Month: March 2014

2 Travel Days and HOME!!!!

It’s a 7-hour drive, via minibus, from our resort on Koh Chang to Bangkok airport, plus an extra 15 minutes shuttle to the airport Best Western where we spent the night before our flight.

Tuesday morning, therefore, we awoke early, had breakfast, and were the first people picked up. So we got the best seats. The minibus gradually filled up, here and there, and then we arrived at the ferry.

Bye bye, Koh Chang!

image

At a potty stop sometime after the ferry, one of the passengers switched to the other minibus. He was being a jerk to the driver and making the rest of us wince with shame, so no one cried when he left.

We arrived smoothly at the airport, and transferred to hotel shuttle. I can’t remember the last time I stayed at a Best Western, probably at WGT in Leipzig at some point, but I need to look up ownership now. They had news stations from numerous countries on the TV, but the only US representation was Fox News. Ugh.

The food at the restaurant was delicious, the space pleasant, and we had a nice evening. There was classical music blasting in the upstairs hallways, so Matt and I performed interpretive dance every time we went back or forth along the corridor on our floor. I hope someone was monitoring the security cameras. 🙂

We awoke even earlier on Wednesday morning, catching the 05:30 shuttle back to the airport. I overstayed my visa by a few days due to simple oversight, so knew I needed to plan extra time passing through immigration.

The fine for overstay is 500 baht per day, and they charged me for 5, although it could have been 6. Therefore the total wasn’t much more than the extended visa would have cost me. The funny part, though, was signing the document which stated that I had been arrested for the crime of immigration fraud, a jailable offense, but that I was accepting a fine settlement instead. That was in duplicate, so I thought I’d get a copy, but I didn’t. I got a receipt and a notation of payment in my passport. So long as I don’t make a habit of overstaying my visa in the future, I should be fine.

The flight from Bangkok to Helsinki was 10 hours, and it was OK. You can’t really expect great from a 10 hour flight, and we were near the toilets, which is never fun. But it wasn’t as bad as the outbound flight, so it counts as good. Hurray!

Our takeoff was delayed because a tire had burst and needed to be changed, and our transfer in Helsinki was therefore quite rushed, but we made our flight home. Home, home home! I can’t help but miss Cat, though. This is the second trip I’ve returned from without his presence to welcome me, since he died over the summer. I love how he was always anxious for our arrival and would run (when younger) and bump (when older) down the stairs to meet us at the closet landing, meowing like crazy. 15.5 years with us–it was January 1998 when we adopted that frostbitten youngish stray in the middle of the night. 😦 Sad.

We had exit seats on the Helsinki-Amsterdam flight, which is always nice. Uneventful, also a boon.

And… Wait for it… Arrival in Amsterdam! Smooth, smooth, and the IAmsterdam sign is even currently at Schiphol to welcome us home. 🙂

image

We got home, ordered pizza, ate it, now off to shower and bed! 🙂

Next travel: Porto, Portugal. I’ve forgotten the dates. Sometime in April. Just a weekend away. I’ll try to blog about it too. 🙂

Advertisements

Leaving Day Reboot: Last Day Koh Chang!

We extended our stay for a day. How could we not? I wanted to snorkel on another boat, and they weren’t sailing on Sunday. OK by me, because I had wanted to stay another night anyway. And the weather was better on Monday.

image

This time, the boat was much smaller, a catamaran with a maximum passenger load of 20 (we were 19) and a crew of 3. Our skipper was Michael, an interesting Belgian who’s been living on Koh Chang 7 or 8 months of the year for 7 years. Unlike the big boat last week, which had at least 50 passengers, we got time to chat with our fellow vacationers: 4 retirement-aged Dutch people from near Holten, 2 retirement-aged Norwegians from near Bergen, 2 young women from London (one French, one of Indian descent), and a solo French man, also retirement age, with very little English. The rest of the passengers were Swedish (3 youngish couples, 2 children) and they took over a large section in the front with one of the two net seats, and didn’t mingle with non-Swedish. The first question one of them asked as he boarded the truck on the way to the harbor was, in Swedish, “so, who’s Swedish?”

