Sunday = Rest Day (Thailand Day 9: Sunday 1 July 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Tuesday 21 August 2012: 5 years 11 months on … Deuce

Snooze, swim, Singha’s, shop, supper, shop, swim, sleep … until Sunday which was Day 9 of out trip.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2: 2-3)

Today was Sunday and was designated as our rest day from all the hard work of holidaying in Thailand that we had done!

Today was also the hottest of our entire trip – high of 36oC and low of 29oC! It was a windless day with humidity close to 90%! It was an ideal day for staying in the water – be it the hotel pool or the Andaman Sea at Patong Beach. The only problem is that sometimes you actually need cool water to swim in, because even the sea and pool water become too warm!

Thank God for air-conditioning – on what day did He create that?!

So, after breakfast, we headed for the pool and the beach and the sea.

We strolled, swam, Singha’d and snoozed … and shopped!

On Patong Beach there are all kinds of activities (for negotiable rental, of course!): loungers for snoozing, jet ski’s, parasailing, ski-ing, boating, Thai Massages, manicures, pedicures or just ordinary swimming (rent-free!) and, of course, shops – at which Pera bought pearls and the ladies organised tickets which would take us on a boat trip to Phi-Phi Island on Monday!

There is so much boating activity at Patong Beach that one could actually taste the petrol/diesel in the water! Paradise won – Paradise lost!

We slothed our way through the day – until it was supper time once again, and we headed back to Subai Subai for our daily dose of excellent, inexpensive Thai food and great hospitality.

So busy are they that we had to wait for a table – but, never-mind, until then there are … you guessed it …. more shops to peruse!

We walked back to our hotel, and on the way there, we stopped for lovely caramel and cream pancakes sold on the kerb by one of the (many!) street vendors.

Swim and sleep to end our rest day, and to prepare for an early start for our boat trip to Phi-Phi on Monday!

 

 

 

 

Big Buddha (Thailand Day 8: Saturday 30 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Saturday 18 August 2012: 5 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

As usual, the nightly routine was a late-night swim before a well-deserved sleep. Saturday would be another early morning for our island tour.

Breakfast and ready by nine. It’s quite a thing to get up early when you start getting used to late sleep-ins!

Anyway, the tour guide was typically punctual (quite something for us Africans) and we all piled in – me in the front as usual. My numerous questions posed to the driver were always laughed at by the rest of the group. Hopefully, not because of the poor questions posed but always because of the poor understanding of English by the driver. (Thai’s generally understand and speak English very poorly and, of course, we understand and speak no Thai – a recipe for frustration!) So all my questions usually had poor responses, if any at all! Political responses, I call them, the type where the answer in no way matches the question posed!

Eventually, I just gave up asking questions and took in and savoured all that was to be seen.

We headed south from Patong Beach down the west coast of Phuket, passing Karon Beach, Kata Beach and Kata Noi Beach (noi meaning small, so that’s “small” Kata Beach where we would be moving to next Tuesday). That’s about a 20km winding up-and-down trip.

From the Kata 3-Bay viewpoint you are able to look north and see all three stunning beaches in one view. Photo time!

Continuing further south along that road, we passed Nai Harn Beach and then on to the most southern point of Phuket Island, the Sunset View Point at Promthep Cape. (Guess that’s about another 5km trip.)

After more photo’s, we continued northwards along the eastern seaboard of Phuket towards Phuket Town (or City as it’s also called!) – the main town on the Island. Before that we headed upwards (literally up Mount Nakkerd) to the Big Buddha, well known among Thais as the Phra Puttamingmongkol Eaknakakeeree!

The 45 metre high Buddha is 25metres across its base, layered with beautiful white jade marble and sits and shines in the sun on top of the mount between Chalong and Kata. It can be seen from far away and from it one has the best 360 views of the entire Phuket Island. More and more photo’s!

