We are dropped off at Bangkok airport by the free hotel shuttle bus in plenty of time to check in for our flight. We drop off a bag then saunter through the security search and bag scan to our departure lounge. It is not long before we board a toy plane and settle in for the one hour flight to Trat. We are greeted by three Thai women who bow, hands in pray position as we get off the plane and are driven in a brightly coloured shuttle bus passed topery elephants to the hut that is the airport building. We queue up in the official airport taxi rank. Now in every guidebook I have read I have been advised to get taxis only from the official airport tax rank and every time that I have done this I have been ripped off, paying well over the standard rate for my journey. My advice is to find out from the hotel you are staying at how much a journey from the airport should cost and only pay that. Ignore laminated cards thrust under your nose by sweaty men in suits as although the cards state that they are showing the official price so would any laminated print out made on a home PC. Lou has a good technique of walking away from the first asking price and waiting until it comes down to a reasonably level. I had forgotten all this at Trat airport and happily handed over twelve thousand bhart for a five hundred bhart journey. We were taken to the port of Laegm Lop where we were to buy our ferry tickets and catch the boat to the island of Koh Mak. We were treated to some convoluted bargaining and creative maths and offered a return ferry trip and taxi ride back to the air port via a beach for three thousand eight hundred bhart which is just over seventy pounds. Not wishing to succumb to another tourist tax we declined the offer opting for just the return ferry journey instead at eighteen hundred bhart and I was lucky enough to receive a bollocking for not being assertive enough in my bargaining from a jet lagged and irritable travel partner. The ferry trip passed in quiet contemplation.
After a forty five minute journey that took us passed several lush green islands with sandy beaches and always in sight of land we arrived at the small jetty and disembark. We were unable to contact our resort, The Big Easy, to get picked up as the mobile was not working. As luck would have it staff had turned up to collect shopping from our boat and we were able to grab a ride from them in the back of their pick up truck. We bounced along a dirt road amongst sacks of rice and bags of melons and were thankful of the rush of air as a merciless sun was beating down on our heads. We arrived at The Big Easy resort and were greeted with warm smiles and shown to our bungalow. There were several bungalows and ours was second back from the beach. They a were all of the same design built from wood with a concrete bathroom. Six steps lead up to a balcony where there is a hammock, two wicker chairs, a table and an integrated wooded bench. There are large French windows and a wooden door through which we entered the bungalow. A large single room greeted us with a huge double bed and two bedside tables. Beamed wood covered the floor and walls with woven leaf on the ceiling. The roof was made of a more weather proof corrugated green tin. Three steps lead down to a bathroom that was concrete with huge rocks of irregular shape, size and hue set into the wall. There was air conditioning and a huge fan in the centre of the ceiling both of which were essential.
The resort is very much a family affair run by Paul a tall and well spoken English gent and his Thai wife Lowu, who's sister and kids also work in the restaurant and around the resort. Lowu's daughter Juliet is also over from the UK with here extremely cute two year old son Jermaine. Who runs around naked with his one and a half year old uncle who is Paul and his wife's son. The two little boys are growing up Bi lingual which I am sure will serve them extremely well in later life. There are two cats a rather eluff and large black cat with white socks who spends most of his time on the shelf out of the kids reach and a beautiful tabby cat that tolerates much mauling and rough handling at the hands of Jermain who I caught trying to feed the cat a live beetle having wrestled it to the ground. The tabby begs at the tables and is rewarded by the animal loving English feeding it scraps of spicy chicken and fish.
Several lazy days followed spent snorkeling, reading and swinging in the hammock. A family of dogs has made it's home at the resort a mother her three pups and a old battle scared dad who I instantly bonded with. He came up to see us one night our our balcony wanting some company in the dark, stormy night. He looked a little battered so I turned up the light to examine the extent of his injuries. Is back was covered in scratches and bite marks and there was a huge open wound on the back of his head. Over the next couple of days we became close me throwing him scraps from the table and him greeting me after my afternoon swim and escorting me back to my bungalow. It's a tough life for dogs and this one just wanted a bit of companionship I only wish I could have bought him back to the UK. I called him Bod (battered old dog) a name he seemed indifferent to. We enjoyed each others company for the few days that I was at the resort and I was heartened to find that Lowu, the part owner of the resort had been tending to his wounds and feeding him scraps from the kitchen.
The days are hot and humid with the occasional rain shower and I sweat doing nothing more than reading a book. The sea is warm as a bath and snorkeling has rewarded me with views of black spiky annenomies with white centres ringed with four orange then four white dots. If impaled on a spike apparently then pain lasts for two days and has to be banged out something that I am carful to avoid experiencing. There are also shoals of parrot fish swimming around the yellow coral, sea cucumbers and many other variant of brightly coloured fish.
We hire a sea kyack and paddle out around a neighbouring island over choppy seas. We manage to stay upright with frantic shouts of 'Left, left, LEFT!' and hard paddling that gets us end on to the larger waves.
Each night we are treated to a storm and light show. Roaring thunder booms in the night sky and fork lightening flashes and strikes illuminating the outline of far off islands and dark clouds.
Friday was a bit of a sad morning as Lowu's sister, Daeow's husband and son were leaving for the mainland where they would stay and work for eight months. Rainy season was fast approaching and the tourist trade slacks off so there is no enough work for everyone. I provided my binoculars so that Lowu's sister could see her husband and daughter as their boat speed off and rounded the island. Our breakfast was served with a few tears that morning.
The Big Easy has a very relaxed vibe. The Kids run around the restaurant playing with the guests and Paul, the manager lies on a matt reading a book as the staff take orders with note book in one hand and child under the other arm. We learn a little Thai with the staff and our exchanges are always full of smiles and a sense of fun. It is a very pleasant place to stay and a relaxing venue in which to unwind for the last days of this great adventure that we have been on for the last six months.
Thoughts turn to home and I am excited about seeing my family and friends again. I look forward to new adventures and experiences in a new job. There is a silver lining in us going back a little earlier than expected in that, should they make the Blue Square Playoff finals I will be able to see my beloved Harriers at Wembley once more, at the very least I should be able to see the last few games of the season. I cannot wait to see my nice Layla. The last time I saw her she was just over six months old and now she is a year and a bit, walking and babbling in a precursor to her first words. After a short internal flight we have one more major flight to go and we will be back home with a little time to ruminate and reflect on what we have done before returning to work and saving for our next adventure.
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