When our group, comprising those 2 Swedes, the French, the 2 Londoners, the 2 Norwegians, and us arrived, the Dutch (2 sisters & husbands) were compasctly sitting on one bench, but the 2 other Swedish couples (related) and 2 kids had already spread their towels over the larger of the 2 front nets, their bags over the entire bench facing the Dutch, and their bodies all along the front of the main body of the boat. Needless to say, their bags and bodies were eventually displaced.

The eventual arrangement was all the Swedes in the big front net and ledge, the 2 Norwegians and Matt on the small front net and ledge, and the rest of us (and Matt, frequently) in the shade.

image

image

It looks like Matt should expect a burn, but both of us sport colorings to match our fishy friends with whom we swam, day in and day out: on our dorsal sides. We kept trying to sun our front sides, but other than our faces, we’ve stayed pretty pale there.

This was an amazing day. At twice the cost of the other snorkeling trip, it was well worth it. We went to fewer places, but with fewer people in the water, I felt like I was alone with the fish and the coral. And the urchins, which kept making me think of Weeping Angels, not a good thing. The French Londoner stepped on one, but she was pretty ok.

I loved the rock fish. The first one I saw surprised me a lot, because I’d been admiring this patch of coral when suddenly part of it twitched, and it was a fish! After that, I saw them everywhere. I chased a big rainbow fish all over the place, nearly getting myself trapped by urchin-covered boulders at one point. And special event of the day: I found a conch! A living conch! I did something I was told not to do, and touched it, to see if it was alive, and when I dislodged it slightly, I saw its snaily body flutter and reestablish itself. Cool. It was about the size of both of my fists together. When I popped my head up, Matt was standing on the beach, so I called him over & showed him too.

Between stops for snorkeling, we enjoyed the catamaran much more than we had enjoyed the big boat we’d been on last week. It felt like any boating outing, super gezellig. We had a delicious lunch, fresh fruit for snacks, free unlimited water, and could drink beer and soda if we wanted. After our last snorkeling stop, the wind picked up and we hoisted the sail. We sailed back and forth for about an hour.

It was a happy and tired group that returned to our resorts that evening, but we were just in time to walk out over the pontoon bridge at the Blue Lagoon and enjoy sunset.

image

image

A man came out with a funny bird. The bird would hop away then return to him. After a while, he walked up to the bar behind us and the bird came and visited us for a while. It made very funny noises. Sometimes it almost sounded like human speech, then there would be a bird-like whistle.

image

image

After the sun set, we went a bit further, and had a delicious beach dinner at the Pilot Bar (great service, good food, friendly prices) before heading home.

Scooters, seafood, and Beaches!!!

Sunday

Today we slept in, then rode further north up the beach to a bakery for breakfast. After breakfast we rode around for a while playing Matt’s interactive video game, Ingress. Eventually we decided to go try the next beach south of our beach, Kai Bae beach. This one was pretty nice. There were fewer organized cafe spots than our beach, and less beach, like White Sand, but there were swings and it was very laid back. There were some pebbles just as you enter the water, but nothing sharp, and the water drops off a little sharply to about waist depth, at which it stays for quite a distance. Since we had bought our own beach mat yesterday, we didn’t need to rely on cafes for chairs, so it was fine.

image

That’s Matt lying in front of the white car.

image

Elephants came out to play!!

image

We came home around sunset, showered and changed for dinner at Phu Talay, another seafood restaurant next to Iyara which also had good reviews. There, we ordered stir-fried soft-shelled crabs, garlic fried squid, and a whole sea bass deep fried then served with Thai herbs. Yum!!

image

Dessert was awesome, too. We had fried bananas in a buttery sauce and this amazing dessert, which was like a coconut milk and tapioca soup served warm in a young coconut. The water and meat of the coconut was incorporated into the soup. Yum!!!

image

After dessert, we went to a small market and carnival, sponsored by Chang Beer, with games and a stage. We wandered there for a while then headed back.

Tonight would have been our last night, but we extended our stay one extra night. Tomorrow we will go snorkeling and sailing on a catamaran. The next day we will return to Bangkok, and the next morning after that we’ll fly home. 😦

Oh, this is how they sell gasoline around the island, in whisky bottles!

image

Waterfall, seafood, and Beaches!

