The Hungry ATM
Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
84Trip End Mar 24, 2011
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Where I stayed
Villareal Heights Hotel, Kata, Phuket
After a day of lounging around at the beach, enjoying the bath-warm waters of the Andaman Sea and taking a leisurely walk around the town in Kata, I was on my way back to my hotel and stopped to get some cash in the centre of the town at an ATM. Much to my chagrin, my fabulous day was about to take a frustrating turn (cue the ominous music here). The ATM ate my bank card as soon as I put it in. After frantically pushing most of the buttons on the machine and wearing out the 'cancel' button, I was getting slightly panicked. I went to talk to the girl who worked in the connected currency exchange kiosk associated with the same bank and then things really started to go downhill. She came to look the situation over, just shook her head, and repeated "I no ATM" about 25 times. Then she went back into her kiosk and shut the window on me
So - hot and tired and frustrated, I trudged back up the hill to my hotel and went to talk to the owner to see what he could recommend or if I could at least use his phone to call my bank in Canada. At this point, things took a much more positive spin in many ways. Phil, the hotel owner, is a star and he immediately dropped what he was doing and we went to see some Thai friends of his who have connections to local banks. Over the next hour, I was treated with so much concern and kindness by complete strangers. These several people, who could speak about as much English as I could speak Thai, were on no less than 3 phones at once, calling everyone they could think of to resolve the problem and to try and get my card back as I am leaving Kata in 2 days. They served me coffee and offered me money and reassured me that they could help. In the end, they found out that since my card was kept by the machine, it was now unuseable (as a safety feature) so I would have to call my bank in Canada to fix the problem.
I was able to Skype-call my bank's 800 number using my netbook and the agent I talked to at Scotiabank last night was fantastic. She talked me through all of the solutions for about a half hour and she was so considerate. When we had a plan at the end of the conversation, she said she would not be able to sleep well unless she knew that I felt reassured
So, today, I had to wire myself my own funds from my bank through Western Union so that I would have enough cash for the next few weeks and a new banking card will be sent to my home address in Halifax and then Fedexed to my friends' place in Taiwan. I won't be able to access my bank account again until I receive my new card. When funds are transferred by Western Union, you get them in the local currency, so then I had to find a place to convert local Thai Baht to US Dollars because I leave Thailand in 4 days. That was another stumbling block. Kata is quite a small town and only has ATM's or sub-branches of major banks and they can't convert local currency to foreign currency, they only do it the other way around, giving out Thai Baht. My hotel owner came to the rescue again and took me to his bank and spoke to people he knew there who converted the cash for me. Between the cash and my credit cards, I will be fine until I get my new banking card in a few weeks.
What an interesting situation this has been - from the abject frustration of losing your money source to the incredible kindness and generosity of the many strangers who have helped me immeasurably to solve this travel problem. I am extremely grateful that the powers that be continue to steer me in the direction of goodness and kindness. I firmly believe in "paying it forward" and treating others with the same generosity of spirit as I've experienced. This was an unlucky but yet very lucky incident!