Holidays and Other Excursions

Month: December 2015

Thailand Days 9 onwards

Thursday 17 December 2015 to Wednesday 24 December 2015

We move to another hotel and location on 17 December – Khao Lak in a very prestigious upmarket hotel – so much so that we have a small private plunge pool for our own use.

Most of our days here are spent on sun loungers which are essentially in the main pool.  If there are other people in the hotel we may only see them at dinner.  None of them seem to want to use the pool.

There are sunloungers on the front and it is easy enough to descend steps from them into the sea.  The sunloungers are on top of a sea wall which was constructed after the tsunami as that caused immense damage in this area and everything along the front has been reconstructed since that event.

The “apartment” is split level with a sitting area downstairs and a bedroom upstairs with an adjacent bathroom with both a shower and a double sized bath.  All with glass doors so that you can see into the toilet – I am not sure I like that!

During the week Jackie is less than well – she thinks her stomach disorder is probably food poisoning – may be the buffet dinner on the theatre show – and is sufficiently bad that we send for a doctor.

The doctor arrives with an assistant, about three bags and a drip stand – which cheers her up as she knows she is not that ill.  She does effectively spend a couple of says in bed and this does reduce the amount of browning time available – but she is in a bad state.

The day before departure we ask if we can have a late book out but we are told this is not possible.  I also report that I have broken the steps into the plunge pool (it came away in my hand and I could have fallen).  Anyway they know they have to repair it so we get another upgrade – I should have broken it sooner.

We eat in every evening bar one when we walk into the market as I need a new bum bag.  Once secured we eat at an Italian.  None of the places look special – very much thrown up after the tsunami so nothing special.  The food in our own hotel is actually good and possibly the best locally, so why eat elsewhere.  We have eaten most of the menu by the end of the week.  And we have some great lobster on one evening.

The upgrade apartment is larger with three levels – two at the front as before but a much larger bathroom on the intermediate level.

Eventually our week here comes to an end and a taxi whisks back far too quickly to the airport.  Here we are guided through immigration to the waiting lounge and before too long we are on our way to Abu Dhabi.

A few hours in the lounge in Abu Dhabi in the middle of the night is less than fun – it is busy and noisy and our body clocks do not feel like eating.  A DumTeeDum podcast arrives via wifi!

Our final leg is our first on a Dreamliner – definitely more room, the berth is longer than on the 777 – and we both get some more sleep.  Finally we arrive at Heathrow on Christmas Day.  An absolute bevy of waiting drivers to take the travellers home and from plane to our front door is an absolute record – one that will never be equalled.  And Jackie is going to cook a turkey!

Thailand Day 8

Wednesday 16 December 2015

We spend most of the day by the pool again.  And it looks like we were right not to risk the toilets as we are advised the male member of the couple to whom we were chatting last night did – and today is not leaving the room as he is unwell.

This evening it is time for another outing.  We go to Phuket for a dinner and theatre entertainment.  The dinner is a huge buffet affair and we eat well.

There is an initial show outside which enables some photographs to be taken showing some of the colour and the elephants!  Jackie also manages some shopping as we buy little presents for the grandchildren and try to find a bag.

The main theatre show is absolutely enormous.  Photographs not allowed but the elephants re-appear and parade through the auditorium.  There is running water in front of us as well as sailing boats as we are told, mainly in pictorial form the history of the country.  As we know from our travels elsewhere in south-east Asia once upon a time the control was exerted from the huge city at Siem Reap of which we saw some of the ruins and temples when we visited.

Which brings to an end our first week in Thailand.

Thailand Day 7

Tuesday 15 December 2016

After the busy day yesterday we take it easy by the pool again today.

Outside and opposite the hotel within easy walking distance are a number of restaurants.  Last night we went to the Indian and had some particularly good prawns for starters.  (If we are close to water you can always guarantee that Jackie will order prawns; indeed she has been known to eat prawns followed by prawns).

Today we also go across the road to a Thai restaurant in the evening and a young couple from Bournemouth who were on the boat trip came from the hotel and we have seen them on and off around the pool and so on.

