Monarch Airlines……never again!

I mean never….not if they paid me…..absolutely refuse to ever fly with this bunch of idiots again.

So……there I was 2 weeks ago in need of a quick visit to the UK. I hunted for flights that would arrive when I needed them to at an airport that was close to where I needed to be.

I found a reasonably timed flight to. Gatwick airport and back. Sadly they weren’t cheap and it came to more than £320 for the ticket.

So I arrived at the airport for my flight…..I overheard the check in staff tell the couple in front that the flight was delayed. I checked in and was handed a letter apologising for the delay and telling me I could check the flight status on line. The check in staff told me there was a 3 hour delay but when I checked my boarding pass it was 3.5 hours.

I managed to contact my sister to tell her that instead of 23.55 I would now be landing at about 4am. Not the greatest news as we had an appointment in Cardiff at 2pm the following day.

I then discovered that there were only 9 people on the flight. One person had received a text about the delay but the rest of us knew nothing. As the letter had come for. Luton. Monarch were obviously aware of the delay much earlier in the day. At about 10pm we were offered some food and a drink. All that was on offer was pizza…..not great for someone who is dairy I tolerant but there was no alternative on offer.

I tried to check the flight status on their website…but it didn’t exist. It wasn’t showing on the Dalaman website and the Gatwick website said they had no idea when it would arrive.

We were given no assistance, and no information. We finally decided we would head to the gate even though there was no confirmed departure time and all the boards just showed the flight as delayed. We finally took off 4 hours late…..we were told we could sit anywhere and were offered a free drink…but at 1.30am you are really too tired to drink anything.

If I hadn’t booked a return flight I would have refused to ever use them again at that point.

So the return…..check in was chaos….2 flights checking in at the same queue with only 2 manned check in desks. I queued for nearly an hour leaving me just 20 minutes to run around duty free before boarding started. Everyone was at the gate on time but we didn’t board until 20 minutes later. We weren’t told we were delayed but the flight didn’t take off until 30 minutes after the time on the ticket.

The plane was the most cramped I have ever been on. No room under the seats for hand luggage and the overhead lockers stuffed full. My hand luggage was 4 seats away. I am really short and my feet don’t touch the ground…usually I put them on my hand luggage bag but I was left swinging them for 4 hours. Anyone over 5 foot tall had their knees pressed up against the seat in front.

There were literally 100 very small children on the flight……who all cried in unison during take off and landing. The parents obviously though that there would be room to spread out and the wouldn’t really have a wriggling under 2 year old on their lap for 4 hours. I was whacked on the head by the same chocolate chip muffin 3 times, had my hair pulled several times and my back kicked at regular intervals for the whole 4 hours.

I can honestly say it was the worst flight I have ever been on. I really wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. Sadly my sister has already booked with them to come and visit me in a months times. What could possibly go wrong? Oh…..they have already emailed to say the flight will be delayed 2 hours…… So it will be my turn to do the airport run in the middle of the night.

When choice stops been a choice……..UK Immigration rules

Yes I chose to come to Turkey and most days I love living here. But the plan was always if the job didn’t work out I could always go back to the UK. For those of you that have been reading for awhile you will know that not long after I got here I met my husband.

We did the usual things…..dated, got to know each other, fell in love and decided to get married. But that’s when the choice stopped been a choice……because now I don’t have a choice….we have to live in Turkey.

Why, why? I hear you shout…..well in October 2012 the UK changed their immigration rules for non EU spouses. That means Turkish as well as Egyptian, Tunisian, American… Yes I said American,Canadian and anywhere else that isn’t Europe.

So we have some choices…… I could return to the UK by myself……find somewhere to live, try and find a job…not any job I have to earn more than £18600 a year. Once I have been working for 6 months we can apply for a visa for my husband. He first has to pass an English test which is a reasonable requirement and we have to pay the extortionate visa fee which with translations, photocopying and visit to the visa centre to submit the documents can easily come to over £1000.

