THE FAILED BUS JOURNEY FROM JAMES BOND ISLAND
We bussed five and a half hours from Singapore to KL and four more from Hat Yai to Krabi without trouble. The ride that unhinged us took only an hour. What would you have done differently?
I would advise, for a start, not telling the travel agent at Kata Beach exactly what you're looking for, or in other words making it incredibly easy for her to lie for a quick sale.
She said we'd be picked up at 8:30 in the morning (actually 7am); that the transfer to the pier would take fifteen to twenty minutes (a little over an hour); that the boat ride from the pier to the island was a similar length (ditto); and that the swim after lunch - the one bit of active play which would allow the kids to kick off all the energy they'd have to control for the rest of the day - would be a solid hour or maybe more (we got about twenty minutes in total, of which our kids used much less, on account of one staff member's helpful response to P's routine enquiry about jellyfish).
Seriously, what is it with people?
Admittedly, she didn't lie to me about the deafening on-board party music consisting mostly of swear words - because I didn't ask about that. I naively assumed we'd be listening to the soothing song of a diesel engine laboriously churning the water.
The point is our trip to "James Bond Island" in Phang Nga Bay was a lot less child-friendly than we'd been led to believe.
Skip to my review on Trip Advisor for the short version where I don't ask for your advice on how to handle awkward and frustrating situations with strangers.
Here's how it went down.
It was quarter past five in the afternoon - forty-five minutes later than the woman had told us we'd be safely back at our hotel, and a challenging time of day for young kids under the best circumstances - on a day which, between the early starts, loud music, prolonged proximity to strangers, a lost favourite-ever shoe, and an almost total lack of exercise, could not easily be categorised under "best circumstances".
Somehow, we with the two young children had not managed to beat the group of twenty-something backpackers down the pier to the bus, and now we stood at its door looking awkwardly at the way they'd spread themselves around leaving only a smattering of isolated seats. We figured they'd move around if we waited patiently enough. It's what would happen in Singapore, where the teenagers will jump out of their seats on the MRT when I approach with my six-year-old, even though that is, frankly, ridiculous.
The pause lengthened. There was some awkward mumbling between Æ and the driver, after which one young man got out and transferred to the front so one of us could at least be in the same general area as our children, if not actually next to either. And that was that. We strapped them in and I took the rear-most seat in order to keep a watch from behind, while Æ rode shotgun. It seemed like the best we could do.
So of course the first thing that happened was T dropped her toy on the floor and started whimpering for it.
"What's up, my dear?" I asked, leaning forwards as far as I could.
"I've dropped my toy!" she wailed.
"Oh no. Well I can't really reach it from here..." I glanced at the guy sitting next to her but he was staring straight ahead, lost in his own world. "You might have to hold on til we get back to the hotel. Don't worry," I added soothingly, "it's not going anywhere and we won't leave without it. Why don't we sing a song? C'mon! Which song shall we sing?!"
But she didn't launch into song. Instead, she reiterated her point about the toy having fallen down and I had to have the same conversation again. And then again. By the fourth time around there was an edge to both our voices, as if things were on their way south, and I was starting to wonder how much time I'd spend unstrapping and crawling around the bus over the course of the next hour and how many future arguments it'd cost me about wearing seat belts if I went down the path of moving forward to retrieve the toy myself when a small miracle occurred: big brother P came swooping to the rescue, turning in his seat and distracting his little sister with a silly noise and a funny face. She forgot about the toy and started giggling instead.