The final stop of our tour was on the outskirts of Phuket Town … at the jewellery shop, Wang Talang! We did a quick 5-minute walk through this International Lapidary and then transferred to another mini-bus to take us back to Patong beach. (From Phuket Town to Patong Beach is about 15km) 

The Bryants and our boys got off at the Burger King, and Pera and I did a clockwise trip north along the one-way Thaweewong Road (Beach Road) and south on Rat-u-Thit 200 Road, arriving back to our Amari Coral Hotel just after one pm.

Snooze, swim, Singha’s, shop, supper, shop, swim, sleep … until Sunday which was Day 9 of out trip.

Party at Patong (Thailand Day 7: Friday 29 June 2012)

 ©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Saturday 11 August 2012: 5 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

On Friday morning, we were to meet our tour operator from World Travel Services, Mr Pombat, at 11h00 in the “over-looking Patong Bay” foyer of our hotel.

So, it was breakfast at ten. Then we met to confirm the arrangements for our trip back and to discuss any other tours that we would want to do whilst on Phuket.

There are a myriad of tours available and the prices – like everything else here – are negotiable! We tend to think that if anything is cheap then there must be a catch to it. But I guess the price of whatever you buy here in the line of tours and excursions is directly linked to what you get: the cheaper the price, the less you get and, of course, vice versa! The more you pay, the more frills and fancies are attached to the excursion.

We agreed and paid to do an orientation island tour at 09h00 on Saturday morning – BHT600 for all nine of us. Atrip to the famous Phi Phi Islands would cost (negotiable, of course!) BHT 2580 cash(!) per person.

For the rest – we got the run-down, got the pamphlets, took the names and the numbers, would consider our options and get back to them in due course. Of course, that simply meant that we would see if we could get it any cheaper elsewhere, bearing in mind that excursions are offered on sale along with every street vendor and on every other street corner!

But now it was swim time in the hotel pool, and in the Andaman Sea! Then some walked from the hotel along Patong Beach and back. A snooze for us followed, whilst the rest “kuiered”. We were scheduled to meet in Patong Town for supper at 19h00.

My usual radar device went faulty and we took the wrong turn, so we were hot and sticky and late by the time we met up!

Shop, ‘squabbling’ supper and a show followed (suggested to us by Joggie Viljoen, ex-Grey boy and Stormers rugby player – now in New Zealand – who was eating at a table behind us and came and introduced himself).

 

The show – Moulin Rose – was on the street where everyone lives in Patong, Bangla Road. A normal vehicular thoroughfare by day and a pedestrian precinct, a theatre land, pub land and entertainment centre by night – a seething mass of people who have come to see and to be seen. Young and old, young and young, old and old, and in many cases old Westerner male and young Thai female – all coming in search of Paradise, whatever Paradise may be for them!

 The show was enjoyable and far sexier than the one seen in Bangkok. It was a musical revue and the actresses all actors – a bevy of lady-boy beauties lined up on stage, off stage and afterwards – at a price – for photos and whatever else the heart desires.

It was time for me to return to the hotel – the old man and the stick! It’s quite an experience to walk alone through late-night Patong … 

 … Beach Road, Patong, lead us not into temptation but straight back to the Amari Coral Hotel at the southern end of Patong Beach on the Island of Phuket in the Kingdom of Thailand!

As usual, the nightly routine was a late-night swim before a well-deserved sleep. Saturday would be another early morning for our island tour.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Phuket: Island of Dreams (Thailand Day 6: Thursday 28 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Friday 3 August 2012: 5 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

It WAS already Thursday morning when I put my head down on the pillow.

We would have to get up earlier this morning, as later on Thursday we were flying to Phuket and needed to get to the airport.

I was first up and had breakfast by myself! The rest were either sleeping in, still cross with me or shopping!

Sawasdee!

