Well it has been an interesting week- in my last post I started to explain that MJ had an eye infection that needed more treatment than the hospitals in Bali could offer. After some research we decided it would be a good idea to fly to Singapore to visit The National Eye Institute. That turned out to be a good choice, the Doctor there is a highly regarded corneal specialist who works with colleagues around the world and in the US. We ended up having to fly back and forth to Singapore several times for appointments as it was much to expensive to stay there long term. After her second appointment things were looking good and we prepared to head back to Bali for the remainder of our time. The Balinese gods had different ideas. It turned out there was a volcanic eruption on Lombock (one island east of Bali) and the airport in Bali was closed with all flights cancelled. Not knowing how long these things take, we decided to stay in Singapore to check out some sights and rebooked a flight to Bali the next day, It is impossible to predict how long the ash cloud would continue to drift across the flight patterns.
We found Singapore fascinating. Very clean and orderly, great mass transit, and very friendly people. It was, however, very expensive- Hotels could easily run upwards of $400 a night. There is a large population of Chinese and Indian people living and working there. As such there was a very lively Chinatown and Little India area within the relatively small city/country (I had forget Singapore was its own country and was celebrating 50 years of independence). We took some time to explore Chinatown and the surrounding area. The next day we checked the flight status before heading to the airport and everything was good, airport open and flights back in the air. When we arrived at the airport however, it was a different story. The airport in Bali had been closed again and all flights cancelled. We were sure we didn't want to stay in Singapore because it could be days/weeks before the Bali airport reopened. We decided on the spot to make our way to Thailand as this was on our itinerary anyways and would give us an opportunity to check it out before staying long term. We decided to fly into Krabi, which is on the south east coast. Situated on a river delta, the town was, and still is, mainly a fishing village. It is surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs and dotted with many small islands- the book/movie "The Beach" took place in this area. Because we were forced to book a hotel and transportation quickly while at the Singapore airport, we were caught a little off guard when we landed and found no one there to pick us up. It was late and we were the only flight arriving in the small airport, so we were a little anxious (and very tired after a long day of travel). We managed to find someone to call the hotel and were told to have a taxi take us there instead. Ok, so we found a taxi and headed out. The next two days are like a Twilight Zone episode.
We were driven through some very dark and mountainous areas. I knew from mapping the hotel location that it was in a good size town about 15 minutes from the airport so 30 minutes into the drive I was a bit nervous. Nobody knew we were here! I almost asked where we were going when we pulled into a hotel the middle of a field. The Tama Hotel was really quite beautiful, but it was nowhere near where the map said. The closest attraction was a gravel pit and water treatment plant. The hotel staff spoke no english so we decided to just go to our room to get some sleep and talk to them in the morning. The next day we were surprised to find we were the only guests in the large hotel (probably 80 rooms or more). The staff would hover over our every move as there was nothing else to do. They fed us excessively large meals and offered us a complimentary bottles of red wine...great, we could at least have some drinks and enjoy the pool. Wrong, the wine ended up being sparkling grape juice and there was no alcohol served in the hotel!! The humanity of it all! We found out later that it was run by Muslims and designed for Chinese tour groups. We managed to escape the hotel and found a small place in Krabi Town. That was a good move, Krabi was a cool little place. More of a backpacker haven than resort town which is more our speed. We meet a German guy Benjamin who was traveling alone for 6 weeks and was in town to get his diving certificate. We ended up hanging out with Benjamin and checked out the night market together. We also managed to get a little intoxicated once or twice. It was the beginning of the rainy season in southern Thailand so there wasn't a lot of time to see the beaches (and MJs eyes were still weak from the infection) so I went to Ao Nang Beach myself for a day to explore. While I was there a strong storm hit and I was forced to sit in a beach dive and drink Thai beer.
We enjoyed our sneak peek of Thailand and made our way back to Bali in a few days. I am now sitting in a Cafe in Ubud writing my final post from Bali- tomorrow we head to Thailand for the next month. First stop is Phuket (we needed to be close to an airport as MJ has one more check up in Singapore), then up to Chang Mai in northern Thailand for the Loy Krathong Festival, then down to Koi Lanta before moving onto Vietnam.