Benito Vacio

Airport encounters

Some of the folks you meet on the road well-travelled

Because I was out of my country for more than a year, I was not able to know some changes in our immigration policies. I was only aware of these when newly arrived acquaintances and friends visit Bangkok or I was confronted with it.
I took my vacation weeks ago to appear to the Philippine Social Security System (SSS) office as a proof that I am still alive for my annual renewal of retirement claim benefits.

Weeks before my flight I could hardly wait for my departure. It was like waiting for my first baby to show up in a nursery room. For the first time, I got a 30-kilo privilege and a 7- kilo hand carry. Before, I used to travel light but this time, I maximized the use of my weight entitlement.

Well prepared

To assure myself that my baggage would not exceed the required weight I went to a Tesco weighing machine. For only 1 baht I was able to determine the weight of my baggage.

In going to the airport, a friend of ours offered his van to send me and my friend to the airport. Upon arriving at the airport I immediately looked at the Arrival/Departure announcement board of my flight but I couldn't find it. I thought I was left behind. I thought that my flight was in the morning and I was left behind.

I looked at my electronic ticket that it was the 19th and not the 18th so my fear disappeared. Nine o'clock came yet there was no sight of my flight and airline. At ten o'clock my fears burst like bubbles because I finally saw flight 731.

I spent the time at the airport waiting for the check-in sleeping, watching people going to and fro, listening to people's stories and many more.

While checking in, a passenger with 3 children had an excess of 10 kilos. I thought she would ask me to save her which I couldn't do because there were a lot of cases about kind persons who helped and were in trouble being made a drug carrier without the recipient's knowledge.

One example is Mary Jane Veloso who is scheduled to be executed this week in Indonesia. To go on with my story, she asked if the check-in clerks were strict. I told her they were because I knew many people paid extra cash for their excess baggage or left to their friends extra items that caused the overweight.

I told her to distribute the small bags to her kids as hand carry and it worked.

Making a friend

After check-in, a person behind me asked where I was going, what I did, and so on. She happened to be a teacher too but in a private school in one province of Thailand. We knew of a common friend so we were able to relate to each other easily which led to a lunch together at the food court, a place I knew for the first time despite the fact that I traveled back and forth several times to my country. I never had the chance to eat there only that time.

Our chats continued up to the immigration, duty free, and to the departure area. Unfortunately, I was seated away from her so our talks ended. If we only knew each other earlier, we could have a longer trip chats on the plane.

It was a pleasant trip but my frustrations started when I was claiming my luggage. For the first time unlike in Paris, London, New Delhi, and Bangkok airports, my luggage on the conveyor arrived nearly an hour after landing. There were no departure cards or declaration cards collected by the immigration. They only collected the health sheet to check if we have Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

So when I got my pieces of luggage I piled them on the trolley and headed for the exit. A sign on the exit caught my attention "For those who have nothing to declare" which was applicable to me, I passed there. But when I was beside one immigration officer she asked what was in the box I had.

Goodbye to my mangoes

With honesty I told her it was a - gift mango, strawberry. and tamarind. She asked why but I did not answer. She opened it with a cutter and said she had to confiscate the mangos because there was a report that Thailand had mango pests. Immediately another officer confiscated the 5 ripe sweet mangos and 5 unripe ones.

They asked for my passport, recorded some information, and gave me a receipt. I thought I was in big trouble because of the mangos... She then asked further if I was willing to attend the burning of the mangos. I told them I had no time. They did not mind and I was out of the airport.

You see during my last year's vacation, I brought 2 kilos of tamarind, 2 kilos of guavas and 2 kilos of mangosteen but no questions were asked. That time also while queuing the line at the immigration, two fellow Filipino passengers carried baskets of fruits openly and they were not questioned.

So perhaps next time, you and I must be cautious about the new regulations of our country or of other countries particularly carrying a small package as a favor not knowing its contents.

Accepting to carry a small package from someone, an acquaintance or even a friend at the airport is so risky. Learn from airport encounters of others.


Michael, thanks a lot for the very informative comments. I'm sure I will not be the only one to benefit from it.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi (3rd June 2015)

As a general rule, the transport (internationally) of these comes with high(er) levels of regulations:
A) fresh fruits, meats and/or dairy products
B) controlled substances like controlled prescriptions as well as some medicines that are OTC, but can be or are, used in the creation of illegal substances.
C) liquor - this is more of a taxation issue
D) tobacco - like liquor, this is a taxation issue
E) weapons - includes defensive weapons (ballistic vests as example), ammunition or it's components as well as parts to construct a weapon.

In your case Ben, it's understandable that the fruits were seized. Enforcement is never going to be 100% because the reality is that no airport is set up such that the Customs function can inspect - visually or via x-Ray or other technologies - 100% of all people and their posessions.

I always advise friends, that even if an item from the list above happens to be permitted entry into your destination country, you'll probably have a less-time consuming and low-touch experience with Customs if yiu simply avoid this altogether.

Again, if it's ok, then yes, should be fine (so long as any regs are met and the items meet law) but overall I find that from a convienence basis, this just isn't a good trade-off between having these items at my destination and the "issues" I may have to address during the inspection process.

By Michael, Bangkok (24th May 2015)

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