20 January 2019
It was another early start for us, and when the alarm went off at 05:00, I got up and dressed while Ian had a quick shower. But before that, Ian passed me a birthday card from him, which he’d managed to buy last night, after quite a search apparently. 🤗
I had packed up everything last night, so went about finishing up the last few bits and pieces, before waking Cornelia. She took a few minutes to come round, but let me dress her whilst she was in bed and I managed to roll her out and up surprisingly easily, once I’d reminded her that it was my birthday.
Ian’s watch was wrong, and he didn’t realise that time was ticking away. I was trying not to be grumpy tired, so didn’t tell him to get a bloody move on, eventually saying “We’ve only got thirty seconds before our driver arrives, so we really need to get a move on!” in my best not-nagging voice. His reply was that we still had ten minutes… er, we did NOT! His watch had stopped again, so he’d thought he’d been doing brilliantly getting ready etc but, in fact, he was now late!
I took Cornelia downstairs with me to reception so that we could check out, only to find it in complete darkness. I could see two members of staff asleep on the benches in the lobby, with small blankets pulled over them. I felt bad for disturbing them, but coughed loudly, and you should have seen the speed at which the first guy jumped up! He charged behind reception as if he hadn’t really been asleep at all. It was hilarious! He knew we were checking out, and went to shake his colleague awake, as our driver walked in. The other guy took a bit longer to wake up and looked quite dazed for a few minutes. While he went to get our bags, we tried settling our bill. They had incorrectly charged us for a second room – our room was 606 but, confusingly, that incorporated rooms 607 & 608 within it. Anyway, a manager turned up, she switched on the main lights (no-one else had yet thought to do this!) and sorted it all out. They were very friendly and good-humoured, once they’d realised their mistake, but the delay set us back twenty minutes.
On the way out, I grabbed our three breakfast boxes that we’d ordered, to eat at the airport a bit later. Cornelia was being brilliant – getting up at the crack of dawn seems to suit her! Our taxi driver had already been paid, so we didn’t incur an extra charge for the delay, and we gave him a decent tip to thank him when we arrived.
There was already a queue to check in at Siem Reap airport, but we waited patiently and soon it was our turn. For this flight to Phuket, I’d been able to buy an extra ten kilos of luggage allowance, so we knew we wouldn’t incur an additional charge, and we waved goodbye to our bags once more, before finding a bench on which we could sit and eat our breakfast. It was a generous meal! A raisin pastry and a roll with butter and jam, two boiled eggs and some bacon, and three pieces of fruit. My stomach was still feeling tender from yesterday, so I just had a bit of fruit, and once Ian and Cornelia had eaten what they wanted, I offered the remainder to the guy in charge of the luggage wrapping facility, who accepted it happily and thanked me.
Once we were through security, Ian went to buy a coffee for him and a cup of tea for me, and Cornelia had a bit of time on her Kindle. This attracted the attention of a small Russian boy, who was on holiday with his parents and grandparents. He came over and settled himself down next to Cornelia with his grandmother, and all was well until his mum came over and dragged him off, for no good reason that I could see! The poor kid burst into tears and then everyone started yelling at him for making a noise. Cornelia looked quite bemused at it all, before returning to watching Paw Patrol.
Our flight boarded very early, and in fact, it was ready to take off about ten minutes ahead of schedule. It was an Air Asia flight and it was very cramped – probably the least amount of leg room we’ve had on any flight to date. The guy in front of Ian put his seat all the way back, so he had even less room, but thankfully, the flight was less than two hours, and he had enough room to read his book (just about)!
The personnel at the airport were all friendly enough, and we were quickly through immigration and passport control (we didn’t need a visa for entry to Thailand) but the taxi kiosk staff and drivers were all quite surly and brusque – far from the legendary warmth of the Thai people generally. Our driver was a large chap, who smoked over us while we lifted our bags into the boot of his car, and seemingly, rather blind. He had to bring the docket, bearing our hotel destination details, right up to his eyes to read it. Gulp…!
He did try to be friendly, despite our language barrier, but then annoyed us again by pulling over at some tour company office, where a woman tried to get us out of the car to go for a drink and undoubtedly book a tour with them. We declined and said we would wait in the car for our driver to finish his cigarette, and that we just wanted to get to our hotel. It is difficult not to be rude, and we understand from Google searches that this is quite normal, but once we’d made clear our intention to stay in the car, our driver took the liberty of making us wait another ten minutes before heading off. We were grateful to largely have escaped this sort of irritating nonsense so far! Typical that country #40 would be the one!! Cornelia was glued to her Kindle, and had taken the luggage labels off and wrapped them around her legs and arms, and told me she was now a fashion designer. Obviously, the Mercedes programme we’d watched in the hotel restaurant had made an impression!
We arrived at Karon Butterfly Residence after about an hour of driving and checked in. We were shown to our room – a spacious two-bedroomed apartment with a little kitchen, and a living area. It overlooks the lovely pool, and we were looking forward to our stay.
