We’re off again and on our way. My dad dropped us off at the airport after three days at his house on the Central Coast where it rained non-stop. We had hoped for a few relaxing days but that wasn’t quite to be. Instead of relaxing we ran around visiting the local Telstra shop to sort out our mobile phones and visiting the bank to sort out the mess I had made setting up direct debit authorities with all our new banking arrangements.
We boarded our Air Asia flight a little late. The plane had clearly done one or two runs back and forward between Australia and Kuala Lumpur before we got on, but still it was comfy enough. A brief layover in KL was followed by the short hop to Phuket. Amy and Oliver fell asleep in Emma’s lap. It was well after midnight as far as we were concerned. They were still asleep when the plane landed and the airline crew had started cleaning the plane before we managed to wake them up enough to get off.
We cleared Thai customs in lightning fast time. No queues, no quarantine. We did pause briefly as we confronted for the first time the prospect of how we got from the airport to our hotel using the local taxi system. I think we only paid twice as much as we should have. But that’s ok, we later found out its pretty routine for people to pay far more than that and frankly we just wanted to go to bed.
First morning in Thailand and we wandered up the street and round the corner looking for supplies and some more cash from an ATM. Somewhat disturbingly my new Citibank debit card, the one we specifically set up for withdrawing cash from overseas ATMs was rejected by three different machines. Not too worry, we are travelling with three other financial institutions as well, just try one of them we thought. That didn’t work either. Hmmm. Not quite the start we were looking for.
But that’s ok I’ll just call the bank. Nope, no local Sim cards for the phone just yet. Hmmm web chat. That’ll do it. So back to the hotel we went where Emma and I spent the morning web-chatting with the bank while Amy and Oliver played happily in the pool. Turns out, despite the hours spent setting up our banking arrangements, I hadn’t set up an ATM PIN. We did that over an intermittent Wi-Fi connection and then I marched back off to the bank. Where… it worked! Cost me $9.00 for the privilege of withdrawing our cash but I didn’t really care at that stage. Off we go.
The hotel called us a taxi, which turned out to be a friend of the hotelliers with a car… and a daughter. The daughter was in the passenger seat, of a small car. Emma and I looked at each other sideways in one of those unspoken ‘what do we do about this’ kind of ways. We didn’t all fit and our very high Australian safety standards mean it is not normal to pile in a taxi without a seatbelt for everyone. Especially not in a foreign country all together for the first time. But, well, we didn’t really have much choice so the four of us piled in the back seat and hoped for the best.
Off we went to Bang Rong pier chatting happily with our non-taxi driver, taxi driver. She really was very nice and we took the opportunity to try and pick up on a few Thai greetings. Four times she explained to me how to say hello, but despite repeating it to myself it wouldn’t stick and when she quizzed me a few minutes later I had completely forgotten. ‘Oh dear’ she said with a little chuckle, a thick accent and in a way which made me sure she was thinking this guy is thick as two planks. Or whatever the Thai equivalent for stupid is. For your reference, hello in Thai (phonetically) goes something like Sa-wa-dee-khrap. Except if you’re female. Then you say Sa-wa-de-kar’. Got it.
Arriving at Bang Rong Pier we smothered ourselves in suncream for the boat ride to our island, Ko Yao Noi. Then we got on board and discovered we had a roof over our heads. Oh well. We motored across Phang Nga Bay on our first long-tail boat, hopped off at the pier and piled into the back of the waiting song-taews. Utes really with covers over the back where we sat. The view from our accommodation is stunning. We are about 200 meters up a hill overlooking the bay and its myriad of rocky island crags. Our bamboo bungalow is full of character. In a good way. And comes complete with resident Tokay (Toe-Kay). A local lizard which calls loudly to its mate and random times – including the middle of the night. It lives behind Emma’s bed!
Next morning Emma ordered a vegetable sandwich for breakfast. The kids had a fruit pancake which turned out to be a much better option. Emma had an hilarious conversation with our host. I can’t remember exactly how it went but in essence she asked three times what vegetables were on the sandwich to be informed that it was a sandwich with vegetables (turns out lettuce and tomato).
We spent the next day finding out what was what in this neck of the woods. The beach is lovely at high tide and a rocky mud flat not good for swimming when low. The local fruit shakes however are excellent. And I can highly recommend the ‘fried water’. This is what we call the water purified with our fancy fandangled UV sterilizing pen. Fill your bottle, zap it for 30 seconds and hey presto – water good to go.
Til next time… bye for now.