25.12.2012 - 28.12.2012
Anyone who travels internationally knows that there are certain occupational hazards that come with any trip. Getting sick from new types of food, having luggage lost en route from one location to another, being ripped off by locals because you don't speak the language and cons from taxi cab drivers are just a few of the all too common mishaps in the developing world. It's usually not a question of if one of these things will happen, it's just a matter of when. I have been pretty lucky so far this trip. My flights have left and arrived on time and my baggage has come safely; I literally let out a sigh of relief every time I see my pack pop out on the conveyor belt. I have not gotten sick despite numerous occasions trying the local street fare. Every Thai that I've interacted with has even been extremely honest and has given me exact change - I'm looking at you, MEXICO! There have been a few misunderstandings here and there, but there really has been nothing that has altered my plans or caused me any huge inconveniences. Once I arrived in Phuket, I realized that my luck was about to change.
Phuket is infamous for its Spring break-like atmosphere that exists seemingly year-round. The majority of the island in reality is quite sleepy, and this drunkenness and debauchery is confined to a small district known at Patong. I made sure to stay away from this area, and enjoyed a nice peaceful sunset and quiet dinner when I arrived on Christmas day.
Phuket Sunset on Christmas Day
The next morning I woke up at 6 AM to be shuttled off to Phang Nga bay for snorkeling, spelunking and sightseeing. I packed my camera and GoPro and arrived at the dock with a considerable amount of excitement. Over the course of this trip, I have been using one SD card for my camera and GoPro since my new netbook does not read the second SD card. This means that I have had to change the SD card between the camera and GoPro every time I want to switch from pictures to video or vice versa. This has been a minor annoyance, but it's not caused any major stress.
I used the GoPro during my morning snorkel to take some great video footage feeding the local fish with a few bananas the tour guide had brought. Later that