Our last long stop in 'Houstons Tour Thailand' was Phuket for a week of sun and sand. I'd heard pretty mixed reports about Phuket. Well, I say 'mixed', I really mean 'seriously bad'. But we were assured that it would be pissing down on the other coast (Koh Samui, Koh Tao) at that time of the year and so we were better to head towards Phuket. So Mum booked a nice hotel in a quiet beach area, about 30 mins from crazy-ass Patong for just over a week - heading back to Bangkok for a couple more nights before we went our seperate ways again... Cue tears.
After a seriously action packed time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, our time in Phuket was much more chilled out so I will try and keep my chat a little bit briefer. You've heard that before though, haven't you?! You can all take solace in the fact that I am nearly finished blogging - 2/3 more entries and WE'RE DONE!
So we flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok in the mid afternoon which was easy as pie. Thai security seems to be pretty lax - no one seemed to give a damn that I was passport-less. The flight was only an hour and a half or so and we were on a proper Thai Air 747 - probably better than the plane I was on from Sydney... And definitely better than the one they use for their London-Bangkok route which doesn't even have TVs apparently. WTF?! The meal looked a bit dodge, not gonna lie. Dusty bin gave it a try though - at least the man is consistent hey?!
After an hour transfer to Kata beach, we checked into the hotel which was an absolute metropolis of a place. You could have lived there all your life and never left the walls of the place for anything - crazy. Not how I like to spend my holiday but I'm pretty sure that's exactly what some people did. But it was in a great position just on the beach front and had nice sunbathing spots so ticked our boxes. The rooms were grand but Mum did ensure a routine room change because the light was in the wrong place. I tell you, the excuses become more inventive by the holiday.
By the time we got cleaned up and headed out, it was pretty much dinner time. I unpacked properly for the first time since I left the UK which was very exciting. We headed down to a dive club that had been really well reviewed on the hallowed Trip Advisor and I signed up for my Open Water Diver course which would take up a lot of my time for the rest of the holiday. It wasn't the quickest process in the world - the taxi driver had NO clue where he was going despite protestations to the contrary and eventually dumped us outside an internet cafe so we could look up the phone number. Addresses seem to mean nothing in Phuket!
Following their recommendation, we went to 'Two Chefs' restaurant in town and had some good dinner. Not very Thai - we really got a bit shit about food and ate way too much Western but the amount of tourism meant that Western food in Phuket was the best I'd had since arriving in Asia six weeks earlier. Is that a valid excuse?! Not sure what Mum's excuse is mind you....
Came home to find a really nice turndown which redeemed the hotel partially from the slightly mediocre first impression. They even made us towel animals - what more could we ask for?!
The next day was pretty dam lazy - we lay in deckchairs all day, drank cocktails and allowed the little ladies with their baskets to massage us to their heart's content. They offered foot massage for about 3 quid! Doing them a favour really....! Mum and I got the standard manicures and pedicures and Mum had her 'skean' done which seemed to involve her feet, a cheese grater and a lot of laughter. We dipped in and out of the sea but Mum later spotted the red flags which meant 'don't swim' and therefore banned Dad and I from approaching the water - even though it was FULL of people. We just couldn't be part of that apparently.
That night we headed round the coast to the Karon area, on the search for a really good restaurant Mum had come across. Sods law - we got there and it was shut for one night only. Found another little place beside it though, called the Bamboo Lounge and had a fantastic meal which some pretty good cocktails.
Mum insisted on a table change, as is her prerogative. Evenings were definitely hotter in Phuket so sitting outside with no A/C or fan wasn't ideal. Even if I didn't admit that at the time and let Mum do all the complaining - she just has a natural talent for these situations though! We rounded off the evening with a foot massage at the spa across the road. Dad included - he was horrified that he had been in Thailand for 10 days and hadn't had a massage yet. We even made BFFs with the masseuses who wanted to come home to NI with us and set up a spa - questionable plan of attack in my opinion.
The next day was supposed to be spent in a classroom, doing the theory for my PADI but Mum had been in touch with the boat peeps and we decided it was going to be the best day to go out on a speedboat. So after a bit of rearranging, we got picked up and taken down to the harbour where our boat was waiting for us. There were about 15 of us on the boat - Americans, a Norweigan, Aussies. If you shut your eyes, you would have sworm that one of them was Lloyd Grossman. A really nice bunch, which was just as well because there ain't that much space on one of those things.