At 09h30 we all met in the hotel foyer and waited on our taxi’s to arrive to transfer us to the Bangkok International Airport. There we checked in, explored the airport, and awaited our Thai Airlines Airbus A330 Flight TG211 to Phuket International Airport  due to leave at 12h15. I found myself considering this strange breed of people in transit that, at any given time occupy airports and aeroplanes all over the world. A seething mass of humanity on the move – either on the ground locked into airport buildings or in the air locked into large tin cans traversing the skies over our wonderful world. Maybe, sometime I’ll write about the “Travelling Willbury’s”!

It was a short flight of 1 hour and twenty minutes, partly over the Thai Peninsula and some of it over the Gulf of Thailand. Very soon, I could see the bluish-green sea and the white beaches of the Island of Phuket (and even the causeway bridge that connects Phuket with the Thai peninsula mainland).

The camera snapped away as we came in to land from east to west. You come in over the sea on the western side of the island, see the water, see the beach, see the runway, touchdown, brakes … and by the time you get to the end of the runway you see the beach and sea on the western side of the island!

Phuket International is a smallish airport, and as it was a domestic flight for us, we did not have to proceed through customs and passport control. We collected our luggage, and were met outside the front door by our taxi driver to the hotel. The sign said LUNNON and it’s always reassuring to see your name and someone waiting for you!

Almost an hour long trip followed to Patong Beach and to our home for the next five nights – the Amari Coral Hotel situated on and overlooking the southern side of Patong Beach and Patong Bay.

We checked in, received our welcoming drink and our cold “lappie”(facecloth) to wipe down the face and leave on the back of your neck to cool down, and then went to our beautiful Andaman sea-facing rooms, with the waves  lapping right below our balconies.

But no time for that – we headed straight for the hotel’s pool, happy hour and our first exotic tropical  Island style cocktail cocorico drink served in a coconut in the pool. Heaven could not be better than this.

A few hours later, we left the pool, changed and headed into Patong “City” to see the sights and to find supper.

The tuk-tuk dropped us off at the famous Bangla Road. From there, we explored until we were “spotted” and stopped by a friendly South African couple who advised us to dine at a little Thai restaurant called Sabai Sabai (Thai meaning “all is good and well”). We would return there often, as the food was good, the atmosphere great and the prices very inexpensive – yes, all was good and well!  SA and Aussie business cards, messages, names and signatures adorn the walls!

After supper, just a bit more scouting, shopping (!), and snorting (Singha’s) – until it was time for me to call it a night. I walked up the steep hill back to the Amari, had the obligatory midnight swim (it was 28 degrees and the water not much cooler!) and then dozed off to sleep in my lovely air-conditioned room at 17 degrees with the sound of the waves crashing on the beach below..  

On Friday morning, we were to meet our tour operator at 11h00 in the “over-looking Patong Bay” foyer of our hotel.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Shop till You Drop (Thailand Day 5: Wed 27 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Monday 30 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

The Shows would continue!  

And they did …

Our usual morning routine whilst on holiday was to get up at about 09h00, complete the 3 S’s (more S’s!) and then to proceed to the breakfast terrace, which at the Regent was open until 10h00 and in Phuket was open until 10h30. (In future, wherever you read breakfast, the procedure was basically the same as detailed here.)

So on our second day in Bangkok, we had breakfast at 09h30 on the Garden Terrace on the 5th Floor. Breakfast generally consisted of juices, fruit, cereals, various fish dishes, local Thai dishes, western dishes, eastern dishes, eggs in various varieties, pastries, cold meats, cheeses, breads, coffee, and as the King says in “The King and I” (or otherwise known as “Anna and the King of Siam “) “etc, etc, etc”!

Today was a shopping day, so the ladies headed off in one direction and we headed off south along Rajprarop Road in the direction of the Central World Centre. We were to meet up at 13h00.

On the map, the CWC is just about 2 kilometres south from the Regent. If you have been to Bangkok you will understand what one sees in those 2 kilometres. If you have not been there, let me try and explain (and please forgive me because no explanation can do any justice to the reality of this experience.)

The roads are filled with vehicles and the gaps between the vehicles are filled with scooters (something like filling a container with stones and then pouring sand into the container to fill the gaps between the stones!)

