The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Sunday 14 April 2024

Sometimes it feels like my feet never touch the ground - and I don't even work anymore!!!

Crikey, if I don't finish writing up the end of my trip to Thailand soon I'm sure I'll forget half of it - and I don't want to do that! That being said, I was away again this weekend and between coming back from Thailand and going away this weekend it feels like my feet haven't touched the ground! I went a bit mad and made a ton of appointments - you know, the kind that keep getting put on the "to do list" and then nothing gets done about them. Well eventually I get mad at myself and must have made 10 appointments (winter tyres, dentist, optician etc.) in the space of 15 minutes. That'll teach me to let things slip, I guess!

I had just gotten back from picking my car up when my gardener showed up for the first time this year. He comes and goes as and when possible and as long as I'm up for continuing to have him cut my grass, we just take up where we left off. I must admit everywhere looked really nice once he'd left as I had pressure sprayed the back patio area just last week. Then Jen asked if I could look after Charlie for a few hours on Friday as she needed to go out and Jordan hadn't arrived home from work yet. No problem there. We went out to the park and then were playing "balloons" on the balcony, when the inevitable happened and it ended up landing in the park below. But just as we were about to go down to pick it up, the older lady who lives on the ground floor yelled up that she would put it in the lift and send it up! I get the impression most of the older folks are enjoying having young children around playing in the park again (as one of them already told me), and I thought it was very sweet of her to send Charlie his balloon back! I'm also trying to keep up the English with him after their trip to the States, but I'm not sure how much is sinking in because every time I ask him something he just says "oui" so I don't really know how much he is understanding!

Anyway, Friday after work was our time to set off to enjoy the Christmas present that Jen's mom, C, and her partner, F, had bought for us all. Her mom paid for an air BnB for seven of us for two nights and F paid for us all to get into a lovely little theme park about 90 minutes away called Walibi! I've been to Walibi a few times but not recently, so it was a real treat to go there again. It's not big like Disney but I much prefer it, and even with some of the attractions being closed off or under maintenance, it was still lovely. So on Friday night we arrived at a very rustic air BnB about 15 minutes from Walibi which was really lovely. Very simple, dead quiet and seemingly capable of accommodating maybe 12 people if necessary. By the time we got there it was already quite late so we had dinner, sat around and chatted for a while, and then all hit the sack around 11 p.m. in order to be on form for the next day!

Now I'm guessing this was probably the first weekend of open season but the car park was pretty full, probably something to do with it being spring holidays in this region and great weather. Charlie was too small to do quite a few of the rides and Jen was also limited because of being pregnant, but everyone had a good time and what one person thought was "a great ride" others said would make them want to throw up, and vice versa. I wouldn't go on a roller coaster ride because I don't like being thrown forward, but anything that spins me round and round - no problem, although those bloody pictures that they take of you on the rides always showed me with my face screwed up and looking like I was facing a firing squad!

Charlie's favourite ride!

I would have gone on this one, but
nobody wanted to go with me at the time!


No way was I shooting up in the
air in that thing!



I did the log flume with my two sons.
I was sitting at the back and they both
ducked when we hit the water so I got soaked!
I seem to remember saying something derogatory
about their parentage! (Photo curtesy of google)!

Charlie did this one with us - he wasn't too
sure at first but he hung in there! Again, a
google photo!

Jordan did this one on his own. I
probably would have thrown up!
Another google photo - it just went
by so fast I couldn't catch it!

We stayed at the park until closing time, went home and ate and since I had missed Charlie's birthday when he was in the States, the kids brought his French gifts with them so he got to blow candles out a second time and play on his new bike! We left after lunch today and while we were only away for two nights, it feels like I was gone for a week, so maybe a change really is as a good as a rest. It did bring home to me, though, that you really don't have to go very far in France to be able to get off the beaten track and still enjoy some beautiful scenery! I'll have to give some thought to maybe booking a small place a bit later in the year - but first I've got to repack shortly because I'm off to Corsica at the end of next week. Having all these trips one after another was beyond my control - but then I wouldn't have it any other way!




 

Saturday 6 April 2024

So, getting back to Thailand ...!