The first stop was at a little island where the crew wanted to fit us up with gear and make sure we could all swim before dropping us in the middle of the sea. The place was swarming with Japanese in life jackets - looked like some sort of Japanese shipwreck scenario. And, without indulging in racial stereotypes, those boys really cannnot swim. I've never seen anything like it! They were flapping about in a couple of inches of water - I just felt sorry for the crew!
After reassuring themselves that we weren't gonna drown, we got back on and rode for an hour or so until we got to a sheltered snorkelling spot and out we all piled.
There were plenty of little fish to spot and Mum got particularly excited by a bright blue one that she swore was swimming around me - turned out to be my fin. Wild goosechase. Next stop was Maya Bay where parts of The Beach were filmed and it's pretty easy to see why - the place was absolutely beautiful. Mum liked it because it didn't require hauling yourself up and down the ladder to get in and out. Bonus.
There were tsunami signs all over the place, slightly disconcerting. Especially on the little islands because it certainly feels like nowhere would be a safe evacuation point. Suppose they have to do their best in light of what has gone before.
When we got back on, we rode past the Viking Caves where they preserve birds nests made of saliva for their famous bird nest soup etc. Apparently you used to be able to get inside but due to a Mafia change of control, you now get shot if you try it. Seems they can make a serious amount of money from this saliva! We had lunch on Phi Phi island which was fantastic grub. Mum said it was the best Thai she had - although perhaps there wasn't much competition for that title because she ate Western food at every opportunity!
After lunch, we did a bit more snorkelling and general lazing about. This was probably our best day's weather during our whole time in Phuket which was fortuitious - would have been a bit miserable in the rain! I peformed some very graceful acrobatics off the boat. Agile as a fish.
Highlight of the day may have been watching two kayaks full of Japanese tourists managing to tip their canoes and flap about like possessed animals until their boat came to their rescue - pretty hilarious actually. God I sound like a bad person but, you'll have to take my word for it - quality moment of entertainment. All in all, great day out on the boat and the company we went with were fantastic, looked after us really well and in return, we managed now to drown. Because of an unusually low tide, it took us hours to get back into dock so we weren't home until after 7. I was wrecked, just for a change! So we had some (pretty average) dinner in the restaurant across the road and had an early night. Rock and Roll!
The next day was, indeed, The Most Important Day of the Year - Nov 8th - my Birthday! I got a pretty impressive spread of cards and pressies, felt like I wasn't away at all, which was really lovely. Zoe even sent me a box of malteaser buns - what more could a birthday girl want?! Although I should probably admit that Mum had given the game away about a week before so they were long gone by the time my birthday came. Because of our Sunday boat trip, my birthday did end up being spent doing PADI theory. Not exactly riveting. But Alexia, my instructor, was a lovely South African girl, so it was pretty painless. And we had a nice little lunch on the beach. Plus, I got 96% in my theory test - maybe a career in diving is an option to pursue?! And she gave me a lift home on her motorbike - I can definitely see the attraction of those things. Can't see me getting that one past Bizzy.
Mum and Dad had gone out with a driver for the day so thought I'd include some pics of what they got up to. Their amusement of the day seemed to come from a lady selling melon at Tescos who turned out to be a man - gracious me. Dad seemed flabberghasted by the whole experience - I doubt he/she will be getting a transfer to Tescos Coleraine any time soon...
A bit of manual labour as they rebuilt part of the temple
Their driving buying a fresh flower offering for his car mirror
The highlight of the day apparently....
When I got back, the cleaners had obviously had a bit of a cheeky tip-off (no prizes for guessing who from) and had gone to town with the birthday celebrations - cake, flowers, a little note and a particularly special parade of towel animals!
Our evening well and truly made up for my pretty boring day - we headed out to the nicest restaurant in the area, 'Mom Tri's'. Mum had managed to get us the nicest table in the place and when I got there, there was an amazing bunch of flowers waiting for me. The service in that place was pretty astounding. And the food wasn't too shabby either! We even had wine - massive luxury in Thailand - its even more expensive than at home! The table sat right at the edge of the cliff, looking right down into the sea. After dinner, the lights went out and I thought it was because of the thunderstorm. But no, cue the candles and necessary embarrasing singing. Seems being 23 doesn't provide an exemption from birthday mortification! It must have been almost decades since I spent a birthday just with Mum and Dad but have to admit, we had a really nice evening. Don't tell them that. I'm sure Mum won't be reading this or anything.... In fact, she may be the only person still reading this.
