It seems to me that a good way to start a travel blog is making the preparations and for a few weeks I've been torn on where to go, Thailand, Bali or Mexico. Admittedly, a lot of my future plans hinged on my ability to get an Indian tourist e-visa for my return to India at the end of the year.
I also have certain rules that I apply to myself when travelling to make the experience as stress free as possible. No mixed airline journeys, no self transfer, as few stops as possible, and no budget airlines (especially Air Asia) within reason unless absolutely necessary. This makes flying to the Orient from India questionable, time consuming, and potentially expensive, but everything seemed to fall into place in the end.
At the close of 2022 Indian tourist e-visas were reintroduced. I had since secured a perfectly timed flight to Thailand with only one stop, and by the same airline. My following onward flights to Bali is also a one stop only flights with Singapore Airlines.
So, with that said, let's get down to it.
February 1st 2023: I book Go Fly Airlines Goa-Mumbai-Phuket for the 3rd of May.
The plan being to spend two months in Phuket, fly to Bali for two months then think about a holiday
March 11th 2023: I am notified that the Phuket is cancelled.
Upon investigation I discover that the airline Go Fly uses the terminology "cancel" instead of "re-scheduled' and then try to sell tickets on the same flight for double the price. I subsequently re-book to fly on the 2nd of May (24 hours earlier).
March 20th 2023: I book flights to and from Kerala (pics).
Leaving 1st April and returning 8th April I I book the first two nights at at The Reach Hotel until I sort something better out.
March 29th 2023: I book a flight from Phuket to Bali via Singapore on the 21st June.
I intend staying in Bali for two months where I will plan my future from there but it may not be feasible considering the latest changes to the Indian Tourist Visa introduced in January.
March 30th 2023: I am again notified that my 2nd May flight is cancelled.
The fact of the matter was that it was rescheduled from 00:05 to 00:50 which I accepted.
April 1st 2023: Take a mid evening flight to Kerala.
My hotel is in the commercial shopping area.
April 2nd 2023: Take a late morning ferry to Fort Kochi.
April 3rd 2023: I check out of my hotel and move to Fort Kochi.
Initial impressions are that Fort Kochi is a one horse town living on the reputation Kerala's Backwaters which are allegedly very scenic. I book a boat tour for the next day to find out first hand.
April 4th 2023: I'm up bright and early for the nine hour Backwater Tour.
There were only a Scottish guy and myself on the boat trip which was quite lame. With the exception of a few birds there was no wildlife and all in all the trip was boring.
April 5th 2023: What promised to be my most boring birthday ever came and went with no memorable events.
I just hang around the Fort Kochi wasting time. Ideally I wish I was flying back in the early hours of the 6th instead of the 8th but........
April 6th 2023: Lazy day doing nothing.
April 7th 2023: Not such a Good Friday.
Religious days in India are alcohol free so it was a very boring national holiday day for me. 22:00 my taxi takes me to the airport earlier than I wanted due to it being a holiday weekend.
April 8th 2023: I fly back to Goa leaving on time at 05:30.
08:00 I arrive at my apartment.
April 30th 2023: I am again told by Go Fly that my flight is cancelled.
The truth was it was rescheduled from 00:55 to 01:25. Finding it impossible to contact Go Fly by phone as suggested in my notification I did manage to check in on line.
April 30th 2023: Teething problems.
A crown fell out of my mouth whilst eating a bar of chocolate. Bad timing.
May 1st 2023: I go to Vision Hospital in Mapusa to get my crown fitted back in my mouth.
I spend the rest of the day with mild toothache. In the early evening I make my way to the airport for my 01:25 flight the next morning.
May 2nd 2023: After three flight cancelations my Go Air flight finally takes off two hours late.
The connection in Mumbai was an hour late too so I eventually arrived in Phuket one hour late too.
Still in a time-warp I spend the afternoon and night in Bangla Road until two in the morning.
May 3rd 2023: Acclimatisation! I Get up at two p.m.
Again I spend the afternoon and night at Moon Shine bar in Bangla Road where there was a little rain to prepare everybody for the forthcoming monsoon. With the exception of my arrival in Phuket Airport when I arrived the day befor this was the first rain I'd seen since arriving in Goa back in November the previous year.
