Yesterday (during my first morning in Thailand) I had to keep pinching myself to check I wasn’t still dreaming. I was groggy after spending a night on two planes and wasn’t entirely convinced that the journey wasn’t a figment of my imagination.
The previous day in Delhi had been spent on a five hour mission to post a parcel back home. All I needed was a helicopter and a dodgy 80’s jumpsuit and I could have been auditioning for the Indian version of ‘Challenge Anneke’. I was armed with a perfectly good map and it should have been easy to find the local Post Office, but I ended up in a Bermuda Triangle of Delhi streets which bore absolutely no resemblance to what was written. I was then forced to play the ‘ask the locals for help’ game, which involved the usual wild goose chase of being sent in a multitude of conflicting directions until I eventually ended up back where I started (but I did manage to acquire a nice bag of pomegranates on the way). Eventually I gave up and took a rickshaw to another area, where Hallelujah, I spotted a Post Office! Unfortunately there was only 20 minutes left before it was due to close and I still had to find the tailor who does the parcel sewing. It turned out that he had the day off so I then dashed madly round the market trying to find someone willing to sew at short notice. Eventually I managed to bribe someone by paying the ‘express’ fee of twice the going-rate. The resulting parcel looked more like a saggy stuffed pillow-case than the usual neat little package, but I only had five minutes to get back to the Post Office. I triumphantly presented my sorry-looking parcel to the clerk, who informed me that they only accepted parcels of up to 1kg at that particular branch, and mine was 1.9kg. I resorted to pleading and entering into chit-chat about his Auntie in Amsterdam (he said Holland Hammydam, but I think I knew what he meant) and eventually he agreed to post my stuff (for more than the cost of the value of the contents). If the whole experience hadn’t been so funny I would have sat in the gutter with the beggars and cried.
A few hours later I found myself in Thailand, sailing serenely through the airport towards a neat pre-paid taxi with a smiling driver. There were no amateur dramatic hysterics or arguing over the fare and he dropped me off at a bus stop that turned out to be exactly the place I’d asked for. The bus driver pulled up at precisely the predicted time, charged me the same rate as the locals and dropped me directly to Khao Lak, 90 km away. It took me 2 minutes to buy a fully-functioning mobile phone sim, 30 seconds to find a happy smiling local to give me correct directions (and free map) to the dive office and five minutes to be driven to my hotel (immaculate room with soft pillows and fluffy towels and smiling helpful staff). Before I knew it I was sleeping under a palm tree, still wondering whether I was dreaming.
I know it sounds idyllic, and it is…but I can’t help feeling just a faint twang of nostalgia for the quirky chaos of India. Thailand is so smooth and easy, but part of me misses the challenge! A night spent sleeping blissfully on clean white sheets and a morning walk along a beautiful beach is gradually curing me of any melancholy though. I even found a place for banana porridge breakfast and have booked a two hour massage for myself this afternoon. Horribly self-indulgent I know, but it’s my birthday, and I’m determined to celebrate in style! This evening I join a dive boat bound for the Similan Islands, where I spend four days touring around the various dive sites. The place has a bit of a reputation for offering some amazing diving, so it’s pretty exciting.
Back to the beach….