Travel notes from the trip to Phuket, Thailand in June 2001The story is comprised of two parts: [Part 1] [Part 2]
This is part 1 of the story.
Published: June 2001
travel, Thailand, Thai, boat, hike, hotel, Phuket, Phi-Phi island, Phi Phi, go-go bar, snorkeling, massage, sauna, Butterfly Garden, bungy jumping, Kathu waterfall, Phang-Nga, resort, weather
I've arrived to the hotel at around 20:00 and immediately left the room to walk around. I've made quite a long track, which wasn't easy since the humidity was very heavy (94%!). That's where I've first learnt about Go-Go bars. While I was walking along the streets every few meters there was a Go-Go bar, and girls sitting outside of it and shouting "a handsome man, come in". I've never got to do that, but from what I read is that you are supposed to come in, pick the girl, pay the bar a "fine" for taking the girl and leave with the girl. Well, the rest is clear. Now imagine that you have such a place every few meters... Since I didn't want to do that, I have never went inside of these places, so I cannot tell you any more details. There are quite a few juicy reports on the web, go read them if you are interested.
At the end I've finally found my way back to the hotel, and on the way I've booked a trip to the Phi-Phi island for the next morning.
At 7:30 in the morning I've left the hotel to go to the big pier on the other side of the Phuket island (transportation was provided by the organisers). At 8:30 we have boarded a big boat which have taken us to the Phi-Phi island (pronounced "pee-pee"). Before we disembarked at the island we had about an hour snorkeling, which was very nice. The underwater life is amazing, it makes you want to go deeper, but I couldn't dive (with no equipment) deeper than 3-4 meters, the pressure on the ears was too strong and painful. I think the underwater view was pretty similar to the one on the Red Sea in Eilat. But last time I was there about 4 years ago, so it was refreshing.
We were snorkeling from the boat, but we were close to the beach, so I decided to get out to touch the white sand. (Yes, this is the island, where 'The Beach' movie with Leonardo DeCaprio was shot. So I've been in exactly the same place, and it's so beautiful!) When I got close to the land, I've seen many monkeys there. When I've attempted to get out, they didn't let me to. They have started to jump on me, about 10 of them and push me back into the water. I didn't want to get some disease from getting bitten, so I went back to the water. Apparently it's "their" territory. Later on I've seen people getting out on this beach, but then there were many. I suppose because I was alone, the monkeys felt that the power is on their side.
After the snorkeling we had a nice lunch at the island and then had a few hours of free time. I've spent some time on the beach, but it was too hot, so I went to wonder in the local village. I've found many coconuts and after seeing 'The Castaway' movie I've tried to crack on open by myself. I've worked hard with my "Leatherman(TM)" saw but I've spent quite a long time trying to just get to the coconut hidden inside. Of course to open up the coconut itself one needs a good knife.
I didn't mention it before, but the Internet access is everywhere in Thailand. By everywhere I mean everywhere. In Europe and North America you get a few Internet cafes in every town. Here you get one every few meters, just like the massage joints. It's not fast (over 28k modem I think), but OK to read email. So even on this almost deserted island there were quite a few Internet cafes.
At 14:30 we started our journey back to Phuket and around 17:30 I was back to the hotel. This was my first real day in Phuket, and I wanted to get my massage, since my main reason for this unplanned get-away was a heavy stress. I've found the "Kata Hide-Away Herbal Aromatic Spa" close to my hotel ("Karon Beach Resort") and I've seen it mentioned in quite a few ads. I had one hour of herbal sauna, which was very good. The sauna was followed by a Thai massage, which was new to me and I liked it very much. At the end of the therapy I was given a fruit salad to restore the fluids level. Unlike the rest of the massage-only joints this one looked very professional and the prices were high as well (For two hours I've paid 950Baht (around US$25)). But it was worth the money.
I was very tired after a long day and an early wake up, but very relaxed after the sauna and massage therapy, so I went to sleep very early (22:30!!!) since I didn't have the forth to do anything else.
