Monday, December 14, 2015

Koh Kradan - island paradise part 2

So..... our transfer from from Koh Ngai...

Tigerline seemed to be the only option to transfer between the two islands. As it was still low season, many operators were not running. Now I know how close the two islands were, we could have easily hired a longtail ourselves, and wish we did. So we were told that pick up was around 10:30-11am. We got to the check in point, and told to wait. We grabbed a drink at the Fantasy resort next door, and relaxed in the lovely morning sunshine. By 12, we getting a bit impatient and asked the local guys if they knew how long the ferry would be, who told us ‘soon, maybe 1 hour’. At 1, we continued to try to get more information, and told it was running late, maybe 1 hour more.

Another couple turned up also waiting for the ferry for a transfer to Phuket, also on Tigerline They were also told wait 1 hour. Two hours later, we started to make calls the Tigerline offices, and to the agent that had booked our tickets. The other couple was told that the ferry wasn't running at all, and then we were also told the ferry wasn't running. A few phone calls later, we were then told it was just running late and would be another hour. By now it was 3:30pm - over 5 hours late. We were frustrated with the lack of information, plus all the confusion. Then, all of a sudden, the local boat guy came up and told us to get in the longtail boat. From around the end of the island, the old, unseaworthy vessel appeared, and the longtail transferred us out where it was in deep water from the beach to it. The boat guys didn't even help with our bags. No one held the ladder or boat as you were getting on/off, and I slipped when a wave moved the boat from under my foot, causing me to twist and fall into the water. However, I was in such an annoyed state of mind, it really didn’t register.

Then on the longtail, half way out to the ferry, the boat guy turns off the engine and demands 100 baht from everyone. By now we were all angry and refused. So the boat guy turned the boat around and started heading back to shore. Blackmail! So we were really peeved by now. We got on (and off) the ferry and the crew couldn't speak English and just threw our stuff on a seat, It took all of 20 minutes for our transfer, but the state of the ship was disgusting. I would say it wasn't even sea worthy, and not a life jacket in sight.

As we were getting off the ferry, we did see a tiny, A4 printed page on the ship, saying that transfers to the small islands required a long tail boat to ferry passengers between the ship and shore, and there was a 50 baht fee. We were never told that when we booked, or when we were waiting 5.5 hours for it to show up!. Super annoying!

Finally, we made it to Koh Kradan. We had another transfer booked with Tigerline between Koh Kradan and the mainland, but we simply didn't bother with it at all. All I can say is that if you need to get around the islands in southern Thailand, find any other option but Tigerline - no matter what the price, it will be worth it. BTW the following day, we discovered Tigerline decided not to run at all, so I wonder how all those people who had booked would have felt. Avoid them at all costs!

On Kradan, the Reef resort hotel staff were waiting for us, quickly loading our bags into a little trolley for the one minute walk up the beach to the resort. Genta, the hotel manager, chatted to us as we checked in, telling us horror stories about Tigerline. She had been waiting for us to arrive around midday, the scheduled time, and was wondering if we would turn up at all. Knowing how unreliable Tigerline was, she was not surprised by our late arrival.

After our long day of waiting, we dropped our bags and returned to the reception area, which is actually the bar, and grabbed a beer. The late afternoon passed by, with beers and talk, and yummy meal without leaving the bar. Night fell, and a few other people joined us at the bar, so a few more beers were enjoyed.

By now, the frustration of the day was wearing off. Relaxed, I began to feel a weird sensation in my right foot, like a bad cramp. J tried to give it a rub to loosen the cramp, but it hurt – a lot! We had been sitting for a few hours so had not noticed how bad it was until I went to stand up. No way. I could not put any weight on my foot, and it had swollen up like a balloon. And it was sore! That’s when I recalled my slip on the longtail. At the time, I had been too angry to pay attention to how bad my foot had been twisted on the ladder. Now it all came rushing back. Ah well, I thought, ice it, rest it, and it’ll be OK. Genta found me a bandage, and some of what I call ‘magic spray’ (alcohol based spray to relieve pain), and some pain killer tablets. Foot elevated and wrapped in a cloth being chilled, we hung around the bar for a while. Still not being able to walk, J piggy-backed me to the room. Sleep came easily, with my foot resting on its own pillow.

Waking up, it took all of 0.024678 of a second to realise my foot wasn’t better. It was really swollen and pain shot up my calf when I moved it. Bugger! No walking for me, well at least not for the day. I was still optimistic it wasn’t too bad and would feel better after a bit of breakfast. Umm, no. So that was my day done. Sitting, foot elevated, and pain killers. I did manage to get J to carry over to the pool for a bit of a dip, which actually really seemed to help my foot. As much as it felt better after a swim, it wasn’t. I did try to put some weight on it without success. So poor J carried me back over to the bar/restaurant area for dinner and drinks, and then back to the room for sleep.

