Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Fancy travelling all the way overseas for a holiday...
On previous overseas trips I have attempted to create some kind of compressed adventure travel where we bounce from place to place, immersing one's self in reams of boring geo-politics to extract maximum value from the experience, then arrive home totally exhausted.
The strange logic behind this is that if I, a nervous aerophobe, am to sit in a metal tube ten kilometres up in the sky being propelled at 900km/h by thousands of exploding chemicals, for hours and hours, I want it to lead to a real experience. Relaxing on a beach trying to think about nothing, I can do in Adelaide, or even Melbourne for that matter (if one doesn't care about weather).
But this time, for Sharon's 40th b'day, the plan was to put aside my need for cerebral geo-political, historical and spiritual stimulation, and keep it simple for the bride: Tigers (her favourite), beach, palm trees, no stress, no rush, and my undivided attention. No history, politics or war stories...
And you'll never guess- we almost achieved all of the above.
In keeping with the original plan, I shall try to itemise the holiday without being excessively wordy, and will use catchy present-tense to feign the impression that I was writing as we went. Creative licence is used at my discretion (I know no other way);
DAY 1: Flight is fine until we reach the tropics where it becomes annoyingly bumpy. Using Jetstar's individual DVD players, wife and I manage to synchronise watching My Life In Ruins. 8.5 hours goes fast. Arrive in Bangkok, humid as expected. No probs. Taxi cheap. Accor Hotel magnificent.
DAY 2: Go looking at pagan shrines. Sharon takes 200 photos already. Get scammed by a Tuk-Tuk driver into visiting tailors and jewelers so he could get a petrol bonus. Don't care. Actually, yes...yes I am interested in a tailormade silk lined dinner jacket for $120...
DAY 3: Early back to BKK airport Suvinarbhumi (pronounced Su-Bi-Nar-POOM) for a flight to Koh Samui. Shocked to discover it is a prop plane, not a jet. Manage to talk myself into believing it will be the worst flight ever, will get blown around like a plastic bag, and if the plane doesn't crash the heart failure would get me anyway.
After the smoothest most pleasant flight ever, land at Samui which looks suspiciously like a tropical paradise, if the airport is anything to go by.
Taxi almost can't find the bungalows recommended to us by our pastor. Then we wish he hadn't found it at all. Promised beachfront room is indeed beachfront, but not actually a room. It is a hastily converted kennel with a padlock, scary light switches, and non-flushable toilet with accompanying bucket. The dog who once lived there is now sleeping on the balcony. Flee for our lives, gladly losing 350THB ($15) deposit.
Find another hotel room with a less third-world feel. Make mental note to question pastor's travel standards.
Lounge around poolside reading The Shack. Start crying as tragic plot unfolds. Stop reading. Dinner at Hotel's beach restaurant, which is actually on the beach.
DAY 4: The saying goes "when in Rome, rent a motor scooter". We do ($8 a day). Best way to travel. Initially safety-conscious with long pants and helmet for Sharon (despite hair issues) but eventually don't bother and ride just like everybody else here, i.e. no helmet, shorts, thongs, and on the wrong side of the road three abreast playing chicken with SUV's.
Go to main attraction, Tiger Zoo and Aquarium, which holds the entire cast of Finding Nemo, and has tigers. Real ones.
Sharon gushes over finally meeting a tiger and feeding tiger cub. Magnificent experience, beautiful, majestic beasts. Marvel over God's cleverness-ness.
A lone traveller, equally gushing over big cat experience, starts chatting. I'm thinking Ukranian, Czech or Polish. Mentions she's Israeli. One main objective of trip (see above) dies an instant death as I start bombarding the poor woman with my geo-politics and respect for Israel. She doesn't run away screaming, which makes me happy.
Go to sea lion show with loud Thai presenter and barely discernible Engrish. Sea Lions very funny but don't they know it, the slippery little prima-donnas. Tiger show not so. Something wrong about seeing these incredible beasts made to do tricks.
Evening: Cheap meal (third Thai green curry for trip and looking forward to many more) and romantic beach walk with bride trying to remember conversation sans kiddies. Lamai beach not loud and debauched like other parts. Manage to avoid loud Australians. Catch up with Israeli later for more geo-politics and girl talk. So I get to have cake and eat it too.
Order cake for dessert.
DAY 5: Meet elephants for ride and visit anti-climactic waterfall. I slip and almost take a comical wet-bum ride down waterfall, in true National Lampoon-style, lacerating hand. Feel like buffoon. Go back down and feed elephants. Wonderful animals. Not worried about sticking hand in elephant's mouth, more worried about the trampling thing.
Ride scooter around rest of Island. Shopping. Drink fruity drinks on beachfront bar. More shopping. And more. Become smug and proud that only a good husband can endure so much shopping. Visit pagan shrine, the "Big Buddha" on an estuary hilltop, right in airport flight path, with enormous Buddha arms stretching up to touch the belly of the passing planes for good luck (which, somewhat ironically, would cause them to plummet into a fiery crash, killing everyone on board).
Get puncture. Think we're going to be stranded until nice Thai mechanic spots us a mile away and fixes puncture for 20THB (around 0.80cents). I give him 40THB.
Love the way Thais greet and show gratitude with slight bow and praying hands. Adds to the truly wonderful experience.
Get another puncture before arriving back at Lamai. This one costs 170THB ($6) to replace tube. Again, mechanics appear from nowhere and rescue us.
Bump into Israeli again (yes she has a name. It's...um.....) at Lamai cafe after dinner. Dining alone (poor thing). Tolerates more geo-politics from me (poor thing). Gotta love secular Jews. You can eat and talk non-kosher.
DAY 6: Do a big fat dose of nothing but lie on hotel's beach lounges. Get sunburned with a view to eventually getting some kind of tan. 1000THB ($40) gets pinched by room cleaning staff but a swim in beautiful ocean cools me off and I am surprisingly less livid than I thought.
Remember Israeli's name now. It's .
More shopping. I'm exhausted from all the nothing. Sharon is taking less photos, discovering that immersing ones-self in the moment is actually more relaxing. Kudos! Keep reading The Shack. Cry again, but in a happy way.
DAY 7: Wake up. Bum around. Taxi to the most relaxing airport in the world. Catch flight. Almost disappointed to see it's a full size jet this time. Bangkok. Cheap Taxi. Back to the Accor Hotel with even better room this time. Last chance for a real green curry. Watch a movie with the appalingly bad Haydn Christensen (the one who played Darth Vader as a pouting kid). Sleep.
DAY 8: Check out, need to kill entire afternoon before 10pm flight. Suggest skytrain to a boat ride on Bangkok's river. Bad idea. Loud diesel engine, smog, fumes, takes forever. Stop at one last pagan shrine mainly to escape fumes. Still not sure why we missed a Thai massage. Back to hotel lounge for free cocktail and cheap taxi to Su-bi-nar-POOM.
I blinked and it was all over. Arrive in Melbourne. Freeze half to death.
Tiger time and general wildlife level: 9/10
Beach quotient: 10/10
Palm tree factor: 10/10
Lack of stress offset: 6/10
Avoidance of geo-political discussion: 0/10
Undivided attention to wife: 6.5/10 (subject to external audit).
This whole travelling-for-a-holiday thing is actually growing on me...
Posted by P. H. Atherton at 4:51 PM