What to do when your dream vacation becomes a nightmare

We had certain expectations about Phuket. It was supposed to be a relaxing getaway to a place where many have waxed lyrical about its pristine beaches, clear waters, awesome snorkelling … The photos looked amazing, and we took special care to pick a villa that was spacious and had an infinity pool overlooking the sea. It was a pretty perfect plan.

Img Credit: moveandstay.com

What would have been our villa at The Village on Coconut Island

Unfortunately our experience in the first two days of our Phuket trip was like going on two horrific blind dates. The first with a girl who seemed pretty perfect. She was pretty much all that we were looking for, but halfway through the night she fell very ill and had to leave.

Cue Girl #2.

This one looked really good on the outside. She had the package and the reputation of being amazing. But it did not take long for us to find out that she was absolutely hollow in the inside.

The Village on Coconut Island was the first girl and the Hilton Arcadia Resort was the second.

What happened with The Village was that the generator had broken down earlier on in the afternoon and despite being fixed in the evening, it crashed again halfway through dinner and could not be resuscitated in the night. That being said, their service staff were excellent throughout the process, and arranged for us to be put up at the Hilton Arcadia Phuket for the night.

By the time we got to Hilton, it was 1am in the morning. We were excited at how big the resort was (they use trams to ferry guests around) and we consoled ourselves on getting a “good deal” out of a rocky start to our trip.

Sadly, the Hilton was most disappointing. There’s a certain standard and quality that you expect of the Hilton chain, and we were thus shocked when we checked in to rooms that despite being spacious, were old, sluggish, stained and even a little spooky. The cupboard was not functioning properly. The tap produced brown water and the temperature of the shower fluctuated from hot to cold so quickly like it was bipolar. That night we all slept poorly. The next morning, we looked forward to the buffet breakfast but this turned out to be even more disappointing. The Pad Thai was bland and unimaginative, and tasted like a cross between instant noodles and leftovers from last night’s supper. The grilled tomatoes looked diseased and the tomato juice was cloyingly saccharine. It felt like everything needed to be sampled before consumption. The only thing that was passable was the fried dory fish fillet and the fruits, which are well, hard to go wrong with.

In the span of these 24 hours, I also developed a fever, ET lost his Ray Bans and our friend, HY’s Havaianas snapped. Phuket really wasn’t turning out to be the relaxing getaway we envisioned. Somewhat ironically, on the flight here I was reflecting on why getaways are essential for us to recharge and rejuvenate, but this was far from relaxing.

The reality though, is that hiccups like this are not that uncommon at all. We all expect that our holidays will be perfect, but shit happens and sometimes the stars are just misaligned and Murphy’s Law kicks in at full force. But despite all of that, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your holiday is ruined.

Here are some tips for turning a bad situation around:

Be nice.

We cannot emphasize this enough. It is so important to be nice to the service staff because, trust me, they hate being in this situation even more than you do. Yes, you did pay for a night at a 5-star resort and it is frustrating when things don’t work out, but that doesn’t mean that the staff should bear the brunt of your anger (unless of course, their service is really crappy). The only thing that was more spoilt than the generator was a Russian dude who was screaming at the front desk for not living up to his standards. A little empathy goes a long way, and the nicer you are, the nicer they’ll be to you as well.

Stay positive. Make any situation an adventure!

Truth be told, even though the trip got off to a rocky start, we were laughing through most of it (albeit a little wryly) at times. We were blessed to be traveling with positive people (choose your travel companions wisely!) and it wasn’t long before we were singing army songs and marveling at how bright the moonlight was or how rarely we got to be in a situation like that. Of course, this was before the mozzies started setting in. But finding our way by the moonlight on the blacked-out Coconut Island was quite the adventure (:

Don’t be shy to share your sob story.

When we knew we were definitely not going to continue staying in Hilton or go back to The Village, we started searching for another accommodation option on Agoda (which was a saviour) and found The Chava Resort. Under the “special notes” section, I shared very briefly about how we were coming from a terrible stay at the Hilton and thanks to the generosity of the GM, Peter, we ended up getting upgraded to a supersized three-bedroom apartment with fantastic views over the swimming pool. Needless to say it was even better than what we has originally planned for. Peter also gave us an important tip: if you’re searching for accommodation on the day itself, it’s always better to call the hotel directly and explain your circumstances as they will be able to offer you a better deal that what you can get online.

Buy insurance.

It’s time to ditch any preconceptions about how travel insurance is unnecessary and that you should not waste any money on it. Anything can happen on a trip, and the fact that an entire resort can go without electricity without any prior warning is ample reason for you to wonder if you need to install certain safeguards to cut your losses. ET has been claiming insurance since forever because his luggages have a knack for being delayed or his flights just refuse to take off on time (considering recent occurrences, always better to be delayed than sorry). For this trip, The Village (as per company policy) decided to charge us for our first night because they felt that they were able to provide us with an alternative and comparable accommodation in the Hilton. But if you were displaced from your original accommodation and only ended up reaching the alternative at close to midnight, there is a clear disruption to your travel plans. If we succeed with our claims, we should be able to get back our accommodation costs for the first night (about SGD$300). Considering how we paid only $40 altogether for our insurance, it’s pretty clear how the math adds up.

Let it go.

Elsa got it right. At some point, you just need to let go of whatever preconceived expectations you had of the trip and be spontaneous. After spending 1/3 of our trip hotel-hopping (3 hotels in 24 hours is definitely a record), we really didn’t have much time to do all the things that we wanted to do. To be honest, this trip has also been a lesson for me in learning how to chill because the jiamkachng in me needs to go out and look for adventure. I was actually very excited to go for the Hong by Starlight tour, but as luck and the misaligned stars would have it, the tour was fully booked on the only day we could go. I was disappointed. But I did end up getting the break and rest I didn’t know I needed. So if ever you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t fret! Keep calm, be optimistic and travel on (:

Our little piece of heaven in The Chava Resort


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