Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thailand Day One: Not the Summer Breeze

Our most recent destination was chosen after polling some friends with this question: What was your favorite vacation since you've moved to Singapore? The first three people I asked said "KRABI!" so it was decided. To Krabi we shall go! We booked a trip for over Easter weekend. About three weeks before we were supposed to leave, southern Thailand experienced some devastating flooding. We felt guilty for thinking about our beach vacation at a time when people were losing their homes and even their lives. We also debated about our own safety- even if the flooding stopped, would there be landslides? We thought about canceling our trip but decided to wait and see what it was like a little closer to our planned departure date. About four days before we left, Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor message boards were giving the all-clear, saying that while some people on the outskirts of Krabi were still working on cleanup and rebuilding, most everything was safe and in many places, totally back to normal. We decided to follow through but to keep our plans flexible in case we met up with any washed-out roads or anything. I felt glad to be keeping our plans, not just because we'd heard so much about the area, but also because I know that natural disasters can be doubly devastating for economies based on tourism, as they suffer once from the disaster itself, and again from the aftermath, when travelers cancel trips and keep their distance.

So we arrived at the Phuket Airport without a solid plan. I'd picked out a hotel near the ferry terminal (where we'd depart the next day) but hadn't made reservations. After confirming (seriously three times) that a taxi driver knew how to get to the Summer Breeze Inn Hotel, we got in the taxi. I'd looked up the Summer Breeze online. It was one of the highest ranked hotels on Trip Advisor, and it looked peaceful and pleasant. Ten minutes after we headed out for our nice little hotel, our driver stopped and made a call. He clearly didn't know where it was. About a half hour later, we pulled up at an apparently random, seedy building, and our driver pointed and said "Summer Hotel!" triumphantly. It was indeed, the Summer Hotel. Well, actually, the "S" was burned out, so it was the ummer Hotel. Not at all the scenic little Summer Breeze, the ummer looked like the kind of place you might take someone on a...um...hourly basis? I made a few pitiful attempts to explain to our driver that this wasn't the place, but his English was atrocious and my Thai is non-existent, so there you go. He left. We decided to give the ummer a shot. After all, it was about US$10 a night, so if nothing else we'd save money.
The ummer...luxurious, I know.
Summer Breeze. NOT same same.

Anyway, we got a room. It was sketchy. It was a stains-on-the-sheets, maybe-I'll-wait-to-shower-till-tomorrow kind of place. So we plunked down our stuff and did what you gotta do when you find yourself in one of these situations. We walked out the front door and across the street to the bar, where we ordered a couple of beers. The bar turned out to be a neat place, if a little quirky. It was in a kind-of run-down house with a bunch of tables outside. There was a Thai guy singing inside, in Thai. He was sitting in front of a huge American flag and there was a buffalo skull on the wall, next to a bust of a Native American in a headdress. Because, you know, why not? Anyway the guy turned out to be great singer, and I particularly enjoyed his half-Thai, half-English rendition of Hotel California.Part way through a garbled Wonderful Tonight,I realized that the table we were sitting at was actually part of an antique Singer sewing machine, pedal still attached and all! My parents would have loved it.
Hotel California, Phuket, Thailand

And that's the story of how we spent our first night in Thailand, sitting at a sewing machine drinking beers and listening to Eagles tunesin Thai. We slept restlessly that night, a little uneasy in this shady location (I admit it, I slept in long sleeves and long pants). I thought about skipping a post on our first night in Thailand, but I figured maybe our misadventure and our evening spent at the ummer could serve as a cautionary tale to anyone else planning a trip to Phuket. Summer BREEZE and ummer Hotel...NOT same same. Different.

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