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198 Malaysian Ringgits (48.71 USD): Return flight price to Phuket. Damn! I will be a big fool if I will not book this flight before it runs out.
This was how this whole traveling alone thing started. I can’t consider moving to Malaysia as a start because I’ve met would-be colleagues in the Embassy and again, I was somehow dependent to them. At least that’s how it felt. All the while, I was under the impression that I can’t afford to do it by myself for a lot of excuses my mind has came up with. Expensive, scary, lonely and even boring. I was worried about eating alone, being alone in foreign land and most importantly, no one to take photos. News has this way of worsening my paranoia. I can trust no one and in a foreign land? Maybe not a very wise idea. The more that I think I will be alone, the more terrified I became and the more that I was determined to get rid of them. Fear at some point must be conquered right?
I got the courage I needed when I’ve talked to friends who’ve been doing this for a long time. I needed their encouragement, tips and even assurance that I will be fine and I will have fun. They all said Thailand is very good start given how touristic it is and very safe for solo female travelers. Their energy is highly contagious. I need more people like that in my life.
So, vacation leaves were taken cared of; endless researches and sleepless nights were launched.
All my time was devoted to contacting hotels, haggling with tour companies, comparing prices, checking routes, food to try, things to do and places to visit; leaving no time for Zumba and Crossfit. And man, it wasn’t easy to budget 8 days in Thailand considering how big and beautiful it is. All I want is for this trip to be perfect and unforgettable. This is my first solo trip. I don’t want this to be the last too. I am having panic attacks but I am way to excited to admit it.
I will spend 7 days in Phuket; in the crowded Patong Beach and busy Bangla Road. That didn’t sound like the heaven I was looking for. I want a quieter, more isolated place where I can enjoy my own company. Since when I wanted t be alone? I don’t know either. I’m so used to having my pose to mask my insecurities probably. Then plans changed and there was turmoil in this ADHD mind.
It will not be called amazing Thailand for nothing. My researches gave me never ending list of places to go to and of all the travel blogs I’ve read and pictures I have seen, Krabi seemed the haven I wanted. A colleague even told me she got bored when she was there and I don’t know why I was more eager to see it after that. Sign of old age I guess.
So with a hopeful heart and a scared soul ready for new adventures,I flew to Thailand ignoring the mean girl inside me reminding me all the fears I have.
Flight from Kuala Lumpur was three hours delayed. Though I will be sitting on a cold airport bench, I just shrugged it off. I am in such a good holiday mood and nothing can piss me off. I didn’t even fuss when I arrived Phuket Airport at nearly two in the morning only to be welcomed by a throng of tourists at the immigration. I got cleared around 2:30 am. I went outside the airport where the mini vans were parked. This travel blog I’ve read said that this is the cheaper alternative to taking cabs to where my hotel was. With all those other tourists waiting to be cleared at the immigration, I felt that I don’t need to worry that I will be alone in the middle of somewhere in the wee hours of the morning. We waited until the van was full of tourists and that didn’t take long. It’s nearly 3 am and no one spoke inside the van aside from the driver who from time to time asked the name of the streets the hotels he will drive the passengers to. Other passengers started getting off. Few minutes later, we were in the street where my hotel was.
We drove around it for few times but the we couldn’t find it. Other backpackers asked me where I booked the hotel suspecting it was a scam. I also was thinking it was but I checked the Facebook page and chatted with them to ask if they have 24/7 reception. “I booked it from Agoda. It can’t be a scam.” We stopped to ask for direction from a man driving a motorbike. We’ve been on it for nearly half an hour. Other tourists got off and started smoking. They all look smashed. We indeed were all smashed. I am really getting sleepy and tired and frustrated and scared. “You can stay in our hotel and just go find your hotel in the morning.” A lady with a British accent offered. Another Thai lady agreed. I can’t believe this. I was on the brink of believing that it’s a bad world out there but these people I keep meeting on the road are showing me otherwise. Before I can utter a reply the driver came back. He said he already know where my hotel was and we will be heading that way. Off we got inside the van squeezing our bodies between our ginormous backpacks.
Finally! I saw the name of my hotel. Relieved, I took my backpack, thanked everyone and wished them safe travels then got off the van. I really can use a warm bath and I will sleep like a baby. I didn’t nap during the flight. It wasn’t a long flight plus I was really very excited.
My happiness started fading away when I saw that the light in the reception was off. I know that small hotels don’t have 24/7 reception that’s why I asked the management of this hotel prior to my booking. My suspicion got confirmed when I saw that I need to call a number if I will be arriving later then 12 am. Great! I don’t have an activated roaming to call. This was the reason why I am trying to call them before I left KL. To inform them that I will be late because my flight was three hours delayed. Someone picked up at my first attempt and though garbled, I managed to hear someone speaking from the other line. I tried again but no one picked up. No one replied to my email and my Facebook chat inquiry. It is nearly 3:30 am. What will I do? I looked around. Just outside the hotel was a phone booth. I have few loose Baht coins from the change in the airport but the phone wasn’t working. Awesome! There’s a 24/7 convenience store beside the hotel. I walked towards it and started asking the lady at the cashier only to find out she doesn’t speak nor understand English. Neither was the man she was sharing the shift with. I got my tablet out as I don’t have a mobile phone and motioned what I need to do. I always win charades so I know I got this. She will understand what I want for sure. I just wanted to know if I can use her or his mobile phone to make a call. That didn’t get any further. Language barrier was at its strongest. Why aren’t any customers?? I went to sit on the nearby store stool. I’m glad they have it because my knees started to feel wobbly. I can buy coffee and have the option to wait until the hotel opens. But I can’t. I don’t want to spend my first night in Thailand in a convenience store feeling sorry for myself. I have money and I am brave, right? I need to do something. I discreetly touched my right then left ankle to check if my 10,000 Baht was still there. Yeah. I needed to do that so I won’t need to use my card I already have their currency handy. Things like this can happen and working for a bank trained me for this. I should always be prepared. So I stood up and started marching outside the store. Next thing I knew, I was already out in the streets looking for other hostels which will accommodate me just for the night or just before the sun rises. Almost all the hotels were full since it was peak season, and some hotels close at midnight too. This is just awesome! 3:30 in the morning, I am walking in unknown Thailand streets with my big backpack and bumping into drunk tourists and backpackers in the famous red light district. I felt like crying. I was tired and terrified. I was really tempted to turn around, go back to the store and just wait but I still didn’t. I continued walking and praying to all the saints I know for guidance. I was supposed to arrive at 10:30 pm and here I am at 3:30 am looking for a hotel. Good thing I wasn’t stupid enough to leave the store without buying food. I walked away with some Thai goodies. My first authentic Thai goodies were heavily preserved. How awesome can this be?