Same old same old for a few days so I'll take the opportunity to explain the differences since I was last here.
There is a lot of construction work going on and many of the rustic old buildings and street vendors selling food have been replaced by more modern buildings. Central Phuket which was under construction a few years ago is now open proper, unlike Jungceylon shopping Centre (which in my opinion is the jewel in the crown of Patong's shopping area). It is currently being renovated and a noticeable amount of it's upper level shops are boarded up until it opens again proper.
Patong Beach is basically the same though and Bangla Road is one of the best night life streets in the world, despite a few of the old favourite live music bars like Monsoon no longer being there. And one last feature of note is the emergence of cannabis shops that seem to be popping up everywhere since it's legalization.
May 6th 2023: Coronation Day
I had to make the decision of a night in front of the TV watching the Coronation of King Charles III or another night of fun in Bangla Road. I chose the former but, needing a breath of fresh air went to Bangla Road for some later anyway. What I didn't know was that due to local elections no alcohol was on sale from 18:00 for the next 24 hours so I went back to the resort where alcohol sales were OK as long as it didn't leave the resort.
May 8th 2023: I move to U Sabai Living Hotel.
Whilst it wasn't a resort and had no pool the rooms were actually nicer. It was marginally closer to Bangla Road, there were three ATMs almost outside my door, and the night fish market was only 80 metres from the hotel.
May 9th 2023: I change local pubs to Kangaroo Bar just along the road from Moon Shine Bar (which at some point had changed its name to Moon Bar).
One of the bar girls had acquired an unhealthy sounding cough. After five days of it another one of the girls there got a cough too so I figured it was time to move on.
May 11th 2023: I extend my tourist visa which leaves the door open for me to stay in Thailand until June 21st.
I already have my flight to Bali booked for that day. I also extend my booking at U Sabai Living Hotel until the 21st.
May 12th 2023: Elections again.
And again from 18:00 for 24 hours which means Bangla Road was to all intents and purposes closed for the night.
May 13th 2023: Elections continue.
I take the opportunity to again assess the changes since I was last here. In addition to the previously mentioned cannabis shops there are in my opinion too many people on the street selling cocaine.
I don't mean to be bitchy but the majority of the bar girls didn't seem quite as outgoing as on previous trips. Of course, there were those with an extrovert personality but generally speaking Thai girls are average looking and only show their outgoing side because it's what they are paid to do.
May 15th 2023: Change of pub again.
I decide to check out the bars in my local neighbourhood.
May 18th 2023: Thunder storm all morning.
May 19th 2023: Rain again all morning.
May 20th 2023: Thunder storm again all morning.
It's funny that in the same way that the rain only came in the evening last year in Puerto Vallarta, so far the rain here has only been in the morning.
May 21st 2023: Rain again in the morning.
If I'm totally honest I have to admit that life in Patong was getting sameish. Every day was a rotation of getting up at noon, having breakfast locally, walking down to Bangla Road, have five or six beers, eat, siesta at hotel, then at nineish, return to Bangla Road and start all over again the next day. The situation was that I'd previously visited Patong so many times before that I'd already experienced all the shows and attractions including trips to neighbouring islands. There was another factor though.
Earlier in the year I'd been hit with some really expensive overheads and whilst I wasn't necessarily feeling the financial pinch I was sill aware of the need to keep a large sum of money for medical emergencies. Consequently, I decided on no big holiday in 2023. Instead I opted for a two stop, six month relocation to Phuket and Bali.
May 22nd 2023: Rain again in morning but it lasted well into the afternoon. This is getting repetitious.
June 2nd 2023: Nothing to report so I'll fill you in on the general state of affairs.
The bar girls in "walking streets" (and most others) Thailand offer "full service" as a part of the job. The norm being that the better looking the girl, the better they will be dressed, obviously because they earn more money in extra caricular work. Walking streets are common place in Thailand and where to go for a little adult entertainment. But speaking of the girls, I could never work out though why so many of them have bad complexion. Not zits or the likes but pock marked faces. A Thai (or neighbouring country) girl with a faultless complexion is a rarity. The better looking of the girls use skin creams on their bodies but not so much on their faces!
