Thailand - Khao Lak 2011

Thailand Khao Lak Khaolak Laguna Resort and Sea Bees Diving

From Sunday February 27th to Monday March 7th, 2011

Khaolak Laguna Resort

Sea Bees Diving Experience the best Thailand has to offer

Thailand, Khao Lak

Thailand, formerly Siam, and officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is an independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. Its maritime boundaries are shared with Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast. Thailand also shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea to the southwest.

The country is a kingdom, a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, who has reigned since 1946, making him the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. The king is officially titled Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, an Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all Faiths.

The largest city in Thailand is Bangkok, the capital, which is also the country's center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities.

Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in terms of total area (slightly smaller than Yemen and slightly larger than Spain), with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and the 20th most-populous country, with approximately 66 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thai, 14% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay; the rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes. There are approximately 2.2 million legal and illegal migrants in Thailand. Thailand has also attracted a number of expatriates from developed countries. The country's official language is Thai. Its primary religion is Buddhism, which is practiced by around 95% of all Thais.

Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1995 and is a newly industrialized country with tourism, due to well-known tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Ko Samui, and exports contributing significantly to the economy.

Khao Lak is a seaside resort located in the Takua Pa district in the Phang Nga province, Thailand and popular as a departure point for liveaboard scuba diving trips to the Similan Islands. Located approximately 60 kilometers north of the island of Phuket along Phetkasem Road, (Thai Route 4), one of four major highways in Thailand. Khao Lak is serviced regularly by bus and taxi services. Phuket International Airport (HKT) is situated 74 kilometers south on the island of Phuket. Though Thailand's economy is mostly export-dependent, Khao Lak remains mostly tourist-dependent, with surrounding agriculture and commercial fishing making up a small contribution to Thailand's overall economy.

What differentiates Khao Lak from neighboring tourist destination like Phuket, is its quiet up-scale secluded coastal resorts; lack of over-crowded masses; family-friendly nighttime environment and the provincial ordinances prohibiting structures to build beyond the height of a coconut palm (albeit, more or less), keeping Khao Lak pristine.

Sunday February 27th and Monday February 28th, 2011: Departure for Thailand

Today we leave to Thailand, we fly from Brussels directly to Phuket and then we have a transfer to Khao Lak. But first we need to reach Zaventem airport. Veerle and Timo drive with both cars to Eikenlaan to pick up Patrik and Linda. Then we drive to Houtem, Vilvoorde, and Veerle drops off her car there at her place and we go to Zaventem. We park the car at the departures and leave it there for a few moments, while we check in: there are almost no police officers and it’s calm at the airport, there are few cars and there are even plenty of available parking spots. Check-in is fast, even though we’re on the wrong queue, but that’s always the case, so we don’t care. Once we’ve checked in, we have a coffee and a Leffe and then it’s time to say goodbye. It’s a pity that the vacation was already booked, now we need to miss each other for 8 days, but we’ll survive, it can only be good for an early relationship. We wipe a small tear, or is it the wind blowing into our face.

Veerle leaves and the three of us move towards gate B06, the gate where we need to board. We still have one hour, so we move slowly, first passport check, then luggage control and we are 45 minutes early at our destination – gate B06, Thailand will take a bit longer. We walk to the bar and there we drink two more Stella and a Leffe and next to the bar there is still a smoking area, so we take advantage of it, since the flight will take eleven hours. In November it took me even longer to New Zealand, so these eleven hours will not be an issue. After the beer and another cigarette we return to the gate. We just see the arrival of the XL airplane, so at that moment we already know that we won’t be leaving on time due to the late arrival of the airplane from Paris. The signs indicate already we have a delay of 45 minutes, so we go back to the bar, have another cigarette, a beer and a Leffe. We enjoy it, because in the end we’re going on vacation. When we return to the gate it already is last call, so we rush and board.

And then it starts. After 20 minutes we’re still on the ground and we hear the engines, wings and stuff being tested. We really have not left yet. And indeed, they tell us that we have a delay of another 45 minutes, but it’s not that bad. At least not for us: the people arriving from Paris are already on the road since nine this morning, so I can imagine that for them it’s not so good. Then we receive another message that there is only a timeslot of one hour. When we can’t leave within that hour, we’ll need to leave tomorrow. This is an ambiguous feeling, because it would be nice to see Veerle, but on the other hand we would loose one day in Thailand and we’re only there for a week, which is not very long in the first place. Eventually after a lot of trouble we can leave with a delay of 2,5 hours. Not a disaster, but we’ll arrive in the afternoon and not in the morning as planned.

We did get a drink and a small snack to kill time and at 18:15 Belgian time we can leave. The flight personnel mainly, better said exclusively speaks French, but we adapt without problems. The only thing that’s not so good is that there are only screens in the center aisle of the plane with movies and French stand-up comedians, not really our thing. After an hour we get our dinner – chicken with manestra and a bit vegetables and salmon – and we drink red wine and some water. From our experience we know we need to drink a lot during these long flights, so we do that. After the meal we try to get some sleep, because we’re pretty tired already. At about 22:00 we try to sleep. In total we all sleep for about four or five hours. Not bad on this flight, because time then goes faster and you’re not so tired when you reach your destination. We still have four hours in front of us when we wake up and keep ourselves busy with reading, sleeping or just doing nothing. Now the screens in the airplane show the route and we now fly over the Middle East, have some turbulence (it is a turbulent area, so that’s normal) and then we fly over India. Once we reach the AndamanSea it should take a bit over two hours, then we get breakfast and the flight is turbulent again: that happens quite often over sea.

Two and a half hours later than scheduled we arrive in Phuket, it is 11:30 local time and 32°, yes and that’s what we need. In Belgium it was about ten degrees, so this is a positive change. We can get out of the airplane and immediately see a smoking area, so we smoke a cigarette and then we enter the queue for immigration. There is no need to smoke in the smoking area, because just stand there is enough to reach your nicotine level: there is way too much smoke. It’s going fast except in our queue, of course there you have Murphy again. In the end it only takes half an hour to pass immigration and then we look for our luggage and it’s there too, which – again – is nice. We exit the airport with our luggage and quickly change Euros to baht, about 250 Euro for a bit over 10.000 Baht and then we go outside and sense the heat. A guy of Thomas Cook is waiting for us and guides us to the vans. A small mini-van brings us together with four other people to the Laguna Resort in Khao Lak. We like it that the transport is not with a mega-bus, but rather with a small van.

During the transfer we can already enjoy the beautiful landscape. We already count dozens of temples and pass a few small villages and notice that they drive on the left side of the road. Of course they do. They drive on the left side and they drive like madmen. Pass left, pass right, it’s not that big of a deal here, as long as they can race. I know people who would like it here, isn’t that true Veerle? The landscape is green with palm trees and the houses here are rather ‘sheds’ than houses. Occasionally we see pretty homes, but most of the time that are hotels and public buildings, because they are maintained very well. Also we see loads of pictures of the king and the queen at the side of the road. Thailand is a monarchy and still has a cult of personality and the people like the royal family a lot and being a tourist you’d rather not say anything bad about them.

