Thursday, November 10, 2005

Heafy Goes On A Honeymoon

Sarah: Tom, have you ever not told me something cause you were afraid of how I would react? Like have you ever not told me the truth about anything?
Tom: Like when I told you I liked your brother?
Sarah: This is serious Tom.
Tom: I am serious, I really don't like him.
”Just Married”

After a few short hours sleep, the new wife and I made our way to the Sydney International Airport, for our first overseas trip ever. Our honeymoon was 8 nights at a resort in Phuket, an island south of Thailand. I won’t go into a day by day account of everything, but we had an absolute ball – I can easily see why people get the travel bug so easily. We have already started to make plans for another overseas trip in a few years, but this time we will go with friends.

I do have a few interesting stories from the honeymoon, and they all follow an alcohol theme. It just seemed every time we were near the stuff, interesting things happened. Isn’t life funny like that?

Firstly, when we checked in at the airport, stories of “free upgrades” ran through my mind. I have heard about people dropping the “We’re on our honeymoon” line and getting moved up to business class. I thought I’d give it a try. I got a hearty congratulations, but no upgrade. Oh well, life goes on.

About 2 hours into the flight though, the stewardess comes and presents the wife and I with a congratulatory cake and some toys from their crappy in-flight gift shop and a cocktail each. I was very surprised, and I guess it kind of made up for missing out on a free upgrade. Then she asked if we would like it cut up and have a piece now – of course I bloody do! Thing is, this was a normal sized cake, and far too much for just the two of us, and it’s not like we can pack it and take it on the rest of our journey with us, so I said why don’t you chop it up and share it around with all the other passengers near us (which is what happens every time, I’m sure). So that’s what we did.

There was a middle aged Indian man sitting in the seat in front of us, traveling alone. When he got his piece, he turned around to congratulate us on our honeymoon and thank us for sharing the cake. He told us about how big Indian weddings are and can take weeks for the entire thing, and we chatted for five minutes or so. He was very nice and quite pleasant. Shortly, he called over the stewardess and spoke to her for a few moments. She left and returned with 3 plastic cups with champagne in them. He gave us one each and we toasted to the rest of our lives – which was a nice gesture from him. He said he was trying to buy a bottle but they only sell those in first class, or something like that. Then the stewardess came back and gave us a large bag, saying this was also from the gentleman in front of us. We opened up the shopping bag, and there was a large square box inside, quite clearly incasing a bottle of scotch!

Now I don’t know much about scotch, but I know when I see an expensive bottle of booze and when I see the cheap stuff. This bottle was definitely the expensive stuff – I looked later at the in-flight shopping book and this Chivas Regal 21 year old scotch was $126 Australian duty free. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FREAKING DOLLARS OF SCOTCH!!! And we knew this man for five minutes! To say we were shocked was an understatement. Inside the box was a velvet bag with rope around it that held the corked bottle. We got the stewardess to get three glasses of ice for us, and we shared a glass with our new friend. We got a photo or two taken with him as well. What an amazingly generous man – I hope he’s stinking rich. But now I have set myself a challenge. When I reach say 20 years of marriage, and hopefully have a bit of money, I’m going to do the same thing to somebody else on their honeymoon if I ever find myself on the other side of the situation.

We had a four hour stop over in Singapore, which has a massive airport. We decided to get some Singapore dollars and get some more alcohol duty free to take into Phuket to last us the week. They had a special on bourbon that we wanted, and it was a little less than half price compared to what we pay back home so it was on. We grabbed 2 x 1L bottles and got ready to re-board.

On the flight from Singapore to Phuket, I had a thought. What if the restrictions on alcohol were different for Thailand than they were for Australia? Coming into Australia, each person is allowed 2.25 litres of booze, which was just recently risen. When we were waiting for our luggage I read a sign that said the limit going into Thailand was one litre per person. We had one litre of bourbon each…plus the very expensive bottle of scotch. There was no way we were empting that out, so it looked like we would lose one of our bottles.

I thought it better to declare everything than try to hide it and get caught – especially in a foreign country. Australian travelers haven’t had the best of luck as of late with this sort of thing.

We braced ourselves as we moved to the “Something to declare” booths at Phuket customs. There was one security guard waiting there. He waved at us to keep moving through to the next room…which was the front of the airport. What? That’s it? That’s the level of their customs? One security guard who didn’t even give us enough time to say hello before he waived us through with assumed full clearance? Suits me!

