Posted by: aitzko | December 26, 2009

I finally relax on the beach. Phuket!

Greetings from Phuket!  And no, it’s not pronounced the way you think, dirty kids.

I got here in the late afternoon/early evening yesterday, so once I got settled in my AWESOME hotel, I hopped across the street to the beach and watched the sunset.  Right as I got down there a guy was just getting ready to go parasailing, so he went gliding up in the air as the sun was going down.  Really cool.

A word about my hotel:  IT’S AWESOME.  Long story short, I should have booked this portion of my trip way earlier – it’s a really popular time of year to be here, and prices tend to be jacked up.  All the budget options I had originally been considering weren’t open, so I went up to the next tier, and I am SO glad I did – I’m staying at a lovely little resort for less than you’d pay to stay at the Best Western back home.  And there are things like a real shower, with a tub!  Not just a faucet on the wall!  Thankfully, it’s a happy mistake.  I nearly jumped for joy when I saw my room.

So, about Phuket.  It’s been great so far.  I’m staying at Karon Beach, which is a little bit more quiet, and has a lot more Scandinavian tourists, so I’m hearing lots of languages I’m not used to.  The stretch of beach directly in front of my hotel is very pretty.  I spent ALL DAY on the beach today, which is something I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while.  Thanks to Alex being wonderful, I still have plenty on my (her) ipod that I haven’t yet listened to, so THANK YOU, ALEX!!!

One interesting thing about the beach – I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve never really been on a beach with a lot of Europeans, but SO MANY women go topless.  I’m actually really surprised, because I’ve seen it repeated in multiple places that going topless on Thai beaches is generally not a great idea.  The Thai culture is very modest – public displays of affection are frowned upon, and nudity is a huge no-no:  most Thais swim fully clothed.  So pretty much everything, from the guidebook to the hotel’s welcome card, indicates that you should keep your top on.  Apparently no one really takes heed of this because, well, most women (and men) wore suits that left little to the imagination.  And seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen people letting it all hang out this much since Atlantic City – have a huge belly?  No worries, because everyone else is strutting around with their gut front and center.  On one level, you think, great, if that’s your body, go ahead and own it, but on another level, you just think, please, please, just cover up and put it away!

So apart from the interesting states of undress of the other tourists, I really enjoyed my relaxing day at the beach.  The hawkers here are MUCH less aggressive than the Balinese hawkers on Kuta beach – if you shake your head, they’ll simply smile and move on.  (N.B.:  One apparent upside of going topless is that the hawkers will delicately step around you and avoid you entirely, saving you the trouble of dealing with them.)  So I was relatively undisturbed as I enjoyed the sun and sand and audio recording of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which is great, btw).  I learned my lesson in Kuta, so I slathered on the SPF 45 multiple times throughout the day, and limited the amount of time I sat in the direct sun.  Fortunately, I managed to avoid getting burned with this strategy, but I am only marginally less white than I was yesterday.  At this rate I will be the only person in Phuket without a tan, but I’d much rather be that than burned to a crisp, so I’ll take it.

This evening I went into Patong, the busting nightlife center of Phuket.  I wanted to check out an English-language bookstore, and get a taste of one of the restaurants, because apart from the various hotel restaurants in Karon beach, there’s not much else in terms of dinner options.  Taxis here are MUCH more expensive than anywhere else in Thailand, but it’s sort of a fact of life, so there’s not much to be done about it.  If you’re planning to do lots of traveling around Phuket it’s worth it to hire a car for the day, but for me, a quick trip was just fine.

Patong is something else.  It’s flashing lights and tourists milling around and bars with music blaring and fancy hotels tucked into the mix.  It is not unusual to go “Is that a man or a woman?” on multiple occasions during your stroll through downtown Patong.  I’m glad I checked it out – it was worth it, but I am super glad I’m not staying there – I need a vacation from the craziness!  The restaurant where I ate was actually fantastic, and had a nice view of all the people going by, while being set back a bit from the action.  I have to say, my favorite thing was the trucks going by, blaring advertisements over loudspeakers for the Muay Thai matches.  Muay Thai is Thai boxing, and it’s hugely popular.  These trucks not only had a guy yelling through the loudspeaker about the details of the night’s match, but some of the fighters themselves stood atop rather rickety-looking stages built in the truck beds, showing off their muscles and slapping their boxing gloves together.  It. Was. Hilarious.

To get back, I took one of the bright red taxis that can be found alll over Phuket – it’s basically a teensy pickup truck, but the truck bed has been converted into a covered seating area.  An interesting way to get around.  As we zoomed back toward my hotel, I got to thinking.  Up until now, I hadn’t really passed judgement on Thailand as part of my trip.  It sort of feels like it’s flown by.  As it turns out, Thailand can be dirty, and smelly, and full of people who just want to make a buck off you and crazy drivers,  but I kind of love it.  Or maybe I just love that I’ve had the opportunity to explore it.  I was zipping home in this converted taxi-truck, and being thankful for this trip, and thinking about all the various places I’ve been and the crazy means I’ve taken to get there.  Thailand has crazy, twisty, mountainous roads, and people zipping by on their motorbikes, and cars passing one another on two-lane highways, and more often than not the vehicle you’re in doesn’t have seatbelts, and I’ve taken to holding the charm I got for safe travel (at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo) tightly in my hand whenever I need to go anywhere, but honestly, why not zoom down that hilly road at night, feeling the wind in your face and blowing back your hair, because how else are you going to know you’re alive?

Disclaimer:  Mom, I always use my seatbelt, and when one is not readily available, I always hold tightly to the nearest stable object.  Don’t worry. 🙂  And I do not encourage my drivers to zoom down hilly roads at night.  Promise.

Tomorrow, another day of blissful beachiness, and then the next day, PETRIE IS COMING!!!  This will be sweet, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the two of us will be going parasailing…

😀

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Responses

  1. I hope you and Petrie are having a wonderful time on the beaches of Thailand! I can’t wait to hear all about parasailing 🙂

  2. I’m so jealous that you’re still over seas!!! I hope you and Petrie are having a blast. I miss you guys already!

  3. Hey Amanda! Your mom called to pick up your stuff and she was thinking of mailing it to you and I didn’t know if you wanted me to tell her to keep the mickey hat or if you wanted her to send that to you as well. If you have access to email send me an email and let me know or write me a message in your blog! Thanks 🙂


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