We arrived in Phuket, Thailand on Tuesday afternoon. It's a whole other world over here! It is beautiful, mountainous, full of steep hills, crazy waves, sandy beaches, and mix of a nightlife from Vegas, New Orleans, Key West and the Moulin Rouge!
We are staying in Patong Beach, which is about a 45 minute drive from the airport. For about 800 baht for the four of us, we took a taxi to the hotel, which is equivalent to $23. Our hotel is located a little south of the 'strip' which still is surrounded by a nightlife that any twenty something would be thrilled with. If only I could go back in time for a week or so, I'd definitely be hitting Thailand!
My only request to Jen in our hotel is that the first few days, it would be great to stay at a hotel with a great pool and a swim up bar (my dream hotel). Check. The other thing we wanted is that it was fairly close to the beach and close to restaurants. Check. The last thing we wanted was for it to include breakfast since that makes it easier on the kids too. There were so many hotels on Agoda.com that it was hard to choose, but we found out that included all the above. So when we arrived and checked in, we were met with a surprise to find out that we in fact didn't get a free breakfast and tried to show the hotel clerk that we chose the room that included it. After about 30 minutes of a frustrating conversation due to the language barrier and the fact that they didn't really care, we gave up and went to our rooms to get settled in and figured what the hell, we'll just fork over the 200 baht for breakfast. I was just happy to be here, go to the pool, the beach, explore, etc.
That first evening, we went to Patong beach to check it out. I really have no words to explain the sights we saw. There were parasailers, surfers, vendors, hawkers, and waves that would literally break you in half. The parasailing was nothing like we have on Siesta Key. Basically you are pulled by a crazy ass speed boat that is going about 60 miles an hour and jumping the 20 foot waves, and you are up in the air for 5 minutes and they bring you back down. Then there are crazy guides that literally jump on the strings and sit down on the ropes while the tourist who paid is strapped in. There is no harness for the guide, and he's basically taking a ride with you so that if the parachute gets too low to the ground and you fall into the waves, you don't drown. Perfect scenario. Nope, not gonna do that. I'll stick to parasailing on Siesta Beach.
There are red danger flags all along the beach and signs that say no swimming. There is a designated swim zone that a handful of people are in, but the lifeguard quickly lets you know that you are too far out by blowing a whistle every 2 seconds. Jen and I were looking at each other like this is NUTS!
We ventured out to dinner and then back to the hotel to plan the next few days here in Patong. We had decided to just stay a few days here and then venture to another part of the island for the rest of the trip. We went to our rooms, got our towels and decided that a dip in the pool and a drink at the swim up pool would be the perfect end to the day. Well . . . .one toe in the water and we were whisked to Iceland. How could it be almost 98 degrees outside and the pool was like we had just hit the Titanic? LOL The girls didn't seem to care, but Jen and I thought we'd just stick to our lounge chairs for the evening and enjoy a cocktail while the girls turned blue.
The next day, we checked out the free breakfast that was not included in our stay and immediately decided that the hotel did us a favor. That little screw up could have saved us days missed on our vacation fro being stuck in the bathroom. Thank you for that! We ate some fresh fruit we had bought from a market stand, and a few bites we had in our rooms and we hit Kata beach, which is just south of Patong Beach. The waves here were crazy rough too, but we walked down to an inlet and managed to find a little strip that was a little calmer and where the girls wouldn't be run over with the parasailing speedboats and surf boards. For 100 baht (less than $3.00), we got a couple of chairs that looked like they had been found after the Tsunami and enjoyed the beach for a couple of hours. We also rented a couple of boogie boards for the same price and they enjoyed themselves immensely. The people watching alone was the highlight of my day. There were tons of vendors that would come up and try and sell you anything they had from beach cover ups, dresses, bikinis you could try right on the beach, sunglasses, fans, wood wares, bracelets, and you could even get a Rolex watch for 1000 baht ($28). Man, you can't beat that! Basically all I needed was a cabana boy to bring us drinks and food, and my morning would have been complete. After the beach, and maybe a pool hop at a nearby hotel, we went and had lunch in a restaurant that was basically a mix of Jamaican, Thai, Italian, and French. Yeah, I know, how can that be possible? Well here in Thailand, anything is possible. But if you're ordering the french onion soup, be aware that it's basically a chicken broth, with raw chopped up onions throw in a dollop of Mozzarella, and voila French Onion soup!
Bridget ordered crab salad in a pineapple and Jen did the chicken salad in a pineapple. It was all beautifully presented and delicious. Of course I had to go for the Panang chicken, a typical thai curry dish, which is one of my absolute favorite dishes, and it was quite possibly the best I've ever had. I love you Thailand!
After lunch, we hopped on a Tuk Tuk (open air car) and explored some of the beaches south of there, and the waves weren't much calmer. We were told that pretty much all of the beaches in Phuket were like this as it's their rainy season, and the waves would be rough everywhere. There are warning signs of riptides, strong currents, and also signs posted of deaths, injuries, etc. Okay, I get the picture now. Do not go venture out too far and go swimming, otherwise prepare to die. Also we noticed Tsunami sirens everywhere (similar to tornado sirens that are in the US), but these things are everywhere - huge towers in different colors throughout the island. They were not around back in 2004 when the Tsunami hit Phuket. It's surreal to see that 12 years later, the area is completely built up again, but some of the buildings look really old and worn out and you can see the effects of it. I can't even begin the fathom what that must have been like, completely unaware of what was coming and the force of it. With 100 foot waves, the area we are currently in would have been swept away. It's good to see that there is some mechanism in place now to avoid such a tragedy in the future.
