How to plan a surprise birthday for your boyfriend (in a developing country)

A few days ago I happened to find myself in the unfortunate position of being on a Thai island with my boyfriends birthday looming ahead. I love birthdays, and any occasion that could be manipulated into a celebration, so of course I couldn’t let this birthday be glossed over and neglected.

This left me with the sizeable challenge of organising a few birthday surprises on one of the lesser developed Thai islands. I nevertheless embraced it with zeal, because I love surprises, making people feel special, and like I already said, celebrations!

The first hurdle was to forge a somewhat believable excuse to go to the centre of town by myself. I am a bad liar so I had to fully formulate the sentences in my mind before presenting them in the most casual manner possible, perhaps just in passing if I was lucky. If luck was really on my side I would be able to slip away while he was preoccupied with something else. This wasn’t the case, and I was forced to opt for a more cryptic departure, that saw me basically hopping on the scooter and speeding away with a confusing, mumbled explanation about bikini shopping, leaving his baffled face waning in my scooter fumes.

Neither of us have Thai sim cards, so unless we are both connected to wi-fi, we can’t communicate. This was to my advantage because it allowed me to be off the grid for a few hours. I only realised after my unintentionally dramatic exit that I didn’t have any idea where I was going or what I was going to do for his birthday, so I pulled up to a French coffee shop and started planning.

Armed with an iced coffee and my laptop, I started googling. I found 2 bakeries in Koh Lanta that make birthday cakes, and as fate would have it I was sitting in one of them. This charmed stroke of serendipity came to swift end when the owner told me (rather rudely) that they would be closed the following day and couldn’t make me a cake.

Not allowing myself to be disheartened, I drove to the other bakery to see if they could help me. I love it when things work out for the best, and this was one of those fortunate situations. Their cakes turned out to not only be cheaper, but much nicer looking as well, and the lady helping me was friendly. Customer service goes a long way with me. I drew a little illustration of what I wanted on the cake, which was a surfboard and a wave, and a “Happy Birthday Norman”. I only mentioned his age at the end and she laughed and told me she thought it was for a 2 or 3 year old boy!

With a quick consultation with my “Normans Birthday” note on my iPhone, I went to Lanta Mart to buy some picnic supplies. After wondering the isles for at least 15 minutes, I purchased the following: balloons, a permanent marker, 2 plastic containers, wrapping paper, Kiri Cheese, crackers, plastic forks, biscuits and sweets.

I then took to wondering the streets, sniffing out potential birthday gifts, much like a stray dog in search of an elusive bone I suppose, except in my case if was finding that perfect gift. It was so hot, and I was so sweaty, and my patience was quickly running out. Norman has very specific taste, and I obviously wanted to get him something he would like. In the end I decided on a watch I was pretty sure he wanted, and an insulating beer holder, which proves very useful in Thailand.

I figured I should probably get back to the bungalow… I didn’t want Norman to be worried. Or worse, suspicious of my plans! He actually forgot about his birthday, probably because keeping track of dates swiftly moves down the list of priorities when backpacking around a place like Thailand. If he started wondering where I was for too long, he might have remembered that it was his birthday soon.

For the rest of the day my mind was filled with step by step plans for the 2nd of March: D-day. Of course things never go exactly to plan, but mine looked like this.

2nd March:

Wake up and pretend to be going for a run. Push scooter to the road so as not to alert him with the noise of the engine.¬†Go to the bakery to collect the cake and buy his favourite chocolate croissant on the way back to the bungalow. Don’t let cake get damaged on the way back!

Put cake in fridge in bungalow cafeteria, place pre-bought breakfast (Milo cereal and Lemon Iced Tea) on table in restaurant.

Eat breakfast and give first present; the beer holder and an assortment of cookies and sweets. I would pretend that this is the only gift.

Blow up the balloons, write messages on them and fill the bungalow with them… all without him knowing.

Hop on scooter together and explore the apparently beautiful beaches in the South of the island.

Have picnic there.

Give second gift.

Go back to bungalow and co-ordinate singing happy birthday and revealing the cake with his family on Skype back home.

Have a massage at sunset on the beach, and then eat at a beachfront restaurant.

So that was the plan, I will write a post on how things actually panned out soon. I have done a little mental postmortem, and I think that it was a success. They say the proof is in the pudding, and Norman was very happy and surprised, so that’s all the proof that I need.


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