As the plane touched down in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, I looked across at Jane and smiled. We couldn’t believe we had just avoided a 20 hour overland journey and a horrible land border crossing. But it all might have ended a lot differently.
On the morning of the day we were to meet our new tour leader for the Laos leg in Hanoi, we were informed that Intrepid had cancelled this leg of our trip. Both Jane and I were shocked. We knew there had been trouble in Bangkok and that the Australian government had upped their travel warning for Bangkok to a Level 5 – but that had been lifted now and our trip wasn’t going to Bangkok…we were completing this leg in Chiang Mai.
There had been times on this trip where we had to deal with difficult people and I had just let Jane handle it. This time was different. I knew I had really good negotiation skills, and it was time to get into action. Jane later told me that she saw a steely look come into my eyes as I started my discussions with Phouc’s manager in Saigon.
He maintained he had sent us a text to inform us the trip was cancelled, but the text was about the cancellation of trips starting or ending in Bangkok. This did not apply to our trip. We had not heard a word from Intrepid either so I was not going to take this lightly. This was a trip that had guaranteed departure so I knew I had this card up my sleeve. I went through all of this with the manager in Saigon laying out all the information logically.
At this point it appeared all they could do was give us a refund. Jane and I knew we could easily do this leg of the trip ourselves. We were both independent, seasoned travellers and were very comfortable in Asia. But we didn’t have any time to do our research, and it would be a bit of pain to find hotels, book transport etc. Besides we had no prior warning and we needed to move on from Hanoi.
Not willing to give up easily I got on to the head office and the management in Bangkok. Many international phone calls later, I finally received a call to say that Intrepid had reinstated the trip just for Jane and myself and they were prepare to fly us to Laos, where our new tour leader would join us from Thailand.
We had been spared a 20 hour overland bus journey to Vientiane – we couldn’t be happier with the outcome. As the other travellers had been advised this trip was cancelled a week ago it was obviously too late for them to join us. This would basically be a private tour for Jane and myself. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome and I was glad my negotiation skills had not gone rusty and I was still able to negotiate a great outcome that was a win-win for everybody. We will still recommend Intrepid as a great company to our friends, our new tour leader has a job for the next couple of weeks, and Intrepid have two happy customers who remain to travel another day. “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” – Oscar Wilde