Friday, July 30, 2010

Touchdown in Phuket

The morning was a little hectic as we got all of our things together to get to the airport and fly off to Thailand.  We all managed to get ready in time, and we caught the MRT to the airport, ate some surprisingly good Indian food there, and boarded our Air Asia flight to Phuket.  I was pretty excited about this trip- Thailand is a place I've wanted to go for a long time, and I was thrilled to finally be on my way.  Even from the air, we could tell that we were on our way to a gorgeous place.
Thailand from the air

Our flight was short and uneventful and we were at the Phuket Airport before we knew it.  We headed out to a taxi, and I gave the driver the address of a guesthouse in Karon.  We didn't have reservations anywhere yet, since I just wanted to scope out our options, but I gave him the address of a place in the general area I wanted to go.  That turned out to backfire, as the driver had no idea where the place was, and would not listen to my repeated requests to just take us to that general area.  We ended up having an awkward conversation with a woman who our driver stopped to ask for directions, but we eventually showed up in Karon, none the worse for wear.  As soon as we pulled into town and started walking around looking for a place to stay, I noticed something that I considered a good omen...a place called KT!

And RIGHT NEXT to that?  A place called Crystal!!!

We checked out a couple of places to stay- a guesthouse called The Little Mermaid was all right, although it looked precisely like a rundown college dorm with purple carpet.  A couple other places told us that they couldn't accommodate three people in one room.  We decided to check one more place, and while we were in search of one, we came across a middle-aged Australian man unloading cases of beer from the back of a station wagon.  He smiled at us and said,"'Ello!  You lookin' for a place to stay?"  I smiled and said that we were.  We chatted a bit about the budget we were working with, and then he gestured toward his bar and said, "We 'ave rooms here. You could all stay here!"  The place was called the Karon Sunshine Guesthouse & Bar, it was bright orange, the price was very reasonable, the rooms were clean, and none of us could resist the fatherly guy out front, so we settled in right away.  The dog in the hallway really sealed the deal for me- they had a Shih Tsu that looked just like the one my parents have!!
Zoe's Thai twin

After checking in to our hotel and getting a laugh at the extra bed they provided us with (a hilarious, ancient, flimsy foldaway bed that we later dubbed the "taco bed"), we got our swimsuits on and headed to the beach. On our way out the fatherly gentleman warned us about the strong riptides in the water, and cautioned us not to go out too far.  Then he grinned and said "Geez, I sound like your dad.  Go on, have fun!"  We learned that his name was Greg, but that didn't matter because we referred to him as Dad for the rest of the trip.

Our first view of the water was a memorable one- it looked exactly like something you would see on a postcard.  Huge waves were crashing against soft, clean sand.  The water was light blue and perfectly clear.  A salty breeze was coming in off the sea, and it felt amazing.  We were all beaming as we made our way down onto the beach.  When I dipped my foot into the water for the first time, I couldn't believe it- it was warm like bathwater!  We passed the next couple of hours laying on the warm sand and jumping around in the brutal waves.
Karon Beach
Early evening on the beach
KT and Mark's first swim

There were loads of stray dogs around, and they really seemed to take a shining to Mark.  At one point KT and I were in the water while Mark was sitting on the beach, and when we looked up at him, he was surrounded by dogs!  When he stood up, they stood up, and if he moved, they followed.  It looked like he was their alpha!   Later on, one of his minions adopted me, dug a little nest next to my towel and curled up with me.  It was all pretty entertaining.
Karon Beach Strays

 All the swimming and romping around made us hungry, so we walked back to the main street and found a restaurant, a little place called the One Man Cafe.  KT and I drew a bit of attention walking down the street, and I think everyone thought Mark was kind of a stud for walking around with a lady on either side of him.  Men called out to us a few times, but it was nothing too offensive.  My favorite thing anyone said to me was, "Hey baby, you have beautiful smile!   You brush you teeth?!"  But the restaurant was pretty quiet, and we settled in ate some delicious food.  Our meal was great, but then we ordered banana fritters and those were AWESOME.  They were probably some of the best dessert I've ever had.  We ended up eating a LOT of banana fritters in Thailand, but the ones at One Man Cafe were definitely the best!
The view from One Man Cafe

A quick sidenote- you can see the flag of Thailand flying in the background of the photo above.  The flag's stripes are red, white, and blue, and the three colors represent nation, religion, and king- three central themes for the people of Thailand.  This flag was adopted in 1917, and is proudly flown all over the place.

After a satisfying meal, we decided to wander around for awhile and get our bearings in our new surroundings.  We walked up and down the streets of Karon, which is small and easily navigable by pedestrians.  After stopping at an Internet cafe to let our families know that we had safely arrived, we decided to get a couple of beers before turning in for the night.  While walking past a place called Anybody's Bar, a girl walked out front and blessed a bottle of liquor, making us all laugh.  We headed in for a drink, and boy oh boy, we had no idea what we had just walked into.

I'm not quite sure how to explain Anybody's Bar except to say that booze was certainly not the only thing for sale there.  Behind the bar was a stripper pole and a pack of young, attractive Thai women, including one very convincing transvestite.  We ordered a round of drinks, and were excessively fawned over by the ladies.  The whole experience was very bizarre, particularly when I looked down the bar and saw a middle-aged white guy playing Connect Four with an attractive lingerie-clad Thai woman.
Weirdest game of Connect Four I've ever seen
KT's looking a little out of place
Hmmm...where did that extra drink come from, Mark?

The icing on the very bizarre cake were the little coasters that looked as though they'd been crocheted by my grandmother.
Layers and layers of weirdness

One drink was all we could really handle at Anybody's Bar, so we headed out after our beer, and walked around in search of a place slightly tamer.  We found a tiny outdoor place called Jack Bar right next to our guesthouse, and we decided to hang out there for awhile.  KT and I drank the local Chang beer, while Mark ordered pink cocktails, causing the bartender to giggle.  As we hung out there, a few peddlers came by trying to sell us stuff, but I was happy with how easily they gave up- sometimes in Southeast Asia people can be so persistent that it becomes uncomfortable and awkward for everyone.
Peddler at Jack Bar

The calmer atmosphere of Jack Bar made for a relaxing way to end our evening, and we went back to our guesthouse content and had a good night's sleep...except maybe for Mark, who was attempting to sleep on the taco bed, which resembled some sort of torture device.
Sweet dreams, Mark

1 comment:

  1. The best time to visit Phuket is between November - April which is the summer season, blue sky, sunny, no rain and calm sea. Hope you would come back to our beautiful island again next summer!