Mamma Mia, Here Are My Shades Again

Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
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Trip End Oct 22, 2004


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Saturday, March 27, 2004

27/02/04 - Week 2 on Ko Lanta - Relax Bay Resort

We were sad to leave Bamboo Bay, albeit for the fact we were leaving Baan Phu Lae, the resort next door, but we're travellers and another town beckoned (said with a solemn nodding face) so at 11am we found ourselves in the back of a scarily overloaded pickup heading north.

Twenty minutes along the coast and we arrived at the French/Thai owned resort of Relax Bay on Phra-Ae beach where we began by filling in a registration card in the large open-air restaurant overlooking the beach. The beach seemed even more deserted than the previous which seemed hardly possible, but being the only resort along this 500 metre stretch of coast it figured.

Along from the restaurant was a stylish beach bar with an array of quirky seating options including a four-poster bed and a sailing boat, and nearby were a clothes boutique and massage sala. It was all very French. Playing about in the sand were four little resident mongrel puppies that were about as cuddly as mongrel puppies could possibly be.

After a mix up between the resort and our agents, our seaview room wasn't available for the first night, so for a £3 reduction we'd have to spend a night in a bungalow near the back, but at least it had air-conditioning.

There were some nice wispy clouds today with a gentle breeze which came as a nice respite from the turbo-charged sunbed weather of the previous week and the afternoon was spent relaxing and drinking at the beachbar watching honeymooning couples doing the underwater waltz and Swedes playing happy families. Two Swedish couples had taken over the four-poster bed and were determined to capture their children growing up in every digital way possible with non-stop action photography and pre-rehearsed camcorder scenes complete with executive producers and make-up artists. Their names were obviously Benni, Bjorn, Agneta and A . . . the dark haired one you can never remember the name of.

The restaurant that evening had everything Bamboo Bay lacked. Ambience, good service and a mouthwatering French-influenced 'Specials' board that they propped up near your table with Gallic favourites such as Moules Marinieres and Crepe Suzette. The menus were solid affairs, framed with wood and in the corner sat a brand new wine fridge holding both reds and whites that the French manager lovingly looked after, cleaning the bottles every couple of hours like a proper Frenchman should.

The food was as good as it sounded and the staff were as good as they looked. The French casting couch had worked a treat as cute-as-a-button giggly Thai girls in 'Relax Bay' vests flitted around efficiently.

Relax Bay was fast becoming our favourite resort of our travels and Ko Lanta our favourite island.


28/2

It was time to get off our lazy butts and start exploring the island, so we hired a 50cc mean machine from the resort and after twenty-five attempts at kick starting it we roared off with the wind in our hair and the dust in our mouths. The gas guzzler took one English pound to fill which would last the whole day.

When we said explore the island, what we really meant was explore other snazzy resorts as we stopped off at The Pimalai, a honeymooner/chief executive resort where £280 would buy you a night in a villa with a seaview, next stop was Sri Lanta, a minimalist resort packed with posers and astronomically named bungalows called Star Paths with equally-astronomical prices. Next off was Costa Lanta, the tacky name hiding the fact that it made the minimalist Sri Lanta look like an Eastbourne guesthouse. Square grey blocks lay scattered over a desolate wasteland that on closer inspection showed themselves to be concrete villas with whole walls that folded out revealing small bedrooms that just managed to hold double beds. £100 a night for a concrete shoebox . . . not bad.

A five minute scooter ride up the road was the main town of Ban Saladan, the commercial centre of the island consisting of around 50 shops, travel agents, dive shops, supermarkets, pharmacies and a bank. A t-shirt and basket full of toiletries later and we were back on the road heading for Lanta Old Town, a thirty minute bike ride along the dusty west coast road before turning left to cross jungle and rubber plantations that lead to the east coast where the road descends sharply through Muslim villages into the Old Town.

Covered in a powdering of clay, our clothes and sunglasses had turned a nice beige as we stepped back in time wandering around the 'Wild West' style main street of 100 year old Chinese-style timber shop houses, a pier and a clock tower. The main bulk of the Muslim population of Lanta live in this town where they earn their livings fishing and farming. After a couple of Sprites and the thought of pot-hole dodging in the dark we headed back to our bungalow before dusk.

