When the plans had all been arranged and we told the offspring what they were, they threw their hands up in horror. Thailand was great - for back-packers - but it was a long journey across the country to the island, and did we really plan on taking the night boat? Him indoors looked puzzled and I began to have that squirming sensation in my stomach - a sense of impending doom. But the plans were made, there was no backing out.
It all started out so well. Upgraded by Emirates to business class, we arrived in Bangcock well refreshed and after an overnight stay took a short plane ride across Thailand to Krabbi. Perfection, blue sea, green palms, white sand - great monoliths of rock that were the focus of foolhardy, brave climbers who could be seen dotted about hanging from ropes way above the ground.
A longtail ride back to Krabbi town, a short journey in a minibus with Swedish back-packers, one of whom observed that he was born in Sweden but would probably die in Thailand if the driver kept on overtaking on bends! Three hours wait in the heat - 39 and rising, with eighty percent humidity! Not good.
Coach ride to Suratthani where the food market was in full throttle on the dockside. This is the first glimpse of our transport to Koh Tao - oh dear. The kids had warned me, and I was expecting hell - actually it wasn't that bad - not really - not if you shut your eyes and ears and covered your face with sarong!
The night boat was actually one of the better ones - more by luck than judgement - and was in reasonable shape. You entered at quay level to discover it was completely empty inside but for a short wooden staircase that led to a vast wooden floor. Laid out like sardines, the mattresses - lumpy, flea bitten - and god knows what else - lined both sides. There was a pillow - or should I say a lump of something resembling a brick - and nothing else.
Him indoors looked round, realised he would be lying next to a leggy, blonde young thing and grinned like a cheshire cat. Her boyfriend swapped places - I can't think why! I was next to a lovely Canadian girl who'd just come back from a long stay in Tasmania, so we had lots to talk about. Several lads arrived toting beer crates - obviously already well-oiled in one of the bars - it could be a long night.
But the real horror of the trip was not the beds, the drunken singing, the futive rustling of clothes etc., but the toilet. In the bowels of the ship, its miasmic stench permeated everything. I braved it at about four in the morning, only to find the bolt on the sliding door had been wrenched off, the floor was wet and the smell so bad from the hole in the ground that it was impossible to breathe. It's very difficult having a pee with one hand on the door, the other over your nose, and your skirt held up by your teeth. I didn't stay in there long!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Koh Tao was it's usual lovely, hectic self, and there was my son waiting for me, surprised I think, that I'd survived. We had a wonderful holiday with him, and the only day it rained was on my birthday when it came down like a monsoon - stopped abruptly and when the sun came out shot the humidity up to about a hundred percent. I was wet all the time, either sweating, showering or swimming - and the ankles took umbrage at everything and decided to swell quite alarmingly - I blame it on the heat, but actually the booze probably had more to do with it.