It only takes an hour and twenty minutes to get to Khao Lak and we passed one checkpoint of the traffic police. We are welcomed with open arms at the reception; we get a drink and a cold wet towel. That’s very nice because it’s hot with long jeans and two T-shirts. We take it easy and change our clothes in our room. Then we take a short walk on the beach and cool down our feet, I mean make them wet, because the water is pretty warm: during the whole year it’s 25°, which is very nice. We don’t want to take too many risks and don’t stay out in the sun too long, so we decide to ask for SeaBeesDivingCenter at the reception. Timo had made reservations from home and also paid an amount in advance. We just ask the road to the center at the reception to go there and arrange everything for tomorrow. Just at that time they call the reception and they will send a driver within half an hour, so everything can be done to dive tomorrow.

They pick up Timo at about four and take him to the diving center. There everything is prepared and Timo signs some papers and he can already dive tomorrow with 5 other divers on the Boonsung Wreck. That is very nice indeed. All arrangements are done very quickly, because within thirty minutes he is back at the hotel. The same driver takes him back there and drops him off at the hotel and Timo enjoys the nice weather here. It cools down a very little bit, but the temperatures are still very good. Have a drink on the terrace and smoke a cigarette and then writes his report for his website. Later we’ll go for a swim and then have dinner and we don’t want to go to bed too late, but you can read that later.

When Linda and Patrik return from the pool, Timo also decides to have a swim. It’s refreshing even though the water is 25° or more, so it’s not really cool. Then we take a shower, drink an aperitif with the sound of crickets and the view of squirrels and many little birds, really magnificent. After that moment of rest we walk to the village and look for a good restaurant. We choose the one that’s close and eat different dishes we can share, sometimes very spicy. We prefer medium spicy, we first need to adjust to the spicy Thai food. Fritter, seafood salad, fried seafood platter, pork with rice and some noodles. We drink Tiger (Thai beer) and red wine. We sit there for a while, but after our meal we get tired and return to the hotel. The food was tasty and very cheap. For 1400 Baht we had food for three, drinks and that is only 35 Euro, so very cheap indeed.

The last thing we do is have a drink at the Lounge Bar, we use the free wireless internet and then go to bed. Hopefully there will be no snoring tonight. Then tomorrow I have the first two dives in Thailand, yes!

Tuesday March 1st, 2011: Diving day 1: Boonsung Wreck

Today is the first dive day: yes, I have been looking forward to diving in Thailand. The first time here, curious to see what it will be like. And then also the first time to dive alone, that can be very positive for my social skills. Now you need to speak to other people, but that will not pose a problem. Timo is already awake at six and gets out of bed at 06:30, very quietly, because Linda and Patrik are still asleep. Timo takes his laptop to the reception to read the reports again, perform some changes and send some e-mail. There is not really someone online on Facebook now, so he does not stay there very long. A few messages later he returns to the room. Linda and Patrik are awake and Timo packs his stuff (camera, dive computer and other things): the rest of his gear is already at Sea Bees. That was left there yesterday.

First quickly a coffee and breakfast, a couple of pieces of fruit (watermelon and papaya) and bread with cheese. The coffee is very strong and the breakfast is good. The breakfast was also available on the boat, but Timo takes it at the hotel. After breakfast I go to the reception, because Sea Bees picks up the divers between 08:15 and 08:30. Another couple is waiting: a German lady with an Italian guy. Timo can immediately exercise his English, German and the little Italian he understands. Ten minutes late the van arrives and we drive to the harbor, about 20 minutes further. There are in total eight divers in the van, but Timo is the only one diving with the Runaway today, the others go to the SimilanIslands with the Stingray.

At the harbor it is very busy, there are about seven or eight diving vessels and a bus with a whole bunch of snorkelers are arriving. We need to go against the direction, luckily this is not a one way road, otherwise we would have to make a detour. The reception is nice and friendly, they collect eh shoes, the diving gear is already on the boat and there are only four divers today. Three and I make a normal dive and the other diver takes a few adventure dives, to get to know the specialties that can be done after AOWD. When the last person arrives we can leave. First we climb over the Stingray and then we get onto a small fishing boat, big enough for four divers and two guides and two crew members, but when there would be 12 divers (which is the maximum) it would be a bit crowdy. We prepare our gear for the first dive, everything is present, also the adapter from an INT to a DIN connection of my first stage, which is nice, otherwise there would be no dive.

Then we leave. They explain everything in German, because everyone is German-speaking, except the Thai guide that is Thai-glish. But even the briefing what there is to see and the boat-briefing poses no problem in German. We hope to see some nice stuff, but we’ll see about that. After one hour and twenty minutes we arrive at the diving spot (wreck). It is an old tin dredger that sunk about twenty years ago. After the tsunami in 2004 it broke into different pieces and now there are five or six diveable parts. The first dive is the southern part and the second will be the northern ones. According to the briefing there is plenty of fish, but we’ll see that when we’re under water. On our way there we see many things floating on the water, many wooden things and also bamboo and also small bottles, no idea who throws this into the water.

About ten minutes before our arrival we get our gear ready and once the Runaway has reached the dive location, we can start. Timo, Markus and Rolf dive with Bum, the Thai guide. Everything is going OK, only Timo stays a bit behind when descending, but that’s always the case: he slowly descends to a comfortable 16 meters. We submerge and immediately see the wreck and notice they were not telling any lies during briefing, because the wreck is surrounded with fish, unbelievable how many there are. Once we reach our depth we follow the wreck at our right hand side and dive to the end. Many lionfish swim here freely or rest on the wrack. We don’t dive into the wreck, but just besides it. The guide points out a few things: scorpionfish, lionfish, one stonefish and then he swims away from the wreck. As we are good buddies we follow the guide to an anemone with a few anemone fish and also a couple of small crabs. These porcelain crabs are really magnificent. Then we swim back to the wreck and see a couple of moray eels. They all are spread over the wreck and it’s actually loaded. White eyed moray, honeycomb moray. According to the German dive guide, who was on the boat for some adventure dives, Bum was a specialist n finding ‘naktschecken’, but until now only Timo has spotted one; a beautiful animal.