We arrived back at Relax Bay just before sunset and found our bags had been moved to another bungalow facing the sea. We had the intention of heading back out later to try another restaurant, but feeling slightly jaded from being in the saddle all day we settled for another night at the Relax Bay restaurant figuring we'd be hard pushed anyway to find an eatery on the island that matches it for all-round quality.


29/2

We both found it hard to drag ourselves out of bed this morning, but finally, at 11.30 we fell out of bed with Soph heading for breakfast and me heading for the beach. The steak I had the previous night was still digesting and would probably see me through the rest of the day.

It was another hot day with just a bit of wispy cloud spoiling the blueness. Being the Englishman I am and staying true to Noel Coward's(?) little ditty, I fell asleep under a midday sun for an hour and a half only being woken by Soph dripping ice cold water on me after her long lazy breakfast.

It was time for me to head back to the bungalow for some shade and a snooze as the combination of sun and steak left me feeling under par.

We both skipped lunch as we kept in the shade for the rest of the day while we took the advice of our resort's name and just relaxed. We did just what it said on the tin.

Our week was taking the shape of a Craig David track:

Found a lovely beach on Monday.
Took out a moped on Tuesday.
Then back to the beach on Wednesday
and on Thursday and Friday and Saturday.
We chilled on Sunday.

It's reet bo I tell thee.

Feeling a lot better that evening, with me sporting a nice pair of burnt eyelids and a subtle stomach ache, we got stuck straight back into the menu again with some White Snapper and rice for me while Soph remained all Frenchified with a Salade Nicoise, she's so exotic you know.


1/3

After a morning of checking who won the Oscars at the local Internet café we headed back to our bungalow for a day of reading and writing on the porch, giving our prune textured skin a well earned break from the elements especially after learning it was 36 degrees centigrade here, compared to 6 degrees in London (that's it Gary, rub it in).


2/3

As we opened the curtains this morning the sun's rays flooded into the room leaving a stench of burning retinas. Yes, it was yet another mercilessly scorching monster of a day as we fell deflated to our knees pounding the floor with our fists. Oh Dear God, will it ever end?

But after a couple of days of shying away from that gargantuan golden ochre mass of fiery, soul enveloping, ultra-violet shards . . . the sun . . . we were ready for another dose of quickfire skin-ageing. We'd be Georgeous George Hamilton and Brigitte Bardot in no time.


3/3

As Soph the Sun Worshipper headed straight for the beach this morning I was left behind to partake in my world-renowned expo:

'Gazza's Fortnightly Follicle Exfoliating Festival of Shaving and Nose Hair Trimming'.

Well, have you seen the price of Gillette Mach 3 Turbo razor blades? I ask you.

Two hours later with skin as smooth (and spotty) as a baby's bottom I ventured out with newly nude chin to join the brunette in bronzing our fast diminishing white bits.

The beach seemed to be quieter today with an obvious lack of Swedes. You didn't need a Degree to realise the Ikea Spring Sales were just beginning in Stockholm, with the chance of a chipped bedside table at a knockdown price proving too much for our skimpy-trunk-wearing continental neighbours.

After skipping lunch again, we showed our chef in the restaurant no mercy that evening by ordering endless trays of barracuda, chicken hot-plates, fried rice and ice-cream.


4/3

While eating breakfast we were greeted with the sight of about 28 raindrops, but that was it. By noon normal service was resumed, so we stayed in the shade until 3pm at which time we ventured out into the familiar sight of a beach that was devoid of bodies but full of heat-haze.

At 4pm my world fell apart.

I lost my shades.

Wading out into an unusually choppy sea with Ray-Bans (clang, name-drop) perched on head I had a loss of brain function as I dived headlong into the surf, and off they flew into the murky depths.

My whole life flashed before my eyes. It lasted seven seconds. It was horrible.

Visions of my sister unravelling my chunky blue sweater via a loose thread in Tenby, South Wales, whilst trying to contain the contents of her bladder merged with re-enactments of my brother racing upstairs losing the battle to keep his nine bottles of Pils under wraps after another night of Rock-a-billy Rebeling to Bill Haley. It's tough being a younger brother, they just don't realise these things scar for life.