As we were unpacking, Cornelia set up a “fairground” in the bedroom, with pillow dodgems, the ceiling fan as a carousel, a spooky house behind the curtains, and a pirate ship (a rolled up towel). I love that she’s put all the time we’ve spent at adventure parks to creative use. While I was in our bedroom, Daddy took her off to write my surprise birthday card. She kept popping her little head around the bedroom door saying “Stay in here, Mummy, we are just doing something to the fairground rides for you…!” and then giggling and running out. Eventually, she came in brandishing a card saying “Here’s your birthday card, Mummy! That was the surprise!!” And she’d written it all herself, refusing any help from Daddy. 🥰
We had a late lunch at the hotel restaurant, sitting outside in the shade by the pool. It is very hot and humid here! I wasn’t massively hungry, so had an omelette, and Bugsy had a cheese toastie with chips – she said it was really delicious and even ate the crusts! Small victories…! Back upstairs, Cornelia fell asleep, so I took advantage of some parent- free time to book a much needed wax at a salon down the road for 16:00. I left the apartment at about 15:30, to make sure I arrived in time. Walking along the busy road felt a bit dangerous – there are no pavements or even a hard shoulder of sorts, so you are literally walking with the traffic very close to you. I suspect it’ll become second nature quickly, but I walked faster than I normally would and, coupled with the humidity, was quite sweaty by the time I arrived! Pin runs her own salon and was quite lovely and friendly. We had a good chat while she fulfilled my request… and let’s just say she was certainly very thorough! 😳
I popped into Makro on the way back to the hotel, to get some basic supplies: milk, beer, teabags, some crisps and fruit. There were no teabags, but I did find some piggy ear biscuits! When I got to the checkout, I could see the girl thinking “Bloody tourists!” as she patiently explained that you couldn’t buy beer until 17:00. I returned the beer to the shelves as quickly as possible, only to find out on my return to the check out desk that I hadn’t weighed the oranges either. D’oh! The queue behind me was building, so I handed back the oranges, paid up and left, feeling very touristy indeed – for the first time for ages on this world adventure!
Back in the apartment, Bugsy was still asleep on the sofa so we let her stay there, in the hope that we could stay up a bit later this evening. Ian had decided to shave off his beard, so that he didn’t return home with a big white patch when he went back to work! I asked him to keep it for just one more day, but offered to trim it for him, which I did in the shower. It created a ridiculous amount of hair, which I rearranged into a nice face much to Bugsy’s great delight, when she finally woke up. She chuckled and said to me, “This has been my favourite birthday with you so far. I love you, Mummy.” And with that, she put her sweet little hands on my cheeks and drew me in for a kiss. 🥰
Then I did something really silly… I put our passports and my jewellery box into the safe, and closed it, using our usual code. The door locked and I tested it, just to make sure it was all working okay. It was not. I had stupidly not read the instructions (which were hidden under a towel I’d put down when unpacking the cases earlier) and the safe was well and truly locked with our stuff inside. Argh! I felt like such an idiot! We have done so well all trip not to get caught out by stuff like this. Honestly, I was so embarrassed, that I had to get Ian ask at reception to see if they could sort it out! Amazingly, they could – the block at the front of the safe can be opened, and a master key opens the safe. Phew! She showed us how to set the lock properly (overly-complicated, frankly…!) and all was well. Ah, I was so relieved!
Now that she was awake, we all went down to the pool for a late afternoon swim, and while Ian and Bugsy played in the water, I relaxed in the evening sun with a can of gin & grapefruit. Classy, eh?! We had an hour or so there, before heading back upstairs to shower and dress for dinner (once I’d cleaned up the hair!). We were running much later than planned, but Cornelia was on good form and her afternoon sleep seemed to have done her the world of good. The friendly driver of the little shuttle bus that takes you down to the main drag of restaurants and shops recommended Red Chopsticks to us, and kindly dropped us off right outside.
The hostess warned us that there may be a five or ten minute wait, but that was fine by us, as we didn’t know where else we would go! As it happened, before she’d even finished her sentence, she saw some guests leaving, so said she would have that table cleared for us asap. It was a great spot, right by the road, so we could see the hustle and bustle of the traffic and passers-by. I must confess… we had thought this area was a bit more upmarket than it is. It is filled with large tattooed Russians, and it all feels a bit sleazy – exactly what we were hoping to avoid. But the restaurant was terrific, and they had a decent kids’ menu for Cornelia, who went for fish fingers and chips. I had the Thai red curry and Ian opted for the massaman curry. Mine was superb – just the right amount of heat to make my face sweat!
After our meal, we walked down to the seafront to the entrance of the Island View Hotel, from where we could catch the shuttle back to our apartment. The bus was full this time (it was the last one of the evening at 21:30, but I think they normally run later… it is just that today is a Sunday), and the driver said that some of the passengers would need to get off at the bottom of the steep hill that leads up to our apartment. Ian hopped out, along with a couple of the other guys, and Cornelia and I were whisked up to the reception, from where we walked back to our room. Then I realised that Ian had the key. D’oh! Anyway, we sat quietly and waited for him to arrive, which he did a few minutes later (I was just happy that I hadn’t lost the key!).
The two hour sleep Bugsy had earlier meant that she would now NOT go to sleep! She was wide awake and kept calling out for me for cuddles, not falling asleep until nearly midnight, by which time Ian and I were exhausted too! But what a fabulous birthday in two countries it’s been!