Packing for a return journey is different from packing to begin a trip. When you prepare you place your ironed and folded, or rolled clothes neatly into your case. You take care to put shoes into bags; use every small compartment in the space and perhaps, if you are ultra fastidious [I am not], place layers of tissue paper between your pressed garments.
To leave, however you are likely to have more unwashed items than laundered. They may be in a tangled heap in the base of your hotel wardrobe- beachwear, underwear, evening outfits all mingled together in an unsavoury melee. In the case of Husband and myself the unwashed clothes will also be combined.
So rather than layering it into a case with loving care it gets thrust into any crevice available, an un-fragrant mush of sweat-ridden garments to be dealt with later, when you are able to face the chore of unpacking.
Check-out is by midday, although as with any humane hotel there is a room set aside for showering and changing into travel gear as our airport pick up is not until five. Once we’ve breakfasted and packed there’s only time for an hour or two lounging around in the sun before we need to go and ready ourselves. The hotel hosts a different clientele now as the German contingent has left and a Russian influx has taken over.
We’ve been allocated a swisher room than ours for showering and changing-a small suite with a private plunge pool, but it’s stuffy inside the tall fence and I’m not envious. With half and hour or so to kill we wander across the road to our nearest bar and have a beer before our taxi rolls up to take us for the first leg of our return.
It’s back to Koh Samui’s beautiful airport. Check-in is easy this time, although there’s very little here to while away the long wait in departure. At this point we feel no need to don masks as thus far there is no virus on the island. In departure there is a kiosk with gratis snacks and cold drinks-a delightful touch.
I spot a staff member strolling around with a placard and notice that it bears our name. Horrors! Husband’s case has something undesirable inside it. He is whisked away to oust the offending item, leaving me wondering if I’ll see him again. Eventually he returns, having retrieved a cigarette lighter he’d inadvertently packed. We’d bought it to light the mosquito coil on our balcony. I suppress the shame I feel more than he exhibits and we board the plane, where there is barely time for the mini-meal before we are touching down at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport again.
This time we take care to wear our masks and use our gel as we navigate along the extensive arms of the hub. It is midnight. The flight to the UK, we discover, is delayed.
At once the idea of 13 cramped hours feels unacceptable so we make our way to the Thai Airways desk, and in a reckless rush we upgrade our seats to Business Class-an eye-watering sum. Will we be seated together? The masked check-in lady tells us that we will be able to see one another but not seated side-by-side; a description that I do not fully understand until we board the plane.
Now we can use the business class lounge and although it takes several miles of airport wandering to locate it, when we do we can sink into comfortable chairs, help ourselves to a banquet consisting of every possible comestible and quaff an unending supply of drinks. It is hard to resist the urge to binge but tiredness craves calories!
Then it’s down to the gate and at last to the plane-accessed by a privileged short cut. We find ourselves on the upper floor of this gargantuan, winged behemoth.
There is our accommodation. They are not so much seats as nests. Compact pods furnished with screens, trays and best of all-buttons that stretch the seat into a fully reclining bed. Heaven in a cabin seat!
Husband’s pod lies just over the low screen, so I can wave and smile at him. As I’m getting settled a masked cabin steward lady approaches with a tray bearing orange juice or [wait for it] champagne. She addresses me by name and hands me a menu. It is all overwhelming. I’m not hungry but feel obliged to consume the meal I’ve chosen, accessorised with real crockery and cutlery.
I attempt to watch a film but have watched all I wanted to see on the outward flight, also I am exhausted and seduced by the comfort of the stretch, the place to lift my feet. I press the buttons, snuggle in the blanket and sleep.
We touch down at Heathrow. It is cold, dank and indecently early.
How ignorant we were, then, of what was to come!