Then we would have to wait…..,between 12 and 24 weeks for a decision to be made. They can suggest we live in my husbands country especially as we have already done so for a number of years. So that’s nearly a year apart. If the visa is granted he would come to the UK but be subject to immigration control for 5 years. The visa is only for 2.5 years and we would have to reapply again after that time for a further 2.5 years. Exactly the same costs, and we would have to be earning £18600 between us…… possible for a mature couple like us but what about young couples with children or who want to start a family…..not such an easy amount to reach.

After a further 2.5 years we would then have to apply for a different type of visa allowing him indefinite leave to remain and yes that does come with a price tag…… He also has to sit a higher level English test and pass a Life in the UK test. I’ve tried the Life in the UK test on line and failed….58%. Interestingly I got sidetracked and ended up doing an aptitude test on the MI5 website afterwards and was told that I have an aptitude for that type of work and should apply…… chance they don’t pay £18600 a year.

Eventually if we meet all the criteria set by the Government 6 years down the line……he can apply to be a UK citizen if he wants.

But what if they refuse the visa…….. We can appeal…….that can take a further 19 weeks…… All the time living apart. We won’t get a visit visa for him because they will know that he wants to settle in the UK and won’t believe that he’ll come home afterwards.

If I was European…..I could bring my husband to the UK to live. He could have a Family Permit and a 5 year residents permit and not be subject to immigration controls, not pass an English test,claim benefits if he wanted in fact everything that an EU citizen can claim in the UK. Not very fair is it?

There is a way…..we could consider the Surinder Singh route. Couples move to another European country, get jobs work for an undefined period of time although 12 weeks has always been acceptable and can then apply for a Family Permit and return to the UK. The UK Citizen is then classed as having exercised their rights to free movement and are treated as an EU citizen rather than a UK citizen. Many people have opted for this route as it is cheaper and you get to be together for the whole time rather than separated for 6 months to a year.

There are groups on Facebook specifically for supporting people through the Surinder Singh route…search for EU FREE MOVEMENT DIRECTIVE and you should find them easily.

But…..isn’t there always a but? In January 2014 the UK decided to add a few extras to the European ruling…..not legal but they seem to be able to do what they like. Now you have to prove you have moved the centre of your life to the other EU country. Things like keeping a house, car or job in the UK may affect your right to return as a family. People who are enrolled on University courses in the UK could be classed as not having transferred their lives. Sadly the UK government is doing everything it can to keep non EU spouses out.

At the moment we are happy to live in Turkey……which is just as well as there aren’t a lot of other options open to us.

Big Wave Seafood at Lamai

Just have to give this one a mention . It’s not on trip advisor so can’t leave a review there.

This restaurant is located in Lamai not far from Mc Donald’s. Lamai is one of the towns that has a Walking street every night…known as the Night Plaza. In reality a couple of rows of stalls selling shirts, flip flops, souvenirs, phone cases and other things tourists might want to remind them of their trip. Definitely haggle it is well worth it and you can get some really good bargains.

If you stand with your back to Mc Donald’s the Night Plaza is to your left about 100 metres further up the road on the opposite side, There are two entrances and if you head for the furthest one The Big Waves is on your left not long after you go in.

To be honest it looks grubby…….the plastic chairs could do with a good clean….we headed for the wooden ones. Really attractive display of fresh fish outside all in ice to keep it fresh. Hubby opted for Barracuda and I had the White Snapper….both fried in onions and garlic with some garlic rice and a salad. A food mountain arrived and the fish was cooked to perfection. A mix of all nationalities eating here including local people, which I always think is a great recommendation.

Not the cheapest place we’ve had fish but definitely the tastiest served by lovely friendly people.

For the ladies…..the ladies facilities are basic but clean…nowhere near the worst I have experienced on the Island. But…….when you come out don’t be tempted to look in the concrete sinks where they wash up. It’ll offend your Western concept of what a sink should look like.

