13 August 2013

{We're Pretty Safe}: My Token Crazy Flight Story

I feel like all frequent travellers have at least one harrowing flight story.  You know, one of those where the thought actually crosses your mind, "oh geez... I may not survive this."  It's almost like a traveller's right of passage, and I happen to have a few stories of my own.  Which is precisely why I knew I had to enter Travelstart's flight experience competition.  A scary flight story in exchange for a shot at two free airline tickets on Airlink?!... count me in.

{Taken more recently on a very smooth an uneventful flight to Rwanda}

Flash back to 2006.  I was an undergraduate student on Semester at Sea.  Our ship had ported in Burma and I was on my way to Rangoon's airport in order to board a flight bound for Inle Lake.  In advance, we had been informed that Burma was under severe sanctions and that their planes were resultantly non-compliant with international flight standards.  While I'd be lying if I said that this little tid-bit of information didn't make me slightly nervous, I was so excited for my upcoming travels that I just rationalized most of this concern aside.  It was all just part of the adventure... right?

As I approached the airport, however, several clues forced me to acknowledge that I was certainly no longer flying within the comfort and safety of a developed society.

{apologies for the photo quality - these were taken long before my blogging days ;)}

The first indication came via a huge sign at the entrance of the airport that read: "Drug trafficking is a serious offence which can get death penalty"... and just to clarify - by trafficking they meant carrying any amount of drugs period.  Lucky for me, I'm not a huge druggy.  But even for my sober self, death seems a bit severe considering the crime.  I remember thinking, "hmmm, if drugs get death, then what does something like, let's say, jay-walking get... twenty years in prison?"

Adding to this, as we proceeded through security males and females were separated and led into small cubicles where we were each strip searched... to really be certain that we weren't carrying any drugs, you know?  Honestly, I found their courageous effort in the fight against drugs a bit discerning, especially when it's considered that the government itself is known to traffic large amounts of opium out of the country.  Talk about a walking contradiction.  In any event, I definitely wasn't carrying anything even remotely resembling drugs on me, and I was allowed to pass.  Phew.

The second indication occurred as we were ushered outside onto the tarmac.  While the plane in the above picture looked to be in acceptable condition from the outside, there was a poorly translated transcription on its side that read... and I quote... "We're pretty safe!".  Yes, you read that correctly.  I'm assuming they had intended to say 'really' in place of 'pretty', but that's a pretty big mistake to make.  Pretty safe doesn't usually cut it for me when it comes to air travel.

My friends and I looked at one another in disbelief, but still hesitantly filed up the stairs and into our seats one by one.  As we took off, I crossed my fingers and took a deep breath... and before I knew it we were air bound.


But the adventure continued... after take-off it quickly became apparent that the plane was not equipped with air-con.  I'll never forget the poor air stewardesses - walking up and down the aisles in their constricting uniforms with polite smiles, as bead after bead of sweat rolled down their faces.  To top it all off, condensation was dripping off the plane ceiling onto our heads throughout the duration of the flight.

Oh the joys of plane travel in Burma.

But you know what?  As you've probably already guessed, in the end we made it.  And what followed was without a doubt one of the most enriching and fulfilling weeks of my life.

 Throughout the proceeding days we endured a 100 year flood, a three day power outage and a whole lot of cold showers... as well as several taxi rides where pieces of the car floor were missing.  But somehow all of these factors just added to the awe of the overall experience.  And the people!  The people were truly some of the kindest and most genuine I've met, in spite of their difficult living circumstances.  Not to mention the absolutely beautiful scenery and wondrously cheap food.  Due to the sanctions, the whole country resembled something of a time capsule and it created the feeling that one was going back in time.

It was nothing short of incredible.

To this day, Burma remains my most cherished travel experience.
And I'm dying {beyond dying!} to go back!

Ironic isn't it?

Have you had any crazy flight experiences?  I'd love to hear!

{Linking up with Travel Tuesdays}


  1. oh my gosh jenna, this is hilarious! i love reading about people's bad travel stories. they always make for great stories...later on! the scariest one i had was when we had to make an emergency landing (greeted my ambulances and fire trucks) because the light behind me was smoking and about to catch fire....reassuring

  2. Bad travel stories are the things that bond people for life :) I love the sign, "We're pretty safe!" Not the best way to instill confidence in travelers! In Marrakesh earlier this year I was draped in snakes by some snake charmers. This was definitely against my will and kind of horrifying, though hilarious in hind sight.

  3. Oh no Jen!! So glad you lived to the tale.
    Funny to look back now x

  4. oh no!! There is a similar sign in the Bali and Singapore airports. I was NOT expecting to see 'death'! I'm so jealous of your Burma adventures. I would love to visit one day!

  5. What a crazy misadventure, but well they always make for the BEST stories!!!

  6. oh my goodness... I don't think I would have been brave enough to get on that flight! but it sounds like I would have missed out on an AMAZING experience. Your taste for adventure is impressive!

  7. wow, what a story!
    My brother had a horrible flight four years ago. They were flying to Gabon when the airplane started losing oxygen or something. Everyone starting falling asleep around him. Luckily the pilot realised and fixed the problem. Scary!

  8. That is definitely a tale to tell! I bet your parents were freaking out afterwards when you told them about it ;)

  9. You amaze me Jenna. I wish I had your travel bug! You just have some of the most amazing experiences (even if getting there is a bit scary)! xo

  10. oh my gosh you are so brave. i really dont think i would heva gotten on that plane... i panic with ryan air and at least they meet faa regulations!

  11. That's crazy!! I feel like you have to have that token crazy transportation story and then once its out of the way everything else feels ridiculously safe!

  12. That's so funny Jenna! You are one brave lady :)

    xx L

  13. I have no travel stories involving planes like that one...wow quite the one to share! Thank you for sharing it with us for Travel Tuesday. I hope you link up with us tomorrow too! I really love your Burma photos, but especially the ones with the kids.

  14. You're way braver than me! The first hint of plane trouble and I'm having a meltdown!


Thanks for the love!