The next day was almost the same as the previous, with my foot more swollen and me now feeling more concerned. What I thought was a simple twist was potentially worse. So after breakfast (J once again carrying me), I got on the phone to Medibank, our travel insurance provider. They advised to get to an x-ray to rule out a fracture. Our plan was to leave the next day, and I couldn’t see the advantage of rushing over to the mainland, seeing a doctor, and then coming back to the island again. Seeing a doc could wait a day. Genta assured me that the hospital in Trang was very good. She arranged for a boat to take us too shore, and then a driver to take me to the hospital, wait for me treatment, then continue on to Ao Nang. There was no way I was going to be able to get on and off the ferry transfer that we had booked – on top of just how bad Tigerline were – a private transfer was the only realistic option.

So the day went by slowly. It was a great chance for me to do what I don’t often do – nothing! I finished a book and made good progress on another. Another dip in the pool, and some wonderful food curtesy of the Reef resort’s wonderful kitchen staff, the day passed quietly. Amazingly, after breakfast, Genta came to the room with a hand-made crutch. The staff had knocked one up from a few pieces of thin timber. Honestly, it looked as good and sturdy as any I’d seen – maybe just a little too long. Using the crutch, I tried to hobble around, but my foot was still incredibly painful.

Though not being able to do much, and not see any of the island nor snorkel, I really enjoyed the relaxation. The one highlight was creating a sign. At the bar, people from all over the world had painted signs with their country’s national flag, a message and their names. Genta had put them up all over the cross beams of the roof. On the first night we arrived, we asked her about them, and she explained, ‘You find the wood, I supply the paint’. J had found a nice flat piece when he had gone for a walk to the store. So our last night was spent painting the wood with an Australian flag. I added a small sachet of vegemite I had brought with me, with the note ‘In case of emergency…’. Along with beers, and a superb dinner of a Penang curry, the sign painting occupied the evening.

Up early again, we enjoyed breakfast, with me hobbling down to see the beach before we had to leave. 

Our boat picked us up mid-morning. It was an easy and smooth trip over to the mainland, going past Koh Mook which looks really nice. At the dock, a huge, modern, mini-van was waiting for us, and we were in Trang and at the hospital in less than half an hour. If hospitals were like this in Australia, people would not dread visiting, and in fact would possibly check in for a holiday!

Waiting with a wheelchair, an English speaking concierge met me at the van. He took my details, talked to me about my injury, and organised everything for me to see a doctor. Within ten minutes, I was speaking to a GP, who took one look at my foot and thought it was broken. Off to x-ray (pushed and consulted with the whole time by my friendly concierge), the radiographer took a number of shots, before I was back to wait to see the GP again. Local Thai people seemed very bemused to see us ‘farangs’, but were all friendly and smiling. The x-ray confirmed that my foot was not broken – hurrah – but the doctor suggested that it was a torn tendon instead – not so good. Apparently soft tissue injuries can be trickier to deal with. The nurse took me into the treatment room, where I was fitted with a half cast and some serious bandaging. Before letting me go, they took me up to the physio department to be fitted with crutches.

How much did all this treatment cost, I hear you think? Well, for two doctor consultations, half a dozen x-rays, cast, treatment, crutches, as well as pain killers and anti-inflamatory pills, just on 18,000 Thai baht – less than $400 Australian. And I was in and out of the hospital’s emergency department in an hour and a half! Plus a concierge… good luck getting this type of service in an Australia hospital!

From Trang, it was an uneventful trip to Ao Nang. Arriving in the middle of a downpour, the Peace Laguna staff ran to get a wheelchair for me (sparing me the precarious crutcher trip on wet tiles). Hungry, we had a late snack before retiring to the room. Intending to try to go out for dinner, we headed off after dark. But I didn’t make it too far up the road before we noticed one of the wing-nuts off the crutches had fallen off, making the handle unstable. Not to mention how sore my foot was, along with the pressure on my hands and arms, not used to carrying me. So I sent J on a mission to find Maharaja Indian restaurant (where we had enjoyed a great meal last time we were in Ao Nang) to fetch take-a-way. After a few weeks of no TV, I was happy to be able to channel surf the evening away, unable to do anything else. Luckily, the next morning, J found the missing wing-nut just outside the room, so my crutches were operational again.

Our homeward trip wasn’t too exciting. Though the doctor advised me to keep my foot elevated, I was unable to get any help from Medibank to help with alternate transport options, and Qantas didn’t have any seats free in business for me to try to stay comfortable. So, I just stuck with my original plans, keen to just get home. Being on crutches, I was offered a wheelchair to help get around the airports, and boarding. So I got to be one of those annoying people who board before everyone else. All the airline staff were wonderful, trying to accommodate me as best they could.

So, another Thailand visit behind me. The next one is already booked. After all, I missed out on Koh Kradan snorkelling and walking, so a return trip is required. Truly, Thailand, and the people, oh and the food, is probably my favourite place (not that I don’t fall in love with most places I go). This trip, the biggest difference for me was not doing as much as usual, and mostly relaxing, reading and unwinding, instead of lots of sight-seeing, temple visits, and jungle trekking. Not that I minded, but this trip was maybe a little quieter than I would have liked. I just hope next trip I don’t have the misfortune of injury again.


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