Friday 22nd December 2000 Day 10

The alarm woke us up at 6:00am after yet another full night's sleep. These few days we've had up here have been wonderful in many ways. The most important of which has been the fresher air, and the slower pace, which has made it easier to sleep through the night. I've seen off my throat infection thanks to Northern Thailand!

We had our breakfast in our room at 6:30am whilst we finished packing. Soon afterwards we made our way to reception to check out. Our bill came to £300!! That's £100 per day! But I guess with breakfast, lunch, and supper at the hotel it was probably what we expected. It may have seemed a lot of money but it was definitely worth every penny of it! The whole ambience of the hotel took you to a place that was so relaxing, and comfortable, you could do nothing else but unwind. It's just a shame that we had to leave this perfect oasis. At least where we're going is meant to be paradise!

The Kuoni rep picked us up at 7:30am for the hour-long drive to Chiang Rai Airport. Just before Chiang Sien we drove through a checkpoint. They were checking for illegal immigrants from Laos or mostly Burma, trying to sneak down to Bangkok to find some work. Apparently all coaches have to be stopped, and searched for stow-aways in the luggage area. They gave us the beady eye, and then waved us on. Our rep must have been up really early to escort us to Chiang Rai because I'm sure she slept most of the way! She woke up just as we turned for the airport to comment on an accident where a motorbike had cut across the path of a 4x4 pick-up truck. She pointed and said "Accident"! Perhaps she was more fluent in French?

Chiang Rai International Airport was tiny. With only 2 departure, and 2 arrival gates it wasn't exactly busy. And it looked like they could only cope with one at a time! We went upstairs to the restaurant and had some toast and coffee before going through the baggage check and sitting in the departure lounge. The tension was once again building up for Julie. She admitted that her fear of flying was getting worse. She truly believed that we weren't going to make it back home to tell everybody about our adventures. Sooner or later she felt we going to crash. Today was going to be a tough day with two flights involved. The plane was a little bit late to take off, but by 10am we were up amongst the clouds. It was one hell of a bumpy ride up there though, which further perpetuated Julie's belief that this was the one to plummet from the sky!

The flight down to Bangkok was only 60 minutes long, which barely gave me enough time to read an article about King Bumhidhol of Thailand. I never new he was born in Boston, USA when his father was studying at Harvard! This was an extremely nervous flight for Julie. Every second of that 60 minutes she truly believed she was going to die. The pilot didn't help by having a rough ride descending into Bangkok, and on landing we hit the ground with quite a bump, followed by screeching brakes! As soon as we'd stopped, the relief hit Julie in a wave of nausea, which almost made her fill a vomit bag! By the time we got off the plane, walked through to domestic departures, and allowing time for me to have the mother of all dumps, (I was anchored to the toilet for over five minutes) it was 11:30am.

We had a further two hours to wait for our next flight by gate 63. Luckily there was a Burger King in the departure lounge. The veggie choice was a portion of large fries! We did however have it with an oriental twist by adding plenty of Sweet Chilli Sauce! Really delicious! Julie had some Chicken Tenders, which was just what she needed to settle her stomach. The two hours flew by, and in no time we were boarding flight TG213 to Phuket. We noticed a big difference in the type of people on the plane. The flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok must be used more as a commuter flight. There were only a handful westerners. In fact, I only saw one other couple and an old lady, cleverly disguised as a rice paddy worker. In contrast this flight down to Costa del Fucket was full of holidaymakers. There was a large family from Bolton behind us, not that I have anything against people from Bolton, it's just that they behaved in the stereotypical 'Brits Abroad' way. Such embarrassing ambassadors for our country! Again, the flight only took 60 minutes, but Julie seemed to be calmer on this flight, despite still thinking that this was the disaster waiting to happen. This was a much smoother ride, and we had landed before realised we were descending. We were disappointed at the cloudy weather when we originally looked out of the aeroplane's window, but our thoughts of having to put on a jumper were soon dispelled the moment we walked outside. It was 93 F, but what hit us was the humidity. It was incredible! It was similar to being in a sauna. Every breath was heavy with the moisture in the air.

A group of Kuoni reps were waiting for us outside the terminal. They weren't allowed inside for some reason? Finding them amongst the throng of other reps was difficult. They didn't have our names on a sign either because we weren't their only pick up. We shared our minibus with two other couples. One of the blokes had obscene looking eyebrows! They took over his entire forehead! They were the first to be dropped off. Their hotel looked a bit of a dive but they were returning to it after holidaying there last year, so I suppose it must have been OK. It took us 30 minutes from the airport. We drove passed rubber plantations. We saw how they scored the tree, and placed a small pot to collect the oozing puss. There were thousands upon thousands of these trees with pots. We also passed a pineapple plantation. We were all amazed to discover that the fruit actually grew in the ground like a potato! Now I think about it I can remember a scene from Blue Hawaii starring Elvis Presley where he visited a plantation, and they dug them up. Isn't bizarre, and extremely sad, what rubbish the brain holds onto! The deepest recesses of my mind must be full of discarded memories! The other couple were also staying at our hotel. When we turned into the hotel, the first impressions were disappointing. A lot of building work was taking place, so it didn't look that good. The inside of the lobby was very tastefully decorated though, and I'm sure once all the work is finished it would look far more impressive.

