Chapter 5: The Voyage to Koh Tao (part 1)

Chapter 4 (4)

September 15, 2018 – The Last Day

My last day in Montreal! I still couldn’t believe this was happening. I had no plans for the day, just the last few bits of packing and running through my list over and over to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I give it less than a week before I realize I’ve missed something crucial. I went to bed at 9:00pm the night before just to try and shut off my brain. I ended up sleeping until 9:30am which I’m sure I’ll need for the lack of sleep I’m about to put myself through.

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Somehow I managed to squeeze all of this plus toiletries in one checked bag and one carry-on

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Because I had no plans, I had a lot of time to sit and think. As a typical Virgo, I like things to be organized and planned. Ask anyone I’ve travelled with, and they’ll tell you that I’ve got everything under control. I mean, I planned a five and a half week trip across three countries with a day by day itinerary. Call me neurotic, I call it “prepared”. This voyage will actually be one of the least organized trips I’ve gone on. It feels kind of liberating! But it also makes me extremely nervous. I found myself playing over a million scenarios in my head of what could go wrong. I thought about being lonely (my biggest fear in this whole endeavour), going broke too fast, wanting to go home the minute I got there… I was thinking of everything. I was starting to second guess whether this was the right thing to do. I was trying all day to distract myself but the thoughts were still in the back of my mind.

Later in the afternoon, my mom came into my room to ask if I wanted to go for dinner. Yes! Our last family dinner before my departure. I feel like I’ve had so many goodbye celebrations that now I’ve lost count. There was the party at my bar a couple of weeks ago, the extended family barbecue at my house, a last home cooked dinner of my favourite meal, and now dinner at my favourite restaurant. Funny how all of these involve food… I guess they just know how to get to my heart.

My sister recently started working as a nurse and has been doing a lot of graveyard shifts so I was really hoping she would wake up to come and join us for some delicious Greek food. After a little back rub and some sweet-talking, she agreed. Yayyyyyy!!! Dinner was great and it felt like the perfect sendoff. We have been going to that restaurant ever since we were little and it never gets old. Cheap plates, huge portions, AND it’s bring your own wine. I tried to drink enough to tire me out and it did the trick. By 10:00pm, my head hit the pillow. While it wasn’t the best night’s sleep (my head was still running wild), I was getting really excited for the adventure that awaited.

September 16, 2018 – Day 1:

Flight #1 – YUL -> YVR

As I am writing this, I am sitting on an Air Canada flight from Montreal to Vancouver. This is really happening. The journey has begun. I woke up this morning at the buttf**k crack of dawn. 4:00am to be exact. My bags were all packed except for a few last minute additions. I jumped in the shower, threw on the comfiest pair of jeans I own, woke up my dad, and we were ready to go. In case I haven’t mentioned this before, one of the perks of being related to an Air Canada employee is that I can fly standby for a fraction of the cost. One condition however is that you need to be dressed appropriately. No ripped jeans, flip flops, sneakers, jogging pants, or hoodies. Ya. You know how athleisure is all the rage right now? I can’t take part in the fashion trend while flying standby. It’s a small sacrifice to make, but oh how I wish I could be practically wearing pyjamas right now.

As I was packing up the last few items in my carryon bag, my dad threw my huge check bag in the back of his car. It weighs a total of 37.5 pounds, but it feels about twice as heavy. I woke up my mom (who was already crying because she was “going to miss her baby”) and we said our goodbyes. I forced my cat, Poncho, against his will to sleep with me my last night. It would be our last night of cuddles for a while so he needed to suck it up and appreciate the time he had left with me. It was really hard to say goodbye to him. I can talk to my parents and my friends, but he won’t know any better. Do I sound like a crazy cat lady yet? I promise I’m not. I just love him.

The airport is a quick twenty minute drive from my house. The roads were empty. I mean, who is up at 4:30am on a Sunday anyway? We pulled up to the departures terminal and my dad helped unload the car with my two heavy backpacks and my laptop bag. We said our goodbyes and he drove off. This was it. I am officially on my own. Ok I literally just got shivers writing that. This is a big deal. On my own as of now.