Working outwards from the centre of the road (and duplicated on both sides of the road), you get the traffic and then the sidewalk. On the sidewalk, with their backs facing to the road, you get stalls facing towards the sidewalk. The pedestrian section follows and then you have stalls facing towards the road with their backs towards the shops behind them, which also face the road.

In other words, the pedestrians – crowds of them – walk down a pathway in the centre of the sidewalk between two rows of stalls that face each other. Behind the inside row of stalls you find the open-faced shops that face the road, and often behind those shops you find tall high-rise shopping centres, and in those centres, you often find floors and floors of more stalls!

If you are confused, then that’s what the novice shopper is. Rows and rows of stalls (shops) working outwards from the road and for kilometres in front of you and behind you and left and right of you as far as the eye can see. And along every road that you can see, the scene replicates itself! 

So to walk two kilometres takes quite a while. Because you have lots to see and many merchants to bargain with … for clothing, electronic goods, souvenirs, materials, food, etc, etc, etc! (It’s no wonder the etcetera phrase is used so often in the play!)

The Central World Centre is a modern air-conditioned shopping centre similar to those that we are used to at home, but here you pay for the convenience of the air-conditioning, the assurance of the genuine brand-name, the price marked on the article and the absence of having to bargain! We spent time watching the latest 3-D TV equipment, looking at sports clobber, being massaged in elaborate lounge furniture and … and …

The unit of currency in Thailand is the baht and a convenient (though now inaccurate) method of conversion to our Rand is to divide the baht price by 4 to get the rand price. It makes things so much cheaper than they are here at home!

We strolled back to our rendezvous point with the ladies at the Platinum shopping centre. This centre is a 7-story clothing wholesaler and the girls had been here all morning. The boys climbed into the clothes, too!

Then we had a quick drink and proceeded west down Petchburi  Road and south down Phayathai Road to the MBK Centre – another more upmarket conventional shopping centre. Eight floors packed with 2,000 shops that sell everything from clothing, fashion accessories, handbags, leather products and luggage to furniture, cell phones, electric appliances, cameras, stationery and DVDs. MBK  is a beehive of activity, especially on weekends, when half of Bangkok converges to shop for bargains.

On the way there we passed a zillion stalls and popped into a 5-storey high electronics shopping centre. It was 15h30 and it was from there that I did my radio programme back home (at 10h30 SA time). Lance phoned me from SA and I chatted from the quietest place I could find in the Centre. It was also there that we had to buy an additional suitcase in order to bring back all the new clothing that was being bought. (All our SA clothing was far too hot and, anyway, everything is so much cheaper!)  

At MBK, the boys were starving and we did the unthinkable – we stopped in at a Burger King and a Starbucks – all so American and western!

Then it was home-time, and we had done enough walking. So we proceeded to the taxi rank and hailed two tuk-tuks to take us back to the Regent: a ride that also left me wondering in what direction we were actually going. The local drivers know all the backstreets and in order to avoid areas of traffic congestion, they often take side streets and alleys, making it very difficult to try and follow where they are going!

Back at the hotel, we had a swim in the pool on the 4th floor. Then at 18h30 we met in the foyer to visit the Baiyoke Sky Hotel – just a block from the Regent and the tallest building in Thailand with 88 floors. We went up to the rotating skyroof on the 84th floor and had a …. Singha, as the sun set over Bangkok and the darkness of the night and the brightness of the lights took over from the previous grey dusky urban scenes that we had witnessed from this magnificent vantage point.

Then taxi-time again! This time two proper vehicle taxis and we set off – who knows where and in what direction – but we were headed for the infamous Patpong Road (an “entertainment” district and night market), where we had supper (gross), did more … shopping (grosser) and watched a “ping-pong ball show” (grossest)!

It was just past midnight when my petrol ran out, and reluctantly I had to admit that I needed my bed. The rest of the group were hopping mad that I was breaking up the party so early – after all, the night was still a pup and they wanted to party some more!

