If you read to the end of my last post, I made a comment about "travel in this country always seems to sap my energy." I had new reasons to ponder why that is so after our trip home on Friday.
First of all, John and I have learned that when traveling, especially in Asia, especially with children, that allowing extra time is always a good idea. If you have to wait a few minutes, even a half hour, on a plane or train or bus, it's better to be safe than sorry. So we have usually built into our travel day schedules a time margin for safety's sake.
However, on Friday we must have forgotten everything we've learned. We slept just a little late (love those hotel black-out curtains!), then took just a little too much time getting ready, just a little too much time eating the fabulous buffet breakfast at this hotel, and by then we realized we were falling behind schedule. The girls, sensing the time pressure, and noting how mommy and daddy were too busy to pay close attention, of course chose those moments to disobey and need punishments, which took even more time. Then we quickly packed up, did a double-check of the room, called the bellboy, and checked out at the front desk--all of which took just a little more time than we had hoped.
So our intention--to leave about 9:50 or 10 at the latest, to catch a 10:50 train--was postponed, little by little, until finally when we were all settled in the taxi and on our way to the train station, it was 10:15. We asked the driver with trepidation, "how long does it take to get to the train station from here?" "Oh, about 30 minutes," said the driver breezily. "Well, could you take the fastest route, please? We are in a hurry," said my husband, trying to be breezy but with a note of underlying urgency.
This was not a banner moment for me. I was envisioning the worst--we miss our train, there are no more tickets, we are stuck in this city, we have to take the slow bus that takes 6 hours, etc. But hope springs eternal, and miracle of miracles, we arrive at the station about 10:35.
We struggle out of the taxi, me with the dead weight of Chloe in my arms (she had fallen asleep on the taxi ride), and John trying to manage Clara Anne as well as two large suitcases, Chloe's booster chair, his computer bag, and the Pack-n-Play. A enterprising gentleman comes up to us with a dolly in tow, wondering if he could "help" us. "Hah! For a hefty fee, I'm sure!" thinks John, but then reconsiders--actually yes, we could use some help. The man immediately loads up all of the heavy luggage, and once we show him our tickets he knows exactly where to go. We make a run for it. (Well, the man runs, John scoops up Clara Anne and runs, and I straggle behind with Chloe, my purse with its broken strap, and a miscellaneous bag of snacks, books, and blankets for the train.)
We made it to the building, (the taxi had to drop us off about 2 blocks away, truly inconvenient!) through security, and then as we approached the tickets-only area we began to slow, anticipating that we would now have to take all our luggage. But even as the ticket agent yelled at the guy helping us, our helper waved him off, went right through the gate and down the stairs.
[As a sidenote, stairs without a ramp or escalator, are a really stupid thing to have at a place like a train station or airport. Anyone who has thought about it for any length of time whatsoever realizes that at a place like that, everyone has luggage of some sort! Therefore that luggage has to be lugged down the stairs and then back up to the platform. That was the case at this train station.]
There was a ramp going down the stairs, which our guy tried unsuccessfully to navigate--all of our luggage toppled off the dolly and onto the stairs. But we got loaded up again and quickly made our way through a long hallway and then faced another set of stairs, this time going up. A very kind passer-by gave our guy a hand so that the luggage could stay on the dolly all the way up to the top. We arrived at the top, breathless, and then took off running again for our train car which was quite a ways down the line.
Ah, the happy moment when we stepped aboard the train! Our guy had made it with us the whole way, and John dug out his wallet to compensate him accordingly. He first gave the man 30 local dollars, but the man wasn't happy with that and was grumbling and complaining. His next smallest bill being a 50, John just gave it to him and figured, oh well, it was worth it. 80 local dollars was a small price to pay for having made the train!
We boarded at 10:47, and the train left at 10:49, a minute earlier than scheduled. My first words to John were, "Let's never do that again!" But we were so thankful to have made the train, we just sat there in shocked relief for the first few minutes! Truly, if not for our friend, who managed the luggage so that John could carry Clara Anne, we would not have made the train, and who knows what would have happened then. If not for his help, we would have had to go at Clara Anne's pace, down and up all those stairs and through the crowds--it never would have worked.
Suffice to say, when we finally got out of the train, made it through the station, stood in line for a taxi, got all our stuff in a taxi, and made it home to our apartment, we were extremely glad to get here. Whew! I'm glad we have a few months before we need to have any more traveling adventures! The saying remains true--"East or West, Home is Best."