Laowai in Rawai
Trip Start Aug 29, 2012
25Trip End Ongoing
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Sometimes, you just have to Ko Phi Phi.
On the first day of our company trip to Phuket, we all met downstairs for a breakfast of fresh fruit and mango shakes to plan our first day. Thirteen of us decided to hire a speed boat and make the 1.5 hour journey to the Phi Phi Islands. After a bit of skillful but very confusing bargaining between the Thai captains and my Chinese coworkers, we boarded a speed boat with captains "Peter" and "Heath".
I was sitting up front taking in the scenery and chatting with my friend Sophie when the boat started to slow down. We stopped and looked back, finding ourselves face to face with eight squealing and giggling Chinese girls running our way. After they all hurriedly crowded into the front of the boat, we found out what had happened: our male coworker had to go to the bathroom, and he had to go now!
Having made our mark on the Andaman Sea, we continued the journey to Ko Phi Phi.
You shouldn't have to fuqian to fuqian!
Peter and Heath gave us a full Ko Phi Phi tour, taking us through small passageways surrounded by steep mountains. We arrived at a cove with a tiny beach where the sand was as fine as powder. Heath told us this was the best place to snorkel. There were huge coral reefs, multi-colored fish, and "hardly any sharks".
We made an arrangement with our captains to pay when we returned to Rawai Beach at the end of the day. For some reason, when we landed at the cove, my coworkers were all talking about paying. "We can pay here. This is the best place to pay. I'm not sure I can pay. I really want to pay!" I kept telling them we didn't have to pay now. We'd already made arrangements to give them the money at the end of the day! In the moments of silence as they looked at me like I was crazy, I heard Andy, my coworker from the UK, having the exact same argument with the other half of the group.
As it turns out, the words for "pay money" and "snorkel" are very similar in Chinese. Fú qiǎn (浮潜) means snorkeling while fù qián (付钱) means pay. After a short Chinese lesson, we jumped in! The light blue water was so clear we could clearly see the coral far below us. Tropical fish swarmed around us, especially when Heath started throwing bread in the water. His first shot was right at me and I jumped back, scared that the fish might touch me. Gross! When they didn't, I got curious and started just trying to grab fish. They're sneaky little fellows! You can't even touch them if you try!
The first roti of many
After failing miserably at fishing with my bare hands, we decided that instead of Sarah-caught fish for lunch, we'd go to the main town on Ko Phi Phi. We sat in a small, outdoor restaurant on the beach happily snarfing down pad thai and mango shakes. That's when I saw the roti stand!
A roti is a crepe-like Thai dessert. They put banana and nutella inside the dough and then, instead of cooking it like a crepe, they fry it! The first time I came to Thailand, I challenged myself to consume as much roti as humanly possible in two weeks and this time, I was determined to beat my impressive record...in just three days! I introduced my friends to this heavenly dessert and they eagerly offered to take on the roti challenge with me.
I'm a survivor!
The dreaded survivor team building activity was scheduled for day 2. We hesitantly followed our Australian guides to the beach and you know what? It was actually really fun!
Like me, the rest of our geek squad was worried that the "survivor challenge" would involve a lot of physical, and in our case quite pitiful, competition. We were thrilled to discover that we were doing what we do best: mind games!
We split into teams to build shelters, figure out puzzles, and decipher jumbled words. After many activities, we were tied in first place with the team called "Oppa Beachnam Style". The other teams joked that they'd let Oppa Beachnam Style win because it was the boss's team. Unfortunately for them, our team wasn't so clever!
The guides marched us over to six bamboo poles stuck in the sand. Two of the poles had inner tubes on them in order from largest to smallest with the largest tubes at the bottom. I gasped as it occurred to me what we had to do. I leaned over and whispered to Yukino, "My grandparents have this game at their house! We've got this". We moved all the inner tubes to another pole one by one without putting any large tubes on smaller tubes before the "laoban" team, the boss team, figured out what was going on. Thanks to my grandparents and the good folks at Cracker Barrel, we beat the laoban team and will probably all get fired!