The taxi ride back to the hotel seemed so much shorter than the ride there. I’m sure Patpong Road was far closer to our hotel than I had imagined!

It was already Thursday morning when I put my head down on the pillow. We had to get up earlier, as later on Thursday we were flying to Phuket and needed to get to the airport.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Taken for a Ride (Thailand Day 4: Tuesday 26 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Thursday 26 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

At 06h00 local time on Tuesday morning 26 June we disembarked and entered the ultra-modern Suvarnabhumi International Airport – straight into passport/ customs control and what would be our sauna for the next two weeks.

We were promptly met by our Royal Orchid Holidays tour representative, taken to our two air-conditioned mini-bus taxis and then left the airport.

As would become the norm throughout the trip, I sat in the front passenger’s seat next to the driver. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

The trip to our hotel in early morning rush-hour traffic took about an hour. Along the freeway into the city (driving on the left), as would also be the norm throughout the trip, there were pictures of the King and Queen of Thailand on elaborate bulkheads over the road, Shrines, Temples, run-down buildings juxtaposed by tall modern high-risers, green lush tropical vegetation, signs in the curvy Thai alphabet (usually also in English), and just more and more roads with more and more traffic!

The 40 year old Indra Regent Hotel was somewhere in the midst of a sprawling, busy Bangkok. At 07h00 we could not check in yet, so we completed the documentation, left the luggage and “hit” the City, hot and tired and in dire need of a shower.

First, we apprehensively ventured into the market in front of the hotel. This was our first taste of Thailand, and we reluctantly took those first bites.

“U wan t-shirtttttt … u wan t-rouserrrrr … u wan T-hai massaaaaaage … u wan t-ailormade soooot …  u wan ping-pong ball shooooooowwwww … u wanna buyyyyyyy … wha tju waaaaan t?” would be the ongoing chant of the next two weeks, coming at you from all angles and from all sides wherever you went – a high-pitched cacophony choir of Thai merchants selling themselves and their every ware everywhere!

I think it became a bit much for us and, after a short while, we retreated from the shopping and regrouped at the hotel to plan our next move. (More and more and more and more … and much more shopping would come later as we became more acquainted and more adventurous!)

And so, against all advice we had read in the books, we negotiated a “good” price with the owners of two “tuk-tuks” right in front of the hotel to take us to our list of the “temple, the Buddha and the river.”

I sat with my map in the front, but decided very quickly to close it. There was no way that I could follow where we were going, what direction we were going or where we were headed! I’d rather just savour the ride and look at the City!

Every picture tells a story and all the pics we took will tell far better what we experienced and saw.

But for a long while, we did not see “the Temple, the Buddha or the River.”! We saw the clothing shop, the suit shop, the jewellery shop and any other shop that we later learnt were the obligatory stops on any such “well-priced, negotiated” rides. The bulk of the payment received for such a trip came in the form of petrol coupons from the owners of the establishments to which we, the gullible tourists, were taken!   

But we were seeing Bangkok, and loving it!

It was only after some hours that we became emphatic and insisted that we had not yet seen what we had arranged with our drivers to see.

So we were then taken to the river, and to another “mate” of the tuk-tuk drivers who was just another component in the tourist supply chain – the boat owner!

Our ride continued – down the river and along the canals. Squalor interleaved by opulent temples and shrines were the sights of the morning. And in the quietest parts of the dirty canals we were introduced to the next cog in the tourist shopping experience – the floating shops that arrived from “no-where” and tried to sell us their wares – from beer to pot-plants!

The beers were passed into our boat (and would have been welcome given the heat and our jet-lagged thirsts!) but as novices to the bartering and negotiating skills required, we could not agree on a price and all the beers went back onto the “floating shelves”! (Later, some in the group, especially Phillip, became quite adept at negotiating “good” prices for anything and everything that one would possibly want to purchase!)

