Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Koh Yao Island - Day Eight - The End of Lazy Days

After spending the previous day in tropical illness misery, I wasn’t sure if our final day would be spent curled up in the fetal position. I opened up one eyelid, assessed the results, opened the other, assessed those results, stretched my legs around and deemed that I was well enough to get out of bed. With it being the last day of our honeymoon, I was anxious not to miss another minute of it. While I did miss out on an awesome opportunity the previous day, I’d choose being sick on a beautiful island over being sick at home any day[1].

As I was still recovering, I wasn’t up for our usual morning of swimming before breakfast. A gentle walk on the beach sounded just my speed. Oceanside, blue crowned hanging parrots called to each other from the tops of flowering gardenia trees. Juvenile great hornbills hopped from branch to branch, getting up the nerve every now and then to flap their wings in an attempt at flight while the adults pulled giant jungle snails from their shells. The best lazy mornings have you up with the birds and only the birds.

We didn’t stray far from our villa, taking it easy to increase the chances that I would travel well the following day. I said my goodbyes to the island by playing in its tide pools, swimming in the jade green water, and sleeping on its sandy shores.

I motivated us to pack prior to dinner, not wanting to come back to chores after an enjoyable evening. By the time the sky was dark, I was ready for some socialization. We headed down to the beach bar and found ourselves alone save the manager and two staff members. The other guests were already at dinner. We pulled up chairs seaside and sat side by side, my head resting on David’s shoulder. As the waves crashed we stored each one into memory…A crashing wave for every moment of enjoyment we shared during our first two weeks of married life.

As we got up to head for dinner, I noticed a bat hanging from the roof above an outdoor table. Being a bat lover, I got out the camera and started snapping away. It was as fascinated by me as I was of it, following me with its eyes. With a great photo of the bat on the screen, I headed over to show the staff. One man visibly recoiled, so very frightened of the thing. Minutes later, when I headed back over and tapped him on the shoulder, he actually screamed and jumped in the air certain that the bat was attacking him. The manager and I doubled over in laughter. I wonder what the local legends are to make a man so afraid of a harmless bug harvester.

After a light dinner, we pulled out the video camera for our walk back to the villa. The frogs were incredible, croaking at different octaves in various harmonies, probably fifteen in all. We wanted to remember the sound forever.

It was a wonderfully relaxing end to our trip but the journey home would start promptly at 7 a.m. the following day. As such, we headed to reception to pay our bill.

And so our nightmare began.

Reception presented us with the invoice. We went over it, assuring that all the laundry and mini-bar charges were correct. The meals and drinks seemed about in the range that we expected and so we handed over our debit card to settle the bill.

Swipe. Rejected. Swipe. Rejected. Swipe. Rejected.

“Do you have another card?”

“No, our debit card is all we use.”

Swipe. Rejected. Swipe. Rejected. Swipe. Rejected. At this point, I went to log onto the internet to check our checking and savings account balances and confirmed that we had six times the needed amount there. I reviewed the email from the bank confirming that my card is not blocked for use internationally (also confirmed by the many transactions we had already made on the trip).

Furious, I went to our room to call the bank. Of course, it was early in the morning in Utah and the bank was closed. Remembering that I had brought one credit card for emergencies, I headed back to the computers to check out the card’s limit. Natalie’s travel tip #1: when bringing an emergency credit card, make sure that the credit card can cover the highest expense that you pan on having. I furiously counted our remaining cash and traveler’s checks. Only $900. Between the cash and the credit card, we still didn’t have enough to cover the bill.

I had begun a full-fledged meltdown. While I sat silently crying at the computers, an Australian couple took pity on me and came up with every number possible for Visa or the bank that they could. Stack of numbers in hand, I headed back to the villa to make more phone calls.

Closed. Closed. Closed again. Yup, this one’s closed too. By this time, enough hours had passed that it was now nine a.m. back home. With a sinking feeling, I realized that my July 5th was July 4th in the States, a national holiday. No institution would be answering my calls.

With no way to pay, I had visions of us missing our flights and having to pay a gazillion more dollars for extra days and nights in Thailand and new airfare home[2]. Crying, I picked up the phone and called my mom and dad. I left a message full of sobs to the effect of, “Mom, dad, are you there? Please pick up the phone. We need help. We’re stuck in Thailand. Don’t worry, we’re not in trouble, we’re just stuck. We’re at the Paradise Koh Yao. I’ll call back.”

I headed back to the reception pavilion and found David awaiting the manager who had been roused out of bed to deal with this issue. By this time, we were old friends with Michael, having had many memorable conversations with him during our stay. I logged into our bank account and showed him the available funds in our two cash accounts. He noted to his staff that we were well above the means of paying our invoice and immediately put me at ease stating that it was no big deal; communications on the island were shoddy[3] and they would resolve the situation in the morning by having the finance manager call Visa Thailand. We were greatful that a path to resolution was in sight.

With a sigh of relief, we headed back to our villa to sleep. First, though, a call to my parents. My father answered the phone immediately, panicked. He had been on the phone calling the State Department, Homeland Security, and every other government agency he could think of. Low and behold, they were all closed for the holiday as well (to my relief). I asked him why he was doing that as my message said that we weren’t in trouble. “No it didn’t!” he said. “Yes it did!” I retorted, assured that I had made sure to clearly get that point across in the message so he wouldn’t do exactly what he did anyway. I guess that it is a rule of being a parent…panic now, listen later.

We were able to carry on some good catch-up conversation, excited at the opportunity to share some tales earlier than expected. I had been able to send out three emails, one of which had stated that I had fallen ill. I was able to report that I was feeling much better when, right at the end of our conversation, my stomach decided otherwise. A few hours of sleep were all I could ask for. The marathon home would begin at five a.m.

[1] I always say that I’d rather be sick on an island but what about when the day comes that I am so sick on an island that I need medical assistance? My old boss would assure you that this day will come. When it does, you find me wrapped around the toilet cursing whatever third-world country I am in at the time.
[2] Natalie’s Travel Tip #2: When purchasing airfare to and from halfway around the world, make sure that it is refundable or that it at least will let you change the date of your flight.
[3] It is a remote Thai island, after all.

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