Sun, Sand & Canoes - Phuket, Thailand

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kata Beach
Kata Beach Center Hotel

Flag of Thailand  , Phuket,
Monday, March 15, 2010

I can hardly believe it myself...  a weekend in Thailand!!  Just an hour and a half flight will get you from Saigon to paradise.  It can and should be done. :)  We worked Friday, caught the late flight out and then back Sunday night relaxed and ready to take on the week. Days were long but totally worth it. 

After arriving in Phuket we grabbed a shared taxi van and made our way to Kata Beach.  Kata is approximately an hour from the airport (SW on the island) and with the additional drop-offs, we made it to the hotel around 1am.  Lucky for us the hotel is run by the most amazing Dutch family.  The son waited up (he was at the patio bar having a drink with friends) and didn't make us feel like we inconvenienced him one bit. 

We had breakfast in the hotel and discovered they make the most delightful, mouth pleasing apple pancakes.  I should have taken a picture because they were plate sized, thick with a layer of apples on the bottom and lightly dusted with powdered sugar.  No syrup necessary!!  Mmm Mmm Good!!  We booked a canoe tour before arriving and had a few hours to kill before being picked up so went for a walk into Kata to did some window shopping.  I should mention that Saigon is hot, in the 90's most days with humidity in the 60% range.  Phuket however was sweltering, 80's with humidity near 90%.   

John Gray's Sea Canoe - Phang Nga Hongs by Starlight
If you're ever nearby, you've gotta take this tour.  They pick you up at your hotel, drive you to Ao Po Beach (for us it was over an hour drive to the NE part of the Island) where you board the boat and motor out another hour to the caves/hongs. The tour guides were awesome, waited on us and fed us the entire time... Group size was perfect, 11 women and 1 man.  Lucky guy!!  Haha... Started off the day with Thai Lunch then climbed into our canoe.  Paddled around for an hour or so then back to the boat for "free time."  Options were swiming, lounging or self-paddling.  Let me just say, there was no rest for this girl :)

After free time Nick, our personal tour guide, helped us make our Kratong offering or "float raft."  Loy Krathong is a festival held on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar.  This is usually in November in the Western calendar.  The raft is made from a slice of banana tree trunk and decorated with elaborately folded banana leaves and flowers (environmentally friendly)  The ceremony is to honor the original Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama.  "The act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one's grudges, anger and defilements so that one can start life afresh on a better foot."  Many Thai believe floating a Kratong will create good luck.  This is why Loy Krathong festival is held at the end of the year.  To new beginnings... 

Second round of canoeing the caves... this time out I saw something magnificent. A family of monkeys.  They told us earlier in the day we might see them but no guarantees.  Such an incredible experience to see them in their natural habitat - you'd be hard pressed to find something more beautiful.  They hung out along the water for a little while and then made their way into their cave for some privacy.  This was one of those experiences I'll never forget

Back to the boat for traditional Thai dinner at sunset (check out the picture!) followed by one last time out in the canoe, Kratong in hand, to release our offering.  Paddling into the cave in the dark was peaceful and mystical. The tide had risen so to get in we had to lie down.  Once inside we formed a circle as best we could, lit the Kratongs then made a wish and released.  Everyone sat and watched in silence for a few minutes - breathtaking!!   Nick had one final trick up his sleeve...  he paddled away from the lights and asked us to run our hand through the water.  It was as if fireflys were trailing my fingers ~ bioluminescent plankton.  Wow!!

Home by 10:00 showered and out the door by 11:00.  Patong Beach is only a 10 minute drive from Kata but what you find is an entirely different lifestyle/city/world. The center of Phuket's nightlife is Bangla Road. It's more crowded than Vegas and 100 times sleazier with prostitution being culturally accepted.  Bangla Road is basically one long road and all the streets that branch off to either side.  All are lined with open air themed bars and discotheques with pole dancers proudly on display.  It felt like there were as many "working girls" as tourists.  We found a safe place to have a beer, met some kind Londoners, and later went to the "Biggest Dance Club in Patong Beach."  Home at 3:30 and completely exhausted..

Slept in, ate delicious pancake again, walked to the beach, paid for a lounge chair under an umbrella, swam and napped.  that was the extent of our Sunday rally. Not too bad if you ask me.

So long Phuket, until we meet again...

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