Phuket. Really, Phu-Ket.
30.03.2010 - 30.03.2010
I write you from the balmy shores of Phuket this evening, having departed from the lush island of Ko Phi Phi early this morning. After 5 nights there it was time to move on. Not that Phi Phi wasn’t beautiful or a lovely stay, but the island is fairly small and it felt our time had passed.
The general consensus was to go elsewhere, but where that might be was up in the air. Zac finally made the executive choice to hit up Phuket after a lot of indecision. The other option was to head back to Ao Nang and spend the next three nights there, but we’ve already spent three nights in Ao Nang and figured we may as well branch out and see more of Thailand. Three and a half weeks is a lot of time to explore this country. In South Africa I felt like three weeks was hardly time to take much in, but here it seems more than adequate.
The ferry ride to Phuket was over gentle waters via rickety ferry.
We were directed to the bottom deck, which was near frigid with air conditioning on what must have been ice berg setting on the dial. Zac retreated to the upper deck as the boat shipped off from shore and before they closed the doors downstairs. There was a moment of panic at the thought of being locked downstairs with no escape, but we soon discovered a back door of stairs heading out to fresh and open air. Jenna and I sat patiently for the hour and a half journey, both venturing to the bathrooms in what I consider to be a heroic attempt at bodily relief. Fighting rocking ship, crowded walk ways, no hand rails, and filthy toilets, we both came out thankful to be alive and probably with some strange diseases.
Arriving in Phuket was a rude awakening from the car-free, lazy shores of Ko Phi Phi. Parked in port were dozens of boats ranging from small speedboats to large ferries and sail boats. It was quite the variety, and a far cry from the long tails crowding the shores we’d previously frequented. We paid for our taxi on the ferry, opting to pay an extra 50 baht ($1.25) to catch a private taxi instead of sharing a mini bus. We instantly realized this was a wise choice as crowds of tourists unloaded from the same ferry in a confused shuffle and sorting of who goes where.
Phuket is big, and the ferry pier is in Phuket Town. We’re staying Kata Beach, about 40 minutes from the dock. Our cab driver wasn’t particularly familiar with where we were headed in Kata, but stopped to get directions, much to our relief. He was a funny little man, vacillating between English and Thai as if we could understand him speaking either. Jenna and I parked Zac in the front seat so we didn’t have to deal with it.
Our hotel in Kata is owned by an Italian family who speak neither Thai nor English with the exception of one man who seems to only work in the early part of the day. The hotel is my favorite by far. We paid for two separate rooms after spending the last 8 nights cooped up together, even though these rooms could easily accommodate all three of us. There is a king sized bed and smaller twin bed that is perched on a wide window seat overlooking a mountain of trees with a giant Buddha on top. I kid you not, that Buddha is a hundred feet high or more. It’s hard to gauge at this angle. I’m thinking more. There’s a lovely balcony with seats and a table to rest outside in the warmer evenings, while retreating inside during the hot days.
Phuket feels like an oven, the hottest place thus far. If you thought the image of me sweating like an obese man eating a meat sandwich was bad, multiply that by fifty. I’m sweating in places I had no idea were capable of sweating. I’ll leave you with that lovely image. Savor it.
The road we’re staying on is busy and narrow, winding over a half mile until we reach the walk off for the beach. It was an interesting trot to the sand earlier, dodging traffic and other walkers. I was sure one of us would get hit, but fortunately that didn’t happen. The three of us walked to the beach and were instantly disappointed with the scenery. Not only was it crowded with hundreds of people and beach chairs, but the water was hardly as engaging. I wasn’t even in the mood to be at a beach so unappealing (which is funny, because the beach is still beautiful), and I decided to walk back to the hotel. I wasn’t much in the mood for swimming anyway, feeling a little in a funk, and opted to go back to work on some writing I’ve been doing.
Jenna and Zac returned a couple hours later and boy did they get back at the right time! Just as they walked in the door, not a second later (I kid you not) it began POURING. Zac stuck his head out and was instantly soaked.
An amazing lightning storm followed.
I have never been caught so central to a storm. I unplugged my computer from the outlet and was shutting it down when a heavy bolt hit a tree next to our window. You could feel the static in the air right before it hit, almost a sense of nothing, and then boom, it hit. I thought our place had been hit, and my knees were shaking it frightened me so much. The thunder roared without delay, and Zac and I spent a good half hour cuddled on the window seat watching the storm as it raged outside. It was so cool!
After the storm Zac read while Jenna and I played cards. I kicked her ass in every game we played. She grew upset at my victory in uno due to her inability to call “uno” on her last card, and she threw the freakin’ deck at me! It was a lot of ridiculousness and attempts at entertainment until the rain cleared.
Once gone we all went and ate dinner at an Italian restaurant across the street. The family who owned it were also Italian (we must be in the Little Italy of Phuket) and made absolutely delicious (albeit expensive) pizza. Now we’re drinking beer (and more beer, and more beer) and unwinding. It was an early rise for us this morning and it seems like it will be a late evening!
Phuket isn’t my cup of tea at this point, at least not when compared to other beach towns we’ve seen so far. This neighborhood is nice and I love this hotel, but I preferred the beaches of Phi Phi. Not to mention Phi Phi was cat island! Cats everywhere! It was so much fun to see them all, so friendly and comfortable with people. They don’t really beg for food because the resorts feed them (to help ward them away from tourists). We had an adorable little preggo cat sleep on our porch to our bungalow last night after we pet her all day. We named her Mamasita and fed her banana roti. She would sit by the pool with us, resting under our chairs and coming out when she wanted some affection. She even stayed as we swam in the water, watching and waiting. I loved her!
I think I pet every cat that came my way, despite Zac’s protests. He hates cats and the allergies they bring, but I washed my hands thoroughly after each visit. Apparently there used to be a lot of dogs on the island, but now there are hardly any (we only saw three, all pets) after the tsunami. It makes sense. The cats could climb, the dogs could not. It’s really sad to think about the damage the islands took on and the lives lost. It’s nearly impossible to tell now, but Phi Phi was wiped out.
Phuket has certainly been a transition from the lazy shores of Ko Phi Phi. For better or worse.