The bags were 99% packed, and all systems were go for our trip to Southeast Asia on Wednesday evening. And then they weren’t. What changed? As I noted in my last post, we’d wavered a little on leaving for a long vacation in a place increasingly affected by the coronavirus outbreak, but all of our knowledge, intuition, and local contacts suggested that we were extremely unlikely to actually catch anything.
Including our flights! We’d already rebooked our return flights (a time-consuming and stressful task), which had a problematic Hong Kong layover. As the number of virus cases mounted, however, we began to rethink the seven regional flights we had booked and even our return via Tokyo. We didn’t have that many destinations, but many of our flights involved layovers back in Bangkok, and we started to eliminate some of them in an attempt to salvage our trip.
With every adjustment, we ran into a domino effect of problems. Eliminate Cambodia and the four planes associated with just that one stop? Oops, no flights from Luang Prabang to Danang a few days earlier. Spend more time in Chiang Mai? Nope; Laos was already getting short shrift, and what was the point of flying for over 24 hours to get to Asia and then cut our top destinations short?
Neither our friends on the ground in Thailand and Vietnam nor our families in the U.S. pushed us in any one direction, but there were plenty of signs that this might not be the carefree and fun vacation we had planned six months ago. We are not retired and have obligations at home, and we could ill afford a problem at any point with a return. Though getting sick was not even on our radar, getting stuck or, worse, potentially quarantined based on where we had been, was a worry.
It did us in. Call us wimps, but we wanted to really enjoy this trip and not just get through it. Thirty-six hours before takeoff, we pulled the plug. Before I canceled all the flights, hotels, guides, and drivers, we went online, searched for cheap fares to anywhere we’d never been, and bought tickets for Guatemala for one day after our original departure date. We didn’t even really have to repack the bags!
So here we are in Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala, where we landed two hours before we would have in Bangkok even though we left a full day later! It’ll be a short stay, but it’s a nice consolation prize for the trip to which we sadly bid adieu. For the next few days, we’ll speak Spanish and climb volcanoes, but we’ll be headed back to Bangkok and all of our other SE Asian stops in November if all goes well!
Buenas noches, all, and thanks for all the support throughout our decision-making process!