I would recommend it and I would eat there again……but don’t wear white trousers.

The Best Beaches in Turkey?

I saw this article for the Guardian this morning. There are three of our local ones mentioned – Gemiler, Faralya and Kabak. I agree all very beautiful.

But there are others as a resident that I would rate more highly. Katranci is much closer and more accessible and a beautiful beach. It gets busy on a Sunday with locals but during the week it is lovely and quiet. The most photographed beach locally has to be Olu Deniz. I prefer it in winter when there aren’t as many tourists but it is easily accessible and nice for swimming and sunbathing.

20140111-105752.jpg A shot of Gemiler Beach mentioned in the Guardian article.

20140111-105957.jpg Sunset at Calis beach which is where we live.

Here’s one of Katranci


20140111-110642.jpg ……. and lastly the beautiful Olu Deniz.

Another favourite for picnics are the beaches beyond Letoonia Beach Club…….Aksazlar as a restaurant and good facilities, Salmanlik is fabulous but a bit lacking in creature comforts but both great locations for a BBQ on the beach.

Turkey is a very beautiful country. Amazing views, sunsets to stop you in your tracks and fabulous beaches are part of everyday life if you live outside the cities. It’s a huge country and apart for the beaches there are many historical sites, lush green countryside, mountains, snow in places and skiing in winter, and modern cities with more shops than you could ever hope to tackle in one trip. Internal flights are cheap so it is possible to split your holiday between the beach and the city.

The food is mostly home grown and cheap compared to other places. The lira exchange rate is very high against the £ at the moment meaning you get more pennies to spend. If you haven’t visited before you are really missing out. If you have….well I guess you are already booked for summer 2014 – it’s not a country that you can stay away from.

Massage parlours

I knew that would get your attention!

Yes it’s true there really are hundreds of massage parlours in Thailand and they are not expensive. some double up as brothels but mostly they are modern, very professional looking with experienced staff who just want to give you a massage.

So off we went to Chaweng. We had a lovely meal and then decided to explore the sights. Now my hubby much as I love him is not well travelled so was very excited about downtown Chaweng. His mates and told hi. Loads of stories before we came and he had done some serious time in google….mostly because he didn’t believe what he was told about lady boys. To say we waled slowly through Chaweng is an understatement…..his neck was at a permanent 90degree angle as he tried to see I to every bar and club. Bang……he walked straight into a very large moderately drunk bloke…..luckily the guy was not British and this isn’t downtown Swansea…….he didn’t get glassed and no knife was pulled…..they both apologised for been so clumsy and carried in walking.

Obviously lesson not learned and we continued our very slow walk with hubby trying to see all there is to see…….and believe me there’s a lot to see. Bang……another collision…this time with a ladyboy… least he has seen one close up and will even be able to tell his mates he actually touched one.

By 11.30pm I was exhausted……but happened to spot a sign in a massage parlour offering 30 minute foot massages for100 baht…that’s about £2 or 7tl…..very reasonable. I suggested it to himself…….wasn’t sure how he would respond…..but needn’t have worried his little eyes lit up our shoes were removed and we were inside. Yes like Turkey shoes stay outside.

We were greeted by an older thai lady who sat us at some big foot baths…our masseurs arrived and gently washed our feet in antiseptic soap and dried them. Who can blame them I wouldn’t want to be massaging hot, smelly feet from around the world for £4 an hour even washed I would probably want rubber gloves.

Much to hubby’s disappointment our masseurs weren’t 20 years old, skinny and beautiful…they were more mature…well padded ladies and certainly not stunningly beautiful. But their hands…… The hands of angels……I am not joking…….wow……wow. Thirty minutes I heaven…scented oils….our feet were stroked, rubbed, our individual toes and their tips massaged. Oils rubbed into our calves. It was blissful. We left feeling like we had been sitting down all day and ready to walk another few kilometres……….and guess where hubby wanted to go……yep another stroll around the bars. Typical man!