The next day, I did my confined water sessions which we did in the swimming pool because the wind made the shore too choppy to simulate confined water. It was actually a lot of fun - really enjoyed doing it, even though the only thing to see in a swimming pool was a large large German man swimming past me REPEATEDLY in the smallest speedos known to man. I even jumped in off the side with no drama - family members may know the trauma of the Teddy Bear Three badge which caused many hours of tears when I was younger because I refused to jump in, and therefore was probably the last in the class to receive the accolade.
Came back for another couple of lazy hours by the pool with Mum and Dad and then we headed out to Karon beach and ate at the restaurant that was closed earlier on in the week - The Red Onion. Definitely worth the repeat trip. Except for the table of Russians who were the loudest people I've ever heard. And were also sitting right beside us.
The next day was my first day of open water diving. Alexia usually took students out to the beach and did shore dives for the first day but the waves meant that the visibility was shite so we headed out on the diving boat for the day. This was probably the most exciting day of diving as it was my first time really diving. I know I did a couple of dives on the Great Barrier Reef but it was much more satisfying when you actually had an idea of what you were doing! Plus, there was loads to see - clown fish, cornet fish, trigger fish etc and loads of colourful coral. So not a bad way to spend the day at all! We did a dive in the morning, ate some (pretty rough) lunch and then another dive in the afternoon, each one lasting about 40 mins. I could definitely get hooked on this diving malarky. The gals and I already have an Egypt plan in the offing....
In the evening, I went for a massage at the proper hotel spa and we went to the Festival Centre- the main shopping centre in Phuket. Not a bad combo! Really nice place although I did most of my damage in Zara which was pretty unimaginative! Managed to get two eating opportunities fitted into our visit! I had been to Swenssons ice cream in Bangkok so wanted to show Mum and Dad how good it was. We shared the small fondue platter which was AmmmaaaaZZZZing. Big hit.
And then shared some pizza after our shopping before we headed home. Deal with the diets after Christmas right?! Well, may as well wait until the New Year.
The next day I spent back on the diving boat finishing off my PADI. The weather took a bit of a turn for the worse, well it pissed down all day actually. Didn't affect the diving once you were in but wasn't a lot of fun when you were getting kitted up. Suppose you shouldn't really complain about getting wet when you're spending most of the day 30m under the sea... Saw lots more stuff and even bought myself a little souvenir when I finished up. Really enjoyed doing my PADI.
The rain carried on all night so we ordered room service and watched a film - lazy beasts.
Think we got a bit unlucky with weather in Phuket generally. It only rained on us properly for a day or 2 but we only had one day of really good sunshine. We were spoilt in Bangkok and Chiang Mai though so can't really complain... And I think the week before in Phuket had been horrendous.
On our last full day in Phuket, Mum and I were meant to be going to a cooking class but she claimed she was sick so we gave it a miss. After a week of early starts for diving, I was quite happy to go back to bed anyway! So instead we lay in the gardens at the hotel and I went down for a massage from the little ladies on the beach - 4 quid for over an hour. Even if it was a bit of a hammering! By the time I got back the rain had come in again and Mum and Dad had set up camp at the bar. It seems that rain provides an adequate excuse to drink before lunchtime. Who am I to question my parents?! Dad showed his stubborn streak off to full effect and refused to come in from the rain so when it calmed off a bit, he resumed his position on his sun lounger. Despite the fact it was still pissing down and he was the only person in the whole place basking in the rain. Mum and I were less stupid. Once the rain did eventually stop, we headed back down to join The Stubborn One and I got another massage from one of the basket ladies - just for comparisons sake...
On our last night, we went to the Boathouse - the cheaper sister restaurant to my birthday meal spot. Dad got a cheese plate which seemed to please....
Then, in a last bid to see proper Phuket, we headed to Patong to see the infamous Bangla Rd. Alas, it was not to be. The rain really really set in and after our drive there (basically in a flat bed trailer), we had to take cover in Starbucks - the only place not heaving with prostitutes. This pair only think they are liberal I tell you.... So poor Dad never got to see the lady boys in full swing. Shame.
So all in all, we had a pretty lazy time of it in Phuket but it was definitely what the doctor ordered after our hectic schedule in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. And it was so good to stay somewhere more than a few nights and actually unpack etc - first time I had done it since the 2nd August. We headed back to Bangkok for another couple of crazy days before we went our seperate ways but thought I would put that in a little blog of its own....
Love to all - can't believe I will be with Zo and Alex this time fortnight. Almost all over which is crazy! Am now half way through my big US trip so I need to play some serious blog catch up!xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx