Monday, May 24, 2010

Days 3 through… er… 6. In which the happy travelers discover swindling, nudey beaches, Russian oblivion, chubby monkeys, and the existence of ethereal paradise.

After Bangkok, and honestly, after 24 hours of travel, it was time to head to the beach. I made CERTAIN, when planning this trip, the most time we spent in any one place (see 4 days) would be fraught with powdery beaches, magnificent sunsets, blue lagoons, and piercing equatorial-esque sunshine. Now that’s a vacation; and Phuket, Thailand was the place to find it.

We caught a plane via Bangkok Air (yep! More praise to come of international airlines, even the domestic airlines), where we were given a ‘refreshing towel’ and sandwich. The flight was MAYBE 1 ½ hours and we got a sandwich, I tell you! What does Southwest give you? Well, you get to sit on their plane! That’s good enough! And they may give you some sad peanuts and a shot of diet coke, but if you expect to hang out in an airport lounge with snacks, free WiFi, and cushy chairs while you wait for your flight, you can just go fly with Bangkok Air “Asia’s Boutique Airline”! Which… we did.


We landed in Phuket and promptly created an itinerary that promised a great deal of sand, sun, and ocean front lounging about. We took a taxi to the famous (infamous?) Patong Beach; the most touristy place on Phuket Island. And I don’t mind that. Shore, we all want to find that isolated island completely empty of all other life except the swaying palm trees, the rushing waves, and a few falling coconuts. Well turns out, everyone else really wants to find that too, and they all find it in the same place most of the time. Patong Beach is one of those places, and it’s one of those places for a reason; it’s beautiful. It also has some fantastic hotels (I’ve never seen a schwankier Marriott… not that we stayed there… but we walked by it to the beach a handful of times). We stayed in a lovely little place called “Nice and Om.” Like Zen “om.” Read so: “Nice and Ooooooooommmmmmm.” I think that bodes well right? It does. It did. It was a pretty fancy little dig. No Marriott of course, but for $12 a night, Terilyn and I were deeply impressed. Everything was new, everything sparkled, and they had the most powerful elephant showerhead that has ever been my good fortune to enjoy. And enjoy I did. Yes sir.

Anyway, showerheads and airline praise aside, Patong Beach was not only beautiful, but it was where I consumed my first Thai smoothie… seen below.

It is also a place of intense shopping; and thus naturally some swindling. What do I mean by intense shopping? Well, it doesn’t lie only within the abundance of goods, goods, and goods for the perusing and choosing, but the almost uncomfortable aggressiveness, boarding on sheer desperation (see: civil unrest causes tourists to flee country), of the vendors, selling their various wares for various prices, all at “very good price fo you, lady. Very special price, only fo you lady.” We were accosted from every angle! Everywhere our eyes wandered, we had an eager salesperson right in our ear “Oh, you like? Very nice! I make special price! You American? Special price just went up 300baht…”

SO! I bought a dress, a bracelet, another bracelet, aaaaaaand some wooden elephants for friend/family souvenirs. How could I not? Truly? I don’t like being pressured. I don’t feel I was swindled though… or at least, I don’t THINK I was.

After one day in Patong, the next day we boarded a rickety little bus that took us to the Pier where our boat to Phi Phi Island awaited (yes yes yes... where the filming of Leo DeCaprio's "The Beach" took place... blah blah blah. I've not even seen that show - but come to think of it - parts of the little island OFF the coast of Phi Phi were super creepy... super creepy...). Best travel decision ever. It had been recommended to me from several individuals who had likewise visited Phuket Island that all the island’s “round about” were a better way to spend some days in paradise – and kinda thins the tourist herd a bit. We found this to be wonderfully true. Observe the peaceful bliss below…

Some contentment on the boat ride over to Phi Phi Island. Easily one of the most relaxing ‘en route’ journeys I’ve ever taken; as the pictures illustrate.

Yon Bungalow we stayed in for our stint on Phi Phi Island. Definitely adds to the ambiance of the whole ordeal. We were a little nervous when the cobble-stoned street we were following our ‘bungalow manager’ down cracked and turned to a little dirt road for a few yards. Hmmm, little off the beaten path it seems. But all turned out swimmingly… pun intended…

Ah the beach… the beach. There was much reading, smoothie drinking, reading, laying about, floating, floating… and sighing in paradisiacal bliss. There was also a lot of nudity; but only of the topless kind. Those Europeans… not limits. See picture below…

BWAH! Just kidding! What were you expecting you sickys?!?!

However, my favorite activity throughout the whole Island trip was our all day snorkeling venture around the various islands around Phi Phi Island. I’d never been snorkeling before… and will now make it mandatory anytime I happen to be near a tropical paradise.

