I’d mentioned in a Facebook post a long while ago (6 Feb) how I’d been a last-minute addition to another group’s five-day kayak tour of Phang Nga Bay in Thailand. That group was a made up (I’d thought) of a five-member family from Denmark, and I’d initially met them at dinner that Monday evening after they’d had their first day’s outing together. I was going to join them for paddling the following day.
The local guide introduced me to the group that evening, and the reception I got was chilly, to say the least. The two people nearest me at the dinner table managed to offer flat, short greetings that felt perfunctory, at best; otherwise, I was met with unfriendly stares. It honestly felt that the group went out of its way to make it known both to me and the tour guide that they did not appreciate my addition to their family outing.
Little else was said to me during that meal — I believe the gentleman across from me asked about my kayaking experience and skill, I suppose to determine whether the late arrival would also slow them down — and all conversation from that point on was not only in Danish but in what seemed to me to be angry tones.
As you might imagine, I decided against trying to interject myself into the group, ate my meal in silence, and waited impatiently for the guide to give the post-meal details about the next day’s plans so I might finally excuse myself.
As I wrote on Facebook later that evening, I felt like Aunt Edna who’d been forced upon the Griswolds during their family vacation. I was the interloper. The unwelcome guest. The turd in the punch bowl.
There was really no feasible way to ask off the tour, so I decided that I’d simply kayak apart from the group so we wouldn’t upset one another. And I would take my meals separate from them, as well, should they continue to behave in that manner.
The next morning, breakfast was going to be some distance away from the hotel, so we were to load into the back of a truck to be transported. Having no desire to be in such close quarters with the group, I said I wasn’t hungry and was staying behind. As it turned out, one of the others was also staying behind, and to my shock, she invited me to join her for coffee. She seemed quite nice about it, but I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps she was going to tell me that I’d been voted off the island.
When I’d met everyone the night before, they were already seated for dinner. This morning, I immediately noticed that her foot was heavily bandaged and in a special boot — something I’d not noticed the previous evening — and she was walking on it gingerly.
Before she explained about her foot, she offered the second big surprise of the morning: the others were two families who did not know one another. The fact that they were both from Denmark (though one couple were retirees who lived in Krabi, Thailand part of the year) was purely coincidental.
Then came the story of the foot injury that explained so much about the evening before. She described how she’d hurt it during the previous day’s outing. I don’t recall the exact term she used, but she talked about the previous day as a nightmare or something along those lines.
The tension I’d felt the night before had nothing to do with me. They were upset about how the guide had handled one segment of that day’s paddling that ultimately led to this woman being injured. Fortunately for the group, she is a trained kayaking instructor and guide back in Denmark, so she’s taken charge when they found themselves in a dangerous situation, else multiple of them might have been hurt far worse. And fortunately for her others in the group were MDs, otherwise she would likely have ended up in the hospital.
It’s actually surprising that the group continued on instead of calling an end to the weeklong tour and demanding a refund (which I have to think they probably received anyway). But she said that the guide knew that he had screwed up and they fully expected he was going to be at the top of his game for the rest of the week. I can only attest to his being a very good guide in my four days.
And as I expected when I posted a follow up on Facebook after breakfast stating that everything was going to be fine, the remainder of the week went incredibly well. The rest of the group came back from breakfast feeling refreshed, looking forward to the day, and ready to welcome me to the tour.
In an interesting twist, on the final night I learned from one of the group that he and his wife had specially booked this trip as a private tour: the three others from Denmark and I were all added onto the trip by the tour company. So, in fact, he may well have been a bit resentful when I showed up three nights prior. Still, he had taken it all in stride and except for that disaster that I’d fortunately missed on Monday, he and everybody else had a fantastic week.