Tsunamis, Ping-Pong, Muay Thai and Waterfights

Trip Start Feb 27, 2012
Trip End May 19, 2012

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Flag of Thailand  , Phuket,
Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Phuket conjures up relaxing images of white sandy beach resorts and blue waves. We spent far too much time here (nearly two full weeks, hence the large blog) but we were able to get some much needed time regrouping and recharging after a good solid six weeks on the move.

When we arrived after another epic bus journey with Jeff and Sam we decided to just crash in Phuket Town proper. Turns out that this is probably the least interesting spot in the Phuket region itself. We did however manage to score an awesome place to stay at the the "On On Hotel" famous for being the the crappiest hostel in the world, as featured in the Leo De Caprio movie: "The Beach". Liz hates it - I think it's hilarious how bad it is, and it's only 500baht a night ($20NZD).

The next day after going for an explore in the shopping area and visiting the aquarium we realised just how boring Phuket Town really is so we decided to take the bus to Patong, which is where most of the tourist resorts are based. I love Patong it is totally manic crazy albeit extremely touristy as well as quite seedy (i.e. all the usual harassment for "massages" and one street named Bangla which is pretty much dedicated to "ping pong shows"). The place has a real buzz and some amazing bars. We had a very big night out and really lost it which is easy to do here, but in retrospect was quite dangerous. Luckily we made it home safe and were only punished with severe hangovers.

It took a good part of that day of the 11th to just migrate to Patong but we eventually made it on a sweaty public bus crammed full of locals. We sourced a relatively cheap hotel tucked above an Indian restaurant and had a quiet afternoon exploring the local shops.  Later at night we found the town strangely deserted - turns out that a Tsunami warning evacuation had been declared after a large earthquake off the coast of Indonesia. The majority of Patong's locals had fled to higher ground. This was all news to us of course -  we only found out through the CNN news-feed in a restaurant after it was too late to do anything.

Luckily it all turned out to be a false alarm and a slight overreaction on the part of the Thai's. Not that I blame them of course as they have every reason to be on edge - both places we visited here: Patong and Ko Phi Phi, were hit hard by the 2004 'Boxing Day' Tsunami and many thousands were killed. A taxi driver told me that he was on a hill overlooking Patong when the wave swept in and he could do nothing but watch as his friends and family were swept away.

Then, Jeff and Sam spent their last day with us on Thailand which coincided (to our surprise) with the worlds biggest waterfight: Songkran. This is the Thai New Year festival, and it is traditional for locals and tourists alike to roam the streets with buckets of water, super soakers and fists full of talcum powder in an epic two day battle. We found it impossible to walk more than 10 meters down the road without getting completely drenched. Bangla road was even more ridiculous - it was an absolute gauntlet getting from one end to the other (see this vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1D9mHa8Sj80). We had a blast though and got amongst it with our our under powered drink bottles well into the night. We returned to our hotel wet from head to toe and spent the next day hiding and drying off (I only ventured outside once across the road to 7-11 but still got nailed).

On the 14th it was my birthday (Yay!) Liz bought me tickets to the movies and the Muay Thai boxing (traditional style of fighting where unlike western boxing you are allowed to kick and use your elbows to strike), it was brutal but also to me strangely inspiring. A video to one of the fights we saw is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoK-KIDSu2U check out the bit at the end where the coach trips over the ropes - hilarious!

A few days later on the Monday later while feeling a bit low and run down I decided to give it a go myself and went to a training camp - nothing cheers me up better than getting the crap kicked out of me!.

I am so glad that I went. It was one of the most intense training sessions I have ever been to and I was totally drencehed in sweat by the end - It took two days for my clothes to dry out! Yummy. Some people travel to Thailand exclusively to attend these camps, where they live and train for several months. It involves lots of group fitness training, then time 1 on 1 with a Muay Thai expert. My trainer had been in 450 fights and had the scar-covered face to prove it! Very keen to take up the sport when we settle in the UK.

Our last night in Patong before we shot off to the Phi-Phi islands (again, seen that movie The Beach?) was spent in the "little Australia bars" around the markets that are all too frequent here. I had fun sitting around town pretending to be a Thai hawker salesman, asking random passers by: “my man taxi? Tuk tuk?”
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