Elle Agnes Raboff Phuket 2001

Rawai Beach, Tuesday Evening

Charlotte and I are back in Phuket, a place we’ve been returning to since the very first visit together during our honeymoon in 1998. Three years later, just weeks after Bin Laden ordered the 9/11 horrific terrorist attacks, we flew to Phuket with baby Elle, then just 10 months old.

Charlotte was on maternity leave from her position at Malmö Aviation and had started her very first travel site for airline staff (it still exists today: www.idtraveller.com) and I was going to start a small local company in Thailand focusing on film and photography within the tourism industry. We were kinda the very first digital nomads, way before someone coined the term. At least half of the travel luggage consisted of baby food and nappies.

After some searching, we finally found a perfect apartment in a high-rise on Karon Beach with a great balcony view over the Andaman Sea. We were very happy with the building’s beautiful oyster-shaped pool, and squash court, but perhaps above all, that the women working at the reception with much joy helped us with Elle Agnes when Koj, the shy nanny from a nearby village whom we had hired, did not have time to help us.

It was the at-times-allusive Mister Oj that drove us around the island in his always well-polished, silver Toyota Camry. For example on Saturday afternoons when we went grocery shopping at Big C or Tesco in Phuket Town. You see, after a while, we inevitably ran out of all the baby food we’d brought with us. So on Sundays, I cooked the week’s dinners and lunches for Elle, which we then stored neatly in the freezer in tidy meal portions.

Once a week, the Raboff family ate stone-baked pizzas and slurped banana shakes at the then-irresistible Swedish pizzeria Karlsson’s in Karon. But for the most part, we slowly ate our way through all the classic Thai dishes served by the friendly gals at Buffalo Steakhouse, also in Karon. If baby Elle was joining us for dinner, it didn’t take very long until one of the waitresses gently lifted our daughter out of the high chair, took her to the staff table, and gave her a bowl of mango sticky rice, drenched in creamy coconut milk.

Yes, we had a great time and some of our friends were so inspired by our 10-month adventure, that they traveled to Thailand and spent some time with us. Lotta and Jocke flew over, and so also did Jenny and Andreas, Åsa and Lars, Jonas and Carin, Lille-Magnus, and even my troubled brother Tyko.

Charlotte’s now 85-year-old father Allan started his retirement with us in Thailand and both he and my mother-in-law Agneta Wall lived for a time a few floors above our condo at Central Waterfront.

Between visits and dinners, Charlotte worked intensively on her website and I spent my days filming and editing commercials for some of Phuket’s more luxurious hotels, like Dusit Thani. I first worked through a local advertising agency and then on my own. My USP was that I delivered both finished films and hires campaign images on an interactive CD-ROM in a handy wallet format – if anyone remembers those round or semi-circled little plastic thingies.

During our stay in Phuket 2001-2002, Charlotte and I got to know the sweet couple Saam Sudduen and Saran Sudduen. Me and Dive Master Saran went pretty much every weekend for a meditative dive along the coast off Kata Beach. It’s been a long time since we went diving together, but maybe there will be an opportunity during our current visit.

We are not staying in Karon this time, but rather at a new hotel along the shore near Rawai, which is much quieter than Phuket’s more popular beaches – but not deserted by any means. I was told today at the reception that the hotel currently has a bunch of guests from Russia and that they (the hotel’s reservation staff) receive several requests per day from Russians who want to book rooms and bungalows for as long as six months. Which, I suppose, isn’t all that strange considering that many men from Saint Petersburg and Moscow and each city’s surrounding areas, choose to flee to Thailand to avoid Putin’s war. Not like us, to avoid a bit of the notoriously gray and dark winter in Skåne. So much did we enjoy our time in Phuket, that we ended up returning for longer stays two more times (in addition to several shorter visits). I’ll write about those adventures another time.