December 28, 2015
It began again with clapping. Everyone was excited when we landed, including me, to almost be at my destination after a day and a half of traveling. I still had one more connection to catch but at least I was in the right county now. I was also nervous because I had to get a boarding pass for my next flight. I was switching airlines so I didn’t have one yet. I went to the bathroom and got out my flight number and tried to orient myself, but running on no sleep I was basically a zombie walking through the Bangkok airport.
I followed the connecting flight signs that listed Phuket to terminal A which, much to my relief, had a counter to get my boarding pass. I handed over my flight information and the women printed my pass. As she handed it to me she said, “Please hurry though because your flight is boarding.” WHAT? I got in line for passport control and looked at my ticket, it said boarding at 7:25. I looked at my phone it was 7:45. Shit. The passport line went painfully slow. After that was another security line. I threw my stuff on the belt and all but ran through the metal detector. When I got out of security with my long sleeves on, a backpack on my back and a backpack on my front in 90 degrees and 100% humidity, I started running through the airport. Dodging shoppers as I raced to my gate, it was a maze and seemed impossibly far. I ran down an escalator to gate A7. There was no one there and the monitor was flashing, “CLOSED”.
A woman at the kiosk was talking into a walky-talky, desperately I said, “I think this is my flight, can I still get on?” She ignored me, going about her business. I just stood there, partially hoping I could still make it on, but knowing I had missed it. Everything had gone so smoothly up until this point. I thought I was an expert, I thought I was a strong, independent, female, solo traveler and I didn’t need any help and I was immune to disaster. Yet, here I stood in a Bangkok airport alone, I had missed my connection and I had no idea what to do. After receiving not even a glance from the kiosk lady 3 other travelers, who I had run past on my way to the gate, moseyed up behind me. They had also missed the flight. The sign said “Next flight 9:10”. If I could get on the next flight it would only put me an hour behind. Finally, another much friendlier women walked up to the group and said, “You have missed your flight I’m very sorry.”
I blurted out, “Can I get on the next one?”
“You have to wait!” sassed the first lady.
So I sat. I just sat panicking and waiting. I texted everyone and told them I had missed my connection. About 5 minutes later the nice lady came and got my passport and boarding pass. The mean lady then told us to wait in the Bangkok Airlines lounge and that they had put us on standby for another flight. We gave our passports to the receptionist but the other three people cut in front of me and their names went on the list first, even though I had gotten to the gate first. There was no way there would be 4 open seats on the 9:10 flight and it would be boarding soon anyway. I tried to control my rage as I paced around the lounge. I charged my phone and ate a Luna bar, more just to keep me busy than because I was hungry. The couple got their names called first. I was pissed.
Another 30 minutes went by and the single man got his name called for another flight. I started searching other airlines to fly me into Phuket, I was not going to sit in their waiting room all day after I had run to get to the gate first and then been cut in line for the standby list. As I searched they called my name over the loud speaker. I basically ran to the desk then stood there nervously for ten minutes while the girl typed stuff and helped other people and finally wrote my new flight information on a piece of paper. She instructed me to go to the new gate where they would print me a new boarding pass. I started walking while reading the card; flight PG275. As I read it the loud speaker announced, “Now boarding flight PG275” WTF!
I started running again, I would be damned if I missed my standby flight too. Thank god when I got to the gate people were lined up but not yet boarding. I got my new pass and got in line. Seat E11. It was an emergency exit aisle. I could handle that, more leg room to stretch out and finally, hopefully, get some sleep. I was so relieved until a very obnoxious couple took the seats next to me and had to be asked multiple times to turn their phones off and put their stuff away so that we could take off. Apparently, selections for the emergency exit row are not heavily vetted. Fortunately, I was asleep almost instantly. I was woken up for food, which I thought was weird on a one-hour flight. It was chicken, mystery substance (tofu maybe) and rice. I ate some rice, drank some tea and tried to fall back to sleep. When we landed, right on the beach, I could see the clear water and how green the land was. When I got off the plane I remained inexplicably calm even though I knew I still had to navigate a cab ride, boat ride and another cab ride before I met Mary on the island of Koa Yoa Yoi.
First, I needed Thai Baht (money). I had about $100 American and $20 Egyptian but no Thai, so I needed an ATM. I wondered through the swarms of van ride and resort signs being advertised. I walked back and forth and I couldn’t see an ATM. I went to the window of the money exchange and the women told me the ATM was out the next set of doors. I worried that if I went out I wouldn’t be able to get back in to talk to the transportation people but I didn’t have a choice. So I walked out of the double doors and easily found an ATM. I took out my bankcard and tried to withdrawal money. There would be an extra $200 Baht fee, I didn’t even know how much American that was but again, I didn’t have a choice, so I clicked accept. Then my transaction was canceled. What? I tried again. Canceled. Panic ensued. I moved to another ATM. Canceled. Then my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t know but it was from Denver. I hoped it was my bank but didn’t know if I should risk the charges and have it be Comedy Works or something instead. I waited while I thought about it and then finally tried to answer but it was too late, it had gone to voicemail. I checked the voicemail. It was my bank. Thank God. I immediately called back and they cleared my card for the transaction. The money came out on the next attempt. Perfect!