Saturday

The next day, yesterday, was brilliant. We rented a scooter first thing and rode it to Klong Plu waterfall, where we hiked then sat by the water for a while.

image

image

After sitting by the water, we hiked up to the top of the falls, and I sat near the edge. I started hearing a lot of whistling, and eventually I saw the park ranger waving his arms at me to get down. So we hiked back down.

image

Then we swam in the pool at the bottom of the falls. It was really pleasant after the hike. That’s me swimming. Fresh water was great. It felt good to open my eyes.

image

Eventually, we got tired of swimming, and we hiked back to the scooter. We rode around for a little then decided to have lunch at Iyara Seafood Restaurant, which is really lovely, on the river just before it meets the sea, still on Klong Plau beach, “our” beach.

image

The food was excellent. We ordered a spicy tuna salad, the “small” BBQ seafood platter, and fried cashews. The seafood was amazingly delicious!

image

After lunch, we cruised north and finally decided to chill at White Sand Beach. White Sands Beach is the main tourist beach on the island, and so there were lots of bars and restaurants along the sand. There wasn’t as much beach, although it’s longer, but the sand slopes smoothly down into the water. There is no treacherous coral or rocks, but there is some litter. It was a pleasant enough place to pass the afternoon, if not exactly my taste. And it to really cleared out around sunset!

image

We ate street food on the way home, stopping here and there.

Centipedes

I am no longer blindly trusting when I feel what may or may not be creepy crawlies on my skin. On Friday I had a brush with a nasty centipede. This is what it looked like, I think. Honestly, I am no longer sure. I think I wiped it out of my memory.

image

I felt lazy that morning, so decided against joining Matt for a cooking class. Instead, I lay in bed, reading my book and napping. I didn’t even bother going to the hotel pool. At 15:00, I forced myself into clothing, and wandered over to see how Matt was doing.

They were still quite busy, so I headed down to the beach. I figured I would check out the places off to my left after exiting the Blue Lagoon. I found one chair under a tree at a cafe and massage place next to the Pilot Bar, and realized that I’d forgotten to bring my sunscreen, so I moved my chair slightly to make sure that even my toes were in the shade. That’s when I must have disturbed the centipede.

I was just settling in when a burning sensation on my right middle toe made me think, “Ow. I must have rubbed sand in one of those coral cuts,” then, “Wait. I didn’t cut that toe.” So I looked down at it and saw a giant (to me) red centipede wrapped around my toe! Wrapped around it!

I shook it, but it held on. I wasn’t sure what to do. My foot was starting to burn. Then it unwrapped and slithered away. What is the word for the way a centipede moves?? My whole foot was stinging, very badly. A tiny part of my brain was comparing it to the bee sting I received in the center of my chest while motorcycling in the Cotswolds last summer. Another part was panicking, “Aa! A big-ass centipede! Aa!! Ow!! It hurts! I’m going to die!” Yet another part was deciding what to do in what order.

I jumped up, grabbed my things, and rushed to the water. Salt is a natural antihistamine, so I soaked my foot there and put some salt water on my tongue, just in case that helped. Then I put my sandals back on and starting walking/limping very fast back up the path, towards Matt then back to the resort.

I was fighting back panicky pain tears when I stopped very briefly in at the cooking school to tell Matt I was bit by something and needed to go see if I needed to go to the doctor. In retrospect, I probably could have checked with his cooking instructor, but I wasn’t thinking smoothly anymore. I’d made a plan of action, and now I was acting it out, leaving me free to panic while doing so.

Next stop was reception at the resort. I was wearing my sunglasses, to hide my tears, but I’m sure there was no doubt as to my state. Martin and two of his staff came very quickly to have a look. He advised that as it didn’t look too swollen I would probably be OK and could just relax and keep an eye on it. Relieved, I hurriedly thanked him and went to my bungalow, where I dumped everything outside the door, went in, and sobbed and panicked for a while on the sofa after washing my foot in the shower.

Then I googled centipedes in Thailand, but after a very brief glance at the first entry about very poisonous, dangerous, etc., I closed that down. That was when I realized that I’d left everything including camera and wallet outside, and the door open, too.

Jack, if you’re reading this, I know you’ll probably tease me about being a wuss later, but in my defense, let me just say: “gigantic red centipedes are freaky!!” And it hurt.

It turns out I was probably lucky. It was only about as long as my index finger, so not as big as that type can get, and apparently unlike some other nasty critters, the bigger ones are more dangerous. My foot was somewhat swollen and very sore for a few hours, but I was able to walk for dinner later that night and by morning it was totally fine. Hurray!