Anyhoo, the next day - whenever that was - we left the islands and made our way back to mainland Krabi, where we would spend our final few days in Thailand. While Krabi was not nearly as pretty as the islands, it was more of a resort town so I guess if you were looking for entertainment this was the place to be. Our tour company was offering a tour of the Phi Phi islands, but C and I decided we wouldn't bother as I think we were pretty tired by this time. Later that evening we went out to dinner with R, who had taken the tour but he said that while it was indeed very beautiful, it was sooooo crowded it just wasn't worth it. Too many boats and too many people in the water trying to snorkel. This was where they filmed The Beach and not long after the film was released they temporarily closed down trips to tourists in order to preserve the islands! From what R was saying, I can see why! So I would say that while some of them enjoyed the trip, a few thought it was not money well spent, given the overcrowding!


R's photos, not mine, obviously!

C and I had a wander round the town and were surprised to see how many places were advertising cannabis for sale. It's legal for the time being, but there is talk about making it illegal at some future date. I'm not sure what the sellers will do in the event it's outlawed, though in the meantime I'm not surprised the people are so "smiley"!


Our guide had told us we should check out the night market, but unfortunately the first night we turned the wrong way out onto the main road and found the market to be nothing special. Turns out we hadn't actually found the real market but when we did, man was that an assault on your senses. The heat, the smells, the noise were all so intense! A couple from our group spotted a whole crocodile roasting on a spit (wish they'd gotten a photo of it) - and the entire place was just heaving. Well worth the visit but I was glad to get out of there too!


A google picture - I couldn't get anything worth posting!

After that we had just two more days left, but I'll leave that for another time as it's already quite late here. Back home the weather has been picking up and I finally got around to doing my annual pressure wash of the back terrace. It's a bit of a faff but I quite enjoy it really as it's so satisfying to see the crud being washed away after the snow has melted. I was working on the moss in the front driveway when my neighbour wandered over for a chat and a coffee. Now while I know I must have looked pretty grim after almost two hours of power washing, when I caught sight of myself in the mirror I was mortified - Worzel Gummige had nothing on me!

Wurzel Gummige!

And finally, the kids arrived back from the States today after spending two weeks with my ex's family. They said it went well and I'm glad Ammy got to see both my kids and Charlie, of course. I suspect I will hear about a few tensions later but on the whole it went well, and I'm happy for that. I thought I'd surprise them by shooting out to the airport to meet them, even though they'd already got transport arranged. Well I stopped off at the baker's to buy bread and croissants for everyone and then sailed easily through the border to arrive at the airport about 15 minutes after they'd landed. So I sat there people watching, and I sat there, and I sat there - and after about an hour I sent Jordan a message to ask where they were. Turns out they were half way home as they must have whizzed through immigration, customs and baggage reclaim in less than 15 minutes. Damn, I reckon I missed them by a matter of minutes, if not seconds! Well you know what they say about best laid plans? Man makes plans and God laughs, apparently!



 

Saturday 30 March 2024

This and that!

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, and it's certainly seeming that way at the moment. We've got howling winds, especially in the evenings and throughout the night, and then the next day the weather is relatively stable - well stable enough for me to be out pottering in the garden anyway! And I'm really enjoying pottering about after a fairly hectic few weeks! 

I mentioned previously that life wasn't being quite as kind to a few people I care about. There've been a couple of incidents with people ending up in the emergency room, and while things are seemingly much improved they are not resolved as yet. Then my poor sewing teacher - you know, the lady whose son fell down the stairs about eight years ago and has had to be institutionalized ever since - well she and her husband have recently lost their home through no fault of their own. It's complicated, but despite being up-to-date with their payments, upon asking to switch their mortgage from Swiss francs to euros, the bank called in the entire loan - not just the outstanding amount, but the entire 100% of the loan so their house was sold as of last week! They went to court but seemingly the bank was absolutely entitled to do this (legalized robbery springs to mind) and while they should be able to recoup everything they've paid out so far (around €200,000) it will take a few years to get back so they've had to sell their home. While her husband can transfer further inland to a cheaper part of France, she does not want to leave this region as her daughter lives here and her son is institutionalized here (they're her children by her first husband), so they've had to move into rental accommodation. How is any of that fair, or even legal???? On top of that she told me about six weeks ago that she's just found out that her husband has been cheating on her for the last three years - and then her beloved dog died!!!! She always likes to play "tough" but she's really a big old softie at heart, though how she's holding up right now I have no idea!

