Sunday, October 2, 2016

The day I Lost My Bag... and My Passport!

I never thought this will ever happen to me. I lost a bag in the train station and not just any bag-- it was my small bag containing all the most important things on the road: camera, credit card, bank cards, xiao mi, cell phone, and guess what: Passport! I can’t believe I left it. I lost grip of it when I was boarding a bus, trying to put something into my backpack at the same time. I shouldn't multitask, I was wrong.

Malaysian Passport, lost, abroad, overseas, what to do.

     My stupidity blew my mind. I only realized it was lost when the bus traveled 2 stops away from Chamonix, that is about 45 minutes drive from the town of Chamonix. As soon as the bus stopped to pick up more passengers, the first thing I did was to run into the train station and asked the person in charge there to call the Chamonix Train Station. And as expected, he does not speak English well enough to understand what was I trying to convey. I went all out, to the point that I acted out the whole scene for him (I kinda suck in those body language games). I should have used google translate but that was the first time ever that I lost something during my travels, not to mention something so important, it totally slipped my mind to use the offline google translate app. Luckily, A gentleman who speaks a little bit of French past us by and since he understood the urgency of my situation, he helped explain my predicament to the person in charge. 

     The man behind the ticket counter immediately called the Chamonix Train Station for me and apparently some miscommunication happened somewhere in between, he came back with the most disappointing (but expected) answer of all: I am sorry, they did not find your bag. 

     I wasn’t going to give up just yet. If my passport was lost, it would be a serious setback. I'd have to go back to Malaysia and who knows, I might have a problem going back to Russia again. This is not happening, I have to try all I might. I asked him to call the Chamonix train station again and asked for someone who speaks English. I believed they have someone who speaks good English since Chamonix is a tourism town. Luckily there was one: After I explained things right from the start (2 times), giving my name, describing my bag and my possessions, he exclaimed :"Oh, did you stay in Hotel Mont Blanc? We found a name card inside and someone from the hotel took it back for you!" 

     This is exacting what I wanted to hear. At least, my bag was in good hands now. "Okay, I am going to take a bus back to Chamonix, it shouldn’t be too hard." I turned to the ticket counter and it daunted on me: I do not know a word of French. Great! What should I do next? How about calling Hotel Mount Blanc? They should know some bus schedule thingy or at least could translate some French for me. In fact, it is the only contact in France I’ve got! 

     I asked the kind French man behind the counter for the phone again, when I heard the familiar voice from the other side of the phone call, I knew everything will somehow be okay. Worst case scenario, I will miss my train to Avignon and I might have to cancel my partnership with the Tourism board in Avignon, but that was not the main concern anymore, is it? The lady on the phone asked for my location and despite the 45 minutes drive, without me asking, she said almost immediately that she will send it back to me. God knows how relieved I felt...

    The bus driver checked on me a few times, asking me if everything was okay as the bus had to move. I couldn't continue the journey without my passport, I knew that well, so I had no choice but to grab all my luggages down from the bus, bowing a few times apologetically to all the passengers who waited for me. The employees at the ticket counter saw this and they kindly offered to change my bus ticket to a train ticket so that I won't miss my connection train to Avignon, free of charge! I really owe them BIG TIME! 

     After 45 nerve wrecking minutes, praying fervently that I would at least get my passport back, the lady from the hotel reception arrived with my bag to the station (this proved that she departed immediately after the phone call!). The first thing I did, I reached into my bag for my passport, it was there! All I wanted to do at that exact moment was to give her a big hug. I can’t imagine the horror if it was lost. 

Hotel Mont Blanc, Chamonix, France, review
I am glad I've chosen to stay with the Hotel Mont Blanc. Read my review here. 
     After that, I sat down, begin to regain my composure and started going through all my stuff. Miraculously, my phone was still there, so were my camera, xiao mi, credit cards, and all my bank cards! I only lost 40 Euros cash from the incidence, but if that was God’s way to warn me about ever being so careless again, I graciously accept this. 

     So once again, a big thank you to the staff at Hotel Mont Blanc and SNCF. Thank God for all those beautiful Angels I've met during times of need. From that day onwards, I knew I’d be more careful. Apart from the uninvited adrenaline rush, one thing that I did get out of this experience is -- Now I know exactly what to do if one lost a Malaysian Passport. 

Chamonix, Mont Blanc, France, ski
Chamonix, France. The most beautiful place to lost a passport and a bag full of valuables. 

Here is what you should do if this ever happen to you (+Touch Wood): 

Don't panic, stay calm. Losing a passport is a big inconvenience, but the application process to get an emergency temporary passport is not complicated at all. 

To get a temporary passport/ emergency certificate, you need to do the following.

Step 1: Report the loss at the nearest police station. 
You'll be asked if it was stolen or misplaced. If you are not sure yourself, just let the police know when and where had you last seen it.

Step 2: Go to the Malaysian Embassy. 
You'll need the following documents:  
a.  A copy of the police report
b.  Any proof of citizenship: (eg.) Identification Card, photocopies of your documents 

Step 3: Fill in the forms given by the office
You'll have to show your return flight ticket. If you've missed your flight due to the lost passport, you'll have to rebook a flight ticket first. Also, you'll need to list down the countries you're gonna transit in. 

Step 4: Wait. 
Normally the temporary passport will be issued on the same day.

Step 5: Immigration cop (In some cases)
Some countries need you to get an immigration cop on the temporary passport. If you are unsure about it, don't be afraid to ask in the Malaysian Embassy. 
An Emergency Passport issued by the Embassy could facilitate you to travel back (a one way trip) to Malaysia. Don't lose this one too, you can only get one replacement passport and that's the bottom line! 

1. Be sure to find out the location and contact number of the police station as well as your country's Embassy office before traveling.  
2. It's good to scan your documents (passport, identification card) and email those copies to yourself OR upload it to Cloud. Don't just save them in your phone! (what if your phone got lost too?)  

Losing my passport was a traumatic experience, I won't want it to happen to my readers but if it does happen, I hope this blogpost of mine helps!

US citizens? Read this article by NomadicMatt.
UK citizens? Read this article on GOV.UK.

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Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my personal experience. 
Feel free to share your experience with us by commenting below!

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