First sight of the Beach!

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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amici miei

Flag of Thailand  , Phuket,
Monday, June 27, 2011

We caught the late flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket which arrives at about 1am, we really didn't want to have to deal with the late night fun of getting to the other side of the island and then finding somewhere to stay so we decided to book our hotel before we left Chiang Mai. We booked into the Phuket Airport hotel which sounded like it would be a safe option and the website said it was only 0.7Km's from the airport. 

 When we landed we went to the taxi counter and said the name of the hotel to which the women responded by giving me a ticket for 500 baht, even by London standards 10 was ridiculous to go 0.7 Km's so we said we'd walk. The only problem was we had no idea which way to go and eventually asked someone who said we really should get a taxi at this time of night as it's a dark walk and off the main road. We didn't like the sound of that so agreed we would get a taxi with him for 200 baht (still too much, but better than getting lost). He grabbed Katy's bag and walked towards the car park but when we saw the car we started to get a bit nervous. It was like a boy racer car and the only sign of it being a taxi was his license number at the front and there certainly wasn't a meter. We didn't feel entirely comfortable but as it had his license and he was at the airport we crossed our fingers and hoped it would all be fine. He kept asking us the name of the hotel which I thought was strange because it was the Phuket Airport hotel, surely loads and loads of people stay there??? 

 He set off and then started mumbling about how he needed to check this one hotel first and he turned right off the main road onto a really dark narrow side road which didn't seem to be leading anywhere. At this stage I started to panic and all these thoughts start running through your head... "Is he taking us to his friends hotel? "Is he going to mug us?" or "What if he's a murderer, are we going to make headline news?"...... Anyway, he continued on, I assume he must have seen my face turn a bit white an he started mumbling about how there were a couple of hotels with the same name, but we didn't seem to be anywhere that would have hotels. Eventually we came to one which was a small little guest house (immediate relief that we hadn't stopped in the middle of the dark road), I said "no this can't be it... we're in the airport hotel", but sure enough, that was where we were staying and this little guest house had just decided to call themselves the airport hotel... clever really, and it certainly made our taxi journey a bit more exciting. 

 The next day we caught a taxi to Patong which is where the main tourist beach of Phuket is. It's about an hour long drive and our taxi driver seemed to be in a massive hurry and his taxi was lacking seat belts! He was undertaking, driving through red lights, taking random turnings so that he could dart in front of the car in front.... in short, he was mental! But I quickly warmed to him again when he took us to a beautiful hotel at a very reasonable price with free WIFI, air-conditioning, a fridge and just a 10 minute walk to the beach. The floor downstairs was shiny (not with sweat but with polish) and there were flowers everywhere. This felt like 5-star compared to the places we had stayed in to this point. Patong itself is a strange place, it has lots of amazing resorts right on the beach (jam packed full of Aussies) and lots of tourist bars (Mainly Australian themed), restaurants, beach stalls etc, but it also feels a bit like it's on the brink of falling apart. The electricity pylons fizz angrily as you walk past, you can see the sparks so with all the trees leaning against these cables it seems like a fire waiting to happen. Plus when you walk over a drain you get the strong stench of hot sewage which is just what you want when you're on your way to dinner. And yet, the beach is stunning, the atmosphere is lively and most of the people are friendly. Patong was one of the places that was hit by the Tsunami in 2004. Afterwards Thailand had to quickly re-build the tourist areas that were destroyed to get businesses up and running and get tourists to come back because it's such a big industry before. Perhaps some of the current infrastructure is due to this rushed effort to get Patong back on it's feet... or perhaps that's just the way Thailand is. I guess we'll see.
After exploring the stunning 2 mile long beach in the blazing sun (leaving Katy with lobster legs), we went for dinner and wanted to see what the big deal was with Patong, it has a reputation for being a proper party town. However, all the main bars along the main party street, Bangla road (the straight party street), were shut and it was a Saturday night.  Without the lively bars all that was left were annoying little kids running up to you and hugging you asking you to buy their extortionate flower necklaces and prostitutes and lady boys trying to get some work for the wasn't very nice and felt a bit sinister as with all the bars shut the road was quite dark. As it turns out the reason all the bars were closed was because of the Thai election which is coming up soon, they decided that no bars would sell alcohol and they would close the main party street for the weekend. The same was true on Sunday night but there was one open bar with dozens of people on the street shouting to you... "Ping pong show, ping pong show".... The most unlikely looking people would come up to you, there was a Thai women who must have been in her 40's and looked all sweet.. she came up to us saying "Just looky, you no like you leave... just looky" We didn't looky and went for dinner by the beach. When we were in Bangkok we had people asking you to come to a ping pong show but it's was far less blatant than in Patong.

The food in Thailand has been really interesting. When we first arrived we were both a bit nervous of what to eat and what to stay away from, and the crickets and scorpions on sticks at Khao San road didn't really help too much. So for the first few days we mainly had Pad Thai or stuck to our traffic light system whereby if the food Had the name red, yellow or green in it it would probably be fine e.g. red, yellow and green curries. All of these were delicious and since we have started to be more adventurous with the food trying all sorts and trying to eat Thai food as much as possible because it's much cheaper and actually a lot nicer than the international foods. Thai food is so good and even the cheapest meals are full of flavour, in Chiang Mai, Katy had a northern yellow curry which was 40 baht (about 80p) and was arguably the nicest meal we've had. Plus with the price of food it means we can eat in really nice restaurants and actually be eating on the cheap. No idea how we will manage once we are in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa where a meal for 2 is more than 5! Unfortunately Patong has been the exception as food is a bit more pricey here, not ridiculous but you can't get an 80 baht curry like you can elsewhere. Some of the menu descriptions are brilliant as the English gets a bit muddled up, the other night I had barbecued chicken and had the option to have my friend fried with it... tasted pretty good. So we're trusting that our stomach's will manage the food and will keep trying to be adventurous... curry's all the way! 

 On the whole Patong hasn't been our favourite place, I guess it just wasn't really our scene but we have also been unlucky that everything was shut. I'm sure if the main bars were open, the party atmosphere would be more prevalent and it would be a lot more fun at night. What was brilliant though was the beach, a long 2km stretch with clear warm water and you could get people to bring you drinks to the beach if you wanted. The weather has also been amazing and both of us have managed to get burnt from our day on the beach. Carrying our rucksacks on burnt shoulders is going to hurt.... but we're going to Koh Phi Phi which is supposed to be amazing so it will be worth it I'm sure!
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