Much closer to home my favourite neighbour's husband died about 10 days ago, and while it was probably not unexpected (lung cancer) in the end it took him so quickly I think the shock knocked her off her feet. He had been due to start treatment on the Thursday but actually died on the Friday, with a private funeral being held yesterday. She came in for coffee this afternoon and while there was no love lost between them for the longest time, she admits she wishes things could have been different. She and her children did right by him to the end, though, and can be proud of themselves! She knows there is such a lot ahead of her, both emotionally and practically, so I told her to reach out anytime I can be of help, rather than asking her kids to drive over. I mean that as much in the physical sense as anything (I know what it's like to try to shift gas canisters and heavy logs alone), and I can always help her on the computer, but I'm heartened to see that she is determined to make as much a go of things as she can on her own - after so many years of being afraid of her own shadow!

I told her I'd done her a huge favour though as there is a lady we call Mrs. Tupperware who called me today to pass on an invitation to lunch "for the old fogies" (being 65 I now qualify) and as she'd just heard about the death she said she would go over there to speak to my neighbour. I asked her to wait a little as my neighbour had expressed the wish to be alone for a while, but that I'm sure she'd appreciate a card in the mailbox. Now this woman can yack for France, and by the time you've finished the conversation you know all about her first cousin's second husband's vasectomy. She's also very opinionated and was telling me how scandalised she was that no-one was allowed to go to the funeral and that it was "in poor taste"!!! Thankfully I took this call rather than my poor neighbour as I'm sure there would have been fisticuffs! I told her that those were his express wishes and had been respected. Moreover, I personally wanted to leave this earth in much the same way. Thankfully that shut her up and she hasn't showed up at my neighbour's house - so far. Now this lady is not actually unkind, and has been through an awful lot - the death of her husband, the death of her 34 year old daughter and the suicide of her 28 year old son - but she is totally overpowering and I don't think anyone should have to deal with that while they're grieving, however well intentioned!

She told me she'd stop by with my invitation to this lunch so I told her to just leave it in my mailbox as I "was working in my back garden" - so of course that was a cue for her to tell me that now wasn't the time to be working in the garden, everything would freeze, the soil is still cold .....! You see what I mean? Mind you, these things go in one ear and out the other for me, so I'm glad it was me that got the brunt of it, rather than my neighbour!

But - and this one makes me really mad - my neighbour was telling me that she and the children were at the hospital with her husband and they knew the end was near. As the kids wanted to stay on she'd called my other neighbour - Mrs. Gossip - to see if she could pick her up from the hospital, which of course they kindly offered to do (I was out). Reception was very poor inside the hospital and once they realized that her husband had passed she went back out into the parking lot to let Mrs. Gossip know not to come. Well by the time she got back up to the room and they were unhooking all the tubes etc., her phone was ringing off the hook, including a call from a lady who had been on the village council with her husband, expressing her condolences. So in the time it took my neighbour to get from the parking lot to the hospital room, Mrs. Gossip had already spread the news!!!! I'm disgusted - this was the lady who let everyone know that my son was getting divorced (hence he'd moved back in with me) before we'd had chance to do it ourselves!! And the same lady who when her own husband had a minor stroke, swore everyone to secrecy!  Now I know this couple can be kind and would do just about anything for you, but to not have the decency to allow the family to grieve in peace for fifteen minutes - well, at least, as my neighbour said, she now knows where she stands on that score!

In more pleasant news, my sister and her husband were to head off to their house in Spain for two months the other day, but the weather was so bad that the channel ferry crossings were cancelled. Her daughter works for the ferry company and so was able to quickly get them on a crossing tomorrow as the places were selling like hot cakes! I'd call that insider trading wouldn't you! In any case she said if I wanted to fly down to Spain while they're there I was welcome, but I'm off to Corsica soon (overland and ferry) so I doubt I'll be able to fit it in!