The subject of the work they do is well covered on the internet as well as being common knowledge, but the bottom line is that the better the body, the more chance there is that it's been surgically enhanced and the money has to come from somewhere so, the later in the day you take a girl, the more chance there is that you weren't the first in line. Even a lot of the not so attractive bar girls wear teeth braces or have fancy tattoos which are not cheap in Thailand, but we all have different tastes so work that one out for yourself. but be careful. Beautiful ladies are not always what they seem.
The way that bar girls work is, they are available for extra caricular work but for this privalege the punter has to pay a "bar fine" to the bar to take the girl from the bar before any payment for her services. The bar girl will get a cut of the bar fine and also a cut of "lady drinks" purchased (dependant on the bar in question). Lady drinks are drinks bought by the punter for the bar girls at an inflated price. She could be drinking the same as you but the price for hers will be double, marked on the bill only as "lady drink". If the girls don't make their quota of bar fines and/or lady drinks they simply lose their jobs. For the record, the girls mostly live in single rooms shared by four, six or even more girls, so spending a night with a guy is sometimes a welcome relief from the madness of " life at home".
June 3rd 2013: A nationwide alcohol ban is enforced in Thailand in observance of the Buddhist holiday Visakha Bucha!
Nobody told my hotel so I stayed there for the afternoon. Actually it was totally legal as long as it wasn't in public.
June 6th 2013: I take a forty minute public bus ride to Phuket Town
My MacBook computer that had been intermittently refusing to charge for a few weeks finally refused to charge at all so I had to go to the Mac Shops in Phuket Town.
All that stuff about Apple being expensive I found to be totally true. Total rip-off prices to fix what I told them was the fault, hence no exploratory work to be done which they insisted on me paying for in any case.
June 10th 2023: Elections again.
A 24 hour ban on alcohol in public places as from 18:00. Only in the voting areas though so whereas downtown bars (including those in Bangla Road) were closed, for those close to my hotel it was business as usual.
June 16th 2023: Being without a computer was getting to me so I bought an iPad Mini.
I didn't realise how much technology had progressed in recent years. It was expensive for a tablet but wonderful. It was destined to suit me fine while I was in Bali while waiting for my MacBook to be repaired.
June 20th 2023: 13:00 Bangla Road, I started my final drinking session for the trip.
I end the session in my local, The Original Mouse Hole at two the next morning.
June 21st 2023: I fly to Bali via Singapore
The day started with an 04:00 taxi pickup to the airport. There was nothing out of the ordinary on my journey other than the flight on the Singappre to Denpasar leg being the only commercial flight I can remember being on where there was no safety demonstration before take off.
Following my initial visit to Max Warung Bar where there were only about seven customers (winding down to only me five beers later), I took a walk along Jalan Benesari (Benasari Street) where Seahouse, my three star hotel was and most of the other places were either under development or simply closed. It was so sad to see such a vibrant night scene of three years ago dwindle to nothing. In a sentence, the COVID 19 pandemic totally screwed this place.
June 22nd 2023: I went to the beach
Bali is the only place in the world where I can relax on a beach due to the trees to shade under whilst watching the locals surf under a backdrop of planes coming in to land a Ngurah Rai International Airport a few miles away.
Early evening I managed to secure a 47 night residency at Suka Beach Inn across the road from my current hotel.
June 23rd 2023: I took a general walkabout re-familiarizing myself with Kuta.
So much had changed since my last visit here in 2020. Businesses have closed or been replaced and the whole of the beach front has had a paved walkway and even an impressive skateboard facility installed. The architectural Bali style wall between the beach and road was being replaced too.
June 24th 2023: Back to the beach again
With so many places closed and so few tourists the only thing to do was go to the beach and chill out. Bali is one of the best places in the world for that.
As an afterthough though, it does seem strange that all the hotels are heavily booked and the street traffic is manic, yet people on the streets appear to be very few.
It's a pity there weren't more people there to make it as magical as it once was.
June 25th 2023: Another afternoon at the beach.
In the evening I ventured away from the farmiliarity of Max Warung Bar across the road from where I live to the very aptly named Turtle Restaurant and Sports Bar in the next street where the main attraction was a transexual stage show.
June 26th 2023: Beach again.
