Katie & Ben’s wedding – Koh Samui

Sadly, I couldn’t get to the wedding because of work commitments… but Katie and Ben almost didn’t make it either! Due to a handful of incidents involving forgotten cases, volcanoes, monsoons and bad airlines, what is usually a stressful time for any couple became unreal for them.

However, thanks to Holiday Inn Atrium, Singapore and Napasai Koh Samui, things ended very happily indeed! I don’t mind giving credit where it’s due and Katie tells me both of these places went above and beyond to help smooth things over. I’ll let her tell you the rest in her own words from an email she sent. Published with her permission and I’ve only edited it for appearance’s sake.

There are also photos of the wedding on Esther’s blog.

I thought I’d write a wee update while I am now emotionally stable and awaiting the Big Day to kick off in a few hours.

It has been the most stressful week of our lives.  It all started in Darwin, one of my bags got left in the boot of a car on the airforce base (containing the rings, flight details, veil, ipod, camera…)  and we were at the airport. We managed to get the bag as Ben’s friend had runway clearance so made a mad dash from the airport back to base to get it via the runways!

Then we were delayed due to a volcanic erruption for 4 hours.  We arrived in Singapore, myself Ben, Richo and Nordo where we found Ben’s aunty and cousin. We ended up arriving at 11pm and my friends Li and Andrew took us out for dinner in Singapore that night. We crawled into bed at 1am.

The next day we went to Universal studios in Singers which was lots of fun! Crazy rollercoasters.  We headed to the airport at 4pm for our 8pm flight to Koh Samui but were not allowed to check due to severe flooding in Koh Samui. They eventually checked us in at 10pm, after 3 hrs in the departures they cancelled our flights. We were now a party of 7 as American Alison joined us.

Bangkok Air were awful, they couldnt tell us anything and sent us back through immigration, where immigration tried to take our duty free off us. Ben cracked it as we had been waiting for hours and immigration wanted us to get refunds on our booze, but we all just walked past them and kept our drinkies!

Bangkok Airways then left us to fend for ourselves!  Finally at 4 am we found a hotel to put all 7 of us up for a night. Amazingly the Holiday Inn were fabulous! They upgraded us to suites and gave us free breakfast. The next day we had no idea if we were flying out, the airline did not call us we had to call them every 2 hours. Then they told us we would not be flying out tonight due to the storms and the airport was still under water.

I went to the poshest shopping centre with Alison that day and when she went into the changing room, I had a very public meltdown! I cried my eyes out.  I came back to the room and cried for 3 hours!  11 months of wedding planning and waiting to see friends and family about to disappear!

The Holiday Inn were fabulous, they allowed us to checkout at 4pm! We then arranged to stay another night as the plane was cancelled and they had no rooms left but put all 7 of us in the Honeymoon Suite.  They also gave us keys to the Executive Lounge for free nibbles and alcohol. Pour your own. As you can imagine we were told we were definately not flying out that night so we had a very drunken night courtesy of the Holiday Inn!

We returned to the Honeymoon Suite and drank our duty free as they told us we would not be flying out until Saturday afternoon!!! OMG after the wedding!!!

I had friends and family stuck in different airports, and we were not going to see them! We thought we would have to get married via Skype!  Also friends on Koh Samui had been sand bagging the beach and wading through water waste high to get food and water!  So we drank lots to commiserate!

Then at 11pm we got a phone call that we had to be at the airport in 1.5hrs to fly out to Koh Samui. As we were rather drunk, Alison was passed out on the couch! we got to the airport and boarded the plane with some more guests.

The landing was worse than the Universal Studios rollercoaster! We missed the runway and had to ascend at the last minute! We thought we were going to die. However we finally got to the Napasai at 5am.

It was too wet to bring our luggage so they took Ben and I  to the room and said they would bring our bags in the morning and check us in. We got 4 hrs sleep before going to breakfast and checking in wearing the same clothes!!! Gross.

The funny thing was I was convinced that they had us in the wrong room, so I told Ben not to touch anything as we were supposed to have a pool villa, but there appeared to be another residence further down the hill that had the pool! We then told reception who pointed out that we had the entire hill side consisting of two houses each with bedrooms, set among tropical gardens on the mountain, a separate lounge house and then the pool and pool lounge area was also ours!!!!!!!!!!!  Amazing, it is spectacular.

We had a “thankgod we made it party” at our villa on thursday night – the day we arrived, as it’s so massive, instead of the Hen and Bucks do as the town was so flooded.