Both my kids are now in the States so Ammy (great grandma) finally got to meet Charlie for the first time. I spoke to Charlie yesterday and he was telling me had had a gros gros g√Ęteau (a huuuugggge cake) as he celebrated his third birthday on the 28th. I then got to speak to Ammy and she was telling me how much she was loving having them all there and that she would keep them if she could. Once Charlie got over his shyness, he has taken to all of them like a duck to water and is even coming out with a few words in English!

As for me, as I said, I'm appreciating just pottering and enjoying the arrival of spring. You can tell spring is on the way because the lambs are in the fields, everyone is contentedly wandering around the farmers' markets, someone cut the grass on the island yesterday ... and the lead up to the Mont Blanc tunnel (which goes into Italy) is backed up for about three kilometres! Happy Easter everyone!


Wednesday 27 March 2024

After that ...!

It's been a few days since I last posted but things have been pretty hectic here. There's been some horrible news affecting a few people - thankfully not my immediate family, but people I care about nevertheless - so I didn't feel much like posting. I wanted to write about the rest of my trip to Thailand before I forgot it, though, because, as I've said before, I want this blog to serve as my online diary for later!

So, I can't even remember which island I'm on at the minute but as they're all very pretty I don't suppose it matters much, does it! Anyway, on this day - whichever one it happened to be - we didn't have much planned, other than a morning trip into town to wander round the local market. And that was when I realized I had a searing pain running down my left leg. I could just about manage to walk, but trying to get in and out of the tuk tuks was horrendous. I remember thinking "hell, I turned into a little old lady overnight" and while I am indeed a little old lady I've never really felt like one - that is, until now. In the end I went to the local pharmacy and as the lady spoke excellent English she felt pretty positive diagnosing sciatic pain due to my massage - something which can apparently be rather common if you're not lucky! Anyway, she gave me pain medication which - according to the others - is only available on prescription in England (I'd never heard of it) and told me to take one or two a day. So I limped around like a big baby for another four hours, tried a few yoga exercises when I got back to my room, decided I'd take the medication later that evening, fell asleep instead and wouldn't you know it the pain had completely gone by the next morning!!! I've never known not taking medication to work so quickly but I felt like a real fraud at breakfast the next day!

The restaurant at this hotel used a cute little "vanity caravan" as their bar, so since it was so dinky I asked the staff if I could take a photo of them in front of it.


C, the Welsh lady who I had become very friendly with, told me that she'd been sitting by the bar earlier that evening when a young woman came up, installed her phone camera and proceeded to take "influencer type" photos of herself in front of the van (and the staff) - complete with "trout pout" and "come hither" poses. She'd walk back to check the photo and when she didn't like it she started over and must have taken about 10 all told! Now I would be mortified doing something like that (C said she was trying not to laugh) but I guess it just shows our age doesn't it - well that and my Hopalong Cassidy act the day before!


In fact tonight I discovered a YouTuber who dissects some of these "influencers' videos" where they show off their perfect, jetset lifestyles and she was so funny pointing out how they faked it. I was talking to my friend this afternoon and telling her that there is at least one place in the US (although I imagine there are loads more) where they have a set designed to look like a private jet and for about $80 per half hour you can take all the photos that you want inside "your" private jet, followed by posing up a storm next to "your" Bentley (or whatever floats your boat)! And you know what, I would love to do that because I think it would be a hoot taking pictures of me with my gammy leg and flipflops inside my private jet!

While she was still sitting there a man came down to the beach with a monkey on his shoulder (beats a parrot and a peg leg, I guess), put a leash on the monkey and it shot up a tree and started throwing coconuts down!!!! How come I missed all the best bits then??? The staff were telling her that these men treat the monkeys well, of course, and since the monkey is only doing what comes naturally they would appear to have it well sussed!

As we were all chatting later that evening R (the oldest of our group at age 80) showed us a quick video he was able to snap of a "giant lizard" (although I'm sure David Attenborough wouldn't call it that) just outside the ladies toilets on the way back to the hotel. Man, you get some real creeps hanging around the ladies' loos don't you!