I continued walking and searching with my big backpack. Worse comes to worst, I can always turn around and just wait at the Family Mart. But I didn’t like that idea so when I saw a hotel whose door was cracked open, I stepped inside. I saw a bell on the table and frantically rang as if I’m a grumpy menopausal librarian. I did that continuously and after nearly ten minutes, an Italian guy wearing only white linen pants, water and some white bubbly soapy liquid dripping over his hair, neck and chest, came out looking disoriented and panic was plastered all over his face.
“What’s the emergency?” The worried Italian asked.
“I am the emergency. I need a room!” I said with high hopes. I know I looked like shit but that’s the last thing I should be worried about.
“oh! I know we are full tonight but I will check.”
He left. I waited fighting the urge to curl up on the sofa in the hotel lobby. I will be happy to pay if he will allow me to sleep there.
After what seemed like an eternity, he came back. I can swear every time I will close my eyes, I was being drifted to dreamland.
“There’s no vacant tonight but a couple checked out early. Problem is, the room needs to be cleaned first.” He announced with a slight frown on his Italian face.
“I can clean!” my voice rose few decibels higher and to his amusement. “I am so tired and I am desperate for hot shower.” I know he sensed desperation and his face reflects the pity he felt for me.
“Wait here and I will quickly clean it.” Cleanliness is the last thing on my mind at this very moment. All I wanted to do was throw my bag on the floor and sleep.
When he came back he ushered me to a room. He probably sensed that I will pass out any moment so he handed me the keys and Wifi password. I know my face showed I can’t understand a thing anymore. With a chuckle, he left and wished me goodnight.
I let my bag fall with a loud clunk on the floor. I ran to the bathroom and showered not minding the angry protest of my tummy. I haven’t eaten anything since I went to the airport but I still continued scrubbing my body with soap as if it will wash away everything that has happened that very night. Maybe I showered too long and my fingers felt funny when I finished. This by far is the best shower I ever had.
Wearing only a bathrobe, I started eating what I got from the convenience store. After what felt like the best shower, I had the best tasting preserved Thai food. I then remembered to connect to the internet and informed worried friends and family who were expecting advise hours ago. I slept a sleep so deep that even if World War 3 started, I won’t flinch.
500 Baht (16 USD) for a room that seemed like a 4-star hotel room wasn’t bad after all. I just can’t remember the name of the hotel but I gave it a very good review.
The next morning, I woke up a bit disoriented but fully rested as if nothing happened just few hours ago.
“Where was I?” I asked myself. Ohhh, Phuket, Thailand! And my hotel was already closed. They didn’t pick up when I called while I was still in Malaysia, didn’t reply to my email, nor private message in Facebook. I had to wander in the unfamiliar Patong Beach road in the wee hours of the morning. I hurriedly got up and dressed. I have a very urgent thing to attend to. I need to talk to the owner of that hotel, ASAP!
I reached the hotel so fast. I was greeted by the Australian owner. A paper of my booking details was already waiting on the reception counter top. He apologized deeply and said they were worried sick about me. I said I was worried about me too and told him what happened last night. He apologized again and said that it was because of his lazy partner handling all inquiries. I wanted to be a bitch but I chose not to anymore. Working for customer service made me decide that I will never be like our barbaric customers. He showed me the room and said I can check in when I’m ready. But working for the customer service made me know some things so I thought it wasn’t enough and I need some sort of compensation for what I had to go through. I asked for an upgrade. I got the upgrade I asked for and was given fridge’s contents for free. Day 1 didn’t go as expected and planned but it was alright. I still have few days to look forward to and I am very excited. I made it to Thailand alone!
But I guess the Lord was blessing my trip so it started to rain. The rain was the kind where I just wanted to curl up in a big ball and stay in the room with hot chocolate. Awesome Day 2 so far. At least I got to enjoy my upgraded room and the fridge’s contents. What’s not to like?
You’re not raining the whole day, are you? This is starting to seem like a big joke. I flew all the way here to just enjoy the hotel room? So with my raincoat, I went out to see the old town, rode elephant, visited some temples and met a French couple where I had an amazing time third wheeling. I went to the beach, tried some more authentic Thai food, had a drink in Bangla Road. I went back to the hotel when I started feeling tipsy. I can’t drink much. I am alone in another country. I can’t be too careful. I know. I ‘m a lousy traveler. A lousy village girl traveler.
(to be continued)