So it seems the blog is not quite finished,Team JEvans, thanks to the ultimate blondness of JEvans Sr. have one more story to tell and what we think will be one of our most memorable stories of the trip! Contrary to the travel plans I just outlined in the last blog post here's what really happened!!!
Let me first set the scene: it's approaching 7pm on Wednesday night the 16th June, Jo and myself are lying down waiting for our nails to dry under the fan in the outdoor beach massage area. Having just had an hour long Thai massage, a manicure and a pedicure we are justifiably relaxed,listening to the lapping of waves below us and watching the beautiful sunset. We're discussing what we'll have for our last dinner on the islands and looking forward to our apres dinner cocktail at the beach bar.
Suddenly I break the daydreaming moment with a tenacious statement: 'Jo, I just still can't figure out how when we leave on Thursday we still arrive in London on Thursday, it just doesn't make sense'. Jo is silent for a moment and then says 'Yeah, I know, but you checked it , right?' 'Yeah, I checked it, loads of times ,it says we leave on the 17th and arrive on the 17th , but with only a 5 hour time difference this isn't possible, is it?' There is a silent moment of panic between us as we lie with our hands and feet facing the fan waiting patiently for our nails to dry so we can go to dinner. As we both thought aloud about our onward flights from London reality hit as we realised we weren't going to arrive until Friday. We quickly sat up and realsied we had some flights to change. I was feeling awful for messing it all up , thinking how Jo would have to wait another day to see her parents and how I was going to have to go straight to the wedding reception from the airport on Friday and miss another of my friend's wedding ceremonies.
Then the real reality sank in - our flight wasn't tomorrow at 00.20 it was tonight!! There are no words to explain the look of panic as realsiation sank in. It was already 7pm, we were on the north-east of Koh Phangan island and our flight was leaving Bangkok in just over 5 hours. We threw money at the bewildered massage women and ran to the internet to check flights to Samui. Getting to Samui was our only hope of getting to Bangkok and even at that it would be a miracle if we made it before check-in closed.
As we rushed to the computer and reception area the last thing on our minds was the fact that we already had a taxi, boat and flight paid for for tomorrow to get us to Bangkok. If we had anything to do with it we were getting there tonight instead! Before we could even consider booking a flight to Samui we had to figure out how we'd get to Samui. I knew there was a speed boat direct from where we were but the chances of it going at this time of the night were slim to none. In a dazed panic we approached the staff who were casually sitting around in the restaurant and quickly explained that we needed to get to Bangkok tonight ,it was an emergency. My heart sank as they told us the last speed boat left at 6pm, but just as I was about to give up all hope they said we could pay to charter a private one.
By this stage it was after 7.30 and knowing the express boat to Samui ususally takes 45 minutes and we needed to be in the airport by 9 at the latest we wondered just how possible this was all going to be. Our hope was raised again as we were told the speed boat woould only take 20 min, this was music to our ears! Next step was to hope we could get on the last flight from Samui to Bangkok at 10pm which would get us in at 11, leaving us only 1 hour and 20 mins before the departure of our international flight - not so realsitic timing! However, we were now running on adrenelin and I was determined we would do everything in our power to get on that flight.
As I frantically looked up flights online and rang Mum at the same time to ask for a credit card number (as mine had been stolen few weeks before) we realised that it was too late to book online for a flight that was due to leave in just over two hours. Another setback. As one member of staff was off organising the speedboat we got another one to try phoning Bangkok Air to book us on a flight over the phone. No joy , nobody was answering the phone, we would have to wing it and hope that there were seats available once we arrived at Samui airport.
Jo and myself ran off to our room to finish packing and wait for the guy to come back with the details of the speed boat. Time was of the essence now and very fortunately for us we'd done most of our packing yesterday so it took us less than 5 mins to grab our bags and get out of our lovely room which we still had paid for for another night! Just as we were shoving the final things in our bag there was a voice at the door;' the speedboat will be 13,000 Baht, ok?' Our initial reaction was WHHHHHAAAATTTTTTT??????? , we don't have that kinda money. I'd done a very quick calculation in my head and that was just short of 400 euro! However a speedboat was our only chance, if we missed our international flight we'd be paying a lot more than that for a new one. We said yes and then impatiently waited while they yabbed away on the phone in Thai.
