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Thailand

Thai Logic

As usual we had messed up. Not realising it was the end of Chinese New Year and the island would be hopping we’d only booked for three nights thinking that the other 9 nights could be sorted out on arrival. After one night’s stay we were in reception trying to sort it out. So far the receptionist had offered us the next three nights at a discounted rate and we were trying to negotiate the remaining 8 nights (the discounted price was actual fact the advertised price- 300bht per night. We paid 500bht for the first night). The remaining 8 nights included the upcoming weekend.

“Room booked for weekend, three people moving in, can’t have” the girl said smugly. ”Everywhere much bookings” she added. Any hopes of getting a swank room for a few days to celebrate my 50th receded. “One hut, not booked if you move now can have for all time...same price” she continued. I knew the hut being touted intimately having been palmed off in it before . The resident neighbors held impromptu karaoke sessions late at night, the toilet block was next door and its associated odors pervaded the room constantly and the noise from the nearby building works often woke me up in the morning. Needless to say I wasn’t happy.

I was about to ask why she thought we would be willing to move to a small – could not swing a cat in, dark, dank, holey cabin that was impossible to keep the mosquitoes out of. When we had booked a concrete mossie proof, 2 beds, light and airy apartment where I could swing Mitch holding said cat by the tail and still have room to spare. I thought better of it – Thais do not get sarcasm. I applied some tact and logic to the situation.

“Why would I want to move when I have a better apartment at the moment for the same price?”

“Because if you move today you can stay all time in shit hut not have to move out” was the reply

“Why can’t I stay in this room for 3 nights already paid then stay another 2 nights before weekend, move to shit hut then move back after weekend?” I responded

“Can’t guarantee you can stay in shit hut for rest of stay then” she replied

I heard a groan from behind me and turned around. My partner was sat on the bench with his head in his hands. I returned to the fray.

“But you tell me no one has booked shit hut, so what is the problem?” I asked.

“OK you can stay the extra 2 night’s then move into shit hut” she conceded

Having reached an agreement we left determined to find another room for the weekend only to discover that everywhere was booked and that if we did not take shit hut we would end up sleeping on the beach. We went back our hotel reception to pay for and secure the accommodation.

“Ok we stay in current accommodation for the 6 nights then move into shit hut for the nights you have booking then move back when it is vacant”. I said

“Not possible nice room may be booked for 2 nights before weekend” she replied

But this morning you said we could have room until weekend then move into shit hut”. “We stay long time, we are here now, the room is not booked so why can’t we have?”

“Ok you come at 8.00 on morning of 16th and see if room available until 18th, if not you c h e c k o u t” the emphasis definitely on the last 2 words.

After a brief conversation with Mitch which consisted of are you confused because I am we agreed with resignation to take the shit hut and move in to it after 3 days.

“ so we stay in current room for next 3 nights move to shit hole for next 4 nights and then move back into current room when weekend over” I clarified.

“Can’t do” she replied obviously relishing the game

“ Why not” I asked

“ Shit hole now booked but if you move in now to shit hole you can have” .

I heard another groan from behind me.

I had a moment of inspiration “what if we pay extra to cover the cost of the 3rd person you can get in the room , would there be anything else available?” I asked

Smiles, deep breaths............ breakthrough!

“Room cost 1000 baht per night for weekend” she said. “Boss say we have to get 1000 baht for room”

No problem we said in unison – although it was a rip off.

“We think you not want to pay this much” she replied. How poor do I look? Would have been my normal retort but I restrained myself.

“No problem” we replied in unison again.

“OK if you pay 1000 a night for 2 nights you can stay in the same room you have now for the rest of the time here” she beamed and thus confirmed my growing suspicions that this had been about getting more money for the room and there was no booking.

“But we give you discount - you here with us a long time”. She added. I screamed silently. I waited for the groan from behind and was not disappointed.

Now here’s the interesting thing about the whole affair. We were quoted 500bht per night and 1000 baht per night for the weekend and we stayed 12 nights which should have cost 7,000 baht. They charged us 500 for the first night, 300 for subsequent nights and 700 for the 2 weekend nights (discount). Total cost to us 4600 baht - much less than we expected to pay. If the alleged weekend booking had been genuine, or they had rented the room out at 1000 baht as they wanted to they would have netted 5600. So in fact after fucking us around in order to get more money they actually made less.
And that’s Thai logic.

A couple days later I walked by reception and heard two tourists asking to change their room. “All rooms booked, no have” was the response. I carried on walking.