Ok, one problem solved. Now I had to get a cab. As I suspected I couldn’t get back in through the doors where the transport people were located, so I went outside to hail a cab, something that I had never done before. Except, there were no cabs. But there was a sign pointing to “Taxi Meter.” I walked over and showed them the piece of paper I had scribbled on while I was still in Cairo. It said “Bong Rong Pier”. They wrote me a slip and handed a similar slip to a driver that had walked up. I followed him to his car, which was parked nearby. Sweaty and nervous I got inside. This could be a nice family man, or this could be a murderer. But when I got in, the air conditioning alone would have made the murder worth it. He was very nice and asked, “Where did you come from?” When I told him Egypt he responded, “Oh are you Muslim?” The people everywhere I go seem very open to talk about religion and politics. Not like in the U.S. where it can be taboo. *(I discovered later that Phuket has a large Muslim population so going from one predominantly Muslim country to the next makes his question seem less unusual.)
I told my driver I was trying to catch the 1:00 ferry at the pier and he tried to hurry to get me there on time. When we arrived at the dock, which was more like a small plank in the middle of a dense jungle, there was a woman who asked for 10baht for a tourist fee. I only had the $1,000 bills the ATM had given me. This didn’t go over well with the women who complained in Thai to my driver. My cab driver, sort of reluctantly, paid the fee for me. He parked and pointed to where the boat was. I felt very fortunate he had been so nice, my fair was $300 but I paid him $350 because he had been kind and paid my fee. I walked over to the information booth but found it was empty. After wondering around a little bit I found a man sitting at a desk who told me I could take the 1:30 boat, and that I would pay on the boat. I sat down next to another touristy looking couple who informed me that apparently the 1:00 boat had broken down.
A Thai women and her baby, who were both adorable, came and sat down next to me. So far everyone was nice. Thirty minutes later, at 1:25, we boarded the boat, which I was still not sure was even going to my island. I sat near the back for the thirty-minute ride. When a man came around to collect our money, $200 for the ride, I asked if Koa Yoa Yai was the first stop. He told me it was. Relief! When I got off I was totally unsure about what to do. Fortunately, one of the men working on the boat called to a driver that was waiting by a truck to shuttle people off the dock to various resorts. The women told me it was $300 to go to “Village” which was my resort. $300 seemed steep but supply and demand I guess. There was basically no other option. She could have told me $1,000 and I was in no place to negotiate, as she seemed to be the only game in town at the moment. I lugged my bags into her cab, which was the bed of a truck that had been converted to have benches and a tarp roof.
The ride seemed long and I didn’t know where I was even going. We passed by small stilted houses with chickens, goats and hammocks underneath. This was island life. I was startled when we came up on what, at first, I thought was a rhino standing next to the road, but realized as we went past was actually a water buffalo. It was enormous. Finally, I saw the sign that said Koa Yoa Yai Village. I got out and paid the driver who sat at the gate with me until a golf cart came to pick me up. Her cold, first impression seemed to have melted away. I reiterate, very nice people here. The golf cart driver took my big bag up front and I sat off the back with my backpack. After a few minutes we came up on Mary who was walking up the path. I had made it! After missing my flight, paying .25 cents per minute to talk to my bank, frantically watching street signs to make sure the cab really was going to my pier, boarding a mystery boat with a bunch of locals and riding in the bed of a truck, I had survived! After a day and a half of solo flying, traveling and panicking I was here. I had made it, I WAS a strong, independent lady and I was glad for it.
Our resort was essentially a jungle filled with huts and the beach down the hill. We dropped my bags off and went with Lee and Adam to get lunch. Everything was charged to Amy’s room, where she was staying with her boyfriend, which made me feel guilty. This was paradise and I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for her. I ate spring rolls and we took a dip in the pool. I was very self-conscious about my bikini body. Let’s just say the eating had been good so far. After we finished we hopped on motorbikes that the girls had rented the day before and took off to explore the beaches. Apparently Lee and Adam had found an especially picturesque one. I rode on the back of Mary’s bike; thank goodness she was a good driver. After stopping to fill up on gas a few times, because Lee and Adam’s bike was leaking, it was about a 30-minute ride to the beach.
The tide had gone out about 50 yards and just sand bars full of critters remained. Adam went back to get more gas while Mary, Lee and I walked out through the tide, chasing crabs and finding mystery critters we couldn’t identify. Lee seemed stressed; I wasn’t sure if it was about Adam, the bike, or the tide, but I had a good time and enjoyed myself regardless. I sweat constantly until the sun went down. A theme I was discovering in my travels, apparently Colorado bred bodies do not know how to cope with heat and humidity. We attempted to swing on a tire swing, which was extremely painful but Lee snapped a great picture! We also sat on a log and watched a little crab throw sand out of his hole before we decided to head back for dinner. Back at the hotel I saw Amy for the first time in a long time and met her boyfriend. We got a buffet dinner, salad, fruit, bread, and some other stuff I can’t remember. We also had dessert before heading up to the room. We watched the movie “Joy” which was pretty good and fell asleep at about 11:00pm. I had my own bed, which was actually the couch in the living room area that they had converted for me, but it was comfortable enough.