We have been on the island of Phuket for about 4 days now. Keeping track of the day and time seems to be getting harder and harder…so we start caring less and less. Leaving Koh Lanta was a bit difficult. We stayed in a very comfortable environment and it felt like home. We also liked the cheap bungalows (250 baht per night), the quite ocean, soft white sand, and the sultry sun. We liked the style of the island and the tranquility that goes along with it. We grew quite fond of the people that surrounded us, and we especially liked getting to know all the locals. Neil was the local scuba pro with a calming spirit, who introduced us to Mona, the fun yoga instructor, who was friends with Suzanna, who ran a long boat company and often invited us to parties and such. We have shared drinks, stories, and laughs with all of them and could never forget the amazing people who made Koh Lanta so close to our hearts. There were people me met like the women who cooked us food every morning at Fat Jaks, or the waiter whose name we could never pronounce properly, but every time we saw him around the island he would come over shake our hands and reiterate that fact that he knew our names. It’s always so delightful to see familiar faces around the island. It makes me feel like less of a tourist.
But alas! We are on Phuket Island. After a 5 hour ($6) van ride (with air conditioning!) from Koh Lanta we got dropped off in Phuket Town, which reminded us of cluttered Bangkok, so we made a quick jet to a truck to take us to a beach. We spent the first 2 hours on Nai Harn beach searching for accommodation. The problem was that we were hiking up incredibly steep terrain with heavy backpacks and sweat dripping from every pore of our skin. I was quietly cursing the woman who owned the restaurant we ate at back in town for suggesting we stay at her favorite beach…I was also secretly cussing out James and Sarah for continuing the bungalow search (on mountainous roads in the blistering heat) that obviously wasn’t going to lead us anywhere promising…
Finally we arrive at the cheapest bungalows we could find which was surrounded by costly hotel resorts. So we caved and ended up paying 400 baht per night. That is the most we have ever paid for a bungalow, even though it’s only about $12 bucks a night…divided by the 3 of us! So we finally shower, relax, go for dinner, and sleep away the days exhaustion.
We quickly learn that Phuket is very touristy and nothing is free. You even have to pay for shade under umbrellas! I guess the thais need to make their money somehow?!…The next day was the Thai New Year, which is besically a huge water fight ALL DAY LONG!
We didn’t quite know what to expect, but quickly found out on our walk to breakfast at Food Mama’s that morning, that kids are going to squirt you with water guns, and adults are going to douse you with buckets of water. We didn’t really mind- It was quite refreshing on such a hot day! After we stuffed ourselves with fresh fruit and banana pancakes, we decided to go in search of cheaper fruit than the mangos they were selling for quadruple the normal price at the local market. We asked our friend, Ron, at local Tourist shop where the closest market was and he directed us to the 7-11 a couple kilometers down the road! On our journey to stock up on fruit- we were getting squirted by every passing car, truck, or motorcycle by water guns and buckets full of FREEZING cold water. Not soon after we began our journey, 3 thais stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. We were shaking our heads, as to say, ‘no thank you’ but they were persistent. They pulled over to the side of the road ahead and waited for us to catch up. We were frantically thinking how to get out of this situation because we don’t like to pay for rides when we are perfectly content walking. The thais on this island seem to charge more for short rides than we are used to. Anyways to make a LONG story semi-short…We ended up hopping in with them because they were going to the water fights and wanted us to join them. So James hopped on the back of the motorcycle, and Sarah and I jumped in the side car attached to the bike with 2 other thai women.
We continued to drive down the road further and further away from our Bungalow and beach that we were growing familiar with. The further we drove the more intense the water fights got! There were loads of Thais occupying every square inch of the backs of trucks and tuk tuks. There was cold water, hot water, blue water, pink water, ice water, squirt guns, buckets, cups, hoses…anything you can think of to drench fellow celebrators. The roads were full of people- everyone enjoying the festivities with smiles as big as could be. Laughter overwhelmed the streets. People would also put Prickly Heat Powder or baby powder all over bodies of passerby’s. Everyone was dripping wet and freshly powdered all day long. It was such a nice feeling to have complete strangers come up to you and put their hands full of powder on both of your cheeks in such a soft and comforting way. We couldn’t be happier in this moment.
