Monday, July 21, 2008

ready, set...PHUKET!

So I am back in good 'ole Bangkok after a long weekend on Phuket. It's funny because it's raining outside now and rain pretty much defined our time in Phuket. That's what we get for going during the Monsoon season. The five of us (Meridith, Vee, Heidi, Heidi and me) flew out on Wednesday after school got out and we got into Phuket around 10. Then in was another hour taxi ride to our hotel in Patong Beach, the taxi ride was in the rain.
AS soon as we got there we went to our hotels rooms and went to sleep. Then the next morning we woke up to...... you guessed it, rain. So much for our day at the beach. And the wind was crazy too. SO STRONG! Me and Meridith went down to 7-11 and paid a ridiculous amount for umbrellas, but we weren't going to walk around for 3 days in the rain.
So you're in Paradise and it's raining, what do you do? Go to the mall of course. So we went to the mall and shopped around then we tried our luck on the streets after the rain had let up a bit. Later in the day the sun actually let up enough that we decided to go swimming, well, Heidi, Heidi and me did (yes there were 2 Heidi's). WE didn't feel like going back to the hotel to change so we just went swimming in our clothes. The waves were amazing. It felt like the Washington Coast, except the water was much much warmer. It turned out to be a lot of fun.
The second day we had booked a speedboat snorkeling tour to some Islands off of the coast. I'm not going to lie, the night before I prayed fervently for sun. When we woke up it was raining a little bit but not near as bad as the day before so we decided to still go on the tour. As we were leaving on the boat it started to rain a little bit more and by the time we got a few minutes out it was pouring and the speed didn't help at all. Everyone got soaked. We were all holding up life jackets trying to shield ourselves but it didn't work.
Our first stop wasn't actually on an island, we just kinda moored of shore and jumped off the boat to go snorkeling. At first I wasn't going to go because I didn't want to get even more wet at the moment but then I decided, I paid for this and I jumped in the water. I'm so glad I did to. The coral here was nicer than any of the other islands we stopped at and there was a lot of fish too. At all of the islands we went to the fish would just swarm around you. I've been snorkeling before in Hawaii and the Bahamas but the fish had never been like this before. I actually saw a clown fish too! I was like NEMO!!! It was in an anemone just like on the movie too :)
At our second stop we actually got off of the boat and spent 2 hours on the island. It had a big sandy beach and some huts and a restaurant on it. Based on our experience over the last day we were convinced it would pour (it wasn't raining at the time) so we rented a little hut to put our stuff in to keep it dry. It turned out that we didn't need to though. The sun came out and it didn't rain at all. It was so beautiful. We went snorkeling again and explored the island then we ate lunch (the best lunch I've had on a tour) before we left to go to the last island.
The third island was the craziest. At one of the beaches here the fish would come right up to shore and you could feed them bread. I kept thinking I would step on one or that one would bite me, and one DID BITE ME! stupid fish! I set my leg down on some sand a little off shore, just because I wanted to see if I could touch the bottom and this big yellow fish swam up and kinda looked at my leg and I don't know if it thought my leg was coral or if it just hated me but after it looked for a second it darted forward and bit my leg. Stupid fish! Other than that fish though the snorkeling at this island was amazing. I saw Dori fish (from finding Nemo) and angel fish, rainbow fish that were purple, green and orange and HUGE, pipefish, yellow fish, bottom suckers, and so many other fish. It was like living in a book. Incredible!
That night we decided to go out and walk around Patong. Patong is probably one of my least favorite cities ever, a modern day Sodom. There are bars and clubs and ladyboys (men that have become women) everywhere. It was disgusting. The shopkeepers in PAtong were extra aggressive too and charged 5 times to much. If I ever go back to Phuket the only reason I'll go back to Patong are because the hotels are cheap there.
The last day we kinda split up into 2 groups. Heidi P., Vee and Meridith stayed back at the hotel and did their own thing and me and Heidi D. went on a tour to Phang Nga (pronounced Pong Nah) Bay, the Thailand version of Vietnam's Halong Bay, a place I've wanted to go since SAS. This time we were on a slow cruiser boat. Thankfully the sun was finally out and I just sat on a bench on the front of the boat with my feet dangling over the side for most of the ride from Phuket up to the Bay. When I saw he flying fish I had nostalgic memories of SAS, sitting on the front deck watching the flying fish as we crossed the pacific. They are amazing.
It took us a little over an hour to reach our first stop, James Bond Island, which is called such because they filmed part of a 1970's James Bond moive, "The Man with the Golden Gun" there. This island was incredible touristy with souvenir stalls manned by aggressive Muslim women who were pretty scary. There are two main characteristics of this island. The first is a "nail shaped" islet right off shore that everyone must stop and take a picture of, and the second is a huge smooth slab of stone leaning on the rest of the mountain, like it just slid off one day. The Thai people actually call it "Leaning on Its self island" because of that slab. We took our pictures and then hopped back into a longtail boat that took us back out to our tour boat.
