Published: April 24th 2012March 4th 2012
The last 6 months have seen us have some bad luck with flights – one flight, in November, had us abort a landing where the wings of the plane were literally touching the tops of the palm trees below. At the very last minute the plane pulled back up and re-attempted the approach from a different direction. However, this latest piece of bad luck when we were on our way to Bangkok was something we have never experienced in all our years of travelling. We have to admit, we were a little bit scared!
We were super-excited to be travelling to Bangkok as we were meeting Donna’s parents for their annual holiday, excited as well because this was her parents first time to Koh Samui. Everything went smoothly getting to the airport and we took off on time. After around 30 minutes on the flight we noticed that the cabin crew seemed to be running around a bit more than usual and when we looked out of the window we noticed instead of being over the sea we were over land. The next thing the fasten seat belt sign came on and the cabin crew started rushing through the
plane asking everyone to prepare for landing. Up until this point we had been listening to our ipod and reading, completely oblivious…when we took out our earphones we could hear the alarms sounding in the cockpit (we were in row 2). We soon found out the plane was having ‘mechanical difficulties’ and we had turned around to land at the airport we had just left. Our approach to the airport was very direct and fast, we were flying at a very low altitude as well - something didn’t feel quite right with the plane and we were hoping that we would land safely! We did land safely, even if it was a little bumpy, and the pilot called the maintenance crew to the plane to inspect and fix the problem.
A guy who was sitting on the opposite side of the aisle to us was a pilot for the airline we were flying on and helpfully informed us that it was the cabin pressure alarm which was sounding as we came in to land. After a couple of hours the maintenance team fixed the problem, it was at this point several people got a little bit hysterical and
demanded to be let off the plane. One guy who was rolling drunk made a huge scene and tried to get off the plane when there weren’t any stairs next to the door! So, repairs completed and people off loaded, we were now 3 hours behind schedule and as we had been kept on the plane the entire time, there was no way to contact Donna’s parents (Jan and Paul) to let them know about the delay. Thankfully we arrived into Bangkok safely, rushed to our hotel to check in, rushed out straight away to find Jan and Paul. Needless to say, Jan and Paul were worried and they had been making bets why we were late...Donna was a bit put out that the number 1 bet was that she had been detained at Immigration for giving the Immigration Officers grief! We managed to salvage the night (not before our bank accidently stopped our ATM cards though and we had to call to shout at them!) and had a nice meal and a few drinks out while catching up.
The next day was a travel day and it also happened to be Donna’s birthday (21 again, haha!). We
were rather excited about this travelling, as we had opted for the ‘expensive’ flight direct to Koh Samui, rather than the cheap-arse Air Asia flight to the mainland with a bus, boat, songthaew combo! We have to admit, it was nice to fly Bangkok Air and we made sure we made full use of the complimentary lounge before the flight, having several cappuccinos, pastries, rice cakes and anything else we could get our hands on! The flight was excellent too, we even got a meal although Donna requested a veggie meal and ended up with a cheese sandwich smothered in mayonnaise (yuk!) which Paul ended up eating (which he would later regret!).
Landing in Samui was also a treat, the airport is so cute…not so cute was the inevitable taxi mafia wanting to charge outlandish prices for the taxis. Cue Neil walking towards the exit of the airport and the taxi mafia backing down straight away! Arriving to the resort we had booked, we were pleasantly surprised that they had booked our rooms as we had requested and reserved two automatic bikes for us. After a quick unpack and change it was time for Paul to practice on
...hope you remembered your travel insurance or credit card!
the bike…so far so good, everything was going to plan.