It was a big day. I didn't plan to do *so* many things in one day, but despite the missing planning it just worked.
First I wanted to visit the Phuket-town. Most of the tourists leave on the beach resorts, so the town is one of the place people go to visit, mainly because the shopping is cheaper. (I hate shopping!) I woke up relatively early (8:00) :) and after having a breakfast I wanted to catch a bus to the town, but it has never arrived. So I've negotiated (here everything is about negotiation) the cab for 220 Baht (US$5) -- the town is far away (about 30-40 minutes ride). At some point the cab ran out of petrol. For my surprise the driver didn't have money to fuel the cab, so all my fare went for the fuel.
Once I've got into the town, local people started to try to *help* offering the best shopping, cheap tour around the town and other services. Luckily I've read a little bit about Thailand on the web and have learned that's how they are, you just have to be polite and everything will be cool. So I was politely saying 'No'.
The town was quite gloomy. I would call it a big village, reminding very much Arab villages in the Middle East, with the same building architecture, multiple shops and workshops. I went to the local market and purchased a straw-wide-brim hat, since it's a must thing because of the sun. The heat was unbearable because of the humidity (94%!), but after Israel and Singapore, it wasn't a surprise for me, so I just kept on moving on.
Since I'm a very different kind of tourist, who hates tourist places, I went around the town on my feet, despite constant horns coming from all kinds of vehicles, from cabs to tuk-tuks (3 wheel car) to mopeds (motorollers and light motorcycles) (You can buy a new moped here for US$500! and I think 75% of the population own one.) While I was walking around the town, I have seen that the clouds start to gather and in just a few minutes a heavy tropical rain has started. I didn't waste time and went to the local barber to have my haircut made (for 250Baht==US$6). It was surprising that after the haircut my hair was washed 3 times and I've got a head massage!.
The rain was over and I've started to climb to a relatively high hill on top of which was located Wat Thep Khachonchit ("Wat" in Thai means "temple"). It's one of the Buddhist temples scattered around Phuket, with a huge Buddha monument. The temple is surrounded by blazing rain forest nature and is located in a where quiet place. I've seen just a few monks. One of them was living the temple after hiking a moped.
Next I've started to walk towards the Phuket Butterfly Garden which was quite away, but I wanted to walk through the non-tourist quarters. On the way I've seen a few villas of rich people, but mostly there were identical architecture building of poor people (which were quite nice from the outside nevertheless). I've had a lunch in some local Thai food stall, where nobody spoke English, nevertheless I've had two portions of delicious boiled duck.
I've went by foot all the way to the Phuket Butterfly Garden and I was quite tired by the time I've arrived there. The Garden was nice with many flowers, butterflies, insects and fish. I've spent a few hours there taking pictures.
Since the Garden was far away from the main road, and since it wasn't a tourist season, I've went all the way back to the main road and continued walking to my main attraction of the day -- The Jungle Bungy Jump tower. When I was quite close to it, one of the tuk-tuks have stopped and for 50Baht he has taken me to the Bungy place.
I don't know whether because it wasn't the season or people are just not attracted by this kind of entertainment, but I had to do this to overcome the fears I've had when I was about 13 and I couldn't jump from 10 meters tower in the swimming pool. (At that time I've jumped from 7.5m only). So to overcome 10 meters barrier, I went for 50 meters :) Well, I did it and it was amazing, it's just that I don't remember the first seconds after the jump, I think I've realised that I did it only when my body touched the water and started to go up for another go down, and a few times more... I think everybody should try this, since if you can jump from there, you can do any other crazy thing that may come up to your mind (which might be not a good thing at all :). My next target is 134 meters high Bungy in New Zealand.
