Firstly, for all those who have completed this journey with us. Congratulations are in order. We made it home after an epic 6 month travelling around South East Asia. You all get a certificate and a prize. The prize isn’t very good, I shan’t lie to you. Secondly, for all those who have joined late in the day, or even for this final blog, silly you. I say that because you missed a whole host of things described in word form. A regular spewing of words, you might say.
So, back home now. Back in England. Back in Doncaster. How very strange it is indeed. However, I want to take you back to the last blog. We were in South Korea after an epic 18 days in China;
Not going to dwell too much on South Korea. It was fun. We stayed in a hostel that felt like staying in a really cool mate’s house, we rested and went to South Korean shops. ‘Did you go to the scary South/North Korean border, Christian?’ No we didn’t. We couldn’t afford it, which sounds silly, as we won’t be back there for a while, but we couldn’t. It was cold and no sooner were we there than we left.
Now, I promised an action packed Hollywood style ending. I’ve thrown in all sorts of references to films all the way through these blogs. Little did I know the ending would actually be action packed. To be honest, it is more like when Coronation Street or Emmerdale do an hour long straight to DVD film but its fun. So, fix your eyes firmly this way, for the final time. Get a cup of tea, if you’ve the time. Perhaps get some tissues. In case you spill your tea or something.
So, we left South Korea with an air of excitement. We only had 7 days left and we were to spend 5 of them in Koh Samui, Thailand. This is where we started the trip, after we arrived in Bangkok. The purists will remember that. We figured we’d go and spend a little time in the sunshine, get a tan so people back home believed we’d been somewhere and prepare our minds for going back home and starting our lives again. Two aeroplanes, a wait in Bangkok, an overnight train, a bus and a ferry later and we were there. It was raining but we had made it. We figured it couldn’t rain forever, so we got comfortable in our seafront bungalow and chilled out.
Now, I’m going to let you into a little secret. It’s a secret that isn’t really a secret anymore, but when we were in Thailand, it was a secret. So, shhhhhh. I had bought an engagement ring before we left for travelling and it was sat waiting for when we got back. I had planned it so we had enough money left to end the trip where we started. The plan was to ask Rachael to marry me in the beautiful surroundings of Koh Samui. I’d bought a secondary ring and it was all going to be perfect. Our resort was in a little protected cove and at the end of one side was a little secret platform that overlooked the sea, the beach and was protected by rocks. This was going to be the perfect spot. On the last night I would ask her.
I got a plan in my head. I’d buy candles, champagne, glasses (for drinking out of, not for seeing out of. She might say no if she had her glasses on), a torch (so I could sneak off and leave her a note and a torch and she could follow me) and I’d written a song on my guitar. Not a horribly cheesy song but, I think, a cute little sing along. Perfect. I just needed to put it all together now.
We found out, on day two, that it had been raining for the past 5 days. Constant rain and mental winds. Very unusual for this time of year. It was only Saturday though. I wanted to ask Rachael on our last night. That was Tuesday. Plenty of time to brighten up and all that. It rained all day on Saturday and all day on Sunday. We grew bored and restless. We’d bought badges for our bags. Flags of all the countries we’d been to. Very geeky, but we like it. As we were so bored, we decided to sew them all on. That passed an afternoon. I packed and re-packed my bag a few times. There was a Tesco Lotus on the island, so we went there a few times too. Gosh, were we bored.
We did get a two hour period of sunshine on Sunday. Well, I say sunshine. It was light cloud, which allowed the sun to come through. I managed to get sunburnt. Marvellous. As for sunshine, that was it. Nothing more. What else did we do? Hmmmm. I rang my mum and left her a Happy Mother’s Day answer phone message a week early. That was a scream that was.
Over the weekend, the water had started to collect in places. A few of the roads had started to become a little submerged. The wooded area around the roads was saturated and our resort became a little more wet than usual. It didn’t worry us though. It was fun. Rain filled roads. Something different, isn’t it. It got to Monday and I managed to get an hour away from Rachael, so I could go and buy all of the things for Tuesday’s engagement evening, remember. She was on Skype to her parents and I’d asked them to keep her talking, whilst I ran to Tesco Lotus and back. A round trip of about an hour and a half. Run I did. Until I got to a very wet bit of road. So wet I had to wade out to my knees to get passed. It got so deep in places that I had to hop over little fences and shimmy along walls.
Still, I wasn’t worried. It was fun. It would stop raining soon and all would be well. It didn’t. Monday progressed and the rain got heavier, if it was possible. Our resort began to flood. The grass became submerged. It was at this point that the Thai owners sprung into action. Well, strolled into action. Bearing in mind it had been raining constantly for 6 days, at this point. They had five sandbags ready. Five. They decided to put them around a covered wooden massage table and channel the water down the steps into the sea. It rained harder. They filled more bags. The massage table was protected. Their handy work sent the water towards our bungalows. We were ok though. It would have to fill 40cm of space first, then come onto the balcony and then into the room.