Next we went to Hong Island. Hong means cave in Thai. Here they put a bunch of pink sea canoes out into the water complete with Thai guide. Me and Heidi had a canoe to ourselves (plus guide). Our guide was pretty young, I'd say about my age and spoke nearly no English but he was highly impressed with Heidi's knowledge of Thai (Heidi's been at GES for 3 years). He took us around bay areas and into caves and grottoes. It was amazing! But it was just small potatoes compared to our next stop. I forget what the island was called maybe Panak or something like that. We got into sea canoes again and as we got it it was just starting to drizzle a little bit, a rain drop every now and again but not much. Our guide took us into a cave where the top was so low (it's based on tides) That me and Heidi had to lay down as he went through a long channel through the karst island mountain. When that cave channel finally ended we were in an empty space in the middle of the island with sheer cliffs all around us and mangrove trees covering the water, and it was POURING rain. It felt like a completely different world. It was ethereal and amazing. Possibly my favorite part of the tour. I wish we could have spent more time there.
Our last stop was at Monkey Island to go swimming. Me and Heidi decided to take the Sea Canoe out ourselves instead. It was much harder than it looked. It was extremely difficult just to make it go straight. We did manage to get it to the beach and back to the boat somehow though.
After monkey island we began our long tip back to Phuket. Oh and I forgot to mention. After our first trip out in the canoe somehow all the crew found out we were teachers and every time we would go down to the canoes they would say "Hello Teacher, Hello Teacher" It was kind of amusing. Except for one guy managed to stay out of the loop because when I went up to get a soda after he gave it to me I said Kap Kun Ka (which means Thank You in Thai) and it looked at me like Whoa! What did you say? He was highly impressed.
Anyway I was looking forward to a relaxing chill ride back to Phuket when all of a sudden the speakers begin to blast "Barbie Girl" then next thing we know 2 ladyboys come out on deck and one of them was our Canoe guide of course. And he had been so cool too. It was pretty disgusting they were rubbing on all the men. At first Heidi and me were like "What the HEck?" and laughing but it was just gross so eventually we just went to the front deck away from it. One of the crew member was up there and he asked "You don't like the ladyboy show" and I was like, "it's not my thing." Everything about the tour was great until that point. Overall though I would say it was a good tour, the bay was beautiful! Now I want to go to Halong Bay!
After we got back to Phuket it was an hour drive back to Patong and when we got there we had just enough time to shower and eat dinner before we had to get a taxi to the airport. Vee had a flight that was about an hour before ours so we had to get there a little earlier. In the end our flight got delayed about an hour too so we got into Bangkok at about 1:30 am then the hour taxi ride back to school took ever a little longer because some member of the Royal family wanted to drive down the highway and the police stopped us to keep the road cleared, so we got back to GES around 3am. We were SOOOOOO tired! Thankfully we had the day to sleep.
Today was back to class and school. It went by quickly thankfully. I looked at Anna's pictures of Cambodia and I was completely jealous. I still can't believe I didn't go! That's 2 times now I've had chances and passed them up. I will get there, I have to see Angkor Wat!
There's no more fun stuff planned in the near future. I guess that's a good thing too since we'll be getting into the heart of Monsoon season. I hope everyone has a good week!

on Patong beach the first day with a HUGE storm rolling in

the 5 of us on the second island

Me and Meridith in the water


some of the bay from a distance
Me and Heidi at JAmes Bond Island

Us in the Sea Canoe

an island

inside one of the caves

Me and Heidi in the middle of the island in the rain with mangrove trees


Jamie Monk said...

Glad you enjoyed your trip. Phuket is beautiful in the rain too. Bad luck with the weather. Sunny again now. It was really only wet for a few days, which is normal in the wet season. Most of the time you get sun. Better luck next time.


Jamie's Phuket

Jennifer said...

So was this trip like uber-expensive? Because it looks insanely fantastic!

Jennifer said...

That is so cool you were able to paint your own room. And yes, I got my license just about three weeks before I left, finally, thank the Lord.
I am definitely going to attempt to go on as many fun outings as possible while here. And I'm here till December 15th so I have many weekends to fill!
So is anything really shocking in Thailand? ANything you didn't prepare for? Do you like teaching much?

jaredstorer said...

How did you manage to keep your camera dry???
or did you just use underwater cameras?