So you’re sat in the travel agents in the High Street looking at holiday brochures. Turning the glossy pages, there are images of beautiful, white sand beaches. Palm trees. Cocktails by the sea in a moonlight bar. It’s beautiful. Koh Samui is all this and we couldn’t wait to explore.
However, due to our lack of pre-planning and low budget, we had unknowingly booked ourselves in to the arse-end of the island: think party-party, McDonalds, KFC and 2:4:1 beer offers. Add to this rows and rows of shops selling luminous-coloured ‘Same, Same (but different)!’ wife-beater vests and a throw in a hundred hopeful people asking every 30 seconds if you want a taxi, bracelet or sarong.
Oh dear. Our expectations had been high and now it was hot, we were tired and we weren’t feeling that thrilled to arrive.
The plan when booking our room at the budget-friendly Akwa Guesthouse was to try and save a few Baht and get the kids (or perhaps us!) to camp out on the floor on the self-inflating travel mattresses we’ve carried around for the last 3 months. I’d read on a few blogs that other families had done this – thus why we’d brought the mattresses. However in Australia, New Zealand and I’m sure it would be the same across much of Europe, we’d been told when we’d enquired about sharing that this wasn’t allowed. The excuse given to us was that fire regulations couldn’t be broken and you couldn’t exceed the maximum guest number per room – even if we planned to share the existing beds and towels, etc. However we had been reliably informed that in SE Asia, rules were a little more ‘relaxed’ and it was much more common for families to bed-share and squash in together. So we decided to be brave and chance it….
As we’d booked the room via booking.com and not stated that we were a family intending to share the double room space, we had a dilemma as to whether we should set the kids up at a cafe down the road whilst we checked in, then sneak them up to the room once the coast was clear… However, the taxi dropped us off directly outside and the driver politely helped us inside with our luggage, so this wasn’t really an option for us on the day! On booking in, the (Dutch) owner looked at all of us assembled Brooks, and re-checked our booking on the paper in front of him. My heart pounded. He wanted to clarify that we knew we’d only booked a double room? I explained that we were planning on bunking up and it wasn’t a problem. Luckily, at this point he smiled and kindly shrugged his shoulders, saying we had a king-size bed in the room and he was sure it would be fine. Result!
The room we had was spacious – plenty of room for all of us. And it was quiet. The maids also saw us go into our room and ended up giving us a few extra towels and pillows, completely unasked for, which was really kind.
So despite the fact that we were staying in the very epicentre of the Thai equivalent of Faliraki, things were looking up.
But then Aaron got his bank card ‘swallowed’ by an ATM machine on our way to get dinner that night. Uh oh. With still over 6 months of the trip to go, we didn’t have the option to fly home to collect a newly minted bank card. I’m not sure Nationwide bank deliver new cards quickly to Thailand either. Being down to just 1 bank card to access our money seemed a little bit vulnerable – what were we going to do? The locals however were helpful and appeared pretty certain that we would get our card back, as long as we presented ourselves at the Bangkok bank branch, just up the road, by 9am the next morning.
So just before 9am the following day, we frantically got up, dressed and with passport in hand, marched down to the doors of Bangkok bank. Except it opened at 10am, not 9am….! Doh! We spent an hour looking at bracelets, sarongs, handguns, knuckle-dusters and pickled bugs, before heading straight back to the bank – at the correct time of 10am.
We explained the situation to the staff, using lots of universal hand gestures and sign language and were initially were told that we had to present ourselves to the other branch of the bank, in a different area of the island. Apparently this other branch was responsible for the faulty cash machine in question. We begged the staff to help us, explaining that we had no access to money until we could get our card back. How could we get to the other bank branch with no money? What would the poor kids eat for lunch whilst we waited?! The kids at this point must have looked absolutely stricken – ‘No lunch?!’ and I’m glad to say the staff took pity on them (us!) and after a few phone calls on our behalf, we were told to return at 1pm.
So off we went to the beach… Chewing beach IS beautiful and we had a great swim, enjoyed the waves and gave in to the hawkers and each bought an ankle bracelet (for 20 baht- a bit of a bargain!). At 1pm we returned to the bank and were so happy and grateful to get Aaron’s ATM card back!
Perhaps our stay in the area wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Not relying on first impressions and all that. And we still had lots to look forward to – we were going to hire motorbikes and the kids had been booked in one day to attend a World Home School, which they were really looking forward to!