What seemed like an eternity later he came back to us and told us they couldn't get a hold of the guy who owned the boat here so they'd have to bring us to Haad Rin Port and charter one from there. This would cost 1,500 Baht for the taxi, (usually 200 each) and the boat would be 5,000 (this was a much better price!) We said yes, please, get us there now and chucked our bags in the back of the Hilux and wondered how fast he could make the usually 45 minute dirt track drive to the port. As he painstakingly avoided the big bumps and waited to allow some other trucks pass I tried to reassure the now in tears Jo that we could only try our best and that we'd take this one step at a time. I could tell Jo was just as agitated as me by his slow driving so we gave him a bit of a reminder of what a rush we were in and told him now would be a good time to drive it like he stole it!
We estimated we needed to be on the speedboat by 8.30 at the latest in order to allow time to get across to Samui and catch a taxi to the airport in order to get there by 9, which was already cutting things fine to say the least.We grabbed our bags out of the truck and headed towards the pier, there were more phone calls, more yabbering and the news that it was actually going to be 8,000 baht but it would get us there in 15 mins. YES, YES, DO IT!! was our reply as we handed over almost all the cash we had and hoped to God they'd accept a credit card number without the card to pay for our flights in Samui. It was now fast approaching 8.30 and there was still no sign of a boat driver.
Within the next minute or two four random men arrived looking like they were in a hurry and on a mission. Luckily for us they were the speed boat driver and his mates and they were moving quicker than I'd seen any Thai person move ever before! It was pitch dark now and as they pointed out the speedboat to us I wondered how on earth we were going to get us and our bags onto it as it was moored too far from the shore to walk to via the beach and not near enough to any pier to climb aboard from that.
Next thing we know we're being led down the pier as one guy starts up the boat we are signalled to follow the others across some very wobbily see-saw ramps they have found across 2 other large boats and then to hop down into the speed boat.Luckily Jo had been preparing all year for this boating action!
Suddenly we are on the set of a Bond movie, all that's missing is Daniel Craig! The 4 Thai guys who'd assembled the ramps to enable us to board direct us through to the luxorious white leather seating at the back of the speed boat and in one swift movement the throttle is fully down and we are on our way to the distant lights of Samui guided through the pitch darkness by just one small spotlight.
At first I had attempted to keep my rucksack on for this part of the journey, I had thought it might be quicker than taking it off and then having to reload the other side. However, we quickly realised that we needed our bums fully on a seat and to be holding on, this guy was taking our new favourite quote very literally and driving it like he stole it from the President of America. we were thrown all over the boat as it flew over the waves and whacked back down again, we were laughing from the adreneline rush, but feeling guilty for enjoying it as this was only the beginning of a long and rushed night of travel ahead of us.
Every now and again we glanced over the top of the bow and noticed that thankfully the lights of Samui were getting nearer. I looked at my watch , we were on schedule , damm this speedboat gave a whole new meaning to speed! 15 mins from leaving Koh Phangan we pulled onto the shores of Samui, usually a 45 min ride on the express boat! The boat circled around and eventually they decided to cut the engine and moor right onto the beach. Our bags were hauled up onto the pier and we followed the 2 or so metres up with the aid of some leg ups from the miracle-working boat men!
We shuffled as quickly as is possible with all that luggage and tried in vain to hail a taxi. For weeks we've been hounded by taxi touts asking us at bizarre times if we'd like a taxi , but Sod's law when you need one there isn't one there! We finally caught one guy's attention and subsequently found out he'd no petrol!
We stood on the side of the road helpless, jittering and looking at our watches every 2 seconds, it was approaching 9 pm and we were still a 10 min taxi from the airport where we then had to buy our tickets for the 10 pm flight.
Finally someone stopped, we climbed into a 'pimp my ride' special with neon blue lighting and pumping dance tunes and he whizzed us off to the airport. Enroute we made the next plan of action in our real life adventure movie! I'd run on to the ticket office and Jo would get the bags out of the taxi. This was fine until I got to the office, asked for 2 seats on the last flight and then realised she wouldn't accept my credit card details without showing the actual card.
In the meantime Jo arrived with all the bags, I explained the situation and knowing I had no money left in my ATM account and only half what we neeeded in cash I asked her if she could take out some more cash. Perfect solution - if we'd been able to find the ATM card. I stood there with a million and one thoughts going through my head and thought this is it,we've tried our best, but we're not going to make it any further tonight. Then I remembered internet banking, I could transfer money from another account to the one I had a card for. Brilliant! So the very kind lady who was watching the clock and wanting to go home let me in behind the desk to do some internet banking! If we'd had the time it would have made quite a funny picture, me behind the ticket desk on the computer with all the Thai staff!
