7th January 2018
The New Year started off with a bang with portents of the approach of a massive tropical cyclone in Thailand - Pabuk, the likes of which ‘had not been seen since records began’.
We were still on Koh Lanta, an island and within the reported path of the storm, albeit at the Southern edge. After squinting at the projected route and listening to locals, we decided to stay put, whilst much of the island emptied out as the storm approached.
Jim scoffed as I made sure Landy was able to make a getaway, if needs be, but otherwise we were going to relax. We had a windy meal overlooking the sea to celebrate the birthdays of Grace, my youngest and Kristjan my grandson, who both have January dates.
We had slightly anxious messages from around the globe, asking if we were affected - and we were and we weren’t.
Some of our family were leaving anyway to continue their holiday in the Phillipines and we watched nervously to see if their flights were cancelled - they weren’t.
The day before they left it turned out that both Jessica (one of my daughters) and I had got our menfolk out of bed in the middle of the night in our little bamboo resort huts, because there was the sound of something munching or scratching under our beds. I had heard this noise several times and I was now all of a twitch as the bedhead was gently vibrating. Jim groped around under the bed but could see nothing, but the crunching sound continued. In the end I had to lie at the other end of our bed covered by mosquito nets and try to put the thought of creepy crawlies, imagined or otherwise, out of my mind. Later I read a couple of reviews of these similar resorts with the little wooden chalets and people reported that some kind of beetle had kept them awake with a vibrating, munching sound! So it wasn’t just me.
What was particularly strange, was that Jessica and I had both decided on the same night, that inspecting for noises under the bed in the dead of night was definitely a job for the boys. We all laughed.
Back to the storm, the Thai government had banned boats, dives and fishing throughout the region for the duration of the cyclone, but on Koh Lanta, the car ferry to the mainland was still operational and locals felt that the impact would be minimal, so we sat it out, whilst the media exaggerated the drama and talked of thousands of tourists marooned, people hunkering down in their hotels, whilst locally the resorts grumbled about the adverse economic impact of ‘over-reporting’ for effect.
Whilst some islands were harder hit, certainly where we were, we were still able to eat and drink in the beachside cafes, and fairly ineffectual plastic sheeting was erected and whipped around In the wind and heavy rain! Waiters delivered food to customers under large red umbrellas.
We saw signs, hanging lamps and roadside huts damaged but little else. The sea was noisy, angry and the waves were crashing choppily on the strand. It was very wet, but not deadly in Koh Lanta.
What was a bit of a disaster for us though was that Landys’ pop-top roof was leaking badly and whilst we slept indoors, all our bedding and mattress was soaked in the storm. By the time we looked a few days later, it was not a pleasant sight! Luckily you are never far from a laundry in Thailand.
As we finally left the family, the lovely beaches, the roadside monkeys and the incredible sunsets of Koh Lanta, to return to our travelling ways, we resumed our journey South of Thailand towards Satun and the Malaysia border. We drove through luscious coconut, banana, mango and pineapple groves and wondered how Malaysia with its greater per capita income would differ?
The ground here in Thailand was still wet following on from the storm and we passed swampy expanses which looked perfect for crocodiles! A couple of times Jim shouted that he had spotted a snake on the side of the road. And I was half glad I had not seen them, but hoped that I would, particularly from the safety of the car.
It wasn’t long before my turn came. It was the largest snake I had ever seen outside of a zoo. Long, black and quite thin, slithering away from the edge of the road as the car approached. I was glad it was not on my footpath!
The first night of our onward journey, we could not sleep in the car, because the bedding was wet. We found accommodation easily in Satun, still in Thailand, but close to the Malaysia border.
The second night, soon after we had uneventfully entered Malaysia, we found a spot to camp by the side of the road, close to houses and got ready for bed.
As we were getting ready and had turned down the lights, we were both aware of the presence of a large black, fast moving insect in the car. At first I thought it was a large black moth trapped inside. Jim had complained about something hitting his back. Then I shrieked when it hit me in the face and then was perturbed as it seemed to scuttle away on the floor beneath me. Was it a huge flying cockroach?
Out came our emergency insect can and we sprayed under the seats and both climbed up into the safety our bedloft. Then it suddenly appeared again at my side up in the bed! I screamed this time and tried to trap it with my newly laundered, but not totally dry duvet! In spite of my best squeezing and squashing, when I moved my hand it ‘beetled off’ towards the end of the mattress. Jim crawled around with his torch trying to find it and more insect spray was liberally dispensed. We never did locate it.
And as I write, I am terrified that if I fall asleep it will creep out over me. Is it just me? This feels too much like a ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ jungle experience, for my liking. Jim however, is already fast asleep.
We are looking forward to staying with friends in Penang, when we can get to grips with the uninvited wildlife in the car!