One of the few shows we occasionally watched, and now less than ever with our shaky, unplugged status, was Restaurant Impossible. We would watch as the host came in, disrupting the restaurant’s lousy atmosphere, and start ordering everyone around. I am a big fan of identifying the problem, exposing it out in the open, brainstorming solutions, ruthlessly executing them, ultimately turning the world upside down in chaos, and finally seeing everything come out the way it was planned. This was exactly what he did, everywhere and to everyone. And this was exactly what our resort needed.
After Penang we decided to visit the south islands of Thailand, and as we aren’t big fans of beaches completely overrun by tourists, we decided on a little island not very known to the world, not even on the map at times – Koh Ngai. No cars, streets or anything really, only a couple of resorts, snorkelers, and longtail boats. To get there we had to get to Trang, a town of working locals, a market, train station and that’s all. We arrived in time to almost get run over by an elephant (a little exaggeratted, but it’s true we were in a tuk tuk and an elephant came stomping through the streets, much to our surprise and locals’ indifference). After talking to a tour office (who ranted on about the “bad food bad food!” in our future resort), we arranged a car to bring us to the pier, a one-street town with a few bleak, tired-looking buildings and no people to be seen. They dropped us off at possibly the strangest hotel/guesthouse I’ve ever stayed in. A long driveway, flanked by plastic animals and blinking lights, led to a huge, manmade pond (complete with swan-shaped paddle boats), surrounded by rows of empty rooms. We stayed in 2 rooms for a night, reaching a grand total of 32 Euros, the cheapest (and strangest) place to date. The next morning, after 2 days of buses, cars, elephants, tuktuks, longtail boats and more, we finally, finally, ended up in our resort. Let the troubles begin.
By far the largest problem was the food. We are completely spoiled when it comes to this: after eating hawker stand food, which has far too much competition to be bad, and eating food so fresh that it was probably running around yesterday, it’s hard to accept the fact that you are paying 30 Euros (remember, the cost of about 5 meals somewhere else) for the worst food you have ever tasted. Part of the problem was the freshness (it was all who-knows-how-old), the price, the lack of being what it said it was (wait, this is fried rice?), and more. We basically starved ourselves. We ate french fries (believe it or not, you actually can mess up frying frozen potato pieces) for lunch, and ate rice for dinner. After a late lunch one day we ate ice cream for dinner – down to 2 meals a day. Needless to say, we lost weight.
Other problems: slow internet you had to pay for, broken, old, and moldy snorkeling gear (we felt lucky our kayaks didn’t sink), an abundance of staff who didn’t really do anything but play hackisack, smoke, and watch my parents get mad, etc etc. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. We fed the fish, learned to snorkel, took a tour and snorkeled in a reef for the first time, climbed over rocks and trekked through the jungle (remember, no roads), read books in the sun, and had an interesting time, cut short by 2 days because of our need to get out of there.
At the end of our 4 days, we went through the entire spiel again, getting into a longboat to the pier (on a stormy, gray day without life vests), getting a car in the rain, arriving in Trang and buying food at a stall without any English translation (which are the best ones), and finally getting to our VIP bus, where we spent the next 12 hours. They played Cowboys and Aliens, a strange spectacle when played in Thai, and we arrived in Bangkok at 5:30 in the morning, glad to have that experience behind us.
But it has to happen at one point – the best thing you can do is cut your bad luck short by getting out of there, and not completely losing an attempt at anger management, especially when bad luck is costly. To accomplish this task we enjoyed playing out what would happen should Restaurant Impossible ever change to Resort Impossible – he would take over and change everything, if we failed to do it first.
I must end on a happy note though, given that with these pictures, no one will believe me . The view was truly beautiful and I felt very lucky to have it. I miss the ocean already and will have to wait for Vietnam to see it again.