We were taken to our room (No.230). It wasn't exactly a 'room with a view' because all we could see from our balcony were the vents of the air conditioning system at the back of all the rooms.

Julie did however hit the nail on its head when she said that we shouldn't of expected the best room at the resort as we were only staying the one night.

Then again, I'm glad were not stopping here for the next eight days. It just didn't have anything going for it. The board listing activities gave it the feel of a Billy Butlin's Holiday Camp! Perhaps I'm being too harsh, and that it was the comparison with the sheer quality of Le Meridien Ban Boran that made this hotel feel inferior.

We walked down to the beach, past a shop selling Genuine International Fashions, and a beachside eatery named Pong Restaurant! Needless to say we didn't eat there, nor did I buy the genuine Armani suit on display!

The beach was a bit of a let down also. Not the paradise we were expecting. We were very hard to please today!

It didn't stop us however from enjoying our first taste of the sea and sand on this holiday. We weren't prepared at all to go swimming, but when the attraction of getting wet was too strong we ran in wearing all our clothes. I'm sure people were looking at us thinking we were odd! But who cares? It was very refreshing.

Julie quickly popped to reception to send a "Wish You Were Here" fax to Seiont Nurseries. Whilst I had a tongue-in cheek heated debate about the strengths of Liverpool and Manchester United with the Bell Boy after he'd noticed my tattoo! When it came dark, we decided to stay at the hotel, and not use their shuttle service to the nearest town. We were just too tired for the hedonistic nightlife of Pattong! Instead we sat at the poolside bar, and shared a large jug of draught lager, the perfect thirst quencher for this humidity. We were then treated to a wonderful comical moment!

We were relaxing at the poolside bar, enjoying our lager, reminiscing about what we had already experienced, and looking forward with anticipation to the second half of the vacation on the beaches of Krabi and Phi Phi. The night was balmy, and thunder rolled in the distance. A splash of lightning lit up the sky. There were only another two couples sitting by the pool at this bar. Then from out of nowhere this quartet appeared. Dressed in floral shirts and white trousers, shaking maracas and tambourines. I was expecting a rendition of Agadoo, but they were better then I expected. The two men did play acoustic guitars, and to give them credit, they sounded really good. They sang a few songs on a raised platform before swooping down to serenade the table behind us. We knew what was going to happen next. They were going to move on to our table. We were already cringing at the thought of it!! Then as predicted they finished their song, and moved on to us. They asked if we had any requests. I, failing miserably in a feeble attempt to be witty, asked for something from Metallica. They politely laughed, and retaliated by singing a Boyzone song called 'Words'. (Originally a Bee Gees hit apparently?)

A short while into the song they were joined on backing vocals by Kermit the frog! Although Julie did momentarily think it was a duck! Well, we were bottling up our laughter as not to offend them, almost wetting ourselves in the process. I'm sure that they were so focused on their performance that they hadn't noticed their fifth member! But they couldn't help but notice our reaction. I hope they weren't thinking we were laughing at them! That frog should have an agent, because he had perfect timing! Every pause in the singing, he'd croak. Right on cue! Words, …. Croak! You gave to me …. Croak! And smile ……Croak! the everlasting smile …. Croak! It was enough to bring tears to our eyes.

Describing it now somehow doesn't give it justice. It was so hilarious. I guess it's one of those moments where you "have to be there" to really appreciate how funny it was! They left us alone after they finished 'Words', and moved on to their next victim.

After we finished our jug we moved to the Garden Café for our supper. They were serving a buffet but we decided to go from the menu. The prices were amazingly cheap. I had a mushroom soup followed by a very spicy pineapple and cashew nut salad, with plenty of chillies! Julie had Lamb Loin, and Hannah had pasta. Before we'd finished eating the quartet were back again. This time they were singing the Boney M song, "By The River's of Babylon". Including the silly deep voice section, which had Hannah in stitches. Sadly they had ditched their star performer. Perhaps he was on the buffet? One thing I noticed here was that the staff were very accustomed to English speaking tourists. So much so that they had lost their individual Thai charm. None of them had greeted us with a Sawasdee, or said Kop Khun Ka to say Thank you. They felt Americanised, and you'd half expected them to say, "Have a Nice Day". The night drew to a close when the beer ran out!

Day 11>>

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