Video curtesy of R!

We were such a mixed bunch but all got along really well so someone mentioned setting up a retirement home in Thailand where we could all retire together (despite the 60 year disparity in age)!!! I think they had something along the lines of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in mind! Could be fun!

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!

Anyway, it's almost midnight here so I'm going to have to wrap this up soon. I have to admit it was nice to be able to keep a remote eye on my home through my new security cameras and while I might not have been able to stop a potential burglary, at least I could see what the weather was like - and be glad I was still in Thailand!

And finally, I recently watched a video by a US comedian who I hadn't heard of before. She was saying how her generation - Gen X - were the toughest ever. Now I'd probably dispute that but some of the things she was saying they, as children, just took for granted made them as tough as it comes - no helicopter parenting there! It was obviously designed to make the older generation laugh and it surely did - but not nearly as much as the comments!

God we used to fly off the end of that
thing straight onto concrete! And yes it
really was as steep as I remember it!


No comment!

We used penknives!

Those things were lethal!

Click clacks!


Tuesday 19 March 2024

La suite!

The longest stay we had on any of the islands was three nights - I guess it depended on how much our tour operator thought would be of interest to us on each island. I'm getting a bit mixed up with how long we spent where but in the end it doesn't matter does it. Suffice it to say that our next port of call was to be the island of Koh Lanta - a trip which involved another, less stressful, tuk tuk ride, an hour's speedboat journey and then a short trip by truck to our next hotel!

Well that was the theory at least. Problem was, about 30 minutes into our boat journey the engine suddenly cut out. Oh they got it started again but shortly thereafter it stalled again and we realized we weren't going any further on this particular boat. Dan, one of our group, cracked a joke about it only being "a three km swim to shore", which was kinda funny until one of the crew told him to look out the window. And there in all their glory were hundreds and hundreds of massive pink jellyfish! And when I say "hundreds", I mean "hundreds" (if not thousands). I couldn't get a very good picture as I was bobbing up and down trying to get a shot through a very small window, but to say they were impressively scary would be an understatement!

This picture doesn't even begin to show the actual
number of jellyfish, but it was the best I could get!

So we sat there and waited but in reality this can't have been the first time this has happened because within about 15 minutes they had another boat mooring alongside ours and we all had to do the "jellyfish hoedown" (i.e. not fall in) while the crew very ably shifted our luggage from one boat to the next! The rest of our journey thankfully was without incident, although I did spot a man and four children on a vespa, which seems to be a not uncommon sight over there, "health and safety" be damned!

The island is predominantly Muslim and it was actually really nice to hear the call to prayer throughout the day. Some of the restaurants sold alcohol and some didn't but we tried to eat in the simpler local restaurants as much as possible. A few of our group went straight in for a dip in the sea but me being me I checked out the massage on the beach instead and ended up getting a traditional Thai massage for the grand sum of around €18 for one hour!!!! The weird thing is that the lady actually kneeled on top of me (yeah, I know) and it wasn't too bad at all, although I'm happy to say she was really tiny! When the others came up from the beach they all started talking about a "tingling" feeling all over their skin and our guide told us it was caused by tiny shrimp that inhabit the water close to the beach, particularly nearer to sunset! Now I've actually had one of those pedicures where they let fish loose on your bare feet (I believe it's no longer allowed in the UK though) but having shrimp nibbling bits of you would seem to me to be taking "weird" to a whole new level!

The next day there was an excursion to go kayaking in the mangroves. I didn't sign up for the kayaking because the thought of sitting out in a kayak in that sun kinda put me off - and I was right, as it turned out, because a few came back earlier than planned as they couldn't take the heat. What I hadn't realized though, was that those of us that didn't want to kayak would get to go on a boat ride through the mangroves where we saw monkeys crowding the river banks waiting for the fruit that our guide would throw for them. We were warned though to be very careful to secure our backpacks as the monkeys are apparently sneaky and very quick!


I didn't know monkeys could swim!




This was one of the places where I say
you had to have a certain degree of
mobility because it was a bit "iffy"
getting down to those boats!




