Eleven hours at Yangon Airport.
I have never really minded spending time in transit. I am a small human and although I am getting increasingly impatient with age, the thrill of what is to come from my travels makes airports bearable.
Or so I thought.
It was the middle of summer in Burma – a thrashing 42 degrees with 90 percent humidity – and I arrived at Yangon airport at 5.30am after a 12 hours night bus trip from Mandalay. My partner is severely ill – take your imagination to wild extremes – and we have a flight at 4pm. Hungry, tired and in need of some comfort we decided to stay at the airport, thanks to its air-conditioning, instead of trekking the two hours into the city and back. We were flying to Bangkok and fortunately a 7am Air Asia flight we may just make would give us another day in Thailand, if we could get to it in time.
At Yangon airport the check-in desk is through security, so we made a mad dash past the armed guards, scanned our rucksacks and raced to the desk. “I’m sorry but we cannot fill the flight” is what we are met with five minutes later and our hopes are shattered. Despite some pushing and shoving (and attempted bribery) we were unable to persuade the airline to swap our booking.
We (not without protest) reside ourselves to the fact we are stuck at the airport for a few hours and head back past security to the main airport area in search of food. But we are met with restraint once again; “No exit” plays on repeat in my head, still to this day. It turns out; no one (even when temped with bribery) will let you out of the airport even if you have to wait eight hours.
No alcohol. No food. No water. No fun. We are stuck at airport security, with little more than a fun size packet of chips, a handful of nuts and a 250 ml bottle of water which, we ration over a six hour period. Between frantic trips to the bathroom every twenty minutes and exchanging scowls each time we turn the page of the books we have already read, we sit, and sit, and sit on our white, plastic bench feeling squashed by our Burmese adventure.
After six long hours we check in, offload our baggage and search like scavengers for food. Filled with as much choice as a midnight snacker in a small country town, we sit down for the most expensive spring rolls on the planet – the only available food option. At last, temporary relief followed by another five hour transit to Bangkok.
I have no pictures of this experience as I was too traumatised to take any. I looked out the window next to me for eight hours, so close to the outside world, but so far. I now know what prison must feel like in a low-security facility with basic air-conditioning. If I have learnt anything from this travel mishap; I will forever carry ample snacks with me on every journey for the rest of my life.