kidnap and extortion- Detail
Wednesday 9th January. Phuket
Well... we are sitting in a beach restaurant having been swimming sun bathing in 30 or so degrees in sun on Kata beach. We have used the joys of lastminute.com to extend our stay in the Orchidaesa hotel nearby. 50% cheaper at £60 per night including breakfast.
So yesterday.. this may be a long boring blog but it is all in the detail.
As you may recall we were headed south on the brilliant overnight sleeper (soft bed 2nd class air conditioning!) train from Bangkok to Surat Thani. We had purchased a transfer coach to Phuket with the agent in Bangkok. All sweet. We neither of us slept more than two hours of the 12 hour journey despite the comfy bed and cosy layout. Probably that clickety clack noise going on outside! But no probs as we had only a three hour transfer to go...
So, we are shepherded onto a ramshackle coach with other European tourists as expected and settled down with a couple of hours sleep in mind. The company on our paperwork was for Songserm and the man at the coach had ID and company logo on his shirt. He asked us where we were going before we left.
After about 30 mins the coach pulls over to the side of the road and someone calls ‘Phuket’ several times. We are apparently the only going there so we get off and he explains we have to transfer to another coach, there is just us two .... odd.
We are then ushered into an open sided minivan (as in the picture) with a male and female up front. ‘So, what is happening’? I ask. ‘You go in this’ says the slightly uncertain little man arranging the transfer. Just the two of us. Odd.
Me and Mich are sitting on our luggage nervously laughing about this as you would. I then use my phone and our very useful mobile WiFi (brilliant kit) and look on google maps. Where are we..?
Well.. Phuket is due west and we were way out of Surat Thani headed EAST toward the coast. erm.. this nervous laughed turned into more nervous and less laugh. Then we turn off this little road and head onto a rough potholed dirt track into what looks like a scrap yard. Just the two us. Phuk. !
We jumped out and I start raising my voice in that BADASS cop way. This doesn’t seem to help. !
A woman in a kiosk checks our paperwork for the bus and invites us back into the minivan for our transit to the coach to Phuket. ‘What the Phuk is going on’ says us. Shouting now.
Anyway their English is not great but we have little option. In the middle of nowhere. Me and Mrs BB two backpacks, two suitcases. The only thing we can think to do that may help someone find our bodies is to start shooting. Camera, that is! Put the location services on, take photos and hope that someone will think to interrogate my MacBook at home. I took photos of our Dream Team kidnappers too (which didn’t help the ambience).
Told you this was a long story..
We are then taken on this minivan further east but at least back into civilisation. We are taken to a large bust depot after a 20 minute drive and extracted from the minivan.
We decided we needed to assert our authority and speak to the head man. Didn’t help. He now says ‘You travel to Phuket on this coach’ pointing to an even more ramshackle coach alongside. ‘Leave in 40 minutes. Six hours’ noooo. We are really stuck for choices. I wandered round to the other bus companies in the square. Most are the same company. I found one called Phantip. Ha, escape.
This is also part of Songserm. Doh.
With little option I return to the head man. Taxi? 6000 Thai Baht he says. (£150)..! No that’s bloody ridiculous. RIP off. Extortion.
We got in the coach for the sjx hour planned ramshackle ride on the ramshackle route with the same bandit company we were struggling with. WTF can we do...!
Two of us, two backpacks and two suitcases on wheels. Can’t run.
Michelle then said the most important two words she has ever said to me ‘TAXI...NOW..! I love this girl.
So we then manage to barter the 6000 baht extortion to the 4500 baht extortion (up front) and agree a taxi. Are we still concerned ? Hell Yes.! He has the cash and the taxi is likely to be his redneck cousin with gold teeth in a beat up Chevy with God knows what intent.
Anyway this story has a happy ending as a classic taxi pulls up saves us from the....representatives of Songserm. The driver is a nice man with wonky teeth called Mr Chang. (No...his teeth weren’t called Mr Chang, he was!)
He took us beyond Phuket and to our hotel door. Three hours. We love Mr Chang. He doesn’t like the SongSperm gangsters either.
Well after travelling 22hours, only sleeping two hours in two days we were finally able to relax into our hotel near the beach. Nooooo. Not so. It was appalling. The walls had peeling paintwork, the place was dirty and smelly and worst of all the bedding was filthy and stained. So lastminute.com and we booked our room here. Half a mile up the road..along a narrow steep hill. Two backpacks two suitcases on wheels and two very weary travellers. We still had the energy to explain this was our fifth wedding anniversary (old habits) to get an upgrade, complimentary drinks and discount dinner. To be honest I would have thrown us out on the street as we looked like street dwellers by then.
We did manage to dash out onto the beach for a relaxing swim after our ordeal and help our recovery from PTSD. !
We got stung lots of times by the Marine Stinger jellyfish..ho hum..! Goodnight.
Did you know.. over 90% of the Thai population are Buddhists.
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