Image courtesy of Craig Martell
BANGKOK AIRPORT CLOSED
Island paradise - Ko Samet
I had been asleep for four hours.
I had partied on the beach in Thailand all night and got home when the sun came up. It was Tuesday morning and I was leaving in two days and I was having a great time when I got an SMS waking me up. Normally I would not have woken up to read an SMS, but for some reason I did.
‘Riots in Bangkok, Airport closed, Are you ok’. It was from Mum, ‘Yep I am fine, very peaceful here’ I replied. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, but something wouldn’t let me. My mind wouldn’t rest. ‘It’ll be alright’ I thought, ‘No’ my gut said and got up and jumped on my computer. I was due to fly home to Australia on Thursday for my Brother’s wedding on the Saturday. Bangkok International Airport was in lockdown because of a protest campaign to oust the Thai Government by the ‘Yellow shirts’
There was a flight available from Phuket to Sydney at 9PM on the Friday, but I was still thinking Bangkok Airport couldn’t remain closed for that long, and I didn’t want to book another flight and lose money. How was I going to get to Phuket, over 1000 kilometres (over 600 miles) away? It was a one way flight and I decided to book it as there were only 2 seats available. It cost 22000 Baht (about $650 Australian dollars). I was on a sleepy Island called Ko Samet, about 3 hours drive East of Bangkok around the bay. I knew a few local friends and I called one up and after several phone calls she was able to locate a taxi driver that was willing to drive me for 11000 Baht (AUD $340). ‘Pang Mak Mak’ I said (very expensive) but beggars can’t be choosers. I was stuck and had no real choice.
It was lunch time on Tuesday and I had till Friday night and explained I would go tomorrow. ‘You go now’ she explained as many people wanted to go to Phuket and the driver might not go later if he got a better offer. Head still throbbing from the cheap cocktails the night before, I return my hire motorbike and go to the tailor who was making me a suit for the wedding. The smartly dressed sales man with an Indian background, who can speak seven languages, he explained to me earlier, told me the suit would not be ready till the next day. I explained the situation and he gave me his business card and said he will hold it for me. I mentally waved good-bye to my 2000 Baht deposit for the suit and head off to the hotel to pack.
My road trip adventure
My postcard holiday of white sands and palm trees had come to an abrupt end. After a short ferry ride, I was in the car and on my 13 hour journey south to Phuket. The driver couldn’t speak much English and my Thai is quite basic so much of the trip was me in the back with my headphones. After a few hours on the road we stopped to get petrol, I got a few Chang Beer long necks drink in the back along the way. The journey itself was uneventful to the point of boredom. I was a little worried as the driver did not stop except for a few minutes to get petrol and did not take any rest stops, but it was all ok.
I arrive in Phuket town at 4 AM the next day. The taxi driver wants to know where I am staying. I don’t have anywhere booked I manage to get across to him by shrugging and shaking my head. He pulls up next to a motorbike taxi and asks the rider some questions and a few minutes later we pull up next to some cheap dodgy hotel. I just want to sleep and book 2 nights at 600 Baht per night (AUD $18) The room is not too bad and I fall asleep almost straight away, not getting much sleep in the car. I wonder to myself if the taxi driver turned around and drove all the way back.
I wake up sometime Thursday afternoon and decide to check out Phuket. I have never been there before and now have about 30 hours in this town. I find a little internet café and Bangkok airport is still closed. All flights out of the country from Phuket are booked out for two weeks and the gravity of the situation sinks in. There are rumours that the ‘yellow shirts’ who are protesting have closed down Chiang Mai airport in the north of Thailand and plan to close Phuket as well.
That night I go to Patong beach and check out some of the nightclubs. Phuket is much more expensive that where I just was with a lot more tourists. I was in Hollywood nightclub on the dance floor when some random tourist smiles and offers his beer for a cheers. ‘I really hate being stuck in Thailand’ he quips as we look around at the pumping club full of beautiful girls. If only he knew, I thought, and just smile back and take a sip from my beer.
The next day I get to the airport about four hours early to be safe. The security looks like it has been ramped up and the airport is chaotic and full of people, but all goes well and I land in Sydney the next day, Saturday morning, the day of the wedding.
Phuket airport was crazy
I have enough time to go home, shower and shave and then I am off to the wedding. I make it with half an hour to spare. The wedding was great and I even got a mention in the brides father’s speech calling me ‘Indiana Jones’. It had been a quite hectic last few days and was really glad everything fell in place and I was able to get back in time.
I even picked up the suit a year later from the same tailor, he had put it aside for me but that’s another story.