle. The girl said: 75 Baht. I looked around and saw a vacant chair. I sat there. People around me were joyously drinking coffee, eating pizzas or some were purchasing chocolates for their near and dear back at home. A message popped up in my mobile. It was Vanya, daughter of my friend, who suggested I should use my debit card to make purchase. I made some mental calculations. A water bottle for 75 Baht means almost 180 INR plus transaction fees of 250 INR. So, one 200 ml water bottle will cost me 430 INR.

I looked at my watch. It was 7.30 pm. Still two hours before I can board the flight and get something to eat and drink. I sat tight. No, I am not going to `waste’ 430 INR on small water bottle, I said. The next minute I felt my throat is parched. There was some internal force which was pushing me as if saying I need water immediately. I looked around. I was surrounded by happy looking people, making purchases. When I saw a beautiful lady buying a bottle of water, I said to myself: Enough is enough. I need water and decided to use my debit card.

I went to the counter of Taste and Travel and asked for water bottle and I pushed my debit card. The sales girl looked at me and said: “Do not you have USD”. Suddenly, idea crossed my mind that I have some USD in a pouch bag. I took it out from my rucksack in a jiffy. Lo and behold I actually have USD 104. All of a sudden I felt I am the richest man around. I bought a water bottle for USD 3. She returned some change.

Then I went to Cognac and brought two bottles of Teachers for USD 36 and a local brew for my friends back home. With money in my pocket the despondency evaporated within seconds and I was back in my chirpy self.

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