Anyhow as luck would have it today the computer of course asked me the only security question I didn't know the answer to. Strike I don't know how many! My shoulders sunk again until miracuously Jo pulled out her ATM card, ran to the machine and got enough cash to pay for our flights - yippppeeee!!! Things were looking up, step 2 successful!
The ticket sales woman thought we were hilarious and was concerned that we may not get an onboard snack as we were booking so late. We smiled and told her that really it was quite ok, that was the least of our worries today!!We then loaded the bags up again and headed to check in. It was approaching 9.30 by this stage and we needed to delay the check-in closing in Bangkok or all this rushing would be in vain. We explained the situation and with much studying of the clock and tut-tutting they very kindly rang Bangkok airport but unfortunately couldn't get any reply from the BA desk. They then suggested online check-in - brilliant - why didn't we think of this?! So as Jo took charge of the bag check-in (again!) and securing us some lovely pink dolphin stickers that basically signified 'these passengers are in a rush' I went off with another lovely Thai to try check-in online. She made this a painfully slow process and then half-way through decided she needed to print a letter that stated we would not hold them responsible if we missed our flight from Bangkok because even as we had online check in and now amazingly had printed boarding cards it was still going to be a huge rush to make the flight.
They weren't feeling too optomisitic about us making it!So with more rushed thank yous to the most wonderful staff of Bangkok Airways we grabbed our hand luggage and ran the ridicuously long way through the boutique airport to our boarding gate. Still in my PJ top from my massage and with my strapless bikini around my waist at this stage we huffed and puffed our way through security and sweatily arrived at the boarding gate which was basically a fancy seated waiting area full of plants and wicker chairs! I couldn't believe we had already made it this far and all was going to plan, this was great!
They loaded us up on the 'Disneyland' style golfcart and we painfully waited for the final passengers to saunter along and get on board. Didn't they know how much of a hurry we were in!? By 10.10 we were still sitting on the plane , bag drop in Bangkok, an hours flight away, was due to close in one hour and 10 mins and our gate closed in one hour 20mins. I knew we would make the flight (thanks only to the Bangkok Airways staff in Samui printing our boarding cards), but the reality that our bags probably wouldn't was beginning to sink in. I was dreading bringing this subject up , but we tackled the problem by making another plan!
We would write all our known bag info down on 2 sick bags incase we needed to hand this info to someone quickly as we ran to catch the flight. We landed shortly after 11 and had the longest taxiing ever to get to the gate. As we were taxiing they announced that someone would be there to show the passengers for immediate transit where to go when we disembaarked. We smiled and thought how great these staff were. If this was Ryanair they'd have told you were to go a long time ago! We were up and out of our seats quicker than you could say Michael O'Leary and waited what seemed like forever for them to hook up to the gate and open the door. Time to run - again!
By the time we got to the baggage claim area which was anothr 2k run bag drop was officially closed but we decided to wait 5 mins to see if they'd come through and risk a late bag drop. 10 mins passed and no sign of any bags off our flight. Time for some big decisions! We approached a friendly looking Thai man who worked in baggage claim area and explained our situation. I handed him the sick bag with all the bag info and asked him when they came through if it was at all possible could he get these bags to the 4th floor to the bag drop area - it was a huge long shot but worth a go! We didn't really have time to think about the fact that we had just done a big no no in airport rules - left our bags unattended and in the hands of a complete stranger - in Thailand! However, as we rushed up to departures we knew leaving them was our only option of making the flight ourselves.
It was now after 11.40 pm , we had half an hour to get through security and emigration and find our gate before it closed. There would be no stopping in dutyfree for a perfume spray this time!! On the way we decided to find bag drop and explain our situation and tell them to expect a guy from downstairs to arrive with our bags and try ge them on the London flight. They looked at us like we had 5 heads and told us under no circumstances could we just leave our bags unattended like that and we were fully responsible for them.
We told them we had no option and if they didn't make this flight could they be put on the next flight to London please! They shook their heads at us as I gave them the duplicate sick bag with all the bag info and off we ran! We were certainly getting our exercise today and completely running on adrenelin! We couldn't see a board anywhere that told us what gate we should go to so we took a risk and ran one direction stopping enroute to ask the duty free workers if they knew which way the BA gate would be.He hadn't a clue!
Luckily we had chosen the right direction and we arrived again puffing and panting at our gate just as they were boarding. I was still in a daze, completely unable to believe that five hours ago we were lying on a massage bed on the island so far away and now we were actually getting on the flight I really thought would be impossible to make. The good relief feeling was tainted by the fact that we didn't really know where our bags were and when they would arrive and they had a lot of sentimental memorabilia in them. I decided to try stall the plane a little longer to give our frindly mate downstairs some more time to get our bags up to bag drop and possibly, with a miracle onto the flight.