We then headed out to the Big C supermarket on the bikes and it is at this point everything went wrong…horribly wrong. As we pulled out of Big C, we were in front and Jan and Paul were behind on their bike. Just as we looked around to check Jan and Paul were behind us, we saw them coming off the bike. Paul was driving the bike around the corner and the throttle of the bike stuck, so although he was pulling on the brakes, the bike wouldn’t stop, it kept going and the result was that the wheels came out from underneath them. We immediately stopped and went running over – there was quite a bit of blood and Paul was in a lot of pain. A Thai lady who was nearby called an ambulance and another onlooker helped us lift the bike out of the way. The ambulance arrived, we were very lucky – the hospital was literally a stone’s throw away from where the accident happened and the paramedics got Paul loaded into the ambulance and to the hospital.
Inside the hospital, the
The fracture repair
Screws and if you look carefully you can see the washers too
staff wasted no time in getting Paul hooked up to an IV and got the orthopaedic surgeon in to look at his injuries and they got Jan’s cuts and bruises cleaned up. At this point we made the decision for Neil to go back to the resort to find all the insurance documents we would need and Donna would stay to handle things at the hospital. Paul had the cuts on his face cleaned a little and then was taken in for an x-ray, as the surgeon had a suspicion he had dislocated his shoulder and needed to confirm the injury. The results of the x-ray showed not only a dislocated shoulder but a fracture of the humerus…even Donna could see on the x-ray the severity of the fracture and the doctor said Paul needed emergency surgery to pin the bone together and re-locate the shoulder joint. The surgeon then sent in a German lady who was one of the Admin team who was on duty – this was something we weren’t previously aware of, that most hospitals in Thailand have these liaison people! She made sure Donna filled in the admission forms and asked for the copy of the
Birthday card opening
in the very strange hospital room...naked lady oil painting picture and football clock...weird!
insurance when Neil returned – they would handle everything for us. Unfortunately for Paul, because he had the sandwich on the plane, he had to wait for 3 hours before they could operate.
While we were waiting for the surgery we made lots phone calls back to Neil’s Mum so she could help us get the copies of documents we needed. A special mention goes out here to Pip and Eric (Jan and Paul’s friends) for speedily double-checking Paul’s drivers licence, Kay (Neil’s Mum) and Darren (Neil’s brother – an Insurance Claims Manager, luckily) for reading through the policy details and cutting through the jargon and reassuring us everything was ok with the policy. We see so many posts on travel forums from people asking if insurance is really necessary…based on our experience – YES, IT IS NECESSARY, you should never leave home without it as you never know when you are going to need it. In the case of Jan and Paul, they have been travelling abroad for 34 years and have never had to use insurance until now.
Paul was taken for surgery at 8pm, and we then got the ball rolling. Donna called
The offending bike
with the sticky throttle.
the insurance company – although the hospital had said they would handle everything we thought it best to contact the medical emergency response team as soon as we could. We have to say the insurance company was very, very good and assured us that they had a team of doctors on stand-by to review all treatment authorised by the hospital. The hospital staff then sent us to wait in Paul’s private room until the surgery ended and we have to say the room was really bizarre. It looked like a dodgy hotel room with lime green wallpaper, strange paintings of naked ladies on the wall and a weird football clock! At 12am, we finally got word that Paul was out of surgery and we could go and see him in recovery. A nurse was telling him not to move his arm, he then pulled his oxygen mask to one side and gave a passable rendition of King Julian (from the film Madagascar for those who don't know!) singing 'I like to move it, move it' to a bemused Thai nurse before relapsing back into his drug induced haze. We spoke to the doctor who was very pleased with the outcome
- he had to use two screws (and washers - don't forget the washers!)to pin the bone together and then pop the shoulder back into place. The surgeon had also cleaned out the elbow wound (which was down to the bone) and stitched it. He gave strict instructions that Paul was to start moving his arm straight away and a timeframe of 3 months for a full recovery.
At 2am, we left the hospital to go and get some sleep and left Jan with Paul in the hospital (they had put a bed in Paul’s room so Jan could stay with him). We were back at the hospital bright and early with supplies, clothes and Donna’s birthday cards to open from her postponed birthday. We had a card and present opening fest after lunch – seriously Thai hospital food is in one (albeit made up) word, AMAZEBALLS! The hospital had its own restaurant on site and a proper menu which you ordered from and a guy would then bring the food to the room for you. It was unbelievable and the best hospital food any of us has experienced…although in a similar situation it’s best to avoid the
Numbing the pain
with absolute vodka buckets at 250 baht.
coffee, strong is not an adequate description.