As I was going through the check-in process and making my way through security, I was getting a few messages from some of my closest friends. They woke up just to send me messages of encouragement and good fortune. This was just what I needed. My doubts slowly started to recede and the excitement returned. If I change my mind, I can just come home. I am not stuck anywhere. That thought is what helps me relax. I know this isn’t going to be easy, but if times are too tough, I can always come home.

The flight was wide open. Seats everywhere. The seat I was given was in the middle row of four on the aisle. Not the best spot, but an aisle seat! As the plane continued to board, a guy with a cat sat on the other end of the row. That’s right people, a cat! I was so excited. The poor thing was meowing endlessly but I didn’t care. All I could think about were my cats back at home. Boarding completed and I realized that the row directly behind me was completely empty. I had to choose. Cat, or empty row… It was a tough decision, but I took the row. For the entire flight, I sprawled out and slept. Almost 6 hours later, we landed in Vancouver.

Flight 2 – YVR -> HKG

We landed at 10:30am Vancouver time and my next flight was at 1:15pm. Just a few short hours to spare. I killed some time by grabbing a Subway sandwich and messaging friends. When I checked in to my flights in Montreal, I was given a seat right away for the Vancouver flight so there was no stress there. But I was still standby to Hong Kong. I had to go through the entire check-in process and wait by the gate for them to call my name to find out whether or not I would get a seat. I was walking around the airport and when I came back a gate agent was starting her paperwork. I went up to her and asked a question about my bag I checked in Montreal and at the same time asked whether the flight was full for standby passengers. She asked me to wait over on the side and said it would be a few minutes before she called me. Then she asked, “would you prefer a window, or an aisle”. What a nice lady! Usually for standby, you don’t push your luck. You get what you get, and that’s that. I told her that I was just happy with a seat and she laughed. “Because of that, I’ll give you an exit row aisle seat”. JACKPOT! This woman basically gave me as close to first-class as they come. This was a 13.5 hour flight, and this was going to make a huge difference.

As the plane was getting ready to board, I popped an Adavan to relax me as much as possible. Long flights are the worst if you can’t sleep so I’ll take whatever drugs I can get. Again, another open flight. And again, the row behind me was wide open. I jumped at the chance to grab it and claimed it as mine. After takeoff, the flight attendants came around with some snacks and drinks. There’s free booze on these long flights so of course, I needed to take advantage. Adavan and white wine… quite the cocktail. After a few glasses, I was out. When I woke up, we were getting ready to land in Hong Kong. I slept most of the flight. While I felt super groggy, the flight flew by… pun not intended.

Flight 3 – HKG -> DMK

My layover in Hong Kong was only a few short hours. I had to pick up my bag, go through customs, and check back in again with Air Asia. It’s a budget airline but only a couple of hours long. I was almost there!

When I researched Hong Kong International Airport back in Canada, I discovered that there were showers available without needing to be a member of a lounge. After going through security and finding my gate, I looked further into the shower situation. The rumours were true, but they were only available in the arrival terminal… a restricted area. I was already comfortable in the departure area so I lost my chance. Whatever… it wouldn’t be too much longer.

When I booked my flight to Bangkok, I had to pay extra for the option to change my flight in case I didn’t make it to Hong Kong. This “premium plus” option also came with a meal and priority seating. Again, I would have ample leg room for the last part of my journey.

 

September 18, 2018 – Day 2:

I landed in Bangkok just after midnight. I picked up my bag and ordered a “Grab” ride. It’s just like Uber but more popular in Asia. I made it to my hostel at around 1:00am, dropped my bags, and showered. It was the best shower of my life. I had felt so oily and sweaty that I couldn’t wait to scrub it all off.

After my shower I caught a second wind and went down to the hostel lobby to chat with a few people. Most were going to end up on Koh Tao at some point in their trip so we exchanged information and I’m sure I’ll be seeing them soon.

It was just past 2:00am when I went to bed but my jet-lag was kicking in. I probably only crashed at around 4 or 5 and I had to be up before noon to check out. On to part two of my journey.