The Napasai have been lovely. We have settled for Backup plan C for the wedding venue, we have canned the marquee but its all good. In fact the reception venue is better than a marquee on the beach.  All 61 guests are here including us! And there is a tiny bit of sun.

The most hilarious thing is I had my make-up and hair trial yesterday and I have a team of ladyboys! They look more feminine than me!! I have never seen the assistant who sweeps the floor strike a pose so much in the mirrors than one of these ladyboys!!

So that is the excitement and dramas, I think i need a holiday to recover. Who could predict we chose our wedding venue to be declared a national flood disaster zone.

Ben and I have been exceptionally lucky that everyone is here and have just been so fantastic to us and supportive, the Holiday Inn Singapore and Napasai have just been outstanding.

Now I am getting very excited as the big day is about to begin and the preparations start! Bring on the ladyboys!

All I can add to that is my personal thanks to Holiday Inn Atrium, Singapore and Napasai, Koh Samui for looking after my friends so well. Katie and Ben took such great care of me the last time I was in Darwin, and it’s lovely to see karma giving them some help in return.

Guys – have a wonderful life together. I hope it’s full of many more, less stressful, adventures than the past week has had for you!

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Heading home

All good things etc. I’m sat at the HQ Hostel in Bangkok just wearing down the time before I have to head for Suvarnabhumi Airport. I get free wifi here, whereas the airport only allows 15 minutes of it. After you’ve checked in. Which I can’t do till after 5am.

Given the poor weather outside, I’ve decided to fork out for a taxi instead of getting the somewhat untimetabled Airport Express bus. Past experience tells me I could be standing around for up to an hour waiting for the next one.

The next time I come here, there will be a direct link on the BTS. It’s finally due to open in August 2010, though there’s no indication of the prices. Only that there’s an express service of around 15 mins and a “regular” service taking slightly over 30 minutes. Certainly one option to keep an eye on.

Well, time to pack up. And throw away these incredibly stinky sandals. My feet will be much relieved at that one. Next post from back in Blighty.

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Flitting through Bangkok

Last night got messy. I made the mistake of volunteering to lead a group of people up to Finnigan’s where I then made the mistake of telling Pete the barkeep that it was my last night. I was then presented with a cocktail in a flower vase. No exaggeration.

As I came close to finishing it, I then got a panicked phone call from the hostel asking me to gather my stuff and shift to another room as there’d been a double booking and someone else was supposed to be in my bed. I tootled back and shifted, but had to bang on the door of my new dorm as the folk in there had decided to lock it. A bit pointless when they’re actually in the room, and annoying as I didn’t have a key. I explained this to them, and that I’d not be able to get in if they locked the door.

Back at Finnigan’s, I rescued my cocktail and was then given another about a pint in size. And another. Into which Pete kept dropping more shots. We then had more shots.

On a sad note, the shots were raised to a friend’s father who died earlier this week. I promised her I’d have his name honoured by people in Hanoi, and I was true to my word.

As the group started to split up around 2am, I headed back to the hostel and found that I was locked out of the room because the muppets inside had locked the door again. So I rattled the handle and then resorted to kicking it. Repeatedly. And loudly.

Hey, well. I had told them I didn’t have a key and it was obvious I wasn’t in the flipping room.

I was out like a light and woke what seemed like 3 minutes later to my 6am alarm. I gathered my stuff, packed what little remained (outside the room so as not to disturb everyone else) and made my way down to find that my taxi wasn’t waiting for me.

This worked out well, as two American girls had missed their taxi as they had opted to spend the night with a couple of the guys they met in Finnigan’s… The hostel had paid for my cab so I ushered them in when it turned up.

The flight was uneventful other than being a budget one with comfy seats (Ryanair could learn a few things from AirAsia – like how not to be crap and treat your customers like garbage) and we landed in Bangkok just before 11am. The border security was as slow and painful as it always seems to be at Suvarnabhumi airport, though it timed well with the luggage surfacing.

So here I sit with no wifi (come on, Bangkok! Get with the 21st century!) waiting for my bus to Pattaya. I intend to spend the afternoon and evening watching stuff at the nearest cinema to my guest house!

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A couple of days in Pattaya

So, what have I got up to since I arrived? Well, in honesty not a lot. But there was never any plan to do much in Pattaya so I guess I achieved it!

If anything, I did less than I’d hoped as the dived I’d booked on Thursday morning were cancelled at the last minute. I had my pickup, arrived at the dive shop and the owner regretted to inform me that the propeller had dropped off the boat! They would be taking a group of Adventure Diver students out to search for it, which works for them as such tasks are part of the course.