After 2 days in hospital, Paul was released into our capable hands with strict instructions of when to return for wound dressings and stitches removal. This is an excellent point in the blog to say how impressed we were with all of the staff at Bandon hospital, especially Dr Narong, the orthopaedic surgeon and Jane Hill, the British Administrator who spoke perfect Thai and helped us liaise with the insurance company. The whole team at the hospital were excellent. During the entire time at the hospital and explaining the treatment/surgery, Dr Narong’s English had been perfect, and there was only one point of confusion, this was when he couldn’t find the correct English word for Paul’s body hair and used the word ‘fur’ instead…now this had us in hysterics as we thought it was really cute and from that point forward Paul’s body hair was referred to as fur.
At first things were slow going after Paul’s release. We drove around (very carefully now!) on our moped to find a car hire place, as otherwise it would have been impossible to get around; we struck it lucky and arranged
for a nice, brand new Mazda 2 to be dropped off at our resort the next day for only 850 baht a day (as we wanted the car for 3 weeks). If anyone wants to hire a car on Samui, we are more than happy to share the details of the agency as the owner was a good guy. The next couple of days we just took it easy with a bit of time around by the pool, letting Paul recuperate a little bit as the injury to his shoulder was painful and very limiting with movements. Once Paul felt stronger there was nothing we could do to keep him away from the beach! We devised a system of pillow support when lying on the beach and helping hands getting into the water, this was the most tricky as he wasn’t yet able to get his elbow wound or shoulder wet. We managed it and we all settled down into a nice routine with lots of lovely food, sun and as much relaxing as possible.
Another thing we would say was tricky was walking around Chaweng with Paul’s kind of injury…people are bad enough normally not looking where
they are going but we had to be especially careful that he wasn’t banged. So the honour guard formation sprung into action…Donna in front right, Neil front left and Jan bringing up the rear, in protection of the shoulder. It actually worked well and Donna only managed almost-fisty-cuffs three times, not bad for her as she just has no patience with rude people!
Last July we were in Samui we found some excellent restaurants and this time around we weren’t disappointed either. The food was fantastic, we were stuffed full every night no matter what we ordered it was superb. Donna’s Nan and Grandad had given some money for treating us which turned out to be lots of treats in the ice-cream heaven that is Swensens. Oh, what a wonderful place that is! On our first visit there we got a little bit carried away, ordered too much and felt like right pigs. We learnt our lesson and on our other visits we just ordered an ice cream between the two of us – a favourite malt choco treat which was chocolate ice cream, cream, chocolate sauce, maltesers, a cherry and chocolate wafer...in other words, chocolate overload. The
Pint of beer!
not something we get very often in SE Asia
problem was, we ended up fighting over the maltesers in the dish ;) One night we went for an Indian, if you are in Samui and like Indian food then Noori’s restaurant is a must. A little more expensive than Thai food on the island but it is very, very good.
Almost every night we went out for drinks in different parts of Chaweng and always chose a bar with good people watching. We have to say though the alcohol prices in some places were ridiculous – some bars were charging as much as 120 baht (that’s £2.50!) for a small bottle of beer. We found a few places which did strong (and big) cocktails or vodka mixers for 100 baht, which we were happy paying. The people watching didn’t disappoint either…oh dear, we have to say the most entertainment was had from watching the Russian tourists – we don’t want to sound mean here but their dress sense and hair do’s were terrible. The Russians also seem to be completely taking over Thailand and were very, very rude and disrespectful (think walking down the street at 9pm with only a bikini on!). Now being equal opportunity ridiculers,
Probably horribly poisonous
we also saw some fellow Brits who we had to do a double take on…seriously people, looking like a 3 weeks old teabag or a wrung out chamois leather with a filthy mop head as hair, is not an attractive look!