Posted by travelhappiness 01:27 Archived in Thailand Tagged people accommodation travel thailand humour ko samed logic Comments (0)

Sickness and a Sonkran Soaking

Chang Mai

The book said “whatever happens try not to get sick in Potasi” (Bolivia). I’m not sure why. Possibly because it is one of the highest towns in the world and getting in and out is difficult? Maybe because health care is sparse or there is a lack of expertise. It could be that altitude sickness masks underlying problems. Anyway, whatever the reason that’s where my body decided to malfunction, rebelling against all the travelling, dodgy food and other ailments I had overcome along the way. In desperation I staggered into a taxi and headed for a hospital recommended by the owner of the hostel I was staying in. I wandered around and found reception, paid and stood in line to see the doctor. Whilst watching the rugby scrum tactics of the other patients when a person exited the examination room and despairing of ever getting seen, a wonderful lady took me in hand and guided me to a different area. There a Doctor who spoke a little English and seemed to understand my pidgin Spanish carried out a few tests. Unfortunately, that’s where it all went wrong in terms of communication. They stuck me in a wheelchair despite the fact that I could walk and wheeled me off in the direction of a ward. After indicating that I should get undressed and into one of the empty beds I frantically riffled through my phrase book/dictionary and cobbled enough Spanish together to ask what was happening. Lots of shrugs and pointing in the direction of the wards reception area followed. There I collared the sister and established that she spoke Italian and Spanish, I spoke French and English. Not much help really, but as I was feeling shit I got undressed and into bed as it seemed like a good idea. Three bags of saline solution, anti-biotics, gallons of water laced with rehydration solution and a day later I felt much better and left the hospital with hardly a dent in my wallet. What I can say about this experience was that although the building was shabby, paint was peeling off the walls, beds were broken and mattresses torn, the staff including the cleaners and orderlies were amazing.

So it was at Sonkran, the New Year water festival. Celebrations in Chang Mai, Thailand have a reputation for fun. Vast amounts of water are chucked around, colourful parades procession the streets and a large amount of people die as a result of water borne related accidents. Once again at an inauspicious time my body decided to breakdown. Deciding it was more than a bad reaction to a dodgy kebab I had eaten I headed for a hospital. Staff were on leave and specialists were very thin on the ground but once again the service was excellent. Unfortunately, riding backwards and forwards to the hospital in tuk tuks we got soaked courtesy of the drivers who drove up close to the arsenal of water hoses, buckets and guns filled with ice cold water on every street. I stood in reception dripping water onto the hospital floor and froze in the air conditioned waiting room much to the amusement of receptionists, nurses, doctors and other patients. After the 3rd change of clothes and 4th soaking I was not so amused. But as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them join them, I caught a waterproof taxi back to the hostel, donned a raincoat, purchased the biggest water gun I could find and hit the streets.

Posted by travelhappiness 01:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged people bolivia songkran health hospitals potasi Comments (0)

One Size Fits All

Shopping abroad

Asia is a continent, in the main, of small, petite, good- looking people. Being a 5’ 1”, European size 8, 32B, little person myself, I love visiting this area of the world. I can hold a conversation without my head locking in a permanent upward position, I can see over a crowd of people and I can buy clothes that actually fit. Not so in my home country where size 10 - 12 is considered to be the norm. Even when I do find size 8 clothes they tend to bag somewhere or are way too long. Trousers, for example, tend to be 3 - 5 inches too long for me. Rarely have I met a size 8, 5” 6 tall woman and therefore wonder on what basis a standard 8 is developed. Manufacturers must aim for the anorexic teenage generation who have successfully been brainwashed into starving themselves into emaciation but cannot afford to have height reduction surgery (yet). In the past I solved the problem in various ways. a) shopping in the children’s section – it used to be tax-free thus saving myself some money as well. b) Buying three-quarter length trousers as they came down to my ankles. c) dressing in baggy clothing - so as to look like a deliberate fashion statement. Then at some point fashion buyers were alerted by their shop staff that there were an awful lot of small women trying and buying children's' clothes and a petite range was introduced. Unfortunately, the styles leaned towards Barbie Doll meets Cindy with a bit of Stepford Wives thrown in. So imagine my joy at discovering cheap, fashionable clothes in my size when I travelled around Thailand.

A recent development which has encompassed the world as well as Asia is the one size fits all range of clothing. Garments that expand and are supposed to fit women of all shapes and sizes. Back home these imported clothes often hang off me as they are based on a fuller sized figure. Conversely in Thailand one size fits all actually translates into one size fits small and even I struggle to get into some of the tops (in Asia I am considered to be a medium). So ladies, when shopping in Asia for a bargain and frustration sets in as you cannot fit your shapely bodies into teeny-weeny Asian clothes or you get upset at the cute, petite shop girls who eye you up and down horror, pronounce “no have in your size” in a way that suggests you are the size of a cow - the phrase "walk in other people's shoes" comes to mind. Another saying is "you can buy but not try". Because in Thai logic when "one size fits all" you could be a size 6 or 18 and the clothes will fit snugly. Now I will not buy unless I try. After all a girl needs to be sure that it suits. I did try to explain this to a Chinese seller once and got nowhere therefore, she got no sale. Now I have my own catch phrase "no try no buy". It rarely gets the right reaction but I like saying it anyway.

Posted by travelhappiness 18:29 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Lovin it up with the mosquitoes

Do insects like to snack on you?