When we were dropped off to disembark at at a pier on the river, we were even approached by the “pier owner” to pay for those landing rights! It almost ended up in a scuffle when we refused to pay, and suddenly when people started appearing on the decks of all the boats moored there, I had visions of a Bruce Lee kung-fu fight taking place! Luckily not, and we were spared to continue to the Reclining Buddha and seeing one of the many temples and palaces.

 

Our weariness soon got to us and after two pm sometime we hailed a taxi (two) to take us back to the hotel to check in. We bargained a price (as one does for everything) and the children left in the first taxi and the adults in the second. I must say I felt a little bit anxious as I saw our kids drive off into bustling Bangkok!

What were a mere few kilometres on the map took forever, and at one stage we didn’t move for almost forty minutes. We just took in and savoured the traffic jam, the lanes of brightly coloured Japanese cars, trucks, taxis, bakkies, buses, tuk-tuks and scooters; the buildings; the parks; the shops and the seething mass of humanity that make up this smelting pot of human existence.

At last, in our room 1419 on the 14th floor, we had a shower, had a brief power-nap, and then ventured into the hotel shopping precinct, the Indra Shopping Arcade offering heaps of ready-to-wear garments and souvenirs, had our first Thai lunch, shopped and slept a brief while more.

Later that evening, we headed safely down a darkish street to find a suitable Thai eating place (always very tasty and very inexpensive), Singhas (many), red wine (from SA) and our many “cheers” on the survival of our first day in Thailand!

On our way back to the hotel, the traffic continued into the night … and the shopping continued in the night markets which had seamlessly sprung up and replaced the day markets when darkness descended upon the City.

At that stage, my humour left me and my surly side stepped in. No more for me … I returned to the hotel (bumped into and chatted to the Gotz’s from PLett in the lobby) and then crashed into my personal queen-sized hotel-bed. No wonder! It was Tuesday night and since waking up in Pretoria on Monday morning, I had been on the go for 45 hours (ironically, the number of ordinary hours allowed by law in South Africa for a whole week’s work)!

Thailand was called Siam in the past. The letter S seems to prefix many words that I could write much about. Suffice to say:

At an average temperature of 30 degrees and a humidity of 80%, we had sat, sauntered and swum on Day 1 in the steambath which is the society of Bangkok.

We had seen, smelt, sweated and savoured just some of the sights, sounds, splendour, sky, streets, signs, scooters, sidewalks, suburbs, swamps, skyscrapers, sunshades, supermarkets,  shops,  sanctuaries, sacredness, spirituality, security, salesmanship, service, salutations, speech, sincerity, spirit, sandals, shoes, shorts, suits, skirts, sarongs, satins, silks, sapphires, scenery, scents, smells, shelters, shrubs, suppers, soups, stir-fry, shrimps, sauces, Singhas, schools, scholars and souvenirs.

The shows would continue!  

 

 

 

Going East (Thailand Day 3: Monday 25 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Tuesday 24 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

Monday morning was an early wake-up and then we were dropped off by Samantha at the Oliver Tambo airport round about 09h00. The journey was about to begin!

First, we had to find Terminal B and the Bryants. We would be travelling together with Alison and Nick, and Sean’s friend and schoolmate David, his girlfriend Victoria and Phillip’s hostel mate Richard.

Finding Terminal B was not easy. In the process we found Tony Reeler with whom we would be staying on our return to Pretoria. He and his Pretoria Boys High rugby team were heading off to Zimbabwe on a rugby tour.

Then we found the Bryants, checked in, passed through passport control, declared our equipment and ended up in the duty-free shopping area. The shopping began with a few bottles of red wine, Amarula and whiskey! (We had been advised that this was expensive in Thailand and our alcohol allowance was 1 litre per person.)

Thai Airways International Flight TG992, a Boeing 777-200/300, was slightly late but when boarding began, per my arrangements with the airlines, we were allowed to board first at 12h45.

At 13h40 we took off – headed east from Johannesburg to Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) over Madagascar and the Indian Ocean.