After dinner we join them in the “Small Bar” which is simply that.  We consume a few drinks and have a nice chat although we do not risk the toilets returning to the hotel for a final drink.

Thailand Day 6

Monday 14 December 2015

Today we have booked a full day trip to Phi Phi.  Whilst it is nice to have a day out (and do something different), it is obviously going to be a bit of a struggle for Jackie as it involves a lot of water.

Speedboats with about 30 passengers set off in number as we have about an hour at speed to reach our destination.  First stop before departure is the toilet – make sure that it is sometime before another visit is needed.

Then down to the boats and they are moored on a floating pontoon which is moving around.  Not ideal!  Then across the wide blue yonder.  It is about an hour at decent speed before we reach our first destination for some snorkelling.  Having never used one I do not participate – we can see some of the fish near the surface.  I suppose I ought to learn.

We then move on to a beach where I do have a swim having found some shade for Jackie to sit in.  Leaving and regaining the boat requires stepping off the step at the back and into the sea.  No other way to do it.

The surroundings are lovely – but the number of tourists is almost overwhelming.

Lunch is not overwhelming.  Very much mass produced and far from ideal.

After lunch we go to another area to see the local monkeys – which we see good numbers of from the boat before backing out and going to a green cove.  Snorkelling again for most with Jackie and I not moving this time.

Final call is the famous beach where they filmed “The Beach”.  Again huge tourist numbers.  Jackie stays aboard and I do go through the woods to a beautiful view the other side.  No photos as I cannot work out how to take the camera as I am then planning to swim in the sea at “The Beach”.

Later Jackie says that in the film Leonardo Di Caprio hears voices (when high).  She heard much the same – the area is almost entirely encircled by fairly high rocks and the visitor voices bounce off all sides and are reflected back.  She says it felt very strange.

Time to head back to Phuket port and on the way in we take a little more notice this morning that it is in fact quite a busy place.  It is a large working port and no doubt makes the area more of a real working place rather than simply a holiday location.

Thailand Day 5

Sunday 13 December 2015

The damp patch by the bed has taken a distinct turn for the wet and we report it to reception.  We pack as inevitably this will take some fixing to find out from where the water is coming.  It takes a while before they take it seriously – and so we are on the move.  First we are shown a similar room with a worse view.  No good.  Eventually we are shown to a much larger room along from our original room.  Very nice.  We unpack.  An upgrade – good.

Another day taking it easy.  The pools here are both very nice.  The main pool is not particularly busy although most of the sun lounges are occupied along the sides.  There is a second very quiet pool which is at a higher level adjacent to which are some four poster style beds which enjoy a breeze given their elevation and where I suspect the curtains provided help guard against a potential for getting burnt.

I think we have now adjusted to the temperature and the humidity and the day passes with some reading, some listening, a cooling swim, and repeat!

We have taken to the far end of the main pool as it is a little quieter and the sunbeds are in the shade which means we can last longer in the sunshine before retreating to our room.

In the evening we choose to eat at the hotel’s restaurant (as opposed to the buffet where we take breakfast and where most eat in the evening).  The produce a very good quality meal and for drinks they have their own version of “happy hour” where we can order three glasses of wine for the price of two.  Oddly this does not work to my advantage.  I have two glasses of wine but somehow Jackie manages to have four glasses of wine.

We retreat to our new larger room and have to adjust to a new bed!


Thailand Day 4

Saturday 12 December 2015

Another sunny day lazing around by the pool.  A lovely way to pass the time.

In the late afternoon we have arranged to join a trip to the market in Phuket.  Traffic is heavy so getting there takes a little while.

Like the other markets we have seen in south east Asia it well stocked – the main section is perhaps not as tightly packed as in Ho Chi Minh (and perhaps less varied) but there is still a lot to wander through.

At the back of the market there are food stalls either selling ingredients or a variety of cooked food.  Jackie is not feeling well initially – it is hot and she is struggling.  She chooses one of the small restaurants at the very back of the market and we are given a menu of pictures of the food and make some choices.  I go for shellfish.

