10 Hours in Gold Coast or How I Barely Made It Out of Australia

We arrived in the Gold Coast on a rather balmy evening after an hour long flight escaping Sydney’s still nippy first day of spring. Charles and I were on our way to Malaysia and Cambodia courtesy of Air Asia’s crazy seat sale earlier this year. This trip was supposed to be our last backpacking trip together before tying our neck the knot at the end of the year. Our last hurrah was haphazardly planned and was booked on impulse like a manic travel junkie.

 

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YHA Hostel Coolangatta

 

Air Asia doesn’t fly directly from Sydney but the airfare was incredibly cheap so it worked out cheaper to book a roundtrip domestic flight between Sydney and the Gold Coast (where the Air Asia flights depart), rather than flying directly to Malaysia from Sydney on another airline.

For an unforeseen twist of fate, Tiger Airways was banned from flying into Australia due to safety reasons and had advised us a tad too late that our return flight from Gold Coast to Sydney was cancelled even though the ban was lifted a month before our departure. It meant rebooking pricier return flights for us which somewhat cancelled out the benefits of our discounted airfares.

 

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YHA Hostel’s Mess Hall

 

And then there’s that one night we have to spend in Gold Coast. How do you spend your 10 hours here if you arrived 8 in the evening and had to leave early the next day? Originally, sleeping at the airport was the most feasible idea since we’d rather spend our 28 bucks gorging on a week’s supply of laksa or cheap Asian beer than in a hostel dorm. Moreover, there’s nothing much to see at night and we figured we wouldn’t be in the mood yet to party with the flip flops and board short crowd at Surfers Paradise.

 

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After finding out however, that the airport closes before midnight, we decided to stay at the nearby YHS Hostel about 5-10 minute walk from the airport. Later that night, we found ourselves playing ping pong at the hostel and walking along the more sedate (compared to Surfers Paradise) Coolangatta Beach.

It was more to de-stress and think of contingency plan just in case they denied me entry to Malaysia. You see, my passport was due to expire in 5 and a half months, two weeks short from the required 6 months validity to travel around most Asian countries. We totally overlooked this part and at some point we didn’t think it would matter much.

 

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Coolangatta Beach by day

 

I was looking at the skyscrapers of Surfer’s Paradise flickering in distance while conjuring up an impromptu itinerary back to the Philippines. The plan was to fly to Malaysia and if they denied me entry then we would book a flight to Manila and spend our holiday somewhere in Northern Luzon for 3 weeks. It wasn’t a bad alternative except we would lose all our internal flights in Malaysia and Cambodia which, although cheap, were all non-refundable.

We retired to our separate dorms that night. Charles was alone in his 8 bunker room while I was roomed with 3 Asians and one English backpacker. Unsurprisingly, we both didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I wasn’t sure though if it was because of our current dilemma or the rowdy blokes downstairs who were playing ping-pong at 3:30 in the morning, conversing like they were in a loud thumping night club and trampling on the pool’s railings or whatever it was that was making that clinking noise.

 

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Male Dorm

I was wide awake after that rehearsing in my head a convincing and reasonable case for the Malaysian Immigration to let me in. Well, more like calling upon the universe and pleading the cosmos to align the consul’s mood into stamping a 30-day entry on my passport. And there was also the Australian immigration that we needed to pass through first, so the first day of our holiday felt like we were at the end of our trip about to return to the normalcy of an 8-5 job.

We walked back to the airport around six in the morning a bit dejected and feeling a mixed of excitement and trepidation. This could be the end of our 3-week holiday, I said to myself while waiting in line to check-in our things.  Just as we had expected, the lady at the check in counter started counting on her fingers after flipping the cover of my passport…

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid you can’t enter Malaysia, you have to have at least 6 months validity on your passport”, she said rather concerned. She must have heard me talking about buying dim sum steamer, some lightweight wok and wedding shoes as take home souvenir and was afraid to burst my bubble.

 

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Goodbye Gold Coast

 

“Can’t we at least land in Malaysia and book a connecting flight to the Philippines? We will stay inside the airport while waiting for our flight” I replied instinctively like a well rehearsed script. It’s unlikely they will let you in she said, and then started talking to someone on the phone. After a suspenseful and agonizing wait, we were elated and relieved to learn that Malaysian immigration would allow us to board the flight. She had warned us though it was still possible I could be denied entry to Malaysia upon arrival.

As of this writing, we are now currently flying over the Indonesian archipelago en route to Kuala Lumpur… Hello Malaysia, please please let me in.