Back on Ko Lanta and an anxious wait

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April 7th 2020
Published: April 14th 2020
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.With a feeling of great relief we landed back in the ' Land of Smiles' i.e. Thailand. Phuket to be exact.

We had originally intended to spend our last two weeks exploring new places in Thailand but what with the threat of flights being cancelled due to Corona virus and my eye problem that was steadily getting worse, we made the decision to just return to Ko Lanta. Being a relatively small island is was slightly shielded from the rest of the world, and hopefully Corona. As each day had passed we were getting more and more news of it's spread and it seemed we had just got out of India in time.

It was only 6.30 am when we landed and getting through passport control was particularly fast. Phuket is a major tourist place for the Chinese people, so much so, that they had three dedicated passport control desks. However there were no planes allowed to land from China meaning many of us got fast tracked through their empty passport control desks.

We enquired about getting a mini- van to the port where we planned to get the ferry back to Ko Lanta. It turned
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The locals here are so friendly
out there were none so we ended up getting a private taxi but it worked well as he got us there in time for the 8.30am ferry. The ferry went to Phi Phi island first where we had to change and get another ferry to Ko Lanta but we didn't have to switch over in the middle of the sea as we had when leaving Ko Lanta two weeks previously. We were shocked as we docked on Phi Phi it was so different to when we were there in 2008. Instead of just one jetty there were several, each one had at least on huge ferry docked with hundreds of passengers piling off. Everyone queueing for the obligatory temperature check. Some were herded onto another ferry, as we were, while many others filed along the jetty obviously intending to stay on the island. Instead of the sleepy little island with a handful of restaurants that we knew, this was now a major transport hub and barely recognisable to us. Oh well, I suppose they call it progress! We sat on the ferry waiting to leave for almost an hour while dozens more ferries arrived spilling people off who were herded in all directions. Finally our ferry was full and we set sail. It was now midday and the fact we'd had no sleep the night before was kicking in big time.

Back on Ko Lanta we jumped into a sangthew ( local shared taxi) and were soon in front of Best House again. The owners Piew and Brajak were on their lunch break but greeted us and said to go straight to ' our' room, it was all ready and waiting for us. The same room we'd had before which was, in our opinion, in the best location. We had a small veranda overlooking the tropical garden and close to the coffee making facilities in reception. Once again, it was just like coming home. And just as before all the restaurant / bar owners seemed pleased to see us back.

First things first, next morning I took practically all our clothes to be laundered. Every thing felt filthy after two weeks in India. It felt so good to have sweet smelling clean clothes back by 5pm. Next job was to find a doctor and see if they could tell me what was causing the flashes in my eye. We were seen straight away ( unlike England where we have to wait anything up to Three weeks!).As soon as I described my symptoms she said there was nothing she could as it sounded like a detached retina, she recommended I go to a hospital on the mainland. I asked her if she thought it could wait until we went home in two weeks time. Her answer was very definite. "No you must go as soon as possible, two weeks could be too late" This news was quite devastating, we'd only just arrived on the island and the logistics of getting back off and to a hospital was daunting. After all it had taken us best part of seven hours from the airport and that was a popular transport route!

I spent a sleepless night wondering what to do, early next morning I packed our bags in readiness to leave. I spoke to Piew the owner of the guest house, she could see I was very anxious and told me the best hospital to go to. It was in Trang, over 100 kms away. She said she could arrange a private car and driver to take me, using the car ferry that was much faster and easier than taking the passenger ferry, he would wait at the hospital, and then bring me back. It wouldn't be cheap but so much more convenient than trying to get there by public transport and probably having to find a hotel in Trang. I agreed and by 9.30am we were on our way. We arrived by 12.30 and I was seen straight away.

to cut a long story short, after extensive investigations the eye consultant declared there was no detachment of the retina but a thinning that could develop into a tear. no treatment needed right now but take things easy and see someone when we returned to England. If in the meantime the problem got worse, go straight back to her. To use her words " it's a ticking time bomb but will probably be ok"

we arrived back at the guesthouse just as the sun was setting at 6.30pm. What a day! Piew and Brajak were waiting to greet us and hear the outcome. They really are nice people!