Insects love me. I’ve been bitten and stung hundreds of times, chased around fields by wasps and bees so desperate is their need to be near me, had my blood sucked by bed bugs, mosquitoes, sand flies and I shudder to think what else when travelling. No matter how strong the repellent, how thick the clothes or how good the mosquito net is, they still find a way in.

My friends and family say they enjoy my company as they can walk around unfettered by the usual cloud of biting insects that hover over their heads when I’m absent. It is a similar story when travelling abroad with fellow backpackers as mosquitoes will ignore any person within my vicinity. All I can say is that the insects obviously have good taste and prefer a gourmet meal!

Conversely, I do not like insects and have had many encounters of the more bizarre kind. Like the time I was walking down the street, a wasp flew down my bra and I pulled up my jumper in panic to get rid of it (a similar incident happened with a dress but thankfully I was at home at time). Or when I was stung inside my wellington boot. Ever heard of the wellie throwing contest? Well I would have won it. I once sat on a bumble bee, which of course objected and jabbed its stinger into my leg. My thigh swelled up and I ended up in accident and emergency. Unfortunately, the poison ate away some of my muscle and thanks to that bee I now look lopsided in tight fitting jeans and dresses. As well as being stung in strange ways my body also reacts violently to vampire insects. Large red egg shaped welts appear on my skin and they often turn septic – not desperately attractive. I have become adept at obtaining the correct medicine from pharmacies all over the world as I have found that showing is much more effective than telling.

To say that I am a little paranoid about getting bitten would be somewhat of an understatement. Friends who travel with me know that they can load their luggage with important thing like clothes because I carry ample supplies of protective gear. Netting with spare hooks and string, bottles of repellent in various strengths (some that will melt plastic), coils, electrical gadgets and tablets to burn in them, bite lotions, anti-histamine and antibiotic tablets/cream and malaria tablets. I recently added an anti-fungal cream to the collection as I was stung by a jellyfish in Samos, Greece (a new species to add to my growing list of things that have bitten me). My partner says that in all the years he has stayed on the island (about 25) he has never known this happen to anyone else before. Which would explain his lack of action and slightly puzzled look as I thrashed around in the shallows. By the time I was back in England the bite site had turned into a large raised red rash that was extremely painful. I went to outpatients at the local hospital where they had no idea how to treat it until they found a Doctor that fished in his spare time. The jellyfish had injected me with a fungal infection and I was given a cream that sorted it out. Hence the new addition to my medical kit.

Friends and acquaintances find all this hilarious. My response to this is to remind them of some facts. Did did you know that if you laid out naked in a mosquito infested area you would get bitten on average 9,000 times an hour and lose half the blood circulating in your body. I could have tested this theory out when we stayed in the Amazon Basin near Rurrunebaque, Bolivia. It was the start of the wet season and tourists and tour guides alike had to endure thousands of mosquitoes. They swarmed around us in camp, on treks, having a shower and going to the toilet. It was so horrendous that one girl threw a tantrum, sat on her suitcase and waited for a passing boat so she could leave. Our guide who lived in the camp had had enough as well and at the end of the trip returned to town with us. Despite taking all precautions possible by the time we returned to civilization I was covered from head to toe in red lumps. Luckily Amazonian mosquitoes are not picky and the whole of the town’s tourist population looked like they had contracted chicken pox. My suffering throughout the whole ordeal was made bearable by the fact that I had the half the contents of a chemist with me. Others were less lucky!

So if you’re like me and are beloved by insects, take no notice of those scoff at mossie nets and medication. Instead use a repellent that smells so bad that insects and mockers alike keep their distance and with any luck they may meet up and leave you alone.

Posted by travelhappiness 18:20 Archived in Thailand Tagged medical travel insects humour repellents kits Comments (0)

A Night Out with the Boys

Chang Mai Cricket Sixes Tournament Week

It's Chang Mai Cricket Six tournament week.

A time to meet old and new friends, party late into the night and carry on the next day, laugh until you cry, feast on excellent food, indulge in massages for aching bodies, shop in the night and day markets, raise a heap of money charity and of course, play some cricket.

Despite hangovers, lack of sleep and numerous injuries, players turn up on time and astound spectators with their ability to play in temperatures that would melt the ice in a Margareta in 10 seconds flat. Mitch, my other half, plays with the Malakas team. An institution in this cricketing world beloved by all for their antics, humour, shocking dress sense and the ability pull a last-minute six or take a wicket and get back in the game.

Four years ago I was thrown into this world, floundered for a while, found my place and sat back and enjoyed. Previously I ducked out of the late night drinking/party sessions choosing to retire at a relatively sensible time of 1.am most mornings. Leaving Mitch to do the male bonding thing, watch football, drink himself silly etc. Thus giving myself some time to get up early and shop, pamper, sightsee and do girly stuff without a reluctant male in tow.

This year I went out with the boys on the town and had a ball. I have not laughed so much in a long time. They got home this morning in time to pack and catch their 9.am flight I woke up at 2pm and went for breakfast. Thanks for the excellent company gentlemen I will see you all again next year.

Posted by travelhappiness 18:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged parties travel mai chang humour cricket Comments (0)

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