After that we stopped in at a traditional fishing village, but to be honest I felt uncomfortable speaking to an older lady there who appeared to live in absolute poverty. They lived in dirt huts and this particular lady was saying that her nephew sent her money on occasion but other than that she got by by picking tamarind for 100 baht (about €3) per kilo!!! Of course her neighbours wouldn't let her starve but it was a level of poverty I don't think I have ever seen before. I asked our guide if she would be offended if we offered her some money for her time and she said she would be fine, so we all fished out whatever notes we had in our pockets and for that day at least, no more tamarind would need to be picked!


After that we stopped off at a Chinese market and from there went on to eat on the beach and watch the sunset before heading back to our hotel!



In other news I heard back from my local council back home in the UK and my postal vote application has been accepted and is winging its way to me as I write, so after 30 years of disenfranchisement, I finally got my vote back. Thank you British in Europe!

And finally, in other other news, yesterday there was a knock at my door and assuming it to be my neighbour I just yelled for her to come in. When she didn't I went and opened it and got quite a shock to see two police officers standing there. Thankfully I'm not a worry butt because the first thing that came to my mind was "oh damn, I must have forgotten to pay a speeding ticket" and then "oh, they might want to look at my external cameras because of ....". This has happened before when a neighbour had all four of his tyres slashed but at that point I didn't have my security system in place anyway. But no, it was nothing to do with that. The main officer told me he was there because I had put in a request for French citizenship through Charlie and they were here to check that I really do live where I said I did and to see what my relationship was like with Charlie. He asked me if I had any pictures of him (I asked him how long he'd got???) and then asked me what my relationship was like with him. I just laughed and pointed to the Punch and Judy tent in my living room sitting next to a bag full of puppets and asked if he really thought that was for my benefit. Weirdly his paperwork said that I was also applying for citizenship through marriage to a French person, so I had to set him straight on that. They were both very nice and he said he would be sending in a positive report to the immigration and naturalisation authorities so finally, after how many years (???) it looks like things might be moving on the naturalisation front. It'd be great if I could get it before June in time to vote in the European Parliament elections, but I guess I shouldn't be greedy. I'm just so grateful that things are finally moving in the right direction after all this time!



Friday 15 March 2024

And the next day ...!

I've been home five days now and I'm finding it a bit weird that I'm still waking up around 5 a.m. and getting up around 6 a.m. (although long may it last). I go to bed around midnight as usual but surely jet lag should have worn off by now? Who knows, but in any case I'm quite enjoying it! After yoga on Monday I went grocery shopping and when I came back I decided to check my engine again. And wouldn't you know it but the bloody weasels had been back visiting my car while I was away - or at least that's what I'm gathering from the chunk of baguette I found where the two slices of brown bread were last time. I think I might make an appointment to get my snow tyres taken off soon (which would seem to be an absolute guarantee of more snow) and ask Ford what I can do about my visitors. I also ordered 1,300 litres of heating fuel and the guy said he'd be here sometime between 10 a.m and mid-day today - and crikey, didn't he show up at 10.01 a.m.!!!! Talk about efficient! Then today I met Jen and Charlie in Bonneville as I wanted to buy Charlie some new shoes for his birthday (he'll be in the States for his birthday) and afterwards we had a wander round the market and then stopped off in a restaurant to eat. Well just as we'd finished eating the power in the entire street went out so it must have been hell for the owners/waiters trying to keep up with heavy demand and no electricity. That being said, everyone starting singing "happy birthday to you" when everything went dark, so it was all taken in good part!

Anyhoo, I think I left off my last post where we'd just arrived in Koh Hai, apparently the least inhabited of the islands. The bungalows on the beach looked really nice, but in truth they needed a good bit of TLC as they were pretty run down. Kelly left a comment on my previous post and as I said to her, while the hotels are all perfectly fine (and often better than fine), on occasion they can be a bit shabby, and this was one of them. That being said, it was spotlessly clean and the shower was hot so beyond that I don't really care. I travelled with Explore.co.uk and like them very much - small groups and good service - but given how reasonably priced they are I think it would be foolish to expect 5-star hotels too. Also, as the name would suggest, these holidays move and so would not be suitable for anyone who didn't have a degree of stamina/mobility. Of course we always had young men to help us with our luggage but on occasion we'd have to drag it down the beach to the boat or down a bunch of steps so (a) it's essential to be somewhat mobile and (b) you learn pretty quick not to pack too much stuff (I'm getting better but it's still a work in progress)!

