Today, after breakfast, we wanted to organise some diving from Hat Patong, a beach resort popular with the British, a few miles west of Phuket Town. We also needed to book into a hotel there.
Breakfast, served in the spacious, but rather down-at-heel mezzanine ‘coffee shop’, turned out to be cold ham and eggs. We made a mental note to eat elsewhere tomorrow. As soon as were finished, we walked down to the bus stop – dropping our laundry off at reception on the way.
The bus was a small flatbed truck that had been converted for the purpose with a wooden-framed canopy, and bench seating. There might have been half a dozen passengers when we set off to Patong, but by the time we started to climb the hill that separates Phuket Town from the coast, the bus was full to bursting.
Unable to find a seat inside, at least two late-boarding passengers clung to the ladders that normally provide access to the luggage space on the roof.
The bus negotiated the climb in first gear – overtaken by every other motorised vehicle. Then, suddenly, we reach the crest, and started a cautious descent. As we swung round the hairpin bends, passengers clutched at each other in a desperate attempt to steady themselves. (Bus travel in Thailand is a great way to make new friends!)
We booked two days’ diving, and booked ourselves into the swanky Banthai Beach Resort hotel for three nights from Monday. (The Banthai Beach Resort is a four-star hotel, and would normally have been beyond our budget, but it was convenient – being just next door to the dive shop. We went into reception to ask the price of a room and were told that the usual price was Baht 3500 at high season, but they had were doing a ‘special’ for Baht 2700. Although that is only about £45 per night, it was more than we wanted to pay, so we turned to leave. “How much do you want to pay?” asked the receptionist. We looked at each other. “About Baht 2000 …?” said John. “OK”, said the receptionist, “… but no breakfast”.
As we strolled down a narrow side street lined with tourist shops, we were approached by a cocky northerner (Brit) on a moped. After a cursory introduction, he passed us a couple of free tickets to a draw. (Now, we really should have known better than to accept them, having been caught like this before.) Lo and behold! We had won the star prize, a “dream holiday” …
Four and a half hours later, we had been offered a ‘once in a lifetime chance’ to own a timeshare apartment in Bali. To add insult to injury (these timeshare people’s tactics are akin to being kidnapped for the afternoon), when we refused to take them up on their offer, we were disqualified – on the basis of being unemployed!
At least we got a free lift back to Phuket Town.