Winter sun. The post-Christmas adverts are full of it, and as the UK drowns once again in a deluge of depressing damp, these old bones itch with a longing for hard, brittle, hot sun to dry them out.
We leave our house at lunchtime, taking one last look at the flood lake that covers the water meadows behind our house and head off to get the airport coach. Health issues preclude early morning starts for me and these days we overnight at an airport hotel; this time it’s the Hilton, being the only hotel with easy access to Heathrow terminal 2. It’s fine except that, as is usual in chain hotels the room is over-hot with no fathomable means to turn down the temperature. After I’ve removed the too-plump duvet from its cover we finally get to sleep.
We’ve decided to get out of our winter sun rut and swap the West Indies for Thailand, having not been for some years. The flight is long to Bangkok and followed by another, domestic flight but perhaps some passengers will have cancelled due to the sudden, rampant appearance of ‘Coronavirus’ that is running riot in China; in truth we’ve vacillated, considered aborting the trip, although since there’s no advice from the foreign office for Thailand, no money would be refunded were we to cancel.
We’re armed with face masks and hand gel for the journey. There’s more than enough time for a coffee and to tug on my flight socks for the 11 hours to come.
Thailand is 7 hours ahead of us so there’s some darkness as we travel forward in time to Bangkok. I am happy enough to while the hours catching up on films I’ve missed, watching three movies in a row, meanwhile there’s a reasonable meal and later a snack.
At last the Thai Airways plane touches down at Bangkok and there is that unfamiliar bombardment of warmth/fumes/humidity as we exit, stretching our legs for the long, long trek through Suvarnabhumi Airport, which must have some of the longest airport walks, endless tubes to get to check-ins, desks, bag-drops, international, domestic, immigration and the rest.
Here we don our masks, stifling in the unaccustomed warmth and join the collected mass of bodies queueing to get our fingerprints scanned, our passports scrutinised and our photos taken. There are ‘health check’ points, though not for us and more than half the fellow-travellers are sporting masks, as are we. The wait is long, hot and airless.
Despite our continued route through on to a domestic flight we must undergo more security before we are allowed into the gate area for the flight to Koh Samui. I’m alarmed when our water is discarded and subsequently discover that no water is available to purchase at the gate. I’m starting to feel thirsty and get the ominous, prickly feeling that precedes cystitis. There is no option except to fill a bottle from the fountain, an unknown. I decide to take the risk. and while it tastes rank it’s better than dehydration.
There is not much more than an hour to Koh Samui and when we arrive we step out into a green, flower-filled oasis, the airport buildings airy, open-sided huts. This is reputedly the ‘world’s most beautiful airport’ and I’m not about to dispute it.
In the taxi to our hotel I gaze out, somewhat stupefied by lack of sleep, though grateful for the air-conditioned cab. By now we’ve been up for 17 hours and have yet to acclimatise to the fierce temperature.
At hotel check-in all I can do is nod wearily and sign things, before we stumble to our room and fall into bed.
We are here…