Our first afternoon on Koh Hai was free so a few of us went down to the beautiful beach (about 100 metres from our bungalows) and either swam or lazed around reading. As a side note here I am sooooo glad I took my kindle and have recently signed up for Audible as it was a great way to pass a few hours. I loaded up on sun screen and insect repellent and parked myself under a tree thinking I'd covered all bases, but apparently not, as I still managed to get somewhat sunburnt, although not terribly so! Still, lesson learned yet again - that sun is fierce!


There were a couple of small resorts along the beach and a few of us decided to eat at a local bar which seemed to be family run. The food was good, their kids were adorable and the barman fascinated me as I thought he looked just like Confucius with his long straggly beard!

Confucius!

I guess the reason for staying on this island was to be able to visit the Emerald Cave, which is located (I think) on the island of Koh Muk. The tiny beach you discover at the end of the cave was apparently discovered by locals who were out bird-nesting and was then used by smugglers to hide their ill gotten gains. In order to get to the beach you had to swim through an 80 metre long cave in the dark so I was having serious misgivings about this. Apparently we would need to snorkel (not gonna happen, I hate snorkelling) but there would be a rope through the cave that we could hang on to. Well neither of those proved to be true in that there was no rope (yikes) but it was possible to simply swim through the cave following our young guide with his head lamp. I wouldn't know the logistics of it, but several of us agreed it must surely be possible to put some form of lighting in there, but who knows. I almost chickened out but then I got mad and gave myself a stiff talking to. You know, "what the hell did you come all this way for if you're gonna wimp out?" kinda thing. Anyway, I did it and it really wasn't too bad, although I have to say that there being only 10 of us it must have been easier to manage everyone. About 10 minutes after we got to the beach groups of maybe 30 were coming in and I honestly don't know how they managed to keep track of everyone - maybe they were tied together - who knows. You know, one drowns they all drown kinda thing (a horrible thought I know, but it did cross my mind)!


Our group!

Looking straight up!

After that adventure, it was back to base camp for a couple of days of doing not much before catching the speedboat over to Koh Lanta to continue our trip!


Tuesday 12 March 2024

The tuk tuk from hell!

After our trip down the canal, our guide spent some time explaining more about Thai customs - the do's and don'ts if you like - and then setting out the programme for the rest of our trip. She also collected a smallish amount of baht from all of us in order to tip various people along the way. This actually made life easier for us because who knows what is or isn't an appropriate amount to tip the guy who carries your suitcase for you in a foreign country? The plan for the afternoon was to visit the Grand Palace so on the way there we got to know each other a little better. As I've mentioned before, there is always "The One" on these trips - you know, The One who whinges constantly and is a misery to be around (see my description of Miserable Pete in Sri Lanka), but this time I was proved wrong because everyone was so very, very nice, and we all ended up getting along really well. The youngest in our group was just 23 (on a trip with her mom as a graduation present) and the oldest was a widower of almost 80 years of age and by golly have they travelled!!! I honestly consider myself to be rather tame after talking with them! I probably got along the best with C, a retired nurse who now works part-time in a care home for dementia patients. As she says, her nurse's pension pays the bills and the care home salary pays for the fun stuff, and man has she been to places I probably would never even consider. Siberia, Pakistan, Nagaland (I'd never heard of it either. It's a mountainous state in northeast India on the border of Myanmar), Borneo and goodness knows where else. On top of that, she's taking her son away for his 30th birthday and as he chose Georgia (the country in eastern Europe, not the US state) she's off there in September, but looking for somewhere else to go between now and then. In fact she even mentioned to me that perhaps we could go to Namibia together sometime since it's somewhere we'd both like to visit! Maybe I really am a bit tame because at sewing club last night I realized Cynthia (another club member) is currently in Mongolia (-25°C), hopefully enjoying the 60th birthday present from her partner! Not exactly Blackpool, is it!

