An hour long plane ride (complete with multiple drink services and a sandwich) later and we are on the island of Phuket where it is impossibly hotter than the city – our cute beach resort dresses are quickly soaked through as we find the world’s most expensive taxi stand and commence a 2 hour drive to Kata Beach, sans air conditioning.
Apparently the taxi drivers here are much less friendly than in the city (go figure) and after realizing we had been dropped off at the wrong hotel we schlepped our bags in the 110 degree heat over not-so-paved sidewalks until we finally found our actual hotel.
I guess it doesn’t help when half the hotels start with the name “Kata”.
After sucking down our complementary sugar water…don’t ask…we were eager to get settled and hit the beach.
Cue the onslaught of speedos.
I swear I have never seen so many banana-hammocks in my life. South Beach, Italian beaches, and Topsail NC…you just don’t see ’em that often. But here, every hairy man had donned what seemed like the mandatory beach attire: speedo: butt coverage optional.
There was some awesome, if slightly disturbing, people watching to be had.
After soaking up some rays we had to do what everyone who has ever visited Phuket has done: enjoy a cocktail that is served inside a piece of fruit. Coconut deliciousness for me and Pineapple Delight for A (my trusty travel friend). By this time we were ready to freshen up and get ready for our first night out island style.
A side note about Phuket – the night life is a bit on the wild side. Bars – and their bartenders – tend to be a bit pushy and over the top. Case in point: “Mama’s Bar” had the owner pull us behind the bar to have an impromptu dance party with her and her staff. Case in point dos: Our next stop was full of bars and stripper poles…no strippers, those were for the guests in case the mood struck.
Once again the people watching, while at times painful (Paolo, a creepy Italian guy, approached us both and asked “You two all lady?”) was nonetheless entertaining.
Let me explain.
See, in Thailand there are transgender individuals who choose to be entertainers or Katoi. Here they are not judged but allowed to live their lives as they choose *ahem, America*. Which leads me to how the Katoi are a huge draw for tourists, for better or worse, and are nearly impossible to distinguish from “all lady” females as our Italian friend so crassly asked us.
We decided to take it as a compliment but still chase Signore Paolo well away…especially after he decided to send us roses from a street vendor. Here I thought the big city would be where our street smarts were needed most…apparently we’d need ’em here too to chase off the overly amorous tourists who think giving strange women, who you aren’t entirely sure are “all lady”, roses you’ve just bought from a 6 year old street vendor.
(Why yes, this is a perfectly appropriate time to use our phrase: This is Thailand)
The next two days were dedicated to the beach reserving our final day for a trip on the water to visit the surrounding islands. Island Night Out 2 had us venturing about an hour outside of Kata to the crazy scene that is Patong Beach. This is where the neon lights, night clubs, stripper poles and Katoi almost outnumber the tourists…almost. Here we encountered many “This is Thailand” moments,
enjoyed endured SangSom (Thai Rum) filled cocktails and reveled in the outlandish nightlife that, I’m quite certain, is only found in Patong. After hardlining a negotiation for a cheap ride we bravely took an hour long Tuk-Tuk Truck (most are motorbikes, this one had a bit more umph) across the mountain range that separates Patong from Kata. Let’s just say while we thought we might have to get out and push a few times, this dude knew how to entertain (i.e. 90’s rap music the whole way)…A and I might have been hoarse the next day from screaming the lyrics all the way across the mountain side up to the front porch of our hotel.
So back to that beaching during the day…not so fun after surviving a night out at Patong (our hotel concierge might have chuckled at us as we stumbled into the light of day asking for a beach chair). But there’s not much the Thailand sun and ocean can’t cure. Unbelievably we were encountering our final night in Thailand – this time we played it easy and enjoyed a long meal, meandered through the night market, picked up a delicious banana pancake (made on the back of a motorbike – love the street food here!) and got to bed nice and early. While Thailand sun and surf can cure most ails, being on a boat would be a sure disaster.
Eagerly anticipating our day trip out to see other islands we are up and at ’em to grab some breakfast and meet our transfer. After picking up several other couples – all of whom were Russian – we are being dropped off at the marina and sectioned off into our appropriate tour groups. Luckily our group was with an English speaking guide…but was still full of Russian tourists. Who love speedos too. Out onto the surf we go…
So wait, where do the monkeys fit in?
Right here. Our first stop is at a place called Monkey Island which is inhabited completely by…you guessed it: monkeys. Our guide warned us to not get too close as the monkeys are known to bite, scratch and probably carry a million diseases. We obeyed. The rest of our ship…well they hopped off and immediately run towards the monkeys and shriek with horror as they do, well, exactly what the guides told you they’d do. Bite. Scratch. Run right back at you. It was a little chaotic being on the tiny island with 10 other boats who are spewing out hundreds of tourists while the monkeys just continue to do their thing…and threaten the idiots who got too close.
The rest of the journey consisted of stopping at the famous “Phi Phi Leh” island used as the main setting for the movie The Beach and wow was it gorgeous. The water was such a beautiful blue and it seemed impossible that the sloping mountains just ended in the ocean. We had snorkeling gear and stopped many times to snorkel both from the boat and from the beach…though my recommendation to anyone taking this tour is be aware that most of the tourists you will be with A) cannot swim B) will kick you in the head/face/shoulder due to inability to swim and C) will scare away any fish you may have encountered due to their incessant kicking and water splashing all because they can’t swim.
Swim far far away from the crowd and boat to see the best fish. And be prepared to swim through a sea of sharp fish fins as the guides think it’s a great idea to chum the water with bread in order to make the fish swim closer to you. Oh. and remember the circus music? Well, don’t buy an Olympus water proof camera. It will break as soon as you put it in the water…again. Thanks Olympus!
Once I moved past the fact that I was kicked repeatedly and was on a boat with idiots who think they can snorkel when they can’t swim and it was a relatively nice journey. The best parts, by far, were just looking at the scenery, seeing the blue blue water and jungle terrain and relaxing on the beach. Ahhhh.
As we made it back to our hotel the five days of constant sun exposure were taking their toll and we spent the rest of the evening slowly packing and picking out our dinner spot. It was hard to believe that our vacation was already over…even more so for my traveling friend who’d be in various countries in Asia with her husband for the past month. All good things…
The next day we made it back to Bangkok with a mere 10 hours to spare before our international flights. We passed the time eating sushi, shopping and staring at our empty airline window counters…apparently you CAN get to an airport too early. As soon as our lines opened we tossed our bags, whisked through security and had a few more hours to revel in the wonder of duty free shopping. We finally said our goodbyes and headed to our respective gates.
After a brief layover in Tokyo I was on my way home…