Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thailand Adventures Thus Far

26 November 2008 - 3 December 2008
Rohan and I arrived in Thailand 26 November and stepped out of the plane into a fairly calm atmosphere; clearing customs included walking past a customs officer asleep in his chair. To be fair, it was nine o'clock at night :) The crazy taxi ride I was warned about included climbing into a brand new Toyota Hatchback driven by a very shy, mild mannered Thai guy who drove quite reasonably.

Our taxi dropped us off at our hotel in Karon Beach, Phuket. We quickly dropped our bags, hosed off the plane grease (ewww) and headed out to see what the town had to offer. We wandered around and ate whatever food the street vendors were offering. We had some chicken and other bits and pieces. Mmmm, Thai food.

Our friend Matt joined us the next day and we moved to Phuket Town. Phuket Town was a far cry from the touristy resort atmosphere of Karon Beach. There it was far more 'Thai' with a smattering of backpackers. Here's a link to a video of the room we stayed in there. Quality! While in Phuket Town we rented mopeds for 150 baht a day ($5.50 USD) and went to the Big Buddha of Phuket. Wow! It was massive and covered in marble. For 300 baht you could buy a piece of marble, write your name on it and then it would be added to big Buddha and bring you good luck. As we are on a strict budget, we chose not to get closer to Buddha in that particular way, but it was quite a sight to behold. I was wearing a tank top so upon entering the temple I was offered a pashmina to cover up with. As the pashmina was orange and I am sporting the new 'do', I was getting some curious looks - is she or isn't she a monk?

From Phuket Town we headed to the pier to catch a ferry to Phi Phi Island. This was not an original idea and we were on the ferry with a whole bunch of tourists, German, French, American, Aussies, the list goes on. For those of you who have seen the movie 'The Beach', much of it was filmed at or around Phi Phi. It is postcard picturesque, with white sand, aqua water, hills and mountains jumping directly out of the ocean. We managed to find a fairly cheap, very basic beach hut that was a mere one minute walk to the beach.. As nice as Phi Phi was, it was still full of tourists, which has it pluses and minuses. Upsides: night life and access to basic amenities. Downsides: stacks of people everywhere and because we weren't off the beaten track, the people are 'tourists' (clean, made-up people who 'do' a place ('I've done Thailand') and think culture is something you can photograph or purchase) as opposed to 'travelers'. Phi Phi was beautiful and there are some highlights from our couple of days spent there: hiking around the island with a couple of new people we met, drinking buckets (the kind you build a sand castle with full of cheap rum and the mixer of your choice) and watching fire spinners, jumping through a burning heart of fire and lying on the beach watching the sun set over the cliffs.

The decision was reached that Matt, Rohan and I would move on from Phi Phi to Ko Lanta in search of cheaper living and quieter beaches where Thai people actually live (rather than just being there to service the tourists). So, we landed on Ko Lanta, bartered for a 300 baht taxi ride that would take us to the south of the island where rumour had it, it was quieter. The taxi ride was going well until we passed a moped that the taxi driver beeped at. We then pulled over and dude on the moped hopped into the front seat of the pick-up truck (or ute for the Aussies in the audience). None of us reckoned that this meant anything good and we all had versions of how this might play out running through our heads. We got to a small village, not the one we were hoping to go to, taxi driver pulled over at a very pricey resort and told us that we could either a) stay at this resort or b) pay him an additional 200 baht to take us to where he'd originally agreed to take us for 300 baht. Rather than argue, we hopped out of the taxi, parted with our 300 baht, put on our backpacks and headed off to make our own way to Klong Jack. As it turned out, luck was with us and we met a travel agent who told us about cheap bungalows at Klong Jack and got us a taxi there.

We arrived at Lanta Sun Moon Bungalows, which is where we are currently staying. I will write more soon about Sun Moon and Ko Lanta, but internet is expensive here and so I need to stop the story there for the time being.

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