It’s a natural tendency to present the photos and blog posts that are the highlights of our travels, but what often gets left out are the many bumps along the way. Thankfully, these have been relatively few during our last 7 months, but I think it’s worth at least one blogpost since you will not escape a bad experience if you travel long enough (at least not if you’re on any kind of budget).
Our latest experience is an example of this immutable fact. Our plan was to spend 7 days on the less traveled island of Kho Ngai, an island which has no roads, no motor vehicles and only 8 resorts. Kho Ngai is one of the Trang islands off the western coast of southern Thailand. The islands in this area feature impressive karst rock formations that jut out of the sea. They’re known for rock climbing, beautiful beaches and excellent snorkeling and diving. This was to be a “vacation within a vacation” for us, and a chance for the kids to learn snorkeling. The island lives up to its billing in terms of natural beauty, but sadly our resort fell way short of even our modest expectations.
We booked our stay directly online at the Kho Ngai Resort after quickly reading some reviews at popular travel sites. There were a few negative posts, but our attitude is that there will always be a few unhappy travellers…little did we know we would be joining their ranks.
Where to start….we should have known that this was going to be a difficult stay when all of our multiple e-mails asking if they had snorkel gear for children went unanswered. Of course, there was no snorkel gear for kids; what they did have was a sad assortment of tired masks and leaky snorkels. The food was expensive, bland, and practically tasteless. We’ve had Westernized Thai food in the U.S….this was far worse. The fact that we started to skip meals to avoid eating at this place did not escape our little eater, Josephine, who declared on day 4 – “I think I’m losing weight, Papa.” No free Internet. Not only is this the first place we have ever had to pay for Internet on our journey, it was also the slowest and weakest signal ever. We’ve enjoyed our share of being unplugged on this trip, but when we do want to be connected, we really do want to be connected.
To make matters worse, we could only access the other resorts along the main strip of beach by taking a 20-minute trek through a rocky jungle trail that is definitely not an option with kids at night. The fact that we could be savoring some of the best Thai food we have ever tasted at the next and nearest resort (and for less money) made us feel like fools trapped in a secluded, over-priced, second-rate resort dedicated to travellers lacking taste buds.
The only positives for this “resort” was that it was peacefully deserted (we obviously hadn’t done as much homework as the travellers who decided not to book here), the room was clean, and the beach was quite nice with good snorkeling (we resorted to buying gear from a dive shop). We made the most of our mistake by trying to get away on snorkeling tours, by trying to eat as many lunches or early dinners at the other resorts, and finally by cutting our stay short by two days to escape from our tropical prison.
My point is that bad experiences can and will happen, even to seasoned travelers and even with the wealth of travel guides and review resources we have at our fingertips. It basically sucks to have a bad experience, but there is not really much you can do except to try to make the most of it and definitely help other travelers by posting reviews.
P.S. – I know this might sound like a big whine to hear about the poor Lie Family’s experience on a tropical island in Thailand. But believe me when it happens to you on one of your vacations, there is nothing like a good rant to make you feel just a little bit better.