Sunday 31st December 2000 Day 19

We woke up around our usual 9am, although Julie had been awake for most of the night worrying about today's journey home. It took us an hour to pack our bags. All the clean clothes were in my suitcase, and all the grubby ones in Hannah and Julie's. Any suspicious items were in my rucksack, but I am only talking whiskey bottles and cheroots!

We sat out on our veranda for a while, savouring our last moments by our beach. The cleaners were hovering, so we phoned reception to get someone to pick up our luggage and we went to check out. When we got the bill we noticed that they had charged us for two tubes of Pringles where as we'd only eaten one. In fact, the cleaners never replaced it after we ate a tube on our arrival. One of the managers was giving the 'mini bar replenishers' hell! We then regretted mentioning it, all for the sake of a 100Baht. It wasn't going to make a big difference to the total! They eventually sorted it out, and took the £1.60 from our £200 bill!

We quickly popped to the Gypsy village for the last time, and bought several bottles of water. We had lunch at Mong Thalay bar, for the last time! Julie then went to see the nurse to ask her for a sedative or something to help calm her nerves about the flight. She was under the impression that the nurse gave her some travel sickness pills instead. Perhaps she should have asked for some of that orange powder and we could all have floated home!

We sat on the beach waiting for our pick up at 12:45pm. We boarded a little tugboat with another dozen people leaving this resort. Bald-headed-crab-hole-filler was one of them, with his arm-in-plaster-aussie-girlfriend. It turns out he was from Warrington, but living in Sydney, Australia. And there was I thinking he was German! We slowly chugged our way around the Northern tip of the island, and thirty minutes later we had reached the other side, near the jetty. It would have only taken us five minutes to walk! At this point we climbed onto the roof of our tugboat, and transferred onto a "super fast" ferryboat. "Hooray!" we thought, but it slowly turned to sail in the opposite direction than towards Phuket, and chugged its way towards Tonsai Bay. There it moored, and waited to accept even more passengers. It was really swaying badly at this point. Looking out of the window one moment you could see nothing but sea, the next nothing but sky. We must have been stuck here for over twenty minutes, rocking uncontrollably. Sea sickness was a certainty if we stayed here a few more minutes. Eventually we moved, and once again we thought "Hooray!" only to realise that we were going on a sight seeing trip of Phi Phi Leh! I went up on deck for some fresh air, and I was so annoyed with this detour. We were causing quite a swell, and I sympathised with several longtail boats as we passed them. After two whole hours of sailing we were still floating around the Phi Phi islands. It was so irritating!

At 2:45pm the captain at last revved up the engines and we set off Phuket. We arrived there at 4:45pm, which apparently was half an hour slower than the usual 90 minutes it should have taken. We had been for FOUR BLOODY HOURS BOBBING ABOUT THE ANDAMAN SEA! It was just plain ridiculous!

We were met by a taxi driver/Kuoni rep who took us to our taxi, with another two couples. We went through the usual 'How are we going to squeeze all this luggage into this vehicle' conundrum. Ten minutes later the taxi driver managed to shut the door on the suitcases, and we were off at last for Phuket airport. "Hooray!" but of course we should have known better. We turned into Phuket town and hit rush hour traffic! I could see road signs for the airport pointing in the opposite direction, so I was confused as to why we were getting caught up in all this traffic. The reason became clear when we pulled up along side the Kuoni offices, and the driver took a pile of post in, and came out with 'Bon Voyage' boxes of orchids for the ladies.

It took us 45 minutes in total from the port to reach the airport so it wasn't bad. The check-in desk was very busy and we had to queue for a while. The staff eventually opened up another two desks to speed up the process. After handing over our luggage, which only just came under the weight restrictions, we mistakenly headed for Domestic departures. We assumed that as we were flying to Bangkok it would be a domestic flight. But to make it easier at Bangkok airport we were told to go through International Departures here at Phuket, pay our 500 Baht per person departure tax, and go through customs. We went through without any delay, and we hardly had to wait before boarding our flight. I just had enough time to eat a cheese baguette before boarding at 19:10hrs. We took off after only a short delay, and we landed in Bangkok after 1 hour and 7 minutes. It was a quick and easy flight, but Julie still found no joy in doing it! Thrashing the gameboy and walkman to occupy her mind. We landed fairly smoothly, although you could feel that the pilot didn't get his descent quite right. Coming in to quick at first, having to slow down, then having to pick up speed suddenly at one point. As we had already cleared customs we were given a 'CIQ' sticker, and taken by bus directly to the departures lounge of the international terminal.

It was now only 9pm so we had over three and a half hours of shopping time! Hannah and Julie wanted perfume so most of our time was spent choosing which ones. Julie just could decide whether to go for Clinique's Happy or a perfume by Issey Miyake? Whilst she pondered we went to the restaurant for something to eat. I just wanted ice cream, so I ordered a Banana split. The waiter came back and said that it was 'finished'. I tried to order just ice cream, but he returned again to let me know that ice cream had also 'finished'. So I just had iced coffee. Hannah and Julie were more successful with their choices. Hannah had stir-fry veg with noodles, and Julie had 'Chicken In Basket' which was exactly what it said on the menu. A seventies throwback of a deep-fried chicken wing with chips in a plastic chicken-shaped wicker basket. Julie spotted someone else's dried up tomato ketchup in the weave of the plastic wicker. Stomachs churned! That's when I went to the toilet and gave birth to a solid turd. It was a proud moment!

I phoned home, I did mention that I was feeling better, but I didn't say that I had evidence of my recovery. My dad was warning us about the bad weather at home, with freezing rain and severe snowstorms. Looks like we'll have wonderful winter weather to welcome us back home. After we'd finished eating we returned to the duty free shops where Julie went for the Japanese sounding perfume, and Hannah bought Hugo Boss perfume, and some chocolates. At about 11:30pm we went through to gate 12, to sit and wait to board our plane. BBC World news was on in the background and some aviation news came on. I wasn't too sure what it was, but Julie had heard the word 'aeroplane' and that was enough to take her worrying into another level. She took one of her dodgy travelling pills.

Later we found out that the news item was about a plane being hijacked from Nairobi, Kenya with the singer Bryan Ferry and the Goldsmith family on board. Midnight came and went without any celebration, just a tired round of 'Happy New Year' between us. No auld lang syne, no snogging beneath the mistletoe. We boarded our flight, and took off on time at 00:40hrs. Within an hour of take off, supper was served. It was 1:40am, and they were serving us plastic food! We politely declined their hospitality. After supper, they turned the lights down to help us all to get some sleep. Hannah was out for the count, whilst Julie and I did drift in and out of consciousness. The unknown substances supplied to Julie had made a difference. A good six hours were spent in this state.

Day 20>>

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