A frantic five minutes then ensued as I scrambled blindly in the unusually foggy waters while trying to attract Soph's attention to bring me some goggles while I stayed in roughly the same position. It was no good. I trudged back to Soph a dejected shades-less man.

We spent the rest of the afternoon fishing around the seabed on our knees hoping for a tug, but as the sun set we called off the search and loped back to our bungalow wrinkly skinned and squinty-eyed. I was resigned to the fact that somewhere bobbing along the 58 billion square miles of ocean bed was a really cool looking squid wearing a pair of black wraparound shades and a smug look.

It was our last night at Relax Bay so I was doubly sad about the state of affairs, but two carafes of cold red wine later and my spirits were alcoholically lifted, and I promised myself one last look the following morning at the crack of dawn. Stranger things have happened at sea.


5/3

The alarm went off at 6.15am.

My sleepy state hadn't recognised the significance of the alarm.

At 6.30am it hit home. Maybe the tide had come in and left something on the beach.

It was our last morning at Relax Bay before moving on.

My last chance hung by a thread.

It was a long shot.

It was a long shot worth taking.

Are you hooked yet?

Good, then I'll continue.

I left Soph slumbering in bed dreaming of Scarborough and H&M as I wandered out into the beginnings of another sunny day.

Heading straight for the crime scene, I nervously flip-flopped down to the beach at the unearthly time of 6.40 in the AM with not a Scandinavian soul in sight (probably still in bed having Swede dreams, sorry) and was immediately set upon by four little hungry puppies in search of a big bowl of Pedigree Chum.

The tide was out as I scanned the shoreline for anything the sea may have left behind.

A few shiny shells, a couple of plastic bottles, a dead crab, a pair of sunglasses, an old piece of . . . hang on a minute.

I stifled a yelp of delight as I calmed down and put things into perspective.

They may not be mine. They'd been sloshed around a rocky seabed all night and were probably missing a lens or an arm. If they were intact they'd be covered in scratches and barnacles.

As I edged closer I could see they were intact at least and after tentatively reaching down to pick them up I slooshed them down to inspect them for scratches. The lenses were as new with not a blemish and the frames were perfect but for the odd graze, but nothing major.

It was a modern day miracle and it was time to unstifle my yelp of delight.

My yelp turned into the yeti-like wail of a mythological creature as I threw my hands up to the sky praising the Lord and all his heavenly angels following that up with watery adulations to his liquidy loveliness, Neptune, King of the Sea.

You could say I was quite pleased.

Back to the bungalow I skipped like a big girl clutching my newfound possession tightly in sweaty little palms.

On entering I put on a straight face. Soph was still in bed.

"Any luck?" mumbled Soph.

"Nope" I said holding back a snigger.

"Never mind, we'll get you a new pair" said Soph.

I feigned a sigh and went into Oscar winning mode.

"I won't find a pair like that again, you know how long it took me to find them. They were my life, my whole being. They were my raison d'etre. A piece of me has vanished forever . . . an irreplaceable piece."

(I may not have said those exact words but it's my artistic licence and the immensity of the story calls for it.)

With Soph still with head under covers I put my sunglasses on and sidled up onto the bed waiting for her to turn around.

Five more minutes of verbal to-ing and fro-ing ensued as I sat waiting for Soph to look in my direction, but it was no good. My Academy Award was long secured and now I had to get to the point.

"Is there something on the end of my nose?" I asked.

Soph, still in sleep-mode, eventually turned towards me.

Her eyes narrowed, then focussed, then widened, eventually they nearly cartoonly sprung out on springs.

"Nooooooooooooooooooo, Oh . . . My . . . God . . . Gaaaaaaaary."

I explained all the nitty gritty details of this epic tale to a now, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Soph, who seemed even more awestruck than me.

The sadness in leaving such a nice place was eased by the morning's discovery and after eating a sadly Champagne-less breakfast it was back to base to pack in readiness for our 10am transfer back down the coast for our final (and most action-packed) week on Ko Lanta.


Slim Shady & The Dancing Queen
xx
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