That night, we had a company dinner at a restaurant on a cliff overlooking Nai Harn beach. After a lot of delicious food made by the Italian chef and quite a few cocktails in coconuts, Andy, Sophie, and I decided to go check out those cool rocks by the ocean that we'd been looking down at all night. Andy and I climbed out fast with a stumbling Sophie in heels running behind. We sat on the rocks chatting and looking dreamily out at the ocean until we heard Anabelle's gorgeous, though loud, French accent piercing through the soothing sounds of the waves.
"Get back up here, you drunken idiots! Can't you see the tide's coming in?! I'm not going to be the one who comes to save you!" The rocks that we climbed over to get to our perch from the restaurant were now covered in water. After a significantly more slippery trek back, we crashed onto the sofas on the balcony of the restaurant and our friends passed us bottles of wine to quench our thirst.
After rearranging the sofas on the balcony, much to the waiters' chagrin, the whole company ended up in a giant circle playing different versions of "signs". I taught everyone how to play first. Everyone picks a gesture. When it's your turn, you do your gesture and someone else's to pass it on. If you mess up, you take a drink. Ying chimed in. "I know a harder version of this game!" After we played her game for awhile, Mark spoke up, too. "I know an even harder version of this game!"
We played at least five variations of signs and, as our skill level decreased, ended up playing a watered-down, or rather "wined-down" version: you point your finger at someone and say "pia!" The person being shot says "ah!" and the people on either side hold their hands up in the air. As the wine flowed, victims' "ah!"s got more and more expressive. For the rest of the trip, someone just had to say "pia! ah!" and everyone would break down laughing.
After some confusion with the cabs at 2am, Anabelle, Philipe, Andy, and I thought it might be relaxing to take a long walk back to the hotel. It turns out Phuket is much scarier at night than during the day. There are so many loose dogs! Philipe and Andy casually talked about movies as Anabelle and I talked graphically about animal attacks, jumping a mile and pushing past the guys every time a dog barked at us. We're very smart: we knew we didn't have to be fast; we just had to be faster than them.
Can I have your autograph? Also, who are you?
The next morning, we played in the ocean, effectively making our sunburns even worse. Then, seeking shade, our crispy crew took a bouncy tuk tuk ride over to Old Phuket Town. While Andy and Sophie shopped, the rest of us strolled down the street. In the distance, we made out a swarm of screaming, teenage school girls. Ying and I ran over to see what was going on. In the middle of the girls were four tall, slim men in extremely tight black pants with dyed pink hair.
A Korean boy band was shooting a music video on the street! I stood across the street creepily snapping stalker photos as Ying tried asking the girls who they were. (If you recognize these guys, please let me know).
We hurried back to the group to tell them what was happening. "Hurry! Look! There's a Korean boy band on the street!" we shouted. Our friends momentarily tore themselves away from their bargaining discussion, "Ok. What's their name? Who are they?" Ying and I glanced at each other. "Uh...well, we don't really know. But we're very excited about it!"
How many shrimp cakes can one person eat?
After painful, sunburnt showers, our large group strolled down Rawai Beach looking for some grub for our last dinner in Phuket. We sat down on the ground around a beachside table and the cook from the small food shack across the street dodged traffic to bring us menus. What followed was the most decadent meal I've ever had.
It was our last night so we ordered, among other things, Pad Thai, Tom Yam soup, chicken coconut curry, fried rice, and Singha beers. Andy and I split an order of fried shrimp cakes just to see what they tasted like. They were so ridiculously delicious that we ordered plates and plates of shrimp cakes for the table.
Upon leaving, we discovered there's actually a downside to sitting on the sand when you feast: it's extremely difficult to get back up. We put our newfound team building skills to work and soon we were all miraculously standing.
Durian: a threat to airport security
After such a delicious meal, waking up at 430am was not an easy task. We left late and rushed to check in at the airport. The final group of six was checking in when Sophie started munching on durian she bought last-minute. She marched up to the counter with her durian and sassy, not-a-morning-person attitude. "What is taking so long?!" Unfortunately, the durian smelled so stinky that the check-in lady rushed to the restroom to throw up. Yes, we actually delayed a flight with a piece of fruit.
Safely back in Shanghai with Tiger Balm for our sunburns and roti in our bellies, our team is resting up with memories of Phuket to keep us warm all winter.
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