As a little interlude we have come to a point for a name and shame. The first name and shame goes out to Irish Murphy’s bar on Chaweng. Now this place really has got ripping people off down to a fine art. Charging 140 baht (£2.91) for a vodka and sprite which had hardly any vodka in it and was in a glass so small there was literally two gulps in it. Tut tut…not only that, we paid the bill and waited for the 10 baht change (after that vodka there was no way the grumpy arse staff were getting a tip), we waited and waited. Neil went and asked for the change from the waitress who then had the cheek to deny any change was due…she had just pocketed it thinking we wouldn’t notice! What could we do but walk away, yes, we know it’s not like us but sometimes it’s just not worth it. We
do try and get our own back a little bit by dissing them in our blog! The second name and shame is the Ark Bar on Chaweng beach. Now back in July 2011, the Ark Bar was a relatively small bar on the beach…fast forward to March 2012 and they have literally tripled in size and the too-loud music going thud-thud-thud…the seating sprawled out onto the beach so no-one could pass the bar without walking into the water…oh my, we really don’t understand how the local government has allowed this to happen (ok we do really, bribes probably!). We feel very, very sorry for anyone staying in the vicinity of this place – by vicinity we mean within a kilometre, yes, the music was that loud! The funny thing was no-one even looked like they were enjoying themselves in there and we think it comes down to the sheep mentality, people think it’s cool, everyone goes there, so therefore it’s the place to be. Now we sound like old fogeys now, but the Ark Bar really has lowered the tone of Chaweng nightlife, there are plenty of nicer and cheaper places in Chaweng to drink. On a couple of internet
Green curry with prawns and veg with massaman curry with chicken in the background
travel forums there have also been nasty rumours of druggings, muggings and staff involvement at Ark Bar, we don’t know how true these rumours are but it’s worth being aware of if anyone is thinking of going there.
We ventured to Chaweng beach during the day once and due to the full moon a couple of days before the beach was rather wild, windy and wet. The waves were HUGE (3m at times) and the tide was so far in that the whole beach disappeared. Well, that’s what rampant development and building too far onto a beach does…we know we have mentioned this before about places and won’t say any more. We also drove to show Jan and Paul the Big Buddha…their comments? ‘oooh, it IS big isn’t it?’. It never ceases to amaze us how disrespectful (Russians again!) people are towards Buddhist monuments…walking up to the Buddha in bikini tops and shorts so short their arse cheeks are hanging out. Not cool at all and cringe worthy in the disrespect shown towards other people’s religions and beliefs. After a quick stop at the Big Buddha we made our way to Choeng Mon beach, again because of the
Bangkok Airways lounge
we stocked up on those goodies like any good traveller should.
full moon the sea wasn’t as calm as it could have been but the beach was quite nice and is a very popular choice for families.
All in all, accident aside we had a lovely time in Koh Samui – all of us would definitely return. Jan and Paul have since returned to the UK and Paul has been given the all clear from his local Orthopaedic clinic and is booked in for some physiotherapy sessions. Already making good progress with light exercise and driving, his arm can only get better and better. Again, we can’t stress enough how important insurance is – all the treatment he received in Thailand totalled almost 400,000 baht, roughly £8,000 and this wasn’t a particularly serious injury…we did see people in the hospital with serious head injuries and one silly Aussie lad who had been doing wheelies on his moped while stoned out of his brain at the Full Moon Party. He had crushed every bone in his foot and had to be medivac’d back to Australia…and yes, he freely admitted he was an idiot.
So, after that long and eventful blog it was time for us to leave Jan
and Paul and head to Surat Thani for our cheap-arse Air Asia flight…yes, our luxury splurge on flights didn’t extend as far as getting us back to Bangkok! We decided to shake off the transport mafia on this journey and go it alone into the Thai wilderness – a story for our next blog!
There are more photos below