We spent the next two weeks just relaxing in the shade on the beach and eating dinner in one of our favourite beach restaurant. This was followed by drinks at Aleena mini mart where all the travellers congregate. As the week went on, everywhere was becoming increasingly quiet as news of flight cancellations became more and more frequent. As people left very few newcomers arrived. We began to worry if we would get home. We checked our reservation with Etihad daily and it all seemed perfectly normal. But, as you all know, things were changing by the day.

Island life was still pretty chilled out and if you didn't read the news on the internet you could be forgiven for thinking the world was still a normal place. We were quite sheltered from the outside world. Restaurants had tables laid out with anything up to twelve people on, groups congregated at the mini mart as usual for after dinner drinks well into the early hours. However, at the back of our minds was always the thought that things were not normal and we were living on borrowed time, basically, and as each day passed without any flight cancellations back to Bangkok and onwards to England we kept thinking our luck would run out. It was only a matter of time.

Finally the day arrived that we were due to fly to Bangkok .As we left Piew had a grave look on her face and warned us to be very careful in Bangkok. We crammed into a mini bus full of people to take us off the island and onwards to Krabi airport, we began to feel nervous.

Apart from having our temperature taken at the airport all seemed normal and we arrived in Bangkok on schedule an hour later. We weren't sure what to expect there but again it all seemed normal. There was no problem getting a taxi to our hotel and life seemed the same as ever in the tourist area. Bars, Restaurants and Shops all open as usual not to mention the hill tribe ladies touting their usual trinkets. We began to think we'd been worrying about nothing, either that or everyone else was just burying their heads in the sand. We vowed to take extra precautions.

Our hotel was pretty quiet, only a few rooms filled whereas back in January they were fully booked and people queuing to get in. It was quite nice for us as we virtually had the pool to ourselves.

We had one day here before flying home the following day. Armed with hand sanitiser and anti bacterial wipes we took the river taxi to Wat Arun, It's normally jammed packed on the boat but this time there was a marked absence of people. There were still plenty of people visiting the temple but we did try to keep our distance and frequently used the hand gel.

Next day we had to check out of our hotel a 110.30am. Our flight wasn't until 8pm and we had considered paying to keep the room on for a few hours so we could ' hide out' in the air conditioning but after reading how hotels were suddenly going into lockdown we decided to leave and just go to the airport early.

I was beginning to feel that each step of the journey was a milestone taking us closer to home. All we had to do now was get through the health checks at the airport and hope the airport didn't go on lockdown before our flight took off. All went smoothly and after a considerable few hours hanging around the airport we were off!

Two more obstacles to overcome, Abu Dhabi airport, then Manchester airport. What if they wouldn't let us back in the country?

Abu Dhabi was quite stressful. As we landed we were told to sit still while a team of medical people came on board the plane suited up from head to toe and face masks. It all began to feel very real. It took an hour for them to check every single passenger before we were allowed to dis-embark. Passport control took forever and we worried about getting our connecting flight to Manchester but soon realized there were many in the same position and all flights were being held until all passengers were accounted for.

To our surprise, when we landed in Manchester we were through passport control in no time and retrieving our bags. One last hic up, the motorway was jammed and our arranged taxi was an hour late meeting us but as things go it was a small problem. We were home on British soil. Within a few days of us arriving home Etihad practically cancelled all their flights. What a lucky escape we'd had! There's no place like home when problems begin to occur.

I managed to see an eye consultant back home despite hospitals cancelling most appointments and he was happy to leave my eye untreated in a 'wait and see' situation.

So.….. that's it, until who knows when? Like everyone else, there are no travel plans on the horizon as the whole world goes onto lockdown.

Will we ever get to have more adventures and write travel blogs? Only time will tell.

Additional photos below
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15th April 2020

Welcome home!
Accomplishing that was a miracle...
16th April 2020

Welcome home
Thank you, hope you are keeping safe. We hope we are all able to travel again safely in the future

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