I won’t mention the company as a) they were incredibly nice about it and b) the last time I said anything negative about a dive company they jumped down my throat and threatened to get legal. I doubt this group would do such a thing, but I’m not taking the chance. If I do make it back through Pattaya on the way home (I may, I may not) I’ll definitely give them another shot.

Other than that, Wednesday saw me doing more walking than I’ve managed in some time. Ditching my hiking boots, I walked from my hostel in Jomtien to the dive shop on the infamous Soi 6 of Pattaya. Barefoot. Well, it didn’t look *that* far on the map. It took me around 2 1/2 hours. Whoops.

After buying some sandals, I popped into one of the nearby cinemas to watch Ong Bak 3 followed by The Losers, then picked up a fresh-cooked corn cob as I walked all the way back home again, this time via Walking Street. This is, essentially, roughly 500 yards of glitzy, loud go-go bars. If you want somewhere for a quiet drink then this isn’t it. I did stop at a biker bar nearer to the hostel which had much better music – three Thais covering rock and metal tracks.

The weather did pick up on Thursday but I spent a lot of it crashed out in my room as my body clock sorted itself out. This was fine as it let me aclimatise somewhat as well as get through other tasks. I had paperwork and online form-filling to get done for next year, and the hostel’s wi-fi was superb.

Dinner was at a place called Double Dutch on one of the streets full of bars and restaurants along Jomtien Beach Road. I can’t complain at a large steak with pepper sauce for 250B, though this would have been even cheaper 4 years ago before the Pound collapsed.

On Friday I once again chilled out. Breakfast at some other random place and the I sat on a wall by the beach finishing the book I started on the flight out (Dean KoontzBrother Odd since you ask). I then had enough time for a quick email check at the hostel before grabbing my bags and getting a sawnhthew out to the other end of Pattaya Beach and walking to the northern bus station.

The last bus from here to the airport is 7pm run by Bell, although I’ve been told there are other services running as late as 9:30pm. They don’t appear to leave from here, though.

Jomtien Hostel, where I stayed, was lovely. I settled on a dorm instead of a private room and ended up with a 4-bed room to myself. TV, hot shower, fan and speedy internet for 240B per night is great in my books. It even had a sea view if you stood on the balcony and craned your neck a bit. Staff were lovely, too.

So, Pattaya. I wasn’t wholly impressed and I didn’t expect to me. For a start it’s out of season so the number of tourists is pretty low. Those who are kicking around are, to a large degree, dodgy old guys picking up Thai ladies to “accompany them” while they’re there. If I was on a lads’ holiday or a stag do then this would be somewhere half decent. But as a single guy who’s seen enough ping pong shows for one lifetime, it doesn’t offer a lot in the evening. I just wanted somewhere quiet I could have a drink and read my book – not an easy thing to find!

However, I did start having a dig just before I left and there are quite a few other things to do. Gibbon Experience have a branch nearby, there are quite a few half-decent dive sites, the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is meant to be quite good, the go-kart track looked ace when I walked past… so if you plan something and have some cash to spend then you can make of it what you will.

One person on Lonely Planet‘s Thorn Tree message board told me to “get a life” on Thursday night as I was only in Sin City for a short time and was spending it online. Sorry, but if going out to spend 2000B (or whatever it costs) catching a venereal disease is his idea of getting a life then I’m quite happy with the alternative. I cleared up enough other bumph to know I have very little to worry about over the next 2 months – time well spent to me.

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Bangkok Airport to Pattaya

[quick note – I’ve updated the tagline quote for the blog for the first time in almost 4 years. This is in (slightly belated) honour of Towel Day]

I had some great help from people on Lonely Planet‘s Thorn Tree forum regarding buses from Suvarnabhumi Airport, and it’s very easy. My main concerns were over transportation during the recent unrest, but now things seem to be back to normal.

To get to Pattaya, it’s actually cheaper than getting into the city of Bangkok. I went for the stand next to the Airport Express on level one, near exit 7. Very easy to find. There’s a service every two hours from 7am to 7pm at a cost of 124 Baht.

The alternative is Bell Travel Service who run every 2 hours from 8am to 8pm and charge 200 Baht. This included drop-off right at your hotel, so it could be worth the extra if you don’t fancy a walk. However, you do have to book this service in advance on the internet, although you aren’t charged until you turn up. I gather this is a recent thing, so again could be due to the recent problems.

The weather here sucks at the moment. It’s just gone midday and it’s drizzling – I just missed it chucking down. Having said that, I’m not a beach bunny and I’m here for the diving and the chill-out away from any issues in the city… although I’m still tempted to head back into Bangkok on Thursday night.

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