Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Travels Around the World

Lost in Translation…

New Year Fireworks and lanterns in Hua Hin, Thailand
New Year Fireworks and lanterns in Hua Hin, Thailand

Happy New Year to you all! I hope 2013 brings you much good health and happiness.

Generally I start the year with a host of resolutions that I then fail to keep, but this year I was too busy having an adventure to make any kind of serious resolutions.

And boy, what an adventure it was! (And not just the interesting and entertaining cultural experience they advertised in the brochure!)

I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice to say that when my 16 year old son ‘lost’ his passport in transit in Kuala Lumpur airport (en route from Auckland to Bangkok) the beginning of our wonderful holiday turned into a nightmare. The plane we were all due to catch to meet up with our tour guide (and extended family) in Bangkok left without us. Immigration refused to let us out of Malaysia – and for a good length of time refused to let us out of the airport! The NZ High Commission was closed for another 48 hours (it was a Saturday), so there was no way of getting a replacement passport before then…

We met with police, immigration officials, airport officials and spoke (at length) with the on-call embassy staff who said replacement passports usually took at least 3 working days to process- and that the office was only open on Christmas Eve for a few hours, then closed for 10 days!

So, my husband and 14 yr old caught a late afternoon plane to Bangkok and I stayed in KL with my son ready to battle the authorities- and do a whole lot of smiling and nodding while internally I just wanted to cry. We were due to spend Christmas together (including relatives flying from Sydney to join us on the tour through Thailand) and that was starting to look impossible.

Eventually we were allowed to leave the airport with a tiny scrap of flimsy paper that said we must not leave the country, and we had to stay in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Next hurdle- where to find a hotel with a vacancy the busiest weekend of the year? LOL- the only one available was the very comfortable and very expensive Crowne Plaza (which our insurance company would pay for)– things started to look up; if I’m to be held hostage in a country- it might as well be in five star luxury!

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Highest twin towers in the world
Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Highest twin towers in the world

Regular feedback from the other half of the family reported that they had finally met up with the tour and relatives, and that they were having a grand time kayaking under the Bridge on the River Kwai… so we knuckled down to try and enjoy KL. Lovely people. Lovely food! Very hot and humid weather.

Christmas Eve dawned and we posted ourselves outside the NZ High Commission very early and waited for the staff to arrive. I can’t describe the feeling of immense joy when a lovely lady with a short denim skirt and bare feet (typical Kiwi woman!) greeted us with a beaming smile and the words, ‘We always have a crisis at Christmas and we’re hoping you’re it! I’ve started the paperwork and you should be ready to go in a couple of hours!’ I could have kissed her!

True to her word the emergency travel document was processed in record time and we rushed to the airport and took the first available flight out of KL. The tour group was a few hours south of Bangkok and the tour company/insurance company provided a transfer for us. We met up with them all just in time for dinner on Christmas Eve night.

Then, we started our holiday (but that’s a whole different blog post!)

Me and my boy, finally on holiday! (on an elephant)
Me and my boy, finally on holiday! (on an elephant)

Looking back, in the midst of all the confusion and chaos, the worry and the anguish I did learn a few things:

–       That NZ High Commission is a slice of Kiwi heaven in a crazy city

–       That there is no point getting stressed in a situation you have NO control over

–       That you still love your children no matter what they do

–       That my family are more important to me than anything else

–       That travel insurance is worth its weight in gold!

–       That people genuinely do want to help you (Thank you to Abd from Malaysian Airlines and Vicky from the High Commission)

–       That genuine smiles are pure salve to an aching heart

–       That no experience is ever wasted to a writer! (Yes- I’m sure some time I’ll have a story that incorporates a lost passport in a steamy city!)

So, the only resolution I’m planning on this year is to smile more and thank my lucky stars I have a happy and healthy family, no matter where we find ourselves!

What about you? Ever had a holiday disaster? Ever had an experience you’ve learned from? Please share!


20 thoughts on “Lost in Translation…”

  1. Oh, Louisa. BOYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The good thing is that surely out of that experience he will NEVER be blase about his passport again. Glad you had insurance and glad the holiday eventually ended well. I have similar story involving USA immigration and visas. I have almost recovered 16 years later!

