Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Saturday, 1 May 2004

Amazing Thailand: Part 7 - Back in Phuket

So as you'll recall the last episode saw us returning from Bangkok and Ayutthaya and arriving back to the luxury of our Phuket Hotel, where we had another 5 nights.

It was nice to suddenly be without a schedule, we decided just to take it easy the next day, and not have any specific destination or activity. After our sumptuous buffet breakfast we strolled down to the beach and had a swim in the warm water. Cape Town would be so much nicer if our water was warmer. I really battle to take the plunge and swim here. The water is almost too warm in Thailand, but the swim was divine.

The rest of the morning I wondered around the local area and the shops specifically, while Richard relaxed in the hotel room. We then went down to a travel company and booked an island trip for the next day, and made arrangements to hire a motorbike for the day after that. By late afternoon I had also negotiated a deal for a massage so the 2 of us trotted down to one of the nearby Massage shops and had side-by-side Thai massages. A full hour of bliss! Costing Bt200 (R34) each with a bottle of water.

Some people complain that they find the Thai massage painful, but I thought it was wonderful. They do manipulate you a fair amount, and I imagine if you are not flexible it could hurt, but after 6 years of yoga it was simply wonderful. I'd love to have one every day! When that was done we lay contentedly, before floating off for a relaxed evening meal, at the bungalows outside our hotel.

The next day after breakfast, we were collected for our island trip. We were taken to Chalong Pier, where we boarded our Speedboat for Raya Island. The journey was fast and exciting. Raya Island is close enough to not take hours to get to, but far enough away that you are not right near the main land. The trip takes 30-40 minutes, we stopped at Coral Island on the way to drop some people there, and though cheaper, it looked a bit small and sparse. On arrival at Raya we knew we'd made the right choice. Raya is exactly you image of what a tropical island would be. Crystal clear warm water and squeaky clean white sand. A small beach with a few deck chairs and umbrellas, one or 2 other people, palm trees, and cute little bungalows hidden in the foliage. It was beautiful.

We were told we had an hour to relax and swim before going of on the snorkelling excursion. We were also served a platter of beautifully presented fruit, which our guide had sat and cut up on the beach. Again everything has attention to detail. Food is never just plonked down. It's always visually pleasing and creatively served, as well as being delicious to eat!

So we were all set in our swimming gear, and back on our boat ready to go around the back of the island to the coral cove for snorkelling. Which was something I had never done before (unless splashing around and half choking to death in a Port Shepston lagoon at 7 years old counts). On the way around the island we spotted 4 or 5 dolphins frolicking in the water. Unfortunately as we got close they shied away, and apart from one or 2 glimpses they were gone... it was very exciting though. The boat stopped at Raya Cove and we were all given goggles and snorkels, which we fitted and then leapt in and it was amazing!

On the other side of the island we had only seen very pastel coloured fish, which while pretty, had very much blended with the colour of the sand. Here in the red and brown coloured coral there were fish of every different size, shape and colour, and the goggles were great. I stayed on the surface, so that I didn't have to get the dynamics of blowing water out of the snorkel figured out, which had not managed before. It's hard to describe just how stunning the underwater life is. I was very keen to touch a fish, and finally did manage to when the said fish decided to taste my outstretched finger and BIT me! Those little teeth were damn sharp, and I was less excited to be swimming amongst all those fish after that. I was a stupid thing for me to have done in retrospect, but it was just a nip and I survived. All to soon our time was up and we were hauled back into the boat to continue our journey around the island, back to the beach where we started.

We were then loaded into a tractor-trailer (there were 6 in our group, the 2 of us and 2 older British couples) and we wound our way over a bumpy dirt road past loads of development to a restaurant in the centre of the island. The amount of development happening there is actually frightening; in a year or two the place will probably be teaming with people. It's a pity. Apparently now you can stay overnight in the small bungalows for Bt700 (R120), whereas a Villa is under development which is set to be rented out at Bt17000 (R2834) per night! WOW. Presumably the villa will sleep 4-6 people and be staffed, but still the contrast is immense.

As we arrived under the shelter of the restaurant it started raining. It was actually lovely as it became quite cool, and was perfect. I day of swimming in full sunshine would have been bit much for me and my fair skin. The lunch was delicious and we were given about 4 different Thai dishes to share, and a soup each, and rice and noodles, and sliced fruit after. We ate far too much, but it was delicious. Strangely the British couples were amazed that I could eat with chopsticks and were pointing and staring. At first I thought they were commenting on the amount of food on my plate, until I realised that they in fact wee thinking how 'clever' I was too be eating with chopsticks. Weird, I though most people could. Quinn can more or less eat with them already at 4 years old.

We finished the afternoon wondering around the beach, lying on the deck chairs and swimming, until we were told we had to go back again. We would happily have stayed there forever, and were very sad that they day was over. It was a wonderful experience, even though I hadn't been that excited about it at first, an island snorkelling trip is very recommended.

That evening we took a long walk down our beach and ended up finding an interesting night market, and there we discovered a vendor selling fried bugs! There were big white worms, huge cockroaches, locusts, beetles etc etc, and people were buying and eating them! It was like Fear Factor challenge. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, and although we looked again the next night it was nowhere to be found. I think it may be a once a week market. I declined to taste them!

The following day we rented a motorbike after breakfast, and after a few test rides, to make sure he remembered Richard picked me up, and off we went! It was drizzling on and off so we had to be careful, but we decided to make the trip inland to Phuket town, to see what it was like. On the way we stopped at another elephant trekking spot, because I wanted to feed the elephants again. There were also Gibbon monkeys ate this spot. They are SO cute. They are tailless, and have long fluffy arms and legs and are either black or light brown. They have really expressive faces. I enjoyed touching them and interacting with them. It's hard not to encourage them, even though they are meant to stay wild, because they are so tame, and so curious too.

We then carried on to Phuket town, which was surprisingly far away. With the roads being slightly wet, and Richard's sense of direction being less than brilliant I was doing a lot of back seat driving. After finally following my directions we found the town and then the Cashew Nut factory we were looking for. Here workers were churning out loads and loads of cashews. A Japanese tour bus arrived at the same time we did, and they were swarming all over. They rushed to the shop and couldn't get enough of the cashews, they were literally sending thousands of Baht each. I must be way cheaper than their Japan cashew's price.

We looked around the shop, and tasted quite a few, as every variant was available for tasting in several places, and the shop assistants kept shoving them at me. They were nice, but not all the flavour combinations worked. We eventually bought a few packs of plain nuts, but found that they weren't all that cheap compared with home.

We went on to a big covered market. I found a coconut stand and ordered on to drink. For Bt10 (R1.50) I got a whole coconut, with the top chopped off, and a straw. The juice inside has a subtle sweet taste and was very nice and cool to drink. Yum. We also found a pile of pomelos (like large grapefruits) in the fruit section. There were pomelos there the size of my head!

The rest of Phuket town was dirty and dingy compared to the beach areas, and with the rain there wasn't much to see or do, so we decided to head back via Patong Beach.
I had a prearranged appointment for 7pm, so by later afternoon we decided to push through back to Karon instead of spending the evening in Patong.

Next: what was my appointment for?

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