And here...

Here are some monkeys! This is a beach fittingly referred to as Monkey Beach. I must say, though it was cool how the monkeys just ran up and sat right next to you, hoping for a smidgen of mango or a shred of watermelon, I was ALSO a little morally tainted by the fact that these chubby monkeys (excellent ice cream flavor) could never, at this point, find their own food and essentially, be the wild monkeys they were meant to be. Should some catastrophe ever happen to the area (see: Tsunami and civil unrest), and the tourist population terribly reduces, well there goes the monkeys of Monkey Beaches primary food source! Anyway… there’s my environmentalist rant for the day. I hope you enjoyed it. Now for the monkeys...

Taking a dip in a secluded Lagoon. The water was so clear you could see right to the bottom. I didn’t ever really believe places like this existed on earth anymore… that there were just too many people to leave these places truly, relatively untouched. I’m glad to have been proven wrong.

Also, can I tell you about the Russians one our boat tour? Soon they were lovingly referred to by us, 4 French people, and a British lady as “The VIPS.” Talk about having no concept of ‘I believe they're called 'other people' your highness.’ They went ahead and crowded us out of our well-staked out front of the boat seats with their large Russian bums... stood up and blocked the view for everyone behind them (again... with their large Russian bums) AND! when we stopped for lunch on yet another beautiful island paradise where we had an hour to eat, take pictures, and mull about before heading on to other locations and snorkeling fun, these two individuals decided to go on a hike around the Island and thus, when it was time to ship off, we nearly left them. "Dasvidaniya, Suckers!" We were all thinking it. Our guide responded to our questions of “er… how are they going to get back?” by saying “Meh… they’ll catch another boat I guess.” So we all kinda looked at each other like “I think we’ve all just learned a very valuable lesson on Thai punctuality standards.” As we rounded the tip of the Island, already taking bids on who gets the Russians camera and beach towels that were left in the boat, we saw them waving from the shores. Darn it. Luckiest Russians in the Soviet history! We pulled onto shore and they climbed aboard, unapologetic and unperturbed that they were nearly left in the middle of the ocean on a tiny spit of land; their only hope being they could catch another random boat back to the main Island. I guess worse things have happened in Russia. The other incident of Russian oblivion was apparent in the male counterpart of the couple’s wearing of  very tiny speedo; not thinking that being a very white, rather oddly put together, extremely hairy man would gross out more than just conservative Americans. Sick.

Let’s move away from that mental image, shall we? These will help:

What can I say about watching the sun dip gracefully below the earth, framed by a rolling sea, and dotted by glowing islands? Nothing that would do it any sort of justice. Even the pictures can’t capture the beauty of this moment – it was truly – inspirational; even spiritual. A time where you can really feel that this earth is a gift, a beautiful incredible gift; which in turn, causes you to pause in humble gratitude for everything beautiful that’s been your privilege to enjoy; like sunsets.

We made it back to the main Island and proceeded to eat more Pad Thai, pay $10 for a one hour Thai massage (you heard me!), and I purchased a few more knicks and knacks. The next day we were at the dock by 8:30am and on our way to, what I’ve come to call, the more… ‘character building’ leg of our journey… starting with Siem Reap, Cambodia. Until next time, Island paradise. Stay cool. Don't change. Have a great summer.


jaime said...

Still uber jealous! I'm gonna have to get all these travel tips from you when I finally get the opportunity to go.

Marisa Jean said...

Between the massage and the beaches with water you could see to the bottom of, I'm kind of in a supor of to dream-land. Love the monkeys, too.

Craig Barlow B. said...

These pictures are great. I really envy you. I haven't gone on a real vacation for...well ever. I've gone on vacations, but with your scope, I've never really gone on a vacation.

And I learned not to trust Russians by watching 007 movies. Obviously Russians cannot be trusted. They are always trying to kill British people. I don't doubt those two Russians were just following that British woman around.

Mike & Emily West said...

MAN-O-MAN! Those pictures are gorgeous! Yes, I will admit to a wee bit o' jealousy but more than that I am just super happy you had a great time and that you didn't get kidnapped and held as an American hostage! WOW, what a great adventure. I love reading about it!

Andrea Jolene said...

HRH - I don't understand what ELSE one wears on vacation but a lovely dress. It just makes sense (ya know... unless you're in like... Alaska... then it's a dress and TIGHTS... naturally)

Andrea Jolene said...

Craig - I suspected the same... and I suspected such ALSO from my 007 education. Never Trust a Russian... particularly in speedos. Shudder.

bets said... i haven't been this jealous in a long time. that trip looks like it was incredible. what gave you the idea?