With Turtle being the only place with any notable life I return in the night for a few drinks
The Pad seems to have become my regular eatery.
June 28th 2023: Nothing to report
Life here is same old, same old (in a positive way) with nothing exciting ever happening. Get up at noon, go to the beach where I have four or five beers, go for lunch and a few more beers, around four, go for a massage, go back to my hotel to watch a little TV, then go out locally around nine until whenever.
June 29th & 30th 2023: Same as before with the exception of changing my beach shack. I end the night of the 30th in Max Warung restaurant & bar.
July 1st 2023: I move across the road to Suka Beach Inn
Heavy rain late morning
The rain was to last periodically on off until the next night
July 4th 2023: I applied for a Bali visa extension
If it was declined I'd be in the crap because my flight to Thailand is not until the 17th of August.
It seems that visas are the bane of my life. I spent a lot of what should have been relax time trying to juggle flights and dates without overstaying permitted stays in Thailand, Bali and India.
I was summoned to the immigration office for a photoshoot and fingerprint scans
It was no great loss of time as it was raining most of the day
July 7th 2023: Nothing changes except the weather
The rain slowed over the weekend (5th and 6th) and on the 7th it was clear blue skies.
July 11th 2023: My passport was returned with Bali visa extension intact
July 14th 2023: I apply online for a 60 day Thai Tourist Visa (extendable for 30 extra days).
July 21st 2023: I am asked to submit more documents for my Thai Visa. I have a feeling this will all end in tears.
July 22nd 2023: I submitted the documents as requested which show that I've been travelling for over a year which I'm sure will do no good to help my case.
July 23rd 2023: Bad mistake in funky town.
Love this place as I do, the only negative (other than being in the earthquake zone) is that Balinese people don't understand the word no. i.e. taxi driver, "you want taxi"? Me, "no". Taxi driver, "where you going"? The worst vendors however are viagra sellers. Everybody who sells anything else sells viagra in Bali. With Australians being the majority of the tourists I came to the conclusion years ago that Ausies have serious sexual hangups because in no other country of the seventy something I've visited have I encountered people selling viagra.
So anyway, I'm walking home and a Balinese girl on a scooter shouts to me "massage, boom boom". I respond "no" and after a second invitation, to get rid of her I told her that I was gay (which I'm not), and as fast as a flash she says "I get you a man". Thankfully it came to nothing but it reinforces what I said that Balinese people don't understand the word no.
July 31st 2023: My application for a 90 day Thai Visa in rejected.
Time to re-think my future but in the meantime I appeal the decision on the basis of the rejection being only because I had been out of the UK for so long.
August 1st 2023: my Thai visa appeal is rejected
Time to have a serious think about my future options. Favourite is a 24 hour visa run into Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Other options are Penang and Ho Chi Minh City.
August 2nd 2023: Galungan Day. The start of a ten day holy celebration
All the beach shacks were closed so I took a walk into Kuta town where I had a few afternoon beers.
August 5th 2023: Nothing to report other than the high tide coming to within 50 feet of the beach shacks which was the highest I'd ever seen it in Bali.
Time to reminisce again and it occurred to me that since I arrived, Kuta has become progressively busier. Not pre-pandemic busy but certainly busier than when I arrived.
August 12th 2023: The finale of Galungan holy celebration.
All the beach shacks were closed again so I got back into my own neighbourhood where I had a few afternoon beers and contemplated the fact that in five days time I would be returning to Phuket.
August 16th 2023: Last drink in Max Warung bar.
Little did I realise, it would be my last ever as it was closing at the end of the month due to lack of custom.
August 17th 2023: Early afternoon I flew to Singapore for a connection to Phuket.
Or so I thought. My flight from Bali to Singapore was two hours late, I missed my connection and got whisked off in a taxi to the Royal Plaza on Stots Hotel in the heart of downtown Singapore. The only negative was I had to be up bright and early for my 07:50 onward flight the next morning.
It was ironic that after my disappointment of not getting a 90 day visa for Thailand, as a result of my making a few erroneous entries on my immigration form in Singapore (where I wasn't even meant to be) I ended up with a 90 day visa there.
August 18th 2023: I finally flew from Singapore to Phuket.