Since yesterday was our last full day in Patong, we decided to take a tour and signed up to go visit the Phi Phi Islands (pronounced Pee Pee), to go snorkeling and check out Monkey beach, which is basically a place where you can swim with monkeys and feed them! Most of the tours pick you up from the hotel, take you to the marina, then pick you up and bring you back. We had been researching various tours that we wanted to go on and Phi Phi was at the top of our list. We were a little worried that the rough waters wouldn't let us snorkel or swim, but decided to take a chance and go for it. There are tour desks on every corner in Patong, and we literally got it for 50% off the quoted price than if we had booked it online. It basically cost less than $40 per person for the day. SOLD!
We were picked up at 7:00am and arrived at the port and boarded right away. The vessel is a 600+ passenger boat and has outdoor and indoor seating. Apparently the indoor seating was VIP, which we assumed was those who paid full price! We were perfectly happy sitting outside and waited on board for quite a awhile before taking off. The first thing we noticed is that there was a giant tub of motion sickness pills that they were given out by the handfuls like candy. We had already given Bonine to the girls before we left the hotel so I was very confident that we would have no problem at all. But to be perfectly honest, a little doubt crept up when I saw the tub of pills. I was like 'come on Bonine, don't let me down!'. LOL
Ten minutes into the ride, I could see why. The waves were so rough and harsh that the horizon looked more vertical at times. Wow! Then to find out that the ride actually took 1 hour and 45 minutes instead of the hour we were told, yeah, that was a reality check. We did however all make it alive and well to the Phi Phi Islands, which are GORGEOUS! The water is crystal clear and has tones of aquamarine, turquoise and teal. . . . breathtaking.
We dropped some passengers off at the marina (some people took a one way trip because they have hotels where you can stay). We too had planned to stay there during the weekend. We then went on a boat tour around the smaller of the two islands and saw caves and a glimpse of Maya Beach, where the movie "The beach" was filmed. Our boat was too large so we couldn't get into that bay because the waters were way too rough. We had a choice of taking a smaller boat from the marina, but after that rough sea, I was glad to be on the bigger boat. Unfortunately we didn't get to see Maya Beach in full. Just after that, we went to a place they call Monkey Beach to snorkel. The waters were a 'little' calmer there and there were definitely things to see when snorkeling, but unfortunately we were spoiled by our trip to the Krakatoa Volcano a few weeks ago and snorkeling will never be the same again. We decided to swim up to the beach to check out the monkeys, but I'm pretty sure we were the monkeys because there were no monkeys at this location, they were all on Maya Beach instead, because the waters were so rough that there wasn't much beach at all this time of year. We later found out that yes, in fact, Maya beach had a ton of monkeys there as some of our other cast members were there that day as well. Oh well.
After snorkeling we headed back to the big island at Phi Phi and they had a wonderful catered lunch for us at the Phi Phi Princess with incredible views of the beach and the bay. The water there was so calm and inviting that after lunch we decided to let the girls swim to their hearts content while Jen and I enjoyed some tropical cocktails by the shore. Then after about 30 minutes of rest and relaxing the yelling and shrieking started after some guy pulls a snake out of the water. A live snake that was confirmed to be poisonous. In his infinite wisdom, he attempts to put the snake into a walmart size bag, and of course it wiggles out in the sand and tries to swim back out to the ocean. The guy catches it again and I'm not sure what happened next as the girls were out of the water and swore off going back in again. I guess we aren't staying there this weekend after all. LOL
We headed back to the boat at 2:00pm for a 2:30pm departure and got some good seats with a view. The ride back was even longer and rougher than the ride out. You couldn't get out of your seat before being whisked away to the other side of the boat and literally people were throwing up left and right. Guess their sea sickness pills might have worn off and there were puke bags being handed out like goodie bags. Most of the passengers in the VIP area (the indoor room) were coming out on our deck to regain their composure. I'm guessing that being indoors and motion sick was pretty awful and needed fresh air. Luckily our girls faired very well and weren't sick at all. Thank you Bonine!!! It's THE miracle drug for motion sickness . . .do you need more convincing?
Last night was our final night in Patong. We went out for dinner and did a little shopping. Bridget and I were dying to try some of the local seafood and she wanted crab, and I wanted to try out the Phuket lobster. It's all by market prices, so you basically pick out your seafood and they weigh it for you. The crab Bridget picked out was enormous, and delicious. I had the lobster and picked out a nice squirmy one as you can see from the look on Bridget's face. Priceless! Today we are headed to another part of the island to see something different. We found a great hotel for about $30 a night (you can get a great hotel here at that price) and have a few adventures planned ahead. :-) I will post Part II of our journey to Thailand on Sunday night so stay tuned!