So. Thailand. I arrived on beautiful Koh Samui a week ago on Monday evening after what could have been a tortuous journey via both Paris Charles de Gaulle and Singapore, but which was pretty effortless.
I’d um-ed and ah-ed right up until the last moment about whether to book the trip. Rach was unsure whether she could come this time as she thought she may be moving house over the holidays, and travel for one is always more complicated and more expensive. But I really, really wanted to get away somewhere relaxing, hot and calm to draft all the unwritten posts from the past year, edit thousands of un-filed photos, empty out my inbox, and do some writing whilst everyone else in England was out of office and unlikely to be sending me email or work.
Sunglasses: Stella & Dot Miramar. Top: Boden
I like going to Thailand because it’s hot (but not too hot), the beaches and pools are glorious, (the only exercise I really enjoy is swimming), the food is both delicious and suitable for vegetarians, the people are lovely, and it’s not expensive to live there for two weeks. Koh Samui was on in my sights this time because it has a proliferation of good hotels, and most of them have good local restaurants and laundries within walking distance. On Phuket we found that the lovely hotels in which we stayed were often quite isolated, so we spent a LOT on hotel meals and services because there frequently wasn’t much in the near vicinity, and taxis were London-priced.
Each time I logged on to Expedia there was still a lot more availability for both flights and accommodation than is usual for early December so I kept putting off a final decision. Then I hit pay dirt whilst noodling around online in the middle of the night: Air France Premium Economy seats being sold as Economy, and for less than Economy on BA. 300 quid less. The kicker was the additional hour-long flight to Paris to connect to the flight to Singapore, and thence to Koh Samui. Oh and the 6hr35 connection in CDG. But. Premium Economy.
I’d never normally stump up for PE flights, because the incremental cost doesn’t seem worth it for the fancy plating of economy food, and a marginally comfier upright seat. But for the same price as AF Economy? Bring it. And I was pretty damn happy to then discover they came with Sky Priority benefits (Priority everything) and an extra case (23kg).
Coat: Jaeger (reduced in sale here). Cashmere Shawl: Rimowa. Leggings: The White Company
Sneakers: Nike Air Force One Bag: Plia Reid Satchel. Cabin case: Delsey Helium,
Phone case: Gold Mophie Juice Pack
The long connection time at CDG didn’t bother me in the slightest – it meant I could get some work done on the Sunday afternoon, editing photos, and sorting out a to-do list for my assistant whilst I was away, which is exactly what I would have been doing in London had I taken a shorter route to Thailand. I paid to use the Air France/Sky Team Business lounge (possible if you are a member of their frequent flyer scheme), unlocking a world of plump sofas, free super-fast Wi-Fi, complimentary lunch and supper and endless snax.
In Singapore the wait was a more normal 3hrs – just enough time to make up for my rejection of the disgustingly inedible vegan breakfast on the ‘plane, and eat a glorious substitute in the 24hr Food Court. (By now, it was 1830hrs on Monday evening, but my body clock thought it was 1030am.)
I shoveled down braised tofu, pak choi and rice, bought a new silk fan, and did not buy any CHANEL, Hermes, Dior etc. from the fancy pants duty-free stores.
My hotel choice was really the main reason why I waited so long to book – I just couldn’t decide where to stay or how much I wanted to spend. And it takes ages to research everywhere properly. Trip Advisor is essential here – but only if you know how to read between the lines. You need to look at the hotel’s own website first, then go to TA to read the Terrible and the Poor reviews, balancing them against the Excellent ones, to weed out the nutters, the fantasists, those with unreal expectations, the people who had a one-off disaster that’s unlikely to be repeated, and those holding a grudge. At the hotel I chose it was clear that most of the negative reviews were from people who hated the open-to-the-outdoors bathroom, shower and bath, or who didn’t get the hotel’s eco vibe.
Once I had narrowed down my requirements to no party scene, a good but very quiet beach for swimming – no serried ranks of lobster-red flesh, long tidal flats, or rubbish, and great sand,
along with an excellent very large swimming pool, and no insanely- priced compulsory Christmas lunch (not paying 100quid for fried vegetables), and applied this to my price range – no more than 1100 for ten nights, I came up with the Saree Samui, up on the north of the island, in Mae Nam, a good half hour from Chaweng (a little sister these days to Magaluf, Benidorm or San Antonio – but with more residual charm. If you look hard.)
And really it’s been wonderful. I never go to one place for more than three or four days absolute max, and it’s always got an external work element, so to have ten nights to myself has been blissful. I haven’t had to talk to anyone bar the hotel staff, the internet connection has been good and fast nearly every day, and even the torrential tropical rain for the first three days wasn’t a total buzzkill. For one, I’d read the weather forecast, and for another I was pretty jetlagged so slept a lot during the showers.
I’ve got a lot of writing done – which was my primary aim for the trip, (I would like to start 2017 with a clean slate) swum a huge amount, and done a lot thinking and planning. The only two curve balls so far have been my precious Mac Air dying on me yesterday, resulting in quite a lot of frustrated tears, and necessitating a trip into Chaweng to buy a new cheap PC laptop on which to work – I’ve still got six days of the trip left and I think I would explode from frustration if I couldn’t write – I’m not one for snoozing by a pool, and the last straw of my lovely but unreliable assistant going AWOL for two days last week, which turn meant that the large amount of time I had spent prepping things for her to do in CDG and whilst here, could have been more profitably spent blogging and writing, and then dealing with the aftermath of having to let her go.
Christmas itself was lovely – if odd. I swam in the tranquil and very warm sea first thing, had a burger and fries washed down with a green coconut for lunch, booked a 1hr30 massage, and Facetimed with Holly, my mother and the faithful beribboned hunds several times – the time difference meant I could call them early in my morning on Christmas Day whilst it was their Christmas Eve, and again ten hours later when it was their Christmas Day.
I’m here at Saree Samui until Thursday, when I move on to two other hotels for one night each. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do a little research for the blog whilst here…then I fly back over New Year’s Eve, which seems an excellent way to swerve one of the year’s most over rated and least interesting nights.
I land at Heathrow at 0745hrs on New Year’s Day, plan to use the Sofitel Arrivals Lounge to shower and eat breakfast after the long flight from Singapore, before heading home and thence straight to the Genius Bar at Apple Covent Garden to try to get my sodding (but beloved) Air fixed. (It’s five days out of its paid-for Apple Care warranty which is making me really Quite Angry, as exactly the same thing happened with my last Air (died three weeks out of warranty). Apple say they don’t have built-in obsolescence but when it happens twice in a row, it’s hard not to wonder.