I can recommend Ds Spa in Chaweng….there are two of them….very modern…well equipped, lovely staff and reasonably priced. We will definitely be going back for a full body massage before we leave.

Driving round the island -v- cleaning toilets in Mae Nam

Earlier this week we decided we would take a drive around the whole Island.

We turned left when we came out of our bungalow and just kept heading left until we arrived home again. We stopped off at the Muslim Village and bought some shoes….I know I don’t need anymore but they were a bargain. Then a bit further along we stopped in a big beach side restaurant for some food…..I had the most stunning seafood fried rice….wish I could remember the name of the restaurant and hubby had a tuna sandwich. He really hasn’t adjusted well to Thai food and is getting harder and harder to feed.

We then kept on going through Lamai which I really liked the look of, a brief stop on some cliffs to take some photos. We were accosted by a man with a massive iguana who wanted to know if we would like to rent him for our photos…ummm nope…he’s big and green and scaly …..yeuk. Decided to stick with the husband.

Onto Chaweng, BoPhut and back to Maenam. Our little tour took us 4 hours but it was really interesting to see how different the towns are as you drive around the coast.

Meanwhile my crazy little sister having got fed up of dropping subtle hints over the last 12 years to bar owners in Mae Nam decided to take some action today. She purchased 12 loo brushes and 12 bottles of bleach and delivered them as New Years gifts to the bars they use with the smelliest! dirtiest toilets. Where she discovered they had no cleaning ladies she donned rubber gloves and cleaned the ladies herself. She says they just don’t understand that foreign ladies may like the bar, the food, the atmosphere but won’t come back if the toilets are disgusting.

Anyone in Mae Nam this week? Please take time to compliment bar owners if you happen across a really clean toilet. Let them know we like it like that. Meanwhile my sister was rewarded with wine…..she was very Merry by the time the deed was done.

Roman Restaurant Mae Nam

I have to give this restaurant a mention.

It is owned by a man from Antalya and he also has a Turkish waiter helping him out.

A great place to eat if you are going to Mae Nam walking street on a Friday.

The food is a mix of Turkish, Mediterranean and Thai. The meat is halal and he buys his beef from a very popular French Butcher near Chaweng.

The prices are reasonable if not a bit cheaper than some other places. The food comes in big portions and is really delicious. If you ask nicely they staff will treat you to some traditional Turkish dancing.

We ate there a few times and never had a bad meal.

100% recommended.

One night in Chaweng………

I know the song is One Night in Rio but Chaweng does fit quite well to the music…….

I’d heard a lot about Chaweng…not all good but was looking forward to seeing it. We collected some Thai friends on the way out and headed to where the action is. Hubby in particular was keen to see some ladyboys. He still can’t quite get his head around the whole concept and can’t help but stare when he sees one.

We had googled earlier in the day to try and find a halal restaurant. None of them were very central, so friends suggested we try the Indian. We called ahead to check that all their meat was halal. So that’s how we ended up eating curry at Noori in Chaweng. A varied menu and all reasonably priced. Noori himself speaks excellent English and gives you the option as to how spicy you require your chosen dishes. Be warned…..the portions are huge…..we struggled to finish what we had. This been Thailand I have to mention the ladies toilets….. very basic but cleanish….take your own paper. There is antibacterial hand wash for after the visit.

Food eaten we headed off for a walk around town. The noise was amazing music coming from every direction……. glamorous girls of all nationalities trying to entice you I to the clubs and some very beautiful ladyboys. We ended up at Black Jacks bar…an English looking pub with a mix of music from the 70s and 80s. There are some wilder bars opposite and it is by a road used by many to get to the brighter noisier clubs…… A great place to people watch from.

I was introduced to a new drink…Spy….it’s a wine cooler and comes in red, rose or white. Very refreshing, very cheap and allow alcohol content so you can drink a few without getting horribly drunk and no hangover either.