We were scheduled to land at BKK at 06h00 their time and in the process we would lose 5 hours of the day. When we landed it would be only 1am in Johannesburg – just about time to go to sleep. But I did not sleep a wink.

After lunch, I settled in and watched Brave Heart and The Iron Lady. That took up some four hours of the 11 hour flight. Sleep was out of the question, and I spent a great deal of time watching our progress on the map in front of me.

I had boarded with my leg-brace on and was sitting on the aisle with my leg in the passage (this despite having arranged with the airline to seat me in a row with extra legroom!). Needless to say, everyone passing by bumped into me and the trolleys carrying the meals and the SINGHA beer had very little room to manoeuvre. So I had taken my leg-brace off some few hours into the flight and stowed it away in the overhead locker.

Then it was breakfast time and time to “embrace”!

 It was dark when we saw the lights of Bangkok appear below us – extending in all directions.

At 06h00 local time on Tuesday morning 26 June we disembarked and entered the ultra-modern Suvarnabhumi International Airport – straight into customs control and what would be our sauna for the next two weeks.

ED is in departED (Thailand Days 1 and 2: Sat/Sun 23/24 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Sunday 22 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

 It was about half past seven in the morning of Saturday 23 June 2012 – the first day of our trip to Thailand.

We were packed and ready to go. Cheryl Price picked us up at home and we were on the way to the Port Elizabeth airport.

E-tickets checked, luggage weighed and handed over (only three bags to the hold because Pera and I were sharing a bag) and then we were off through security (bells ringing as a result of my leg brace) and to the departure lounge.

Everyone appeared to be coming to Port Elizabeth for the big rugby test and I thought that we would be the only ones leaving and going in the opposite direction. I was wrong.

Kulula Flight MN6238 (aka British Airways between Port Elizabeth and JHB and complete with a free (!) morning snack and drink) was full, departed on time at 08h50 and took us safely to Johannesburg.

An hour and a half later, at 10h30, we were collecting our luggage at the carousel at Oliver Tambo International Airport.  

Whilst waiting for the luggage to arrive, I was approached by a gentleman who had sat in front of us on the plane. “You’re ED from AlgoaFM aren’t you?” he asked, “I recognised your voice on the plane!”

He, his wife and son were also bound for Bangkok and when I asked if they were from Port Elizabeth, he replied that they were from Plettenberg Bay.

“Small world”, I said, “we are also travelling with a Plett family!”

 “Who are they?” I was asked.

“The Bryants”, I replied.

Well, it transpired that the Gotz’s are household friends of the Bryants, their son James and David Bryant are in Helderberg Residence and at Stellenbosch University together, and we would be having supper together in Bangkok on Wednesday evening!

It’s a small world after all! It’s a small, small world!

Rupert Upton picked us up and we were off to Pretoria. (Rupert and Samantha worked with me at P&P and we have spent many a holiday with them over the years – either at their home in Waterkloof Glen, Pretoria or at their holiday home in Plett, just around the corner from the Bryants. We tried to remember the dates, but time has taken its toll! I think we celebrated Rupert’s 40th birthday (17 July) in Pretoria when Nelson Mandela celebrated his 80th at Sandton Square in Johannesburg on 18 July 1998. Their parties were on the same night and I designed the invitations (for Rupert’s party, not Nelson’s!), and we flew up for the weekend.

We also spent time in Pretoria with them when we visited the Kruger Park in 2005(?), Sun City in June/July 2006 (just before I became ill) and Kruger Park again in July 2008 (just after I became ill – supposedly our last family holiday!) when Rupert celebrated his 50th birthday.

So we were spending this weekend with them before we departed for Bangkok on Monday morning. It was a relaxing weekend and great catching up. On Saturday afternoon we were joined by mutual friends Lisa and Brendon and watched the Springbok vs England test in Port Elizabeth (thank goodness we didn’t stay for that!) and had dinner.