After half an hour of dive time we reach the end of the wreck and then start our way back, a bit shallower to the boat. One of our buddies was almost without air, but he breathes from the tank of the dive guide and then performs his safety stop. He’ll be out of the water after about 40 minutes. The three of us dive further and we see a juvenile of a sweetlip, many glassfish and three moray eels together in a bottle, which is really a funny sight, the three of them in a small bottle, nice and crowdy. On the wreck there is not much of coral, but we see some from time to time and some shrimps have made it their home. Many porcupinefish swim above the wreck and we see some more morays and at the end we spot another nudibranch. Just before we have our safety stop we see a large school of squid, but they are too far away to take pictures. At the end the camera behaves strangely, but we’ll look at the later on. The safety stop is also very nice, because we have a view over the complete wreck and the thousands and thousand of fish swimming above, around and in the wreck; really you don’t get bored for a single second here, not even during the safety stop.

Then the first dive in Thailand is over and we go to the surface, after a dive time of about 55 minutes. The first dive was a good one; this is something we will remember. When we arrive at the boat we prepare our tanks for the second dive and then have a rest, a drink, a meal and a cigarette. We have a surface interval of 90 minutes and we already chat about this dive and also about other dives my buddies did here earlier. The meal is a plain sandwich and we can drink as much as we like. That was arranged very well, we drink water and cola and need to ensure we have enough. Especially during dive days this is advisable and even more in a climate like this.

Fifteen minutes before we start our second dive, we prepare everything. The buddy-teams remain the same and we first get into the water. We immediately see the number of fish is still the same and we like it a lot. Again plenty of lionfish, three kinds of nudibranches, of which Timo spots two. A couple of species of blennies are also photogenic and it’s always nice to see them on a bigger screen later on. We dive along, over and through some of the wreck pieces and the guide points out some interesting stuff, but we also see things of our own: scorpionfish, morays, and a red kauri on coral. And then suddenly the guide points a large moray. He swims freely and that’s always a special sight. Lizardfish have also discovered the wreck and one magnificent sea slug. During this second dive time flies even faster, we think the dive is even shorter, but that is not the case at all. Eventually we dive 57 minutes. Just before we perform our safety stop the guide takes Timo’s camera and takes a few pictures of him, so he has also a picture of himself. We more or less see the same things during the second dive, but it is a great opportunity to dive here. We are being told that the dives on the Similans are even better, but we’ll see about that later.

We first look at the wreck and enjoy the view and then head fort he surface, do our safety stop thoroughly and then go all the way up. We take off all the gear and then quickly check out the pictures, have a drink and put all our gear in their boxes. We just are on the boat and the skipper already leave back for the harbor, one hour sailing, we sign the logbooks and stamp them, fill out the most important things and time flies, because we already see the harbor. The fishing boats leave all together to the open sea to earn their money and we can get off on the wharf. Our driver Sung brings us to the hotels, we talk in the van about the dives and dive licenses and other related things and after 20 minutes Timo is already back home. He looks for Linda and Patrik, because they have the bungalow-key. A shower and a break on the terrace with a beer Chang Classic, Product of Thailand and we really enjoy it here with the nicest weather. The sun has returned, because it had been cloudy all day, so enjoy it. In Belgium it’s raining and much colder, so we need to get some of the warmth and later today we’ll go out to eat.

First Timo goes surfing the internet at the reception, there’s free wireless available, then have another aperitif on our terrace and then we go out for dinner. But first we want to book an excursion. We walk along the main road, because Khao Lak is not more than one single busy road. We see one restaurant next to the other, the same with massage saloons, tour operators and dive centers. This is the prime focus of the village. We search for a good tour operator and Patrik had found that Khao Lak Land Discovery (Outdoor Eco Adventure Tours: was a good one and we enter there. For tomorrow we book a trip to a bay close by. A van will pick us up at our hotel, then we drive to the harbor and then we continue with a longtail boat. After these visits we continue with a canoe and then have lunch on a floating village. We’ll see, probably is good.

We’re late for dinner, so we go to the same restaurant as yesterday. There is still room for three; we order two beers and a glass of red wine. We eat seafood with vegetables and rice, chicken fritters and noodles with chicken. The taste again is very good and not expensive at all. It’s really great for eating, all good, fresh, good service and very cheap. We don’t stay up too late, because time is already past ten when we get to our bungalow. We have a last drink at the reception and go to sleep at about eleven. Tomorrow we first have breakfast and then at 08:45 we leave for our trip. Good night!

Wednesday March 2nd, 2011: Phang Nga Bay and Cave Temple

Today we have a busy program, at least according to what we learnt yesterday. First a trip to PhangNgaBay, cruise those surroundings, canoeing, have lunch and then visit a temple. Timo wakes up first again and goes to the reception to e-mail and use FB to keep in touch with home. That’s always nice. He already arrives at the reception at about seven in the morning. Yesterday we stayed up late, about 23:00, so this is an early morning, especially because he was kept awake by some mosquitoes. At 07:30 he returns to room 116 and then we have breakfast and at 08:40 we need to leave, because there is a pickup at the hotel. Relaxation, no worries, no stress during a vacation.

We have a room for three people and Timo has a bed with a view on the terrace, it’s on the floor, but it’s good quality. He can sleep well if the mosquitoes are not buzzing around his head in the night. So breakfast, eggs and bacon, sandwich cheese and some pieces of fruit and also very good coffee. The breakfast is well arranged and the taste is very good as well. After our breakfast we return to the room to pick up all our stuff we need and then we walk to the reception very slowly. You can’t act in an other way here, because it’s 33° and very humid. The guide is already waiting for us and in the minivan there are two more couples and two children. They are very quiet, so they’re not children that will terrorize the trip.

And then we leave to PhangNgaBay for a trip of one hour. We take the same road as when we arrived from Phuket, but after twenty minutes we turn left direction Krabi. From that point on it’s only a drive of about 40 minutes over small roads with a minivan that misses some horsepower. Maybe that’s good, otherwise this driver might be acting like a madman like all the rest. Other drivers are mad, because we get overtaken from all sides, left, right, everywhere. This is really something you can’t imagine; it’s a beehive, really unbelievable. After half an hour we reach a large village and from there it’s only about ten minutes to the harbor (Ko Panyi) where the boat is waiting for us. The driver lets us out and we walk to the boat. These longtail boats actually are typical for Thailand, at least this area: a long narrow boat with a very large engine and then a long iron bar with a rudder and propeller. The bar can measure up to three-four meters and these skippers can work very good with it, unbelievable. We all get into the boat and leave for JamesBondIsland. That rock/island should be worth a visit and it has been the scenery for a 007 movie: The Man with The Golden Gun, with Roger Moore from 1974. We might want to check out the movie. We pass high mountains sticking up from the sea, green and really very beautiful. If you see the pictures of Thailand from the travel brochures; well those are the ones. At the right side we see mangrove and at this moment it’s high tide and everything is flooded.