We loved the atmosphere. We did take photos and I’ll add some later. We will definitely be going back for another visit.

New Years Eve Thailand.

The Thai people get very excited about New Year and as soon as it was midnight last night there were flurries of firecrackers going off. We were woken up this morning by fireworks too.

We spent the day in Chaweng. I had nothing to wear out tonight and we wanted to explore a bit. Hubby was very pleased with our discovery of a KFC with halal meat. So that was our lunch stop.

The BIG C shopping centre has lots of smaller shops as well as a big supermarket where you can buy almost anything as long as you can work out what it says on the packet in thai. For those of you heading this way….monosodium glutamate is in a packet with red writing and salt is in a blue.

I managed to find the perfect outfit in the small boutique on the right hand side as you go in……got some lovely white harem trousers and an ethnic long cotton too for just 780 baht. They also had some beautiful silk kimono type tops…..will definitely be sneaking back there at the end of the trip if I have money left to treat myself to some more. Hubby had a really good quality Koh Samui TShirt for 299 baht.

Feeling very pleased with our purchases we set off to locate the halal butchers we had heard about. Turn right out of the Big C and it is about 75 metres on your left. The sign says Specialist French Bakery and Butchers. All his beef is halal and very good quality. He also has some delicious looking cheeses and French breads and pastries. I came out with some smoked salmon, some Brie and some French bread in addition to the beef.

Home to shower and change before our big night out. We started the evening at a private Thai party in a little village near Chaweng… could hear the music from about a km away. Set up in a car valeting forecourt there were two long tables of guests and big pots of traditional Thai food to feed everyone. We ate some chicken and rice but some of the other dishes were just too spicy for us. The party throwers wife is from a Muslim family so all the meat was halal…….again one very happy husband.

We left at about 10.45pm as we had an invitation to W resort to watch the fireworks. It’s strange but as you get older you suddenly find yourself with friends in strange places and my sister knows the owner. We arrived at the party, were given our VIP wrist bands and everything was on the house. We drank champagne, and some very expensive wine. The fireworks were incredible and the view from Woo bar let us enjoy all the surrounding fireworks including those on Kho Panang. At about 3am we headed back to Mae Nam and the Chill Out Bar on the beach where we partied until after 4am and then made our way home to bed by 5. One of the best New Years Eves I ever remember.

In Thailand there are some very dodgy toilets…. And tonight I experienced the full range…..a private very clean squat…..but unlike Turkey where they are flat on the floor in Thailand they are raised just enough to be dangerous if you have had a few drinks. the W resort….I suspect certainly the most impressive on the Island and Chill Out……. if you can find an alternative do it…truly horrible.

Happy 2014 everyone

Not Koh Phan Ang.

Well our trip to the island was cancelled as the people we were going with had a funeral to attend today.

We got off to a leisurely start….lazy breakfast and then headed into Mae Nam to collect a scooter and have some food. Collected out scooter from a friend of my sisters……negotiated a good price and am pleased to report that I can reach the floor so can drive it. Having transport will make a big difference to our Koh Samui experience.

We stopped at the Sea view in Maenam for a late lunch……and I can recommend the thai curry fried rice with prawns…spicy but lovely. We then took a stroll along the beach to see where my sister usually stays and stopped at a beach shack for some drinks. Windy and not particularly warm but still lovely to sit on the sand and listen to some Bob Marley.

Back to the house for a chill and then to Poos place aka Sunshine Garden for dinner. Fried white snapper with garlic and onion and rice. I really enjoyed mine…hubby was upset that they had filleted and chopped the fish as he was hoping for a whole one.

A stroll to Mamas supermarket for more drinks and some bar girl watching…..a fascinating sport….. Hubby was surprised that some of the girls weren’t and horrified when two lady boys invited him to play pool. He won’t be so smiley and sociable tomorrow night me thinks.