I am writing this entry as my first from Thailand. Having a coffee and sitting at the dining table overlooking the pool on another cloudy but dry, so far, Phuket morning. I am still slightly amazed to be here. Having worked so hard for so long to make this trip possible the arrival of the outcome is rather dreamlike.
I am trying to remember the days leading up to my exit from Australia but the whole period has faded so quickly. I some ways that’s a good thing because it was not a period I want to hold fondly in my memories. There ended up being too much to do and a lot of emotion involved in winding up a twelve year part of my life.
In some ways it was a positive time because, once again as I am a slow learner, it emphasised in a way I will never forget the how caught up I had become in excessive collection of things, most of which had over lived there usefulness, if indeed they ever had a true usefulness in the first place.
I took four trailer loads to the tip and several to drop things off at Revolve and Smith Family and this was after the big clean out I had completed previously. Even after this my 3 x 3 metre storage is full to the ceiling with far more than I ever intended to keep. I can excuse this because firstly I ran out of an ability to continually give my stuff away and secondly I don’t know what happens when I came back in January, so might need some sort of base to start fresh.
As I closed (just) the door on this vast accumulation the vision of just getting someone to take the whole lot away was almost freeing rather than frightening. It’s a story that will play out its role in 2014 and thankfully as long as I can afford to pay the rent not one I will give any more thought to.
TUESDAY 11 JUNE
My last day in Balala Place started at 5.30 and, in my head, would wind up around midday with a leisurely drive to Sydney for dinner with Richard and Sam, my brother and his partner.
It ended up at 5.30 with the new owners removal truck in the driveway while I packed the car with my overseas luggage and cases of wine I wanted to drop off for safekeeping (!) at Richards. The wonderful thing about this intense exit was that I had no time to think about what I was giving up (voluntarily so no woe is me required). I gave Tiggy, the cat the new owners had miraculously agreed to take on, a quick pat and headed down the driveway to Sydney.
I don’t know what McDonald’s put in those thick shakes but its the only thing that got me to Sydney. I was shaking with exhaustion by the time I made it there around nine in the evening.
As always the warmth of the welcome from Richard and Sam made it an easy set down and the bottle of Moët didn’t do any harm either.
WEDNESDAY 12 JUNE
My last day in Australia and it was raining and cool in Sydney so no great incentive to stay. Having rushed both my previous international flights last year I was keen to have a relaxed departure this time. Thankfully no last minute crisis on the roads and we arrived in plenty of time. Booking was the easiest ever. No one in the queue at all and we were sitting down having a beer and lunch 30 minutes after getting to the airport.
By the time I had farewelled Richard and Sam, got through immigration and security the flight was boarding and the door to my adventure in Thailand had opened.
What is it with air travel time? I know saying that it’s only 9 hours to Thailand, the same as a work day, makes it seem reasonable but something happens once in the air. Normal forward motion of time is suspended and you enter the twilight zone of international travel. Whatever is going on it doubles in intensity two hours out from the destination.
Having said that all went very comfortably. I was lucky enough to have two seats to myself, eat your heart out business class, and the plane went both up and down in the right places, which is always my first criteria for a successful trip.
Coming through immigration in Phuket went very quickly although there was a slight holding of breath as they checked out my extended visa. Walked straight through customs. All done in 30 minutes. The only stressor was that I couldn’t find my phone and thought I had left it on the plane. That meant I couldn’t get a SIM card and phone the lady who was meeting me at the villa. Fortunately the taxi driver I had arranged to meet me was able to do that and we arrived in easily. I was so tired it all seemed totally unreal.
Opened camera case when I got to the villa because I had slipped a pair of glasses in there and guess where the phone was. Why – who knows!
THURSDAY 13 JUNE
The first day here I was pretty out of it. Wasn’t sure if I was awake or dreaming.
The villa is quite plain but totally adequate. I am paying about the same for a month as I did for a week for the villa I had here last time so it is totally unfair to make comparisons.
It is located on a little Soi (road) with only fours other houses. Very Thai and outside mainstream tourist areas, which I like. I have a house on one side but the rest of the villa is surrounded by vegetation and it is very quiet, which is always one of my main must have things.
The villa is split in two parts with the pool in the middle. The living area is a single room with kitchen, lounge and dining area combined and large sliding doors at the back overlooking the pool. It has its own guest restroom – sounds more flash saying that. The other section has two big bedrooms each with their own en-suite. The bedrooms are air conditioned and have overhead fans but the living area just has a fan, which is an arrangement common in Thailand.
The villa is furnished more for a long term lease than a holiday letting, so is missing some essentials like decent kitchen equipment but as most meals are eaten out this isn’t too important.
It poured rain all my first morning, monsoon season here, so I was stuck in the villa with no phone and no internet access because they couldn’t find the password to give me. I had booked a vehicle to be delivered to the villa but without communication I couldn’t confirm all was well or that they could find me.
By midday I was getting worried that the internet booking had let me down. As soon as there was a break in the rain I started to walk to see if I could find a place to get a SIM card so that I could phone the rental people. I had just turned into the main Soi when I saw the beautiful sight of a black Chevrolet Colorado dual cab heading slowly down the road. You all know how exciting that image is :-). The lady delivering the car had spent two hours trying to find me and of course I was unable to be connected. We were both very pleased to see each other.
She drove me to a bank so I could exchange money and then we met her husband, a French guy – so many combinations here, who was very friendly and not worried at all that his wife had been on the road for three hours delivering a car. Thai time.
A happy moment as I climbed up, yes up, into my transport (not quite at your level Gaz if you’re reading this) but an impressive forward view over an large American bonnet. Freedom.
Had to get back to the villa to pay a representative of the owner, an Italian I believe. The booking agent is Russian and the people looking after it are Thai. A typical Phuket mix. Then a late lunch followed by my first Thai massage (bliss) and then got ready to go out for the evening.
I had arranged to catch-up with Gaun, a woman I had met here last time and enjoyed being with at my “local” bar. It was lovely to be remembered and welcomed by the regular staff, the three ladyboys and plus some of the regular drinkers there. It was the gentle ease into Thailand I had planned by coming back to Phuket. The real Thailand is a less foreign centred experience and far harder to navigate and I wanted some R&R before tackling that.
We had a few drinks at “my” bar before driving to Rawai, about 5 minutes away to have a meal and visit Candy Bar, another place I spent time last visit. Big welcomes again and they remembered that I drank wine, which was impressive as it’s been an eight month absence.
The end of day two finds me picking up life again and starting to enjoy the aspects of Phuket Thailand that I remembered from my last visit here. It’s monsoon, the traffic is challenging, the electrical wiring frightening, the architecture non-existent, but there is so much here that touches what I am looking for at this point in my life that it all seems to be OK.