We enjoy the ride and the beautiful landscape and try to avoid the sun, because she burns like hell. After 45 minutes we reach James Bond Island, a small rock right in front of a beach that has more tourists than sand; that is not really things we like, but it really is beautiful. Especially if you can look at the rock from land. The guide tells us we can stay here for about half an hour and we like the view of the rock. The most beautiful view is from the beach, but to know this you need to look at the pictures. We climb some rocks, chase away some annoying tourists, because they block everything, look at the scenery from the beach and then return to the other beach where the skipper dropped us of. This beach is also beautiful. The longtail boats lie next to one another along the beach and in the background these special kinds of mountains rise from the sea, really pretty. Every boat also has its specific decorations attached at the stem and the colors give the finishing touch. We need to wait for a few moments until the Koreans come to the beach, but that’s OK, then Timo can take pictures of the swallows that have their nest here. For the people who saw “Terra Incognita” on Belgian TV: these swallows and these nests I am talking about.

After a stop here of 40 minutes the Koreans are there and we can leave, we cross a part of the bay and head towards two floating boats, where they will take us for canoeing along rocks and underneath. We receive a private rower and that is very pleasant, because in this heat you don’t want to be rowing yourself. Linda and Patrik are in the same plastic canoe and Timo receives a VIP treatment, because he’s the only one in the canoe. The rower asks: No lady? Well, yes lady, but at home. In Phuket? He asks. Not really rather in Belgium. The Thai women are not really Timo’s type, so what would he be looking for in Phuket. The trip takes half an hour and is a very nice trip. You can see the limestone rocks from a close distance and also the different colors, from green, grey to red and black. There are so many colors. From the cave ceilings stalagmites are hanging down and some even almost reach the water, so you need to bend down otherwise you have a headache. The rower makes the necessary stops and then he notices that my mom and Patrik are in the other boat. From that moment on he does not get an inch away from them: he has a nose for a tip. We pass mangrove again and it’s nice to see it. I’ve seen it many previous times, but it really is something special.

After half an hour it’s finished and the two rowers have received a small tip and they’ve got a good day, because salary in Thailand is not so high, Hong Kong is better and in India they smell. These are not my words, but his, I don’t know what to believe. When we’re back at the floating boats that rent the canoes, we get a pickup from the skipper and he brings us through mangroves between different islands to PanyeeVillage. This is a village with stilt houses and there we’re going to have lunch. No alcohol, because the 1500 inhabitants are Muslim. The lunch is good and very large, so we won’t be hungry or thirsty. After lunch we stay here for some time to look at the village, but there is not a lot to see. The only interesting things are a mosque and a public peer, where they’ve explained the village rules. Not many things are allowed here apparently. Apart from that there are only shops where they sell things you’ll never use again to the tourists and that’s about it.

After half an hour we return to the small peer at the end of the village, then with the boat to the harbor and make a few stops, one is for ancient wall paintings. In the harbor Timo spots a little crab and a small water snake, both looking for food and maybe one will be lunch for the other. Our last stop for the day is “CaveTemple”, about 20 minutes from the harbor and there we stop to see the reclining Buddha. When we arrive there we immediately notice the herd of monkeys, macaques, as happens more often at temples. The animals are being fed by the tourists, although there are warnings everywhere that they can get dangerous. The temple itself is very impressive, with a large reclining Buddha in a cave. There is also a monk solving a sudoku and giving his blessing to a tourist from time to time. We only watch and Timo goes all the way up into the cave where he has a great view. Next to the temple there is the “wat” and also that is a beautiful building. The colors are mainly red and yellow, but it’s nice to finally see these typical Asian buildings with my own eyes. We’re glad that we can end this day with a visit to a temple, because what would it be like if you were in Thailand and never visit a temple. Time flies, because it’s already 15:20 and time to return to Khao Lak. Within the hour we’re back.

Back at the hotel Timo goes for a swim in the pool and we love our time on our terrace: a beer, a cigarette. Then Timo goes to the reception and writes the travel report and checks what is happening in the world. He posts a few mails and some statements on Facebook, but he primarily focuses on the reports and the pictures. In a couple o days he has taken over 400 pictures, nice and easy, I would say. Soon we will have something to eat and then a drink and then we go to bed at a normal time, hopefully without the mosquitoes today. Tomorrow is dive time.

While this last part is being written there’s thunder and lightning: we also had it yesterday, but no rain was added. Now it’s raining for about fifteen minutes and that’s it. I would have thought it would rain more often, but that’s not the case until now. At about 19:30 we’re on the move for dinner. We choose another restaurant today and there they have wooden chairs with a cushion and wooden tables: more comfortable than the plastic stuff next door. We eat and drink and then go back to the hotel. At the restaurant they made an error in the dish of mum, but that was no issue. It was really good though. Thai food is nice: noodles with chicken, spaghetti seafood and mushrooms with chicken; a glass of Tiger-beer and enjoy. At the hotel we watch the pictures on a larger screen and drink one last beer and go to sleep at ten thirty. That will do us good, since it was a tiring day.

Thursday March 3rd, 2011: Dive day 2: Similan Islands, Island 7

A night without mosquitoes, we did not completely sleep through, but had enough rest. And if it was not sufficient, then I would have gone diving anyway. It is almost a tradition, first at about seven to the reception with the laptop, then a small breakfast and then I wait for Sea Bees Diving to pick me up at about 08:15. That is the intent anyway. Linda and Patrik are just waking up and Timo is already on the road for some action. Today we go to the Similan Islands and it will take approximately two hours. Today we dive at Island 7, I’m curious to see what it will be like. At 08:20 the van of the dive center is there and it brings us to the peer. Timo is the last ne getting in and then it goes quick as hell to the starting point for today.

The reception is very friendly and professional and Timo gets a briefing about the boat from his dive guide: Roger from Luzern. It is about the same as it is on every boat, without a lot of things specific to this one. Today we leave with the Stingray, which is a bit larger than the Runaway and it can accommodate more divers. When everyone has arrived, it is like a beehive, maybe that’s the reason for the name of the dive center. First Timo prepares the camera, leave it inside the cabin safely protected in his bag, then he prepares his diving equipment and after a few minutes everything is OK. The connections to stage 1 are INT and to connect the DIN Timo needs an adapter. It’s easy to use and you don’t need any explanation. The upper deck is partially smoking area, so once everything is OK, Timo heads that was, together with Rolf, one of the divers of two days ago.

It will take approximately two hours before we reach the Islands, so Timo starts talking to some of the divers, instructors and in a short timeframe we speak German, English and Dutch. One of the German instructors lived in The Netherlands for 18 years, so then you can speak the language. Time passes by quickly, because you’re busy talking, so that’s nice. It’s mainly about diving, traveling and the things we’ve seen already. For some this is really a way to brag big time, but Timo is a modest guy and does not want to impress too much. LOL. After about two hours indeed we arrive at the first dive spot, the head of Island 7, but the dive site is called Deep Six. We get a briefing in English, because there is a Swiss lady, a German guy, an Italian guy and me. The easiest way is then English.