The woman at the gate searched in vain for our bag numbers and told us that they weren't on the flight. This was understandable as the numbers she was searching for where the ones that were on our bags from the flight from Samui and as we hadn't re-checked our bags ourselves we didn't have new numbers! It was all very confusing for the staff as I don't think they were used to people abandoning their bags and depending on a stranger to get them onboard! She told us that sorry, but our bags would probably be one or 2 more days gettng to London. I explained that we didn't live in London and it wasn't our final destination so how would we collect them? She said it would be our responsibility to collect them. Seeing Jo so upset was killing me so I promised her I'd fly back to London next week and collect both our bags when they arrived and bring them back to Dublin. This seemed like the only solution.It was my fault after all that we were in this situation! The 24 hour clock will be on my priority list for maths lessons next year!
Defeated at the last hurdle we slouched off to board the flight, but just as we walked off the lady called us back, handed us two new bag tickets and said a phonecall had just come through - our bags were on board!!! We weren't really sure whether we had understood her correctly so I asked her how many days? She told us they would be there when we got to London. We still couldn't believe it and thought she must mean we need to go to baggage claim with these new numbers when we arrvie so they know who to contact when they arrived in the following couple days. We were so tired at this stage we couldn't figure out what was happening so we thanked them profusely, 'Kap en kaahd' - Thai for Thank you- probably misspelt!) them till the cows came home and merrily boarded the plane being careful not to celebrate too much yet in case we tempted faith!
We settled in , me still in my PJ's , so much for my travel oufit I'd painstakingly thought about for days at the pool!I wrapped the blanket around me, pulled on my beautiful Nora Batty style DVT socks and settled into a movie and the meal. Then it was time for a wine, followed by a sparkling wine and a Xanax and sleep sleep time!
Four hours later I woke up, caught a few more TV programmes, a few more inflight snacks and before we knew it we were back over European soil and Heathrow was in sight, a very surreal feeling knowing it was almost one year snce we took off from here!
We walked in silence due to nerves to baggage claim and waited anxiously for the bags to come through. This would be the moment of truth! We could not believe our eyes when out first were our beloved Linford and Christie, God bless that man in baggage claim and all the other staff who helped us along the way. As we screamed with glee, hugged each other and jumped up and down much to the amusement of everyone else around we took our beloved boys off the carousel and loaded them onto yet again another trolley almost hugging them as we wheeled them along. As we walked out of departures we saw an elderly man waving a British flag and holding a homemade sign with a newspaper cutout of the Queen that said 'her Majesty, the Royal Heighness welcomes Jo and Jane! We looked at the man and then at each other! What was going on?? Was this just some weird coincidence or had Ben decided to play a joke on us!!
We walked on by , and hovered for a while to see if anyone else came through that he greeted. After about 10 mins nobody had showed up so I decided to approach him and ask him if he knew who he was waiting for! Turned out it was a complete coincidence but gave us a laugh anyway! We then lugged ourselves and the boys on the train to the other terminal to have a long awaited shower and finally for me to get out of my PJ's!! Feeling like a million dollars and human again after that we headed back to the other terminal where I checked in for my flight to Dublin. As Jo wasn't leaving for Spain until much later that afternnon we decided to go for a Chai latte for old times sake and take in what we'd actually just accomplished!
We said a surreal fairwell at security and I headed off Dulin bound. I hadn't realised just how far away my gate was and how long the security queue would be. Turns out the rushing wasn't over yet!! I begged my way to the front of the security queue and then made one final km or so dash to my gate, made it just as it was final boarding call! I was so releived I didn't care that I was all sweaty again!How embarassing it would have been to miss that flight having had hours to wait for it and having rushed so much half way round Thailand to make the other ones! An hour later I was taxiing into Dublin, totally unable to grasp the concept that I was on Irish soil again and about to see Adam in person, this was the final flight and this amazing trip had come to an end.
I picked up Christie for the last time off the carousel where he started his journey almost one year before and with butterflies in my stomach made my way out to arrivals. I walked through the doors, took 4 steps, dumped the trolley and ran as the tears ran down my face. then I started talking and I didn't stop for a week! I started telling the 'Drive it like you stole it' story at arrivals and was still telling it by the time we got to Johnnie Fox's pub! But hey, it's a story we'll never forget and a perfect end to the adventures of the JEvans world Tour 2009/10!