Ovid the ancient Roman poet once said....
Winged time glides on insensibly, and deceive us; and there is nothing more fleeting than years
We have already travelled around South East Asia for a whole 21 weeks. By the end of our time in Thailand, we would have travelled for almost half a year. To be very honest, we didn't think that we would last this long with the little we had to finance the trip. We still crack our heads about how next month will be. But it has been an incredible feat, a journey by faith and grace. I'll talk about the crazy flight in bit...bear with me.
We know that our years are numbered and life is more than just accumulation of wealth or climbing up shaky ladders that may topple anytime. Having faced the very harsh reality of our mortality, we chose to spend our time and resources building lasting memories and doing what we are passionate about.
It has been a mammoth task juggling travel, homeschooling, budget constrains and a post pandemic world. On top of it, we are also walking through a very difficult journey of grief. This is why I'm incredibly proud of Debra who has completed the first book in a series she intends to write. It feels crazy to have an ISBN number allocated to your work and sending a copy to NLB.
We are thankful for those who have purchased the books! We've also set up a listing to accept support for a remembrance trip to New Zealand to complete a bucket list destination on behalf of my late dad.
On top of that we are also already in the process of publishing a second book called "The aroma of his coffee". I've authored this book and Debra is illustrating. This book is very very close to our hearts. Those who personally know us and my dad will know that we absolutely love coffee. The aroma of coffee has brought an enormous amount of comfort, memories and strength in our journey of grief. We hope this book will help others not shy away from reminiscing and remembrance.
We are deeply thankful that we've been able to create this much since we spent a month in KL to focus on writing. We haven't done much travelling in KL but enough to write this post about it!
The city was much kinder to us compared to our previous nightmare visit to KL. We even got to meet some old friends and our children had a whale of a time meeting up. So blessed to have a wonderful afternoon at the soft play and a pizza dinner to celebrate Matt and Gwyn's birthdays!
Our 30 day tourist visa quickly came to an end and we had to move on to the next destination.
The almost fateful flight
We thought we were catching a routine short haul flight from KLIA to Phuket, Thailand! Lo and behold, we had to come face to face with our mortality.
We only managed to get Batik Air (previously Malindo Air) tickets because other airlines offered unearthly timings and ridiculous prices. It almost turned out very very wrong. After we were issued the boarding pass, we went through the formalities of security and immigration checks before walking towards the gate printed on the boarding pass. Upon checking the screens indicating departure information at the airport, we realised we were heading the wrong way. The gate for our flight was printed WRONGLY on the card.
As the plane filled with passengers, it became really hot in the aircraft. We were all perspiring. The plane also departed late.
The full thrust came in and we were rather violently pushed into our seats. There were sounds of worried squeals on the aircraft. As the pilot accelerated hard down the runway, we were being swayed from side to side pretty hard by the pilot constantly kicking his rudder right and left. It felt like he was struggling to control his aircraft. It was a hot, sunny and still day. I'm not so sure if he was fighting a crosswind.
I quickly put that worry behind and just assumed there was a suddenly rush of crosswinds. The flight was uneventful for the next 1 hour but we were rather annoyed that the aircraft had entertainment screens but none was turned on.
We had a pretty uncomfortable descent with quite a few shakes and drops but I just assumed it was the clouds causing turbulence. As we rushed down the last 500 feet, it became quite clear that we were in for a pretty harsh landing. True enough, the aircraft landed with a very loud THUD AND CLANK. It sounded like something in the landing gear took a pretty bad beating on that landing. The plane swayed again from side to side again as the pilot engaged reverse thrust to slow the aircraft down. Gwyneth was holding on to her mother for her dear life as Matt and I held on to our seats.
I've travelled extensively and have flown enough times to consider myself a seasoned flyer. This wasn't normal at all. I've never had to feel like I was gonna die or experience a serious aviation accident in my entire life. This was just something else.
I would definitely avoid Batik Air at all costs in future!
Welcome to Phuket
The airport was efficient and we cleared immigration, customs and collected our baggage in no time. We were told by the taxi counter staff who claimed that our hotel provided free taxi transfers. We wasted 15 minutes walking back into the terminal and being asked asked to join this resort package sales talk to get a free taxi transfer. Don't waste your time like we did! (unless you would really want to purchase a resort package). We obviously declined! We are just poor aspiring authors, writers and designers!
We settled into our accommodation and had a hilarious conversation with the receptionist. I asked him about putting on masks in Thailand because no one wore one outside of the airport. He replied "You see, if you believe you don't have virus, and you don't test, you don't find out! You don't have to go to the hospital! So no need any masks, you are free!" We had a good laugh! Off with the masks then!
For the first time in 2 years, we walked down the street with our bare faces, seeing smiles and feeling the wind on our skin. We took an evening stroll through the Patong Beach areas.
The last time we hit the beach was at Port Dickson more than a month ago. It was nice to watch the sun set and be lulled to a relaxed state by the crashing waves. The beach is fast becoming lively again with tourist activities and local doing their Zumba to loud catchy music.
We tried to enter Junceylon mall for a stroll and grab our dinner there. We were shocked to find that the mall was closed except for the supermarket and a handful of shops around it. I've been to this Island 5 times and I consider this mall to be the crown jewel of Patong beach! You get all the family friendly entertainment, food and shopping in a large mall.
We explored the area further and found many surrounding hotels and resorts abandoned or shut.
It became clear that quite a lot of the tourist oriented businesses have folded after two years of continuous closure. We also discovered numerous other shops and hotels that were shuttered, empty and abandoned all around Patong. It was a sad sight.
A quick google search showed that some larger hotels and Jungceylon itself is being refurbished and scheduled to reopen in the 4th quarter for high season of 2022. If you want a quiet and less crowded time in Phuket, now is a good time! If you want to see Phuket in his former glory, it would be better to come by next year!
As many businesses shut, a huge new industry has emerged in Thailand. For the first time outside of the US and Holland, we've seen weed (Ganja, Cannabis, marijuana) being sold in public. They are everywhere! Booths, pop up stores and full blown stores selling them. I'm still not very sure how to feel about this development. Still have mixed feelings about it. Smoking anything would harm your health and addiction is a real risk. However, research has also shown that medicinal weed can help ease some very severe illnesses.
Despite the changes in Phuket, we were thankful that affordable and delicious Thai food can still be found! You just have to walk away from where the major tourist crowds gather. We are just so happy that the kids are eating well. No complaints, no protests and fussing at the dinner table. They absolutely love the simple stir fried dishes, fried rice, Pad Thai and omelette dishes. They cost just S$2.30 to S$3.10! There are of course more sophisticated curries, BBQ meats and salt baked fish that don't cost more than a maximum of S$10 a dish.
The weather is also pretty nice in Phuket at the moment. It ranges between 25 to 29 celcius daily. We are surprised it hasn't crossed 31 celcius. You'll still perspire at the beach but it isn't the searing or suffocating heat we experienced in Vietnam. We are positive we could get some sightseeing, beach days and our books completed over the next few weeks here!
Drop us some suggestions of family and pocket friendly stuff we can do in Phuket!
Thanks for reading and joining us on our journey this week! If you enjoy reading our musings, do consider joining our mailing list to get notifications when the latest one is posted!
Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.
Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org