Fast forward to about our third night, and we went to the local night markets for our first taste of a bartering economy. I think we got ripped off on a few things, but did ok overall. It was an hour before our bus would come to take us back to the resort, so we went to one of the many outdoor bars down the center of the markets. We went to the one closest to the big stage, were a lady-boy cabaret show was on. By the way, the kids love a lady-boy in Phuket. The front of the stage was packed with about 40 under 10 year olds.

Never the less, we pulled up a stool and took advantage of their cheap prices. They quickly gathered that we were Australian, and since there were two other Australians at the bar (out of the 6 people there total, including 3 staff) they gave us a free drink. Before long, they asked us why we were in Phuket and we said our honeymoon – free drinks all round! There, that’s what I like. The staff consisted of a middle aged man, the owner of this bar and another proper bar in town that evidently does quite well, a lady-boy who later told us the cost of the operations s/he was planning to have, and a very attractive Thai girl – who evidently must have been bored because she started shouting drinks at random. When nobody else wanted a tequila shot, she did them herself. We had a really fun time for the 1-2 hours we were there. We must have bought 3 drinks each, but had about 7 or 8 thanks to their shouts.

It was no surprise then on our last night when we returned to the markets (and mind you, we were seasoned pros at bartering by now.) we also returned to the same bar. We got within 20 metres when they recognized us, which was cause for celebration and our first drink was on the house. They had a bell hanging from the roof of the little hut, and whoever rang it had to shout a round. They did this the night before, but I thought it just meant last drinks and they shouted rounds at random. See that’s where I was wrong, they ring the bell at random, and that means they are shouting drinks. Quite complicated stuff.

Anyway, we decided to give the bell a ring, and every drink after that was shouted by someone – us, the owner, the barmaids, the other people sitting around. The owner also bought us a pancake for a late night snack and a lei – which was itchy as hell and we took off as soon as we were out of sight. Again, we paid for about 6 drinks this time but had far more than that between the two of us.

Drinks were cheap everywhere, and the wife tried at least 10 different cocktails. Every time she wanted a drink, I bought her a different cocktail to try instead of the usual bourbon and coke (even if that’s what she asked for). I figure for the extra 20 baht (about 60 Australian cents), why the hell not? She is now a big fan of the Mai Tai’s.

On our return to Sydney, we were greeted by a much greater number of security and customs staff than at Phuket. We got in the local’s line, and I passed through the passport check with my little form filled out – again we had something to declare. We had bought these little statues for ourselves and family, and we were not sure if they were wood or not. Again, I decided to err on the side of caution and declare everything even if it meant more time.

Once through the passport check, I was randomly re-selected for further checks. He grabbed my passport and said “Are you traveling alone?”, I said no and pointed to my wife who had passed him 10 seconds earlier and was now waiting patiently for me a few steps away. He took one look at my passport, and said have a nice day. That was that apparently.

We lined up for the customs check, and Australia can be very particular with our airport security. We’re not worried about bombs and guns and shit – more plant life and animals are the concern. Never try to bring fruit into our country, your better off trying to smuggle your oranges and apples in explosive chemicals to get through customs.

They must have had 12 bays open with customs people going through luggage – suitcases everywhere opened with each object under scrutiny. The line up wasn’t all that bad though. We showed our little forms and then were ushered down to one check out to begin our check.

We told the customs guy about the statues, and they told us to prop our bags up on the conveyor belt to go through the scanner.

“Nah, your fine mate. Have a nice day”. And that was customs.

Maybe I just have a trusting face.

Anyways, that concludes my trip reports, and this is the last post about the wedding and all the shenanigans of the past month – which should please Duggle at least. I have finished work at my last job and start the new one on Monday, and thus begins the newest chapter of our lives.

Also in this past week, I played some poker. But that can wait for the next post I think.


Maudie said...

I hope you've archived these stories - and that you will add to them at each anniversar - on your 50th you'll have a great volume to share!!!


skitch said...

Congratulations! Being a native Thai boy-boy myself, I'm glad you enjoyed my homeland.

As much of a pro you think you became at bartering, you probably got ripped off. Next time you go to Thailand, you can hire my mom as your personal shopper...

When I was there years ago as a teenager on family vacation, I went off to buy something by myself and thought I got a good deal. I told my mom and she laughed at me and told me to follow her. I watched in awe as she got the same item for 1/2 what I paid! :)

Again, congrats and best wishes for a healthy and wealthy life together!

DuggleBogey said...

Actually, I saved up all the Wedding Posts and printed them out so I could read them all at once!

Great work!