We weren’t safe. The water rose and rose and rose. A Thai lady came round and told us not to worry. It would be fine. We began to get a little worried. I’d already packed and re-packed, as I’d told you. I told Rachael to do the same. If it came any further, we needed to be ready. It came further. It came into the room, uninvited I might add. We took all of our bags into the restaurant area. I felt silly. Was I overreacting? Other people started to do the same. The out door bar disappeared into the sea. The massage table sank on one side. The Thai owners strolled around. Then, an almighty crash. The bungalow attached to ours sank. The ground gave way and a crater appeared. Our bungalow was next. Then the one next to that.
The Thai owners ‘ooooooh-ed’ and ‘aaaaaaaa-ed’ at this. The lady owner told me they’d built the foundations in sand. Brilliant. I’m sure there’s a Bible tale about building your house in the sand. Idiots. She didn’t seem bothered. We ate, in a panic. From our resort, you had three directions to go in. You could go into the sea. You could go left, down a flooded road or right, up a hill, to more flooded roads. The rain was getting hectic. I wandered out into the street to find our best escape route, if there was real danger. There had been reports of landslides elsewhere and our bungalow had just disappeared. I was being sensible. Surely, up the hill would be best. I tried to ask the owners, ‘Where do we go if it gets worse?’, he laughed. Brilliant.
The rain came down heavier still. The power went out. The tap water stopped running. In the restaurant, the two escape routes were into the complex, which was flooded and near the sea or into the road. The road began to flood. Water came gushing down into the restaurant. I really thought we were in massive danger at this point. West life came into my head and sang ‘I wanna go home’ constantly. They stayed there singing at various different times over the next 3 days. Thanks for that.
More sandbags were rolled out and luckily the rain slowed. We were shown to a crummy hilltop villa for the night. It was dirty, it was damp, the electricity didn’t work and we had no water. Brilliant. It was only Monday though. We were due to leave on Wednesday. We’d managed to get in contact with Rachael’s Dad. I shall refer to him as Super Charles from here on in, as he was a blooming hero. Super Charles began speaking to a chap he knew in Bangkok and kept us informed with what was going on. We hoped the weather would pick up.
It didn’t. It rained the whole of the next day. Nobody knew what was going on. The ferries weren’t running. The sea was too rough. The only other option for leaving was by plane. It was too expensive for us and all the flights were delayed. One couple booked tickets and left for the airport. We later heard that the airport was completely flooded. Nothing was coming in or leaving. There was no power and not enough space to house all the people that were there. We teamed up with a group of English girls and spent Tuesday trying to stay positive. Hopefully the ferries will be running tomorrow. We ate our evening meal in the restaurant. Knowing there had been no power, we cleverly opted for a vegetable rice dish. Gobbled it down. Had a beer. Went to bed.
Knowing that I had cleverly opted for a vegetable rice dice, the restaurant must have decided to wash the dishes in rain water, or piss. Either way. I spent the whole night chatting loudly into a bin and spilling my thoughts into the toilet. The toilet didn’t flush and the sink taps didn’t work. Wow. Did I feel good. It was supposed to be the night I proposed. That didn’t happen.
In fact, I felt so good, I had to send Rachael out to find out what was going on. The Thai lady owner had been told a Navy ship was coming to rescue tourists trapped on Koh Tao, Koh Phangnan and Koh Samui. So, with a grey face, a dodgy stomach and my bags, we set off for the ferry port. We were still with the English girls we’d met and we were getting texts from Super Charles telling us the boat was coming. Hurrah, we thought.
As we drove to the ferry port, we saw scenes of devastation. Houses collapsed, landslides and severely flooded roads. The taxi stopped ten minutes walk away as the road had collapsed. So we walked across a piece of metal railings, someone had used as a bridge, to safety. Luckily, Rachael and the other girls helped carry some of our bags. We started the trip with just our back packs but, as we were close to home, we had gained two very heavy hold alls.
Ferry port. Hurrah. We, again, cried. The Thai navy will rescue us. Nobody at the ferry port knew of the Navy coming. There were no ferries running. I was cold, wet, shivering and grey. A man appeared and told us to put our names and passport numbers in a book. The Navy were coming. Rachael did that bit. I sat down and some German guys arrived. They asked me what was going on. I tried to explain, but I was very grey. I explained I was ill. They went and signed up. Angie, one of the English girls, asked the Thais if I could sit in the office. I collapsed on a sofa. Had some hot water and then got wet eyes. I was ill, alright.
We waited all day. We were told the boat had gone to the other two islands first, as they had fewer resources than us. The boat was full and they’d come back for us tomorrow. We were invited to sleep in a community centre. That sounds quite nice, doesn’t it? Nice, warm community centre. It wasn’t. It was dirty, wet and cold. I didn’t care. Rachael rolled out my sleeping bag and I slept like a log. Waking up when a group of Iranians played their music stupidly loud. Rachael told them to turn it down. My hero. There were reports of mice wandering around too.
Feeling a little better the next day, we were told the ferries were running to the mainland. Super Charles told us not to go. The mainland was flooded, so we’d just be stuck there with no way to get to Bangkok. A fat Thai chap came and told us all that the Navy weren’t coming and we should leave on the ferries. We went to the ferry port. Another Thai chap came over the tannoy and told us that we shouldn’t believe what we had heard from the internet, TV or radio. The Navy weren’t coming and we should leave. They couldn’t support us any longer. People panicked. People left on the ferries. We were told the 9am ferry was the last one. We had no idea what to do.