Sea Bees works as a perfect machine, because everything follows perfectly and everything is well arranged: your seat is there and yours there and don’t try to change, because that interferes with our planning. First Roger gets into the water, then Timo and then the other three. First a quick check and then we go for our first dive. We descend slowly, which is good for Timo, because during other dives he stays a bit higher and goes down slower than the others. Paolo and Timo are a buddy team and the Swiss woman and German guy too. Roger guides down us very slowly and we immediately arrive at a spot where he has seen something. Well, seen: he just knows that here in the coral there is a frogfish: a very small fish between the coral and you need to look very closely to see it. A picture is very difficult, because he’s hidden between the branches of the coral. This dive spot is mostly known for its big rocks that form a reef and against the walls some corals grow, but there is no abundance. The spot is very nice with its several swim throughs. It really gives a great feeling to swim underneath because it is high and broad enough so you don’t have to be afraid to bump against the rocks. Timo has some trouble with his mask, because there’s fog all the time. It costs energy to clear it, and that also costs air. A few times he thinks the problem is within his camera, but it’s just his mask. Some snappers find their way very well between the rocks and the corals and also pufferfish and porcupinefish swim this area too. A couple of hawkfish rest on a piece of coral or on a rock and they are very nice to take pictures from. The general impression is that in the past there would have been more coral gardens, because there were table coral, but quite a lot of it has died. This also is the result of bleaching, but also from the tsunami, they tell us later. Timo puts in a lot of effort to keep up with his buddy, but he dives from left to right and back, takes pictures and then suddenly disappears. Timo then decides to play it safe and keep up with the guide, then there is always someone to help when there is a problem. The Italian guy will need to stand by himself.

Roger points a nudibranch to us and then a special kind of grouper and then some other things too. Timo spots a starfish himself, and emperor angelfish and he loves the small worms that dig into the coral, really beautiful yellow, red and blue. Almost at the end of the dive we see a turtle, but without picture, because the camera really is struggling. That will probably be related to the temperatures and the humidity. Once the turtle is gone he’s back up and running and then hundreds of sergeant majors gather in front of the lens. That’s nice to make up for the missed turtle. Then it’s about time to get to the surface again and Roger releases his buoy, we dive away from the island, have our safety stop and then slowly go to the surface. The first dive is over and was a very good start of the day. The boat picks us up and it really is amazing that you see a large vessel like that coming into you, but right on time he turns and you can climb on board. Cool and very good service from the crew.

We prepare all our gear again for the second dive, have lunch and take some rest. The lunch is vegetables, chicken and rice and it tastes good, but Timo does not eat too much. The surface interval is not as long as two days ago, because already after one hour we start to get completely ready. The dive site is now West of Eden and is located at the western tip of the island. Probably there will not be much difference to the first dive, but we’ll see. Again we start in the same sequence, first Roger, then Timo (gets his camera from the crew), then Paolo and then the Swiss lady and the German guy. “Alles klar” and we go down. Now Timo has cleaned his mask very well with “Taucherspuck’, hopefully it will not get foggy. We dive next to a steep wall that is full of gorgonians and soft coral.

It is just great to dive here and the amount of fish is also higher than the first dive. The current is mild and it takes from the front to the back and then back again. If the current pushes you back there’s nothing you can do, because you can’t win against the ocean. The first thing worth mentioning is an octopus that has found shelter in a hole and then Roger sees a spiny lobster. He’s hidden deep in a crack in the rock, but if you look closely, you can see it very well. While the others are trying to get pictures of these animals, Timo is looking at the small things on the reef. It’s really magnificent, small fishes hide between the living and dead coral, small fan head worms and all those little creatures. During this dive we don’t see any sea slugs, but no worries. A pufferfish comes passing by very closely, but very often turns his back and tail to the lens.

A very large cornet fish swims by in a distance, but nobody has seen it, except for Timo. Roger points a kauri to Timo and he reaches it first. Then in the corner of his eye he sees something long and narrow and it’s a sea snake. Yes, my first sea snake ever. Timo shows it to the others and he’s very proud that he spotted it first. Well done. Then Roger sees a second sea turtle today and Paolo, Timo’s buddy, has left the group again. He is swimming twenty meters away, but Timo thinks: let him be, I’m not going to chase him. The most important thing is that the turtle has been seen. Then it’s again about time to stop the dive and after 57 minutes and a good safety stop we get out. Again the same drill, Roger surfaces his buoy and we slowly ascend to the surface, the boat picks us up and the we can fill out the logbooks, have a drink and chat about the dives. Again it was a good day with two very nice dives, a day to remember. The snake was marked on the dive map during the briefing, but it’s nice we’ve seen it in reality.

Two hours later we arrive at the harbor and then we get dropped of at the hotel. Laguna Resort is like previous times the first in row and that’s very nice. Tidy up, have a shower, write the dive report, look at the pictures and then we’ll go for dinner. That will be OK, because Timo is hungry after a day of diving. Linda and Patrik make a walk and then it’s dinnertime. When they return from the beach we get ready for dinner. Close to the hotel, so not too far away and very good and very cheap: the same restaurant as the first and second evening. We order a beer and red wine. We eat yellow Thai curry chicken and bamboo shoots, nice and spicy, pork fritter sweet and sour and a chicken noodle. The food tastes very good again and the curry is very spicy; luckily Timo ordered medium spicy, otherwise he would have been completely on fire. We have another beer, pay and then return to the hotel. We have a last drink there and go to bed. Especially Timo is tired due to the dives and Linda and Patrik have been in the sun and the heath and the humidity all day and that’s pretty tiring too. At about ten we go to sleep. We use the airco otherwise it’s unbearable. Sleep tight!

Friday March 4th, 2011: Explore Khao Lak and take it easy

Timo is awake at 06:30 in the morning. Linda and Patrik are still sleeping, but he’s not able to stay here and starts the morning ritual. He walks to the reception and checks mails and Facebook. He finishes the report of yesterday, makes some corrections and uploads it to his website. He is online for about an hour and at about eight he returns to bungalow 116, but there is not much to see yet. He takes his camera and walks to the beach. He takes the way to the beach to the left side, towards the south and it’s very beautiful there. At the end of the property of the hotel there is a mini-temple: they can also be seen along the road next to the houses, but this one is very pretty. The view is also great with the rising sun appearing from the sea. The sun provides a beautiful orange glow over the sea, the rocks and that is a very pretty sight. Timo walks for about half an hour and the end point gives him a view over a small bay with a couple of hotels. Along the left side you can see the road to Phuket and to the peer where we depart for the dives. From up there you have a beautiful view on the bay, but I’ve never stopped there to have a look.

