25 Jan 2007

And Then There Was Typhoosion Confusion

And this was my first trip to crew change by boat as every other time I have ended up going and coming by helicopter owing to one thing or another. This trip, when I got to the hotel in Bangkok there was mass confusion as I was getting one set of instructions from the rig and another set from the hotel folk, supposedly from the office.

It was finally resolved with the hotel calling me at all the times they had decided I would be picked up, starting at 01:00 in the morning and hourly there after until I was finally picked up at 10:30; just to change hotels. Well, OK, it was in Jomtien but just a hotel change all the same. The reason? They were evacuating the rig that morning for typhoon Durian and Jomtien is close to Utaphau {got the spelling right this time} airport were we would chopper out of when the risk had passed.

As an interesting by the by, we stayed in what was, still is? the biggest hotel in the World, apparently, The Ambassador City. And the most least used going by the echo you got when trying to find anyone who worked there. 5000 rooms and 5 staff at our reckoning. From the wing we were in it was a half kilometer walk to find food. Of course, by the time you were back in your room you were hungry again. Room service? 'Solee sir, no hab.'

The pool at the Big Hotel and one of four tower blocks at the Big Hotel

Next door to the Big Hotel where the locals hang out..................

Three days of that and finally out to the rig by helicopter from Thailand so guess what? My passport was stamped out of Thailand but no passport stamp into Cambodia and thus I came off the rig by boat to Cambodia with no visa. I had left Thailand and never officially arrived anywhere. Funny feeling rolling up, off a boat, into a Communist country with no visa even though I had been assured all was to be magically taken care of. And magically taken care of it was; I was duly given a visa by some old drunk guy in a uniform covered with ribbons, medals and dubious looking stains, in Sehanoukville and for my brief stay in Cambodia assumed the name as displayed on that vise; Amdew Intosh. Do I here you all saying 'Always check your visa before the drunk guy in the uniform goes'?

So with two different names in my passport, three if you look closely at an old Vietnamese visa, I was expecting another party at Phnom Penh airport immigration to get the plane to Thailand. Once there it was clear the immigration folk were just as drunk, or couldn't read, or both, and I passed the 'test' first time and waltzed through the red zone back into the 'free World' as we call it.

Anyhoo, I made it through all the traveling but I must say, with advancing years, the day knocked the stuffing out of me. Up at 05:00, on the boat, which was a tad late, at 07:45. Into Spookville at 12:00 and, after the visa adventure, onto a 1980's coach for a five hour ride, with no air-con, through the depths of the Cambodian countryside, with a half hour mid way stop {as we started the journey, man driving bus told us that we would stop 'in the middle of the road after two hours.' We were delighted to find this translated to 'in the middle of the trip'} for the classic SE Asian lunch of road kill and rice. Ever onwards, at a nail biting 40 mph, to Phnom Penh for a three hour wait for a one and a half hour plane ride to Bangkok. Finished? Not yet.

It may be a brand new airport in Bangkok but we landed and taxied right passed the damn thing to park two kilometers away, get off the plane using the old steps method and had a buss ride, standing up, all the way back to the terminal. THEN the medic discovered he had lost his passport. THEN the agent couldn't find the mini busses to get us into town to the hotel. Those two items cost us another one and a half hours and a medic lost in space. {Still there as I write this as far as I know but he's Thai so should have got it sorted by now.........}.

Well, that's about it. I fell into bed, after a shower at about 01:30 in the morning and I thought I would never to wake up again; man I was drained. But the body being what it is, I was up and shopping by 09:30.

Crew Change Boat; Top Deck

Driving through the country side of places like Cambodia and Vietnam are tremendously good for the soul and most definitely make you realize how amazingly well off we are, however poor we think we are. And for sure after seeing how these people live, and somehow keep smiling, we can only count our blessings. Just to see what they don't have; and we wine and think the World is against us if we are lying on the sofa and the batteries for the TV remote give out!! Cambodia looks very poor, even compared to Vietnam the first time I went there back in 1993, {Vietnam is very prosperous in the towns now by the way} with miles of rice paddies and people bent double in amongst it, and living in what wouldn't even get rated as a 'hovel' for us. {I'm sure it wouldn't be called 'living' to us.} As a 'by the way', have you noticed how things like the Discovery Channel are always off to film people living in abject poverty and pleading, supposedly on these peoples behalf, with the World not to encroach on their 'habitat'? I bet the inhabitants of this rain forest, or that swamp would give all the trees or wet lands gladly for the chance to get into a nice condo with running water and electricity. 'And not too far from Tescos please. Oh, and a school and hospital would be cool.' Is this what they call the human zoo?

A filling station in Cambodia.
It's just for motor bikes of course, but that's only common sense.........

{That's my Cambodia picture as the bus was bouncing about too much, but below are a couple of Vietnam; same same.}

Nam Can, Southern Vietnam where we used to re-fuel the chopper on the way to the rig.

That may be my last, only, trip through Cambodia as I believe we only have one more well to drill before we move the rig back to Thai waters which will mean back to crew change through Songkhla down in the deep south. Another bomb weary area of the World. {I came through Bangkok this time the day after they had their 8 bombs.} Not sure if these bombs were about politics or God, but for sure one or the other. Or is it all the same thing?


Wayne said...

The hide and seek blog must be a little dated as I know for a fact that Qantas have been playing "skip to the loo" my darling since 1998. That was well before the sun began setting in the East.
The game starts almost simultaneously with lunch (cannot vouch for morning and evening flights across the Tasman).
Having written this blog I find that it will be posted under the wrong thread.......sorry.
Dissimilar to the "cross channel" flights there are ALWAYS full planes to Australia due to a default in the Austarlian Governments generous unemployment benefits. However there are also similar numbers travelling in the reciprocal direction due to tough parole conditions in the West Island. You will likely as not see many fallen sheep shearers on these flights.
Deportation orders stipulate that parolees are forbidden in partaking in "skip to the loo" on short haul flights as the need for ablutions is deemed not as demanding as in say longer transit times, hence most escapes are made at the destinantion airport and New Zealand is well infiltrated with absconders.
I have fortunately and otherwise avoided quite successfully since 1998 flying Qantas as Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Garuda and lately budget airlines give the better option of flying without the enduring pastime of "skip to the loo".
I am unable to comment on pre 1998 as my travel opportunities were somewhat limited, therefore I'm unaware of other similar "in flight" entertainment.
This intrepid traveller has flown on some 40 different airlines and feels justified in submitting this blog to challenge others in their own experiences a mile or so high.

Mac said...

You are spot on with that one Wayne. Stupi of me to miss it. As a by the by this game always seems to result in the ever popular 'Red Wine on White Jeans'

Mac said...

Stupi sums it up. Please read STUPID.