After a couple hours of water fights our friend Gin (pronounced Jean) unexpectedly came up to us with Fried Chicken and water. This gesture meant the world to us! We are used to paying for everything, and now we just received a gift from a new friend. We were thrilled. We ended up hanging out with our new friends all day long, laughing and chucking water on innocent passerby’s. A couple hours later we decided to go to Gin’s (Jean’s) shop, which come to find out was the cutest, most stylish restaurant we have seen on any island so far. It was called Ratatouille and served fine french cuisine. We stayed there for hours slinging water by the bucket to anyone who happened to drive or walk down the road. Gin would bring us ice cold beers and Mai Tais served in a giant baby bottle! Finally after we couldn’t pick up our worn out arms, we decided to walk a couple kilometers home. Gin insisted on driving us and we were overwhelmed by all her kind gestures throughout the day! That night we slept like babies.
The rest of our stay in Phuket consisted of getting pummeled by gigantic waves, snorkeling along the rocks, eating at Food Mama’s (because we always get free plates of fresh fruit for desert) and renting Motorbikes to venture along the rest of the island.
We spent most of our time hanging out with Gin though! We felt such a ginormous pull towards her and always wanted to be in her kind, caring, compassionate, and warm company. I have never in my life met someone who was such a sensational being. In the evenings we would go to Ratatouille and eat, drink, play games, laugh, dance, and anything else we felt like doing. One night after we closed up the shop, she took us, along with Thea and U (two Burmese boys who worked for her) to the beach with a big box of wine, candles outlining our beach mat, and delicious Thai snacks. There was a silent lighting storm illuminating the sky, longtail boats surrounding the length of the beach, hermit crabs scurrying to find holes in the sand, and island dogs playing off in the distance.
We continued to laugh at each other, learn thai phrases, drink too much red wine, and take pictures of the nirvana that surrounded us. After our wine was drank dry, we pilled on our motor scooters and they proceeded to take us to some cool look out points on the way home. We were happy to be back to our bungalows and continued raving about how awesome of a night we had! James passed out on the floor that night (without a pillow) because he claimed the room was spinning too fast when he lay on the bed. Sarah and I crept off to a soft slumber, only to awake to a buzzing hangover the next morning. We don’t drink a lot here in Thailand because waking up to fiery heat the next morning, is never a fun chore….
After eating yet another overly-filling breakfast at Food Mama’s for $3, we met up with Gin because she was going to take us to Big Buddha - This magnificent structure sits on the top of one of the islands highest peaks and looks over Kata Beach. Big Buddha is still under construction, and the statue is being built by donation. One of the concepts that helps build this monument to the great teacher – The Enlightened One – is the sale of marble tiles with which it is built. You can purchase a marble tile, write anything you like on the back, and the tile will be used later in the building of the sculpture. You can help not only fund this endeavor, but also become a part of this magnificent tribute and place of meditation forever.
After yet another overwhelming display of kindness on Gins’ part after she treated us all to a wonderful lunch consisting of raw meat which we cooked ourselves in a boiling hot pot of soup, we proceeded to get nice relaxing massages. It was my first Thai massage and definitely not my last! Gin had to leave early to pick up her mother who was coming in town, and had arranged for Steve to take us home after, so we didn’t have to walk or pay for a taxi. (SO THOUGHTFUL) When we finished up, we hopped in Steve’s car and he just so happened to be blaring the Lady Gaga CD! We had a nice ride back and invited him to join us for a beer so we could hang out with him longer. He told us lots of stories about his scuba adventures all over the world, and all the crazy stuff he’s seen under the sea. He left after about an hour because Manchester United was playing and he was missing the game. He told Sarah he would take her to the airport the following day, which was like 2 hours out of the way. That just goes to show how wonderful and caring the people are that we have surrounded ourselves with here in Phuket! I don’t think we would have enjoyed ourselves as much had we not made the right decisions which allowed us to meet such wonderful people. I just keep thinking that if we would have stayed in the ocean a bit longer, or not asked Ron how to get to the market, we wouldn’t have randomly ran into Gin! Our whole adventure in Phuket would have ended up a lot differently….
Now I’m on another giant bird in the sky, en route to another destination. It’s always refreshing entering another city. New tricks to learn, new sites to see, and new people to meet! The excitement never dies!…