There was also a French lady in the group with her English husband. She has lived in England for the past 50 years and when we got talking it turns out she was born and raised just north of Lake Geneva in a place called Gex. What a small world we live in!

Anyway, we made it to the Grand Palace in sweltering heat, the temperatures at this time of year apparently ranging anywhere from 35°C to 45°C (95°F to 113°F) and boy did we feel it!

It's probably the only photo I got to take
as the crowds were just toooooo much!

After that we visited the Emerald Buddha and the Reclining Buddha, all of it being spectacular - but the heat was just relentless! In fact we'd decided between us that we didn't want to visit the Reclining Buddha because we wanted to get out of the heat, but since our guide had already booked our tuk tuks, in we jumped for the tuk tuk ride from hell. Now I know they all drive like lunatics but usually there is so much traffic they can't really do much damage. But not this time! For some weird reason the traffic on the way to the Reclining Buddha was very light so we got to screech across Bangkok in what was basically a motorized baked bean can, all the while hanging on for dear life!

After we'd recovered somewhat, it was off to the train station to catch the overnight sleeper train to Trang, from where we'd get the speed boat to Koh Hai, the least developed of the islands in the Andaman Sea. While we were sweating it out at the train station, all of a sudden a certain music was played and everyone stood up. Assuming it was the national anthem, we all also stood, so if it wasn't the national anthem I bet we looked like a right bunch of wallies! The overnight train wasn't exactly the Orient Express - more like that train in the movie Some Like It Hot - but we made it to Trang on not very much sleep in time to catch the speed boat to the island. And despite being absolutely knackered by this point, our first view of the island made all that effort worthwhile - but I'll save that for another day!

The sleeper train in Some Like It Hot!




Koh Hai!





Monday 11 March 2024

Home again!

After two rather hectic and exhausting weeks I'm finally back home, arriving last night around 9 p.m. - tired but happy! I reckon jet lag was at play this morning, though, because I was up at 5 a.m., paid some bills, did my washing and put stuff away before heading out to yoga, grocery shopping and then sewing club. I suppose I'll pay for it later but right now I'm still going strong!

My flight to Dubai with Emirates was delayed by 90 minutes, but that notwithstanding, I can't begin to describe how good the experience was flying with them. Of course, I'd decided to spoil myself by flying business class, but to be honest economy also looked really good. The food and service were excellent, and then to have a handsome young steward ask if he could make up my bed was just sublime! On the down side, being delayed by 90 minutes meant I had to run when I got to Dubai in order to make my connecting flight to Bangkok. You can't imagine what I (and a few others) looked like dashing through Dubai airport to get to our ongoing flights. On top of that, Dubai is a "silent airport" in that there are no tannoy annoucements so you end up crashing around trying to find which gate you should be heading for and all this in the searing heat! But make it we did, with the flight from Dubai being just as good as the first one, although by the time I finally made it to Bangkok I was pretty wired!

At the hotel I met up with the rest of our group (there were 10 of us) and our guide, who took us to a little out of the way restaurant overlooking the Chao Phraya River where we all made our introductions and got to know each other a little. I woke early the next morning (still jet lagged I guess) so sat on the terrace watching the boats go by until the others came down for breakfast. While I was sitting there a young French man sat down with his breakfast plate and then went to get coffee. Big mistake, apparently, because in his absence a crow swooped down and stole most of his breakfast before he made it back to the table! You live and learn I guess!

Later that morning we took a boat ride down one of the canals that branch off the river. It was already 35°C (95°F) so it was quite a shock to the system, but everywhere we went people made sure we always had cold water on hand as I guess they know how serious it can be if you get dehydrated!

I'm guessing my next few posts will be pretty picture heavy, so feel free to skip if you like. I'm just reliving my trip while it's fresh in my mind - and saving it to enjoy later!

Flying over Bangkok!

The view from our hotel by night!



Feeding fish on the canal trip!

Along the canal!

I wouldn't want to meet him
in the breakfast area!

And I couldn't resist this one - it's Gary Larsen I think, but I'm not sure!