Sunday morning was a late brunch on the stoep overlooking Menlyn Park, followed by dinner, last-minute checks, repacking for Thailand and for leaving a “winter” suitcase in Pretoria for our return.

Monday morning was an early wake-up and then dropped off by Samantha at the Oliver Tambo airport round about 09h00. The journey was about to begin!

 

Come back to Earth with a Bump! (Thailand Day 22)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Monday 16 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

It was approximately half past five in the evening on Saturday 14 July 2012 – the last day of our trip and we were approaching Port Elizabeth airport.

British Airways Boeing Flight 6237 from JHB to PLZ was about to land. We couldn’t see from which direction because outside it looked like pea-soup! The pilot had said that there was a strong southerly wind blowing and that it was raining hard.

We had read that the coast was in the grips of a severe storm and I had phoned the airways before we left to ensure that all was in order. I was assured that all flights were travelling normally.

But this landing was far from normal … you couldn’t see a thing until we emerged from the cloud just above the Port Elizabeth harbour. The wind was buffeting the plane from the left side as we came down with the engines racing. The we lurched to the right, back to the left and then hit the ground hard … bump, bump, bump! Heads hit the lockers and people screamed. We shuddered, skidding from left to right to left along the runway, and then returned to normal as we slowly taxied to the airport building and parked right in front of the arrivals section.

There was a cacophony of noise inside the plane – nervous tension being released, I think – as passengers shouted, laughed, giggled and finally applauded the pilot for landing us safely. I would love to know at what point he would have decided to abort the landing; but we really had come back to earth with a bump! Both literally and figuratively!

The wind was howling and the rain was pouring down in sheets of water as we quickly sped across the concourse to the airport building. Port Elizabeth (and the country) was in the grips of a killer storm, and we had landed at the height of it. (It was howling, raining, flooding, snowing and had been since Thursday and was to continue until Monday.)

In the warmth of the arrivals terminal we collected our thoughts and our luggage. Then dashed to Kerri Botha’s double cab and slowly made our way home through the dark, windswept, wet, deluged streets of Port Elizabeth.

Once home, the boys quickly off-loaded the luggage in the pouring rain. We were all eager to see Charlie and he was nowhere to be found! Then suddenly he appeared at the sliding door on the front stoep – wet and cold and jumping all over us!

Yes – we were home – Charlie was our welcoming party in the height of the storm!

We ordered in burgers from Steers and started unpacking: washing, dirty clothes, crumpled clothes, summer clothes, winter clothes, new clothes, old clothes, pamphlets, passports, tickets, booklets, unused bahts, chargers, cables, phones, toiletries … it was the end of our trip.

As we unpacked our suitcases, we unpacked our memories and our thoughts of a magnificent holiday. Each item unpacked had some connotation attached to it and we shared this with each other. Later, the laptops, the I-Pads, the cameras and the photos were produced, compared, laughed at, recollected, transferred, stored, face-booked, emailed and shared with the world.

This would continue on Sunday and Monday and … who knows … as the storm abated, we would slowly come back to earth and return to normal life: Phillip back to the boarding house on Sunday, Pera back to work on Monday, Sean discovering that he still had a week’s holiday  ( at 9pm Saturday evening he was called out to do emergency NSRI rescue duty!) … and me?

Well, there’s the documenting of our holiday that needs to be done and will keep me occupied for the next few days.

In my mind, I have been comparing Life to a Holiday. There are so many similarities.

So, watch this space, as I try to share our exciting journey with you … and enjoy the pictures with us!

In the meantime, it was great falling asleep in my bed for the first time in three weeks!

Our grateful thanks are extended to all who made this trip possible.

 And to

  •          the Bryants from Plett who shared their holiday with us and did all the hard work as the tour guides
  •          Tyler Botha for looking after Charlie and the house
  •          The Uptons, Reelers, Moolmans and Keelings for their hospitality in Pretoria
  •          Cheryl Price and Kerri Botha for airport transfers