All freshly cooked and as she has some water Jackie starts to feel better.  Slight dehydration – a case of getting adjusted to the temperatures and so on.

When it turns up the food is very simple and good and much enjoyed.  During the meal Jackie asserts she now wants to go and find a bag she saw earlier as it might be the right one.

Settling up is not a lot of money.

Now we wander up and down the aisles looking for the bag shops again!  We do find a couple but in general they do not seem particularly well made and decide not to invest.

We still have some time before being collected – so head for a bar just on the corner opposite the pick up point.  We sit down and order some drinks and then I feel a couple of spots of rain.  Shall we move?

Yes we do move inside.

And then it rains. and it pours and we see a real downpour.  We are under an awning – and staying dry is proving difficult.  Others from the minibus start appearing in the bar and in the one next door – and everyone is huddling away from the rain.  And it is now really RAINING.

The street is turning into a river.  And the minibus has not arrived.

We cross the street so that we are in the right place when it does arrive – which it then does – but even being in the rain for a couple of moments mean we are now wet.

All rounded up we head back to the hotel and have a shower (why when we are already so wet?  The shower is warmer).  And time for bed.

Boy did I tell you it rained and rained earlier?

More concerning is Jackie reporting that the floor on her side of the bed is damp and a towel is put down to absorb the wet.

Thailand Day 3

Friday 11 December 2015

Having a reasonable night’s sleep is often rare in the first night in a strange bed but oddly this one goes well. Once awake we wander around the complex as we have to find the way back – and the stairs we came down in the dark are not obvious (or labelled) in daytime. On emerging from our room we are struck by the heat, the humidity and invisibility as the glasses mist over! Eventually we find the dining area and elect to sit outside which is probably a mistake as of course inside is air conditioned as well and jumping from hot to cold and back is probably not good.

With a reasonable breakfast inside us we descend to collect some pool towels and take a couple of loungers on the decking area adjacent to the main pool. The area fills up although I note that not all loungers have been put out and suspect the hotel is not completely full at present. It is high tide in the morning – later in the afternoon it is noticeable that swimming in the sea in the roped off area would not be possible.

Being our first day we have the usual rep visit and book a couple of excursions to be taken later during the first week of our stay and confirm transit times to our second hotel and back to the airport for our return home. We are given some guidance on the local behaviour and where we can go to see the sunset – a short walk along the road.

We retreat to the dining room and take a light lunch; the spring rolls seem exceptionally hot to me! A further hour in the sun before we decide not to over do it on our first day and retreat to our room. On the way there I am able to show Jackie a much quieter pool adjacent to our room with some comfortable looking day beds which also look as though they provide some excellent shade in the heat of the day.

At about 5:15 pm we leave the complex for the first time heading out to end of the road. The plan is to spot restaurants for later eating and also to see the sunset in the west which duly happens about 45 minutes later. Our excursion had given us the chance to note 4 – 5 possible restaurants as well as to see a local street market along this stretch of road.

One of the restaurants is on Jackie’s list from Trip Advisor and we decide to make things simple for ourselves by having a fixed menu for two. Some chicken satay to start was not completely enveloped in peanut butter; soup, hot for Jackie and not for me – her chilis were obviously added at the end of the process. Once these tasty delights had been consumed we then waited the fisherman’s main course – a huge basket of fish. I had the opportunity to demonstrate I could still remove the bones from a complete fish and we also shared vast quantities of squid, mussels, soft shell crab and five decent sized prawns. For the food the Baht1500 quoted on the menu covered the entire food for two (which is about £30 at current exchange rates).

I always love fish platters and this was no exception at Baan Ra; recommended. We walk back to the hotel and agree on a couple of the other restaurants which seem most likely candidates for a visit later in the week.

Thailand Day 2

Thursday 10 December 2015

We leave the Etihad 777 and enter terminal 3. Prior to landing the plane on board information system had advised that our connecting flight would be leaving from Terminal 1 gate 6 and time was limited if they are as distant as Heathrow. We should not have worried as even a gentle stroll would have got us there with time to spare; the forced march merely made the wait longer still.