Enjoy the sound of the sea and the waves and then Timo walks back to the bungalow. Patrik and Linda are up and are preparing for breakfast. We have nice strong coffee; eat an egg and then some fruit. Both the mandarins and the bananas are very good and very small, they fit in your hand and especially for the bananas that’s special, for the mandarins not that special. We love the breakfast today and then get ready for a small excursion by taxi. We have not made ay reservations, but at the entrance/exit of the hotel are always taxis. Immediately at the exit the driver addresses us, but that stops immediately, because he does not speak English, not a word. He quickly calls someone and Patrik arranges a trip: first to Khao Lak Elephant Camp, then to a waterfall and then back to the center. The driver stays with us all the time.

That’s an arrangement well made and we can leave immediately. It is a half-hour drive to the elephant camp, but that’s not really worth while. We pay 100 baht to enter the camp and feed the elephants, but it’s not big enough to just go there for a visit. The only thing you could do is an elephant trekking, but that seems too expensive for what it actually is. To pay a lot of money just to ride an elephant might be a bit stupid. We feed small bananas to the elephant, look around and especially love the orchid garden. They have a few species of orchids and they are beautiful. Apparently it’s not only an elephant camp, but the people also actually live there: there are a dozen of small wooden sheds and they are their houses: simple, but good enough, because in general the Thai people look happy. Half an hour later we leave and the driver brings us to RainbowFalls, the Sai Rung Waterfall. This location is just magnificent: a small road brings us to an oasis of peace and quietness. The road is bordered with rubber trees that have been planted to harvest rubber from the trunks. Down at the bottom there is a small jar and then collects the rubber when the Thai have made the correct notches in it. When we reach the waterfall the temperature drops, because you’re close to water of a small river in a forest.

We walk the path uphill, to the top where the waterfall is. The waterfall is not really high, but wide and the water is unbelievably cool. It’s a nice refreshment from the high temperatures we’ve had here with 35° and then the cool water of the creek is refreshing. We enjoy the view for a while and then return down. Our driver is having lunch in a shop/restaurant and we drink some water there. Rolf, the German diver, arrives here too with his wife, child and family. Remarkable that Timo knows people here. We drink the water and then ask the driver to also stop at a butterfly garden. We expect to see plenty of colorful butterflies. He does not understand English, but he needs to stop for filling up his car and immediately at the other side of the road there is a sing to the garden. We explain that’s where we need to be and he takes us there. Entrance fee is 150 Baht and we enter the butterfly nursery of a German guy. Many different species of butterflies fly here in captivity and we get to see the pupas and larvae as well. We’re a little bit disappointed by the lack of colors, because at the waterfall we saw red, orange and yellow butterflies, but the ones here are more brown and black. They’re pretty because they’re so big. There is also an orchid garden, but we don’t enter that part. That’s another 50 baht each, but we’ve already seen enough orchids close to several houses and restaurants and in the elephant camp.

We have the driver stop at the center and there we have a drink and a small snack: tuna sandwich, spaghetti and chicken with vegetables. We have enough to drink, so we return to the hotel. Timo dives into the pool and then lies down, Patrik and Linda stay in the room for a while and have a rest. At about five Timo comes back and has a shower. Then he goes to chat with Veerle for a while; time flies and Linda and Patrik are next to him suddenly and go out for a walk along the main street (there is only one shopping-street anyway) and Timo will see them when he stays at the same side of the road. Timo shuts down the laptop, puts it into the room and then goes out looking for them. After half an hour he hasn’t seen anyone, so he turns back. The shops and restaurants are gone at this part of the road, so probably they haven’t gone this far. All the way at the end, or at the beginning again he finds them. That’s a bit of bad luck, but it’s a good exercise.

Then we go to the same restaurant where we had dinner the previous days: chicken with mushrooms, beef with mushrooms and seafood with vegetables. That last dish is a bit spicy, nothing for Linda. She eats most of it and it tastes good, but Timo needs to have the spicy peppers from her plate. Hmmm, lovely! At about ten everybody is tired, Linda and Patrik make a short walk and Timo finishes his report for the day, that is a bit shorter today, but maybe that’s easier for the persons who read it. We go to bed early and tomorrow is the last dive day. Sleep tight!

Saturday March 5th, 2011: Third and last Dive Day: Koh Bon: Manta rays?

Today should become the climax of my diving adventures in Thailand. Sea Bees is diving at Koh Bon and there are manta rays and it’s the right season, so we have high hopes. Timo wakes up first again, already al 06:30 and goes to the reception, then he takes all his stuff to go diving: camera, underwater housing, computer and then he has breakfast. Two pieces of bread and the coffee is still very strong, so you wake up immediately. At a few minutes after eight he’s ready and waiting for Sea Bees and at 08:20 they pick him up and they need to stop at one other hotel at the other side of the road. Nobody shows up, so we leave to the peer. It’s not as busy as the previous days there, but still plenty of people, because many arrive to go diving and snorkeling. Three boats are ready and we get onto the Stingray. Rolf is there too and also Soeren, who dived with me earlier on Runaway and Stingray. We need to wait for a few moments until the two arrive that missed the pickup: apparently there was an incorrect agreement on the pickup location.

The captain of the Stingray blows the horn and with a delay of half an hour we depart to Koh Bon. That should take about one hour and forty minutes. At that time the four divers diving with Matthias already prepare themselves: Timo, Soeren, Rolf and Hans-Jürgen, all German guys. The preparation of the gear is not easy today, because the tank of Soeren and Timo is loosing air, but that’s mainly caused by the INT-adapter and the o-ring of the tanks. Matthias arranges everything and after ten minutes everybody is ready to go. Before that we were on the sundeck and speak about different things. About half an hour before the arrival Matthias starts the briefing. We will be dropped at the middle of the reef, North Ridge, and from there dive with the current, go to the deepest point to spot manta rays and then depending on the air that’s left stay longer or go shallower.

We receive very clear information on what there is we could see and also how we should behave when manta rays are seen. That will not be during the first dive, damn, now there’s no surprise anymore. Anyway. We enjoy the nice weather, the free drinks, a cigarette and arrive on time at the drop-off point. Two divers are going to start here, but most of us will go to the middle of the reef. Five minutes after the first group it’s our turn. Everybody ready, jump!. The first quest for manta rays can start. We dive and go towards the reef at a depth of about twelve meters and then go deeper, first over the sand than in the blue water, because in total this spot reaches forty meters and we don’t want to be there because there’s not enough time to dive within limits. Matthias notices that Timo descends slowly and wants to give him some more lead, but that’s not needed: Timo always does it slowly. He did warn Matthias upfront though.