I arrived back at my hotel in Phuket at mid-day and headed straight to Kangaroo Bar in Bangla Road where the music rotates around about ten stable songs that could eventually drive a person crazy if they went in every day as was my habit. Despite it all, it was great to be back.
August 19th 2023: I went to collect my MacBook from Phuket Town.
It didn't appear to have been repaired and the service agent tried to blame the fault on the new charger. I was furious having being told to return when the service engineer would be there on the following Monday.
August 21st 2023: I went back to Phuket town to collect my MacBook.
After testing the charger in the service agent's workshop, I was finally in agreement that the charger was not functioning, but it could have been the fault on the motherboard which had been repaired that created the charger problem.
August 22nd 2023: I applied for and got a 30 day Thai visa extension.
l booked visa run flights to and from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur for 9th/10th October with only seven hours between flights before my return.
August 23rd 2023: Pool becomes my new early evening pastime in my local, the Original Mouse Hole pub.
I lost two games to eight.
August 24th 2023: Pool at night continues.
I lost one game to seven. I need a new hobby. Losing is boring!
August 25th 2023: I become a part of "Chang" pub quiz team in The Original Mouse Hole Bar.
We won easily.
Earlier in the day I had booked a flight back to Goa for the 6th of November
August 27th 2023: I went to Fat Boys restaurant for a traditional Sunday lunch.
Lazy day after that.
August 30th 2023: I applied for a 5 year Indian tourist e-visa..
I went through hell and high water trying to get my Indian visa application sorted. To guarantee success, the applicant should apply from their own country. If not the application requires the use of VPN software which I didn't have but nonetheless purchased. It didn't seem to want to work for me though.
August 31st 2023: I finally managed to submit my Indian tourist e-visa.
I hit Kangaroo Bar in Bangla Road around two and in the evening I unwind in Rock Bar on Soi Nanoi playing killer pool. I lost.
September 1st 2023: I woke to an email saying that my 5 year Indian visa had been granted.
Back to Kangaroo Bar in Bangla Road in the afternoon and in the evening I go to The Original Mouse Hole Bar to join "Chang" team for another pub quiz. We won convincingly.
September 3rd 2023: Went to Aussie Bar in Bangla Road for a Sunday roast dinner.
It was good bu I preferred Fat Boys.
September 14th 2023: Killer pool at The Rock Bar.
I am now a part of the furniture in Phuket, what with being invited to away games.
"Chang" our team won again.
As has always been the case, when the rain comes gravity comes into force and all the rain (despite a new road drainage system) ends up at the lower area just out side Jungceylon's Phang Muang Sai Kor Road entrance with nowhere else to go. As a result the road there is effected worst with up to two feet of flood water, but nothing like as bad as it was was before the new drainage system was installed.
For the first and only time on any of my trips to Thailand I witnessed a potential for violence. A big lug of a drunken Brit was taking swings at a Thai guy but nothing connected.
October 1st 2023: I met Ernie Johnson for the first of several times.
Ernie was the UK jockey who rode the racehorse Blakeny to victory in the 1969 Epsom Derby. I found him to be a lovely unassuming person who was very easy to talk to.
Ernie is retired and now and lives in the North East of Bangkok but regularly visits Patong where he visits The Original Mouse Hole (my local) from time to time.
October 2nd 2023: Nothing to report.
Whilst Phuket is continually vibrant nothing much changes, hence the breaks in updates. However, as I left my hotel the first person I accidentally bumped into was Ernie Johnson. Phuket really is that small.
October 6th 2023: Ernie Johnson popped into The Original Mouse Hole again for a drink.
He really is a lovely person to talk to. Impeccably dressed too. An English gentleman to the end.
October 9th 2023: Visa run to Kuala Lumpur.
I left Thailand at 21:30 and arrived back in Phuket ten hours later.
October 10th 2023: Back to base.
It's funny that on a previous trip to Kuala Lumpur I hated the place, my hotel, and the airport. Things couldn't have been different on this trip. OK, I didn't leave the airport but the experience couldn't have been easier.
October 29th 2023: End of Bhuddist Lent.
To celebrate the end of the four day festival, alcohol was not allowed to be sold/consumed in public places. Private hotels were excluded though so I was OK.
(now available to read on-line in it's entirety).