Once again priority boarding and slip into another business class flat bed seat on another 777, although no plans to sleep much on this leg. Once airborne something for breakfast and advance the watch by three hours. As we trundle to the runway I am pretty sure one of the planes in the queue behind us is an A380 – Dreamliner.

A couple of episodes of Borgen are also consumed whilst keeping an eye on the flight path. Initially we are shown taking a route over both Mumbai and Hyderabad, but the plane heads north towards Pakistsan before turning more south-easterly and we will now pass to the north of the two cities.

Time for dozing and listening to music programmes simply to block out the aircraft noise. Emerge from sleep for my “lunch” but now a little confused over what time it really as the clever displays show a local time which is 30 minutes out of step with other timezones. We are also crossing the Andaman Sea heading down towards Phuket – we will follow much the same path heading for Bangkok when we visit Australia next year.

From above the land at this end of Thailand looks stunning, green of course but rocks jutting out of the sea as well. We turn round on ourselves to land and the air part of the journey is complete.

Once back on land reality returns; a queue for immigration and our bags on reclaim 5, except when we get there it seems they have been moved to 4 and they are already off the belt and awaiting our attentions.

Exit the airport, find our local contact and then aboard a taxi for about an hour of typical (so it seems) foreign taxi driving as we taken through / round Phuket itself to the Radisson Blu hotel. All taxis abroad seem to be driven by those willing to take risks!

Check in is straightforward. Shown to our room. It is 8pm local time so we have been on the move for 21 hours. Unpack, order some room service, choose a couple of outings to book for later in the stay, eat room service, shower and retire to bed.

Thailand Day 1

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Not our planned holiday but we are still travelling business class to Phuket rather than Chennai. Etihad provide a collection service so the taxi arrives and we get a text message confirming he is waiting outside. House secure we are on our way.

And the continuing advantages of business class at the airport are numerous. No waiting in line to deposit cases, fast track through security (why does the UK insist on laptops being extracted from carry on bags – this does not seem to happen elsewhere?) and into the shopping area. No need to stay there long, where is gate 10? The lounge is opposite but one floor down. And in the corner is a Six Senses spa; we book a back and neck massage for 20 minutes time; still allows a glass of champagne to be consumed.

Massage over and it is time to dine; spicy tomato soup, some white wine, a slightly spicy chicken, some more white wine, some fresh fruit, finish off the white wine plus a cup of coffee and we have had a leisurely couple of hours with about an hour to kill before we fly.

The plane is waiting at gate 10, so convenient! More champagne. Once airborne we order some fine cheeses and some red wine before seeking to get some sleep. Manage about 4 hours with some breaks. Listening matters is some recorded Mike Brown on CHBN from some months ago. His “More Me Time” hours are always relaxing.

Manage to get a cup of coffee before we descend into Abu Dhabi. Good lord we have also advanced four hours so it is 7 in the morning, so we move onto Day 2.

Heading to India (or perhaps not)

Friday 4 December 2015

A long awaited holiday – a second visit to India, this time to visit the southern areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa; including a trip on the Ooty railway, a night’s cruise on a houseboat and a week on the beach (or close by) in Kerala – early morning call as we have to leave the house before 6 am.

Only we are in bed well beyond that time as a call yesterday from the travel company brought bad news.  Chennai airport is closed, there is serious flooding in the area, there have been power cuts and it is still raining.

So on Thursday evening we sat down and hammered the tablets and looked at possibilities.  Jackie got very close to booking a couple of weeks in Mexico; but we held off.

This morning we hear back from Trailfinders who have sorted flights via Abu Dhabi on Etihad to Thailand – two weeks in Phuket and Kao Lahk (one week each), leaving next Wednesday and on the final leg we come back on a Dreamliner; arriving back in the UK on December 25 (that date rings a bell).


So if any of you wondered when notes on India would start appearing you will have to wait until 2017 as we are taking our 2017 holiday now.  Thailand updates will start appearing once we are on our way!