We dive for a few minutes against a mild current to 30 meters, watch out and try to spot something in the blue water, but we don’t see anything. I mean we see plenty of fish, snappers, lionfish and others, but no manta rays. We continue our dive and still don’t see any. We can’t stay at this depth too long, because we’re reaching deco time and it’s not the idea to go into deco. So we go to a higher level and not against the current now, but with the current. We notice that the current is getting harder and harder by the minute, until we reach the tip of the island. There the current is just amazing. Until now we haven’t see a lot, especially because we were too far from the sand. One moray eel show its head, but not for long. Then we reach the tip of the rock and we need to continue without current, but two of our buddies already have less than 80 bar (even with fifteen liter tanks), so we need to adapt our planning. Matthias guides us over a high rock, but that is against current again. We need to hold onto the rocks and need to pull us forward with the rocks and also with the corals. Luckily most of it already has been suffering from bleaching. That is a real disaster here, unbelievable.

We clamber/dive further until we have passed the strongest current and from there it’s a lot quieter. We did see a scorpionfish and a sea slug where the strongest current was though. Not easy for taking pictures, but we manage even with difficulty. And then suddenly one of our buddies needs to use the tank of Matthias, because he’s out of air. He asks how the others are doing on air and that’s still OK, so we continue a couple of minutes and then perform our safety stop. Matthias has now completely run out of air, so he needs to stop his safety stop after 2 minutes: luckily we were diving within limit. We finish our stop safely and after 52 minutes we’re back on the surface. Matthias waits for all of us and the Stingray picks us up quickly. A very nice dive, not easy with the current, but fun, a pity there were not manta rays.

We grab a quick bite, and then chat about the dive and the absence of manta rays and the difficulty and air consumption. Timo is doing OK, because he gets out of the water with the same amount of air as a guy with a 15-liter tank. Well done. At 13:00 we get the briefing of the second dive. We will dive about the same profile, but not as deep. At 13:30 we’re ready to jump into the water: first Matthias, then Hans-Jürgen, then Timo, Soeren and Rolf. Everybody ready, dive! We dive not as deep now and the first ten minutes we don’t see a manta ray. There is more fish and more coral here. A scorpionfish comes towards us in a strange way. A moray eel hides in his shelter and two sea slugs do their thing on a rock. A napoleon fish (small one) swims a few meters away from us, but still no manta rays. There is a small problem with the camera, because water has gotten into the casing. Shit, no more pictures then the risk is less of complete flood. We dive to 25 meters, then to 15, because our computers said we were four minutes away from decompression time and then shallower to nine meters. This reef is the best we have been diving on during this vacation, many fish, lots to see, also a large hermit crab and a couple of smaller crabs that are hiding inside the coral.

And then almost everybody has used up the air in their tanks. Everybody has about 50-60 bar, one buddy even below already and then we see a large group of divers hiding behind coral and rocks and look into the same direction. So we dive that direction. A manta ray shows of at about 15 meters in full glory, unbelievable. Timo takes the risk to take a picture and probably that was the fatale one. Two not so good pictures and a flooded casing. But he did see the manta ray and that is really amazing. It hovers in front of us and stays there for a few minutes and then disappears into the blue of the sea. To see all of this we had to go down again to 12 meters and reach deco again. We see an anchor rope close to us and we dive there to do our safety stop. Timo needs to do 4 minutes, Soeren even seven. After a dive time of one hour we go to the surface and the boat picks us up. Everybody is almost without air: 30, 20, 40 bar, not really the way it should be. As last part of the dive we did see a manta ray for a full half-minute. A magnificent animal, however this was not really a big one, only 3-4 meters.

On the boat Timo sees that the camera is totally wasted and is in a real bad mood, but it’s better than it would have happened three days ago or something. If it needs to happen, then the best was today. We clean our gear and speak about the manta ray, the dives of today and what the others are still planning to do. For Timo this was the last day: bad and good luck in the same dive: flooded casing, but yet a manta ray. It takes again 1.5 hours to reach the peer. Timo drives all the way to the dive center to pay the bill and then the driver takes him and his gear to the hotel. The total is 13.000 Baht for the six dives and in the end it was really worth it. Loaded with all the gear Timo walks to the room and arrives with a sad face: expensive broken camera. He does not stay sad for a long time though. He cleans his gear one more time and a bit better this time and hangs everything to dry in the bathroom. On the terrace we have a drink and a cigarette while Timo does the report on his laptop. He can look back on a nice day. It starts to get dark and has started to rain. It cools down very little, but not a lot. We’ll have something to eat later on and then our last full day in Thailand starts: tomorrow.

By the time that Patrik and Linda have taken a shower it’s almost seven ‘o clock, so immediately after that we leave to the Thai restaurant. Today we eat at the neighboring restaurant of the previous days. We order, Chang-beer, Tiger-beer and a glass of red wine: that was almost the same every day.  We all order specialties of the house: duck with vegetables and rice, tiger-prawns with pasta (parmesan and garlic, very nice) and fish without anything. The waiter apparently thinks it’s very strange that somebody orders a dish without rice or anything. When we get the food we like it a lot. According to what we’re used in Thailand we need to wait for the food a long time, because normally they serve within a few minutes. Now they give us free garlic bread and after half an hour the food arrives. The taste is very good, except for the duck of Patrik: it’s not a big portion and the duck is tough, but that is normal for duck no? At 21:30 Timo leaves the restaurant and returns to the hotel to have a party, but that’s not possible, because there is nothing to see. From diving he’s pretty tired anyway, so he goes to bed early at about ten thirty. Then Patrik and Linda arrive and they also go to sleep. Tomorrow we enjoy our last full day here and will do nothing.

Sunday March 6, 2011: Last full day: lazy Sunday

Like it has happened always Timo is the first person to wake up and gets out of bed quietly. He does not want to wake up Patrik and Linda, so he goes to the reception and after that he makes a short walk. It is nice Timo can take his laptop to the reception and that there is a wireless network available. Sometimes the connection drops or causes faults that the network is not available, but in the end it’s not too bad and it’s free too. At six thirty in the morning it’s already very hot, even in the shadow. Luckily there is a breeze, because without the wind it would not be bearable. At half past eight Timo walks back to the room to check if someone is already alive and yes: Patrik and Linda are alive. They just need to wake up slowly and then we go for breakfast. Coffee, an egg with some bread, cheese, turkey fillet, bacon. The buffet is very extensive and everything is very well prepared. About that we can’t complain. We’re going to take it easy today, because the day will be a long one. Normally Timo always does something, but today he is going to get some rest, if he’s able of doing that.