    1. Fi, I can only hope he will treasure his passport like gold dust from now on in (but he’s a teenage boy, what are the chances???) LOL!

      Sorry to hear you had a similar experience- it certainly adds to the grey hairs!

  2. OMG Louisa!!! My heart was in my mouth when I read your story!
    I cant help but think that murder would have been on my mind in that situation….am glad now I stuck to my guns when I refused to let my teenage kids be reponsible for their own passports everytime they grumbled as I doled them out and took them back again at every. single. freaking. checkpoint.
    I did have a little lump in my throat though at the end when you got to the things you had learned. Thats all sooo true. Maybe you could dedicate your next book to Abd and Vicky and send them a copy – bet they’d be thrilled!
    Pleased it all worked out well in the end and you all got to be together at Christmas.
    I’ve neevr had anything so hair-raising happen to me whilst travelling, thankfully. Being lost in a forgein city is about the most calamitous I can come up with, oh and our trip to Paris for my 40th birthday being cancelled the day before due to the Eurostar service being cancelled for the first time ever in its history!!
    Still, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right and yes, its all grist for the mill!
    ps – did the passort ever get found?

    1. Hi Amy! Normally I carry all the passports and, like you, collect them in after every checkpoint. But this time I handed my son his passport at NZ immigration and actually said (foolish, foolish me), ‘I think it’s time you looked after your own passport now you’re sixteen. Guard it with your life.’ Big mistake. HUGE!

      Great idea to dedicate my next book to Abd and Vicky-I may just do that!

      And unlucky you, getting your birthday trip cancelled at the last minute- hope you do get to Paris one day!

      1. We’d been to Paris about 20 years before so it wasn’t too devastating but I had lunch booked at a restaurant up the Eiffel tower :-(. And we really wanted to show the kids Paris. Oh well – they’ll just have to go there on their own dime when they’re older 🙂

  3. Louisa! What an adventure. And your son survived without his mother killing him, that truly is a blessing, isn’t it nice you got to see the good side of people? Xx

  4. This is one vacation that you will never forget. I know it will work it’s way into a story in the future.

    I love the picture of the two of you on a elephant. That had to be an awesome experience.

  5. My goodness what an adventure. This will be one of those memories that you’ll laugh about later. What a wonderful trip to go on. Glad it all worked out. I have to say you made my Christmas seem calm.

  6. Yikes Louisa! Glad to hear that everything worked out and that you and your son got to spend Christmas with the rest of the family. It’s so true, isn’t it, that however bad things get, there always seems to be someone who’s ready with a smile and who’ll walk the extra mile for you. Thank goodness for the Abds and Vickys of this world 🙂

    1. I certainly had my faith restored in humanity, Annie! (although I did encounter one particularly unhelpful man in immigration, everyone else could clearly see the distress we were in so close to christmas and wanted to help). I can’t tell you the relief I felt when we actually met up with the rest of the family/tour. And we had such a fabulous time after that. I hope your holidays were less stressful!

  7. OMG! Louisa! What an adventure – and one you could have done without I’m sure! I know *you* learned lots from it – but I hope your son has too!

    All’s well, though and that’s the main thing! And this will go into the George family fables to be retold many many times in the future… mmm an excellent story for Number One son’s 21st!


    1. LOL! Sharon- I have warned him that this story will be retold many many times (in fact, it already has!). I sincerely hope he has learnt a few things (but I’m not sure- he’s a hormone ravaged teenager-what can I say!). I won’t allow him access to his passport again until he’s 30!

  8. Oh, Louisa! What a nightmare, but I love you positive spin on it, and I’m thrilled it worked out fairly well for the rest of the vacation. As for me, I’d still be asking the boy ” How in the bleep did you lose your passport????” LOL.
    Also, they make nifty things that hang around the neck to hold passports (kind of like our name tag holders at writers’ conferences) Maybe force him to wear on the next time you travel abroad?

    Fortunately, I don’t have any travel nightmares to share. Fingers crossed I never will.
    hugs and Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Lynne! Thanks for telling me about the passport holders, I’ll look into to those next time he goes away on his own (possibly this coming easter)- either that or I’ll superglue the passport to his hand!

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