*Short Tales from the Road is a collection of my travel stories on the road while walking the world. It’s about the good, the bad, the funny and the unexpected situations that I’ve encountered on my travels.*
“I can’t believe I’m going to see you soon!”
That was the phrase that was constantly used in our online chats ever since I made plans to visit my friend, Khanusha in Poland over the summer. She had moved to Europe from Kuala Lumpur just a little over a year ago, and I haven’t seen her since. From our weekly lunch meetups, to hanging out at my place over the years — not having her around took a little getting used to, so you could imagine our excitement of seeing each other again after so long.
A day before my flight to Warsaw from the United Kingdom (where I was based on my Euro trip — my brother lives there), we exchanged a few texts about how we couldn’t wait to see each other, and that she would be waiting for me at the airport with a sign… you know, the works of welcoming someone you haven’t seen in a long time.
“We’re going to go dancing tomorrow!”
“How’s the weather in Warsaw?”
“It’s raining, but we’re going to make it work. It’s going to be so much fun!”
“I’m so excited!”
“Your 3 days is going to fly by!”
“See you in a few hours!”
I took a night flight to Warsaw. Two and a half hours all the way from Manchester to the Polish capital. It was rather uneventful and I slept most of the way, and the landing was pretty smooth. I couldn’t believe I was finally in Poland. New country ticked off the list!
There was wifi in the airport. I got online.
“Where? I don’t see you.”
“I’m almost out. Where are you?”
“Follow the yellow line. I’m waiting for you.”
“What yellow line?”
“The one that leads you out!”
There was no yellow line. There was no one waiting for me at the exit. It was quiet, too quiet really. I could literally hear crickets cricking.
I looked around. I looked at the board. That was when it dawned on me.
“Oh damn. I think I landed at a different airport.”
RyanAir lands at Warsaw Modlin Airport — the smaller, further airport from the city center. Khanusha was waiting for me at the Warsaw Chopin Airport. They are one hour away from each other.
And there we were, at two different airports. In the middle of the freaking night.
For most of my travels, I usually do research on transport to and fro from the airport, and how to get to my next destination — usually my hotel. However, because I was expecting to be picked up and chauffeured to the city by my friend; I was not prepared. I did not know a thing. But what could I do?
“Don’t worry,” I texted Khanusha, “Let me figure this out.”
“Okay, get to Warsaw Centrum. That’s the next best plan,” she texted back, “I’ll see you there.”
Walking aimlessly around the airport, I spotted a ticket booth for a bus that transports passengers to the nearby train station — but upon trying to buy a ticket, I found out that it was not working. There was lady in the counter next to it, so I decided to ask her.
“Excuse me, I’m trying to get to the train station. But this machine is not working.”
She shrugged, “I don’t know.”
“Does the bus stop here?”
“I don’t know.”
A Dutch couple standing behind me had the same questions, and she answered them in the same nonchalant way too.
Not very helpful for a person who was sitting inside a ‘BUS’ counter. And NOT a good introduction to how friendly the Polish are either. But I won’t judge. Maybe she just didn’t understand us.
I approached the Dutch couple, and found out that they were headed to Warsaw Centrum as well. “Ahhhhh,” I thought to myself, “Company.”
“So how do we get to the train station?” I asked them.
“I saw a bus out front. Maybe we can just approach the driver and ask him.”
They seemed to have a plan, so I followed them. At that point I had already decided that I’d just do whatever they did. They asked the bus driver some questions, and the girl turned to me and said, “Yes, this bus goes to the train station. It’s free.”
The bus left as soon as we got on. It was just the three of us and the bus driver. The Warsaw Modlin Airport is really in the middle of nowhere — everywhere was dark, there were hardly any street lights around, and we were driving along a windy, narrow, deserted lane. I felt like I was in a horror movie — the ones where the bus driver suddenly goes crazy, drives into a ravine, and kills everyone who survives the crash with an axe.
Yeah, that ran through my mind as we navigated the dark roads — and I held on to the seat handle for dear life, praying that I made the right choice getting on the bus. Every time the bus driver pressed the breaks, I would look at him just so that I could be a step ahead if anything were to happen; but he always had a bored expression (from too much driving, I suppose).
Well, I really didn’t have to let my imagination fly THAT much. After a 15 minute drive, the driver turned into what looked like a train station.
The train station! We’re here! I’m saved!
We got off the bus, bought our train tickets, and were finally on our way to Warsaw Centrum. Before parting ways, I thanked the couple for their help (and company).
And when I finally met Khanusha at the end of the night, she gave me an earful on how I should have told her what airport I was landing at.
“I’m sorry! I thought Warsaw only has ONE airport!” It doesn’t. It has two. As do many other cities. Even Kuala Lumpur.
So yes, that was our drama that evening. It really wasn’t too big of a deal, or a terrible mess up; so we always have a good laugh about it now. And from then on, just like how I would check what airport I depart from — I make sure to also check which airport I land in.
You know, just in case of another mix-up like this.