I asked the original fat Thai if we would just end up getting stuck on the mainland. Conveniently, he didn’t know. I confronted the man who had come over the tannoy and asked him why he was telling everyone to leave. He got cross. ‘Where are you from?’ he shouted, ‘England,’ I replied. ‘Well, I’m from America.’ He wasn’t from America, he was clearly a Thai man. He didn’t like that I was questioning him. He also told me he owned the country. I knew he couldn’t be trusted. I got cross with him. He got cross back and screamed ‘Wanker’ at me. Brilliant. Make friends with the locals, rule number one.
We all decided to gather. There were about 50 of us left. The Thai people had convinced everyone to leave. They had done it to cream money from us all. Knowing we’d get stuck. The last ferry was departing. Twenty more left. There were 30 of us. We had Super Charles. ‘Stay put,’ he said, ‘They’re coming’. We also had Frank. A man of 40, who was also in contact with people on the mainland. He reiterated that we shouldn’t leave. He was calm, but cross, that we’d been lied to by the ferry people. Another hero. I shall refer to him as Frank, the great, from here on in. I would follow either one of those men into battle. Any day of the week.
Our patience paid off. There were small navy ships in the port, a frigger, I do believe. They were due to take us to the big aircraft carrier when it arrived. We were worried they wouldn’t come for 30 people. Frank, the great, spoke to the Captain, calmly and coolly. The Captain was so nice. He could see we were desperate. He radioed around and then agreed to take us north. Two hours from Bangkok. We let Super Charles know. Within minutes he knew where exactly we would dock. A driver would meet us and take us to his friend’s house in Bangkok. Saved. I ran to 7eleven and grabbed snacks and cans of coke. I hadn’t eaten for 36 hours. I was emaciated and grey. Coca Cola seemed to go down alright though.
We all got onto the boat. Placing our bags where instructed. Frank told us the sea was going to be rough, big waves and an 8 hour journey. I felt I could have cried at any point. Held it in though. Remember, I was still really sick. We were given sickness tablets, for the rough seas. Brilliant. We set off. We were on our way to safety.
A few people dropped straight away. There wasn’t enough room inside for everyone, so this became the sick quarters. Frank, the great, wandered in and checked on all the ill folk regularly. Smiling, happy and carrying sick bags. We stayed sat outside. Every so often, Frank and another chap would look in front of the boat and get excited about a massive wave that was about to hit us. It made me panic. Rachael then felt ill and went inside the boat. I stayed outside but I was soaked, from the waves. I began to shiver, so went to check on Rachael.
The worst thing I could have done. As soon as I got inside, the movement made me feel sick. I had to sit down. I couldn’t talk. The waves got higher. The boat rocked back and forth. Some little clock thing that I wish I knew the name of, showed the angles. When it went horizontal, it was bad. We were an hour in. 7 more to go. Rachael was sick, sick, sick. I convinced myself I had nothing left to offer, in terms of sick. I panicked with the bigger waves. I gripped the table, as if that might help. I told myself, if we made it back to Bangkok, I would ask her to marry me. It wouldn’t be the idyllic setting I had in mind, but if we could survive all this, we could survive anything.
The scary boat journey lasted for 7 and a half hour but we made it to dry land. I felt teary as I thanked the captain. A bus was waiting for us. We were taken to get hot food and then on to Bangkok. We were treated like royalty. They took photos of us, stopped and gave us free cakes. It was a stunning end to the day. We arrived at our hotel, unpacked our sopping wet bags, showered and I got ready for the biggest, single most important moment of my life.
I sat Rachael down and told her to close her eyes and I described everything that I had planned. We were there, on the beach, it was the perfect setting. I began to play my guitar and sang my song. Rachael cried a bit, I could feel myself going. I stopped before the final chorus. I said all the things that I needed to say, that you don’t need to hear then I sang the final part asking her to marry me. She said ‘yes’. Admittedly, it was just after midnight on the 31st of March. Making it the 1st of April. April Fools Day. However, my rule is, the day doesn’t start or end until you’ve been to sleep and we’re English, so technically we’re 6 hours behind Thailand…so, we got engaged on the 31st of March.
I cannot think of anyone else in the world I would want to spend the rest of my days with. We have travelled for 6 months together. Spent every single minute of every single day together and I love her more now than I did before. That’s been happening for the past 4 and a half years. Long may it continue. Not many people have got the engagement day story that we have. Bit different like.
Right, this blog is over. Nothing more to see here, I’m afraid. Yes, there were lots of words, in this one and all the rest of the posts. If you read them all, well done. I will present you with a kiss, whenever we next meet, if you so wish. If you weren’t happy with this blog post, then there is no pleasing you. It had thrills, romance, action, jeopardy and a very happy ending. Cheers for reading all this drivel. If you ever have a blog about your adventures, I’ll probably start reading it but get bored and then eventually stop.
Lots of love,