After breakfast we return to the room and then Timo checks if there is anything he can buy to take home as a souvenir. He leaves at the hotel and walks down the road. At this time of the day there is not much to see, because all of the shops are still closed. He walks for twenty minutes, but does not see any open shops. He goes to McDonalds (that is open, but Timo is not looking for that) and then decides to turn all the way back. For now he has not found anything, so he’ll postpone until tonight, when there will be more things to see. It’s almost noon when he’s back in the room and the cleaning ladies are cleaning up the room. He locates Linda and Patrik at the reception: they have also discovered that the seats are comfortable there and it’s cooler, so they enjoy the better temperatures here. Timo does not stay for long, but goes to rest at the swimming pool. Old habits die hard; Timo does not stay there for a long time either, but keeps it up for the full two hours. A couple of swims, dry in the sun, or better in the shadow, because in the sun you start to sweat like hell. He reads a couple of articles in the magazine ‘Duiken’ and then it starts to reach two in the afternoon. As said, this will be a very lazy day.

Patrik is a little bit hungry, so we walk to a restaurant and have lunch there. We drink a lot with lunch because that’s the best thing in these temperatures. We have about three liter of water and two Chang-beers. The lunch is a tuna sandwich with some fries and fried rice with seafood. Linda takes some small thing of the two plates, because she’s not very hungry. To pass the whole afternoon without anything, that would be impossible, but she does not eat a lot. It becomes a bit busy at the restaurant, not in people, but one of the guys here is giving his wife (we think it is anyway) a hard time and starts yelling at her. We decide to pay and return to the hotel. Timo makes a walk and takes the camera with him to take some more pictures and then returns to the reception to surf the net, write the report and keep him busy. It really is very hot now, because at the moment Timo is writing the report his T-shirt is getting wet. It looks like it’s going to rain, although we’re not sure. When we returned to the hotel after lunch it started to rain and there was not a single cloud in the sky.

The day passes slowly today, time creeps, but that’s normal when there are no real plans. The last couple of days there was always something to do, but not today. Timo does like the rest and the temperature. Thanks to the breeze at the reception it’s very nice and he loves the last evening and last hours in Khao Lak. It was a short vacation, but it was a good one. Also for Linda and Patrik, although they suffered a bit more from the humidity and the heat. At about five – after half an hour chat with Veerle, Timo returns to the room to pack. That will not take long. Almost nothing was put away in closets, so everything just needs to be neatly packed again. It can’t be that hard. The diving equipment is already dry and that’s nice, then everything can be packed together without putting it in plastic bags separately. Nice! And indeed after half an hour all is done.

Linda and Patrik were not in the room when Timo arrived, but when he’s fully packed: suitcase and hand luggage they arrive: they went for a swim and now return to the room. Then it’s time for them to start packing too. First a cigarette on the terrace and then they start. Also for them it does not take longer than half an hour. So then all three of us are ready to leave tomorrow and now to the restaurant Phulay for our last Thai supper. We order wine all three: that tastes better and different than beer all the time. The beer is not really bad here, but a different taste is good once in a while. Timo has the same dish as Linda yesterday, Linda orders noodles and Patrik is adventurous today and prefers mushrooms and prawns. Everything is very good again, only Patrik did not see the red pepper and almost choke on the spiciness. There were two peppers in the dish and they spiced up the soya-sauce, still edible, but once he had eaten the pepper it was too much for him. For about thirty minutes he does not taste a thing, try to get it better with rice and red wine and then it’s over and he can enjoy the rest of his meal.

We stay here for a while and drink in total about four glasses of wine. We love the wine, so we still need to cherish our last evening. It’s also less hot than the previous days, because it rained when we were packing. That cooled down everything and temperature now is just the best of the week. We return to the hotel at about 22:00 and drink a last cocktail in the bar, look at the internet is the flight left on time and then we go to bed. Tomorrow they’ll wake us up at 06:00 in the morning.

Monday March 7th, 2011: Departure from Thailand

At 05:45 the alarm already wakes us up and everyone in bungalow 116 is awake. Patrik takes a shower and then gets ready. Mama and Timo stay in bed a bit longer. At 06:00 there’s a wake up call and then mama gets up too. Timo waits for another ten minutes when his alarm of the mobile phone wakes him and then he enters the life of the living. Everyone uses the bathroom in turns and at 06:30 we’re ready for breakfast. The bellboys are already collecting the luggage at the room without prior notification and they bring it to the reception. Yesterday Patrik already arranged everything of the mini-bar, so we just need to hand back the key. That is done after breakfast. We’re not really hungry yet, but we eat something, because the flight leaves at 11:55 and it can take a while before we get any food on the airplane. After breakfast Timo searches on the site of Phuket International Airport if there is any data available of the flight, but he can’t find anything, not on arrival nor on departure. That’s strange.

At 07:35 sharp they pick us up at the hotel with a mini-van and then we have a ride of 1.5 hours to the airport. The driver taking us there is a madman again, but a different one. The general impression of the driving stile here is that they’re all mad. Overtake on the left, the right, everywhere, in a blind curve and sometimes even overtake two cars at the same time. At some moments he drives more on the right lane (which is incorrect) than the left one. After this drive in hell we arrive on time at the airport. Before we enter the airport we need to have our luggage checked and then we can go to the check-in desk. There are only two small groups of people in front of us, so we can deliver our luggage after fifteen minutes. Then we quickly go outside again to smoke a cigarette and then we go back inside. Have a drink, eat a chocolate cake and then walk around and wait.

In the duty free shop they don’t have L&M or Marlboro, so we’ll need to buy on the airplane. Timo is looking for a small souvenir, but it’s all crap here and it’s stupid to buy something that you throw away when you get back home. Sorry, Veerle. Timo goes out to explore the airport and finds L&M for Linda and Patrik and apparently they also have menthol cigarettes of the same brand. Nice! Check it out and pay and then wait for half an hour before we can board. During this waiting time Timo finishes the report and we’re all surprised what happens on airports. I’m not going to elaborate on this, because it’s just too disgusting to see. At 11:30 boarding starts and we can enter the plane for a flight of 11,5 hours.

It looks like the flight is not taking 11,5 hours, but 12 hours in total. We’ll have daylight for the whole flight, so it could get difficult to close our eyes and get some sleep. We do sleep for about one hour, but after that it’s boredom like hell. No small screens at the back of the seat, even just one every x rows in the middle walkway. If you’re in the seat close to the window, then you almost can’t see a thing. We try to keep ourselves busy with reading, walk around and we also get some food. For a 12-hours flight it’s not much: one lunch and at the end a small snack. XL Airways is not the best airway and certainly not XL, because the seats have little legroom and other things like the food and the TV are not quite as they should be. We do arrive on time and that’s nice. Veerle picks us up, but we’re late because the luggage of Linda is not on the belt. That is deep shit. We’ll see when that will arrive. Either it’s still in Phuket or it has been taken to Paris and they forgot to drop it at Zaventem. We then drive home, drop Linda and Patrik off at home and can look back to a short stay and vacation in Thailand. In the end it’s a long flight for just one week, but we’ve had it and we were able to enjoy our time there. In Belgium it’s freezing, so it was nice to be in over 30°. Already looking forward to the next vacation.