Since the season is low, I've learned that the driver that brought me to the Bungy place was still waiting for me and he even went to watch me jump. So for another 50Baht (here it's easy to negotiate, whatever the offer is you offer half the offer) he took me to the next place I originally didn't think I'll make it to, Kathu-Waterfall. I had to climb I think about 100m to get to the top, but there was no waterfall at all, since the rain season didn't start here yet in its full power. There was only a weak stream of water going down. But while being a bit disappointed that the place wasn't waterfall at all (I've planned to swim in it to relax after the long foot walk, but there was not water to swim in) it was a very nice place, with no people at all and huge rain forest. So I've enjoyed it very much and took quite a few pictures of the nature.
The driver wasn't there when I came down, since I told him that I don't know how long I'm going to spend there (I thought I was going to relax in the water for a few hours). But it was good, since I again started to walk, but this time through the real village (compared to the town district that I went to through the morning). It was an amazing walk, the sun was going down, the nature was stunning and the most important was the experience of meeting Phuket people, which has happened every few seconds. I think my mouse muscles are quite tired today, since I've never smiled that much in one day. Everybody I've met had a broad smile on the face, no matter whether it was a man or a women. On the one hand it was quite unusual to them that a tourist is walking through their village (since tourist mostly use cabs to go to places like this), on the other hand these people are just amazingly friendly. One have to walk through such a village to feel that, it's impossible to fully depict the experience by words. I could have taken many amazing pictures of the local people, like you always see in the "National Geographic" magazine, but for some reason I've problems taking pictures of people. Nevertheless I've taken some, especially of kids which ask you to take pictures of them.
I was quite tired since I was on my way to walk some 10 km more, when a cab has stopped and suggested to take me to the Patong beach (where I headed) for free, since he was going there anyway. Isn't it amazing? In what country you have had a taxi driver stopping you a car to suggest you a free ride? So we made it to the Patong beach, and he has offered to take me wherever I wanted to for a cheap rate. I could have paid this nice guy for his kind free ride offer, but unfortunately the Bungy jump was unexpectedly expensive (1400baht=US$36) and I didn't have much money left with me (I've left my credit card in the hotel).
The Patong beach was a messy tourist place with hundreds of eating and shopping places. I didn't like it at all, since the local people there are like flies, so I've to nicely turn them away. I cannot blame them, they have a hard life and have to compete on the very few tourists in this low-season period. But it's getting annoying if you have to go through it for a long time.
Next, I went to rest for a while at the beach, which was very nice since the sun left to rest, and the weather was much cooler. I was watching remote lightnings hundreds of kilometres into the open sea.
When I had enough of resting I went for my first "oil massage". Now you have to understand that tourism business in Thailand is mostly all about sex. Whenever you go to have a massage you are being offered sex in this or another way, never directly but it all leads there. I was taken to a dark room, where I was offered to strip naked (so it would be easier to massage me), and the massage was far from the massage I'm used to, but more of the sensual massage with lots of oil and even more talking. Of course being naked, having girl sitting on you and pouring oil on your body does what it does to most of the men... So the massage wasn't a massage at all, but more of a tease. I don't think the pleasure worth the risk of having AIDS or some other viral disease even when using protection.
Whoever local I've talked to, the discussion was all ending the same: whether I need a lady. Being it a taxi driver, a foot massage masseuse or a shop seller. That's how it works here, so it's hard to avoid thinking about sex, since 'Sex is in the Air'. So if you think you want to avoid it and have a weak character when you are on, don't come here... well, may be bring your spouse, it should work as well ;)
After the oil massage I went home to 'Karon Beach Resort' where I lived, have booked a trip to Phang-Nga for the next day and had another one hour foot massage. I'm crazy about massages, and when you can get them next to nothing (this one was 250Baht=US$6, just like the oil massage) I don't pass the opportunity. Finally I went home to write the events of the day down, since I've realised that with the amount of experiences I'm going through every day, I won't remember half of the things that have happened to me. It's 1:30 and I've to go to sleep, since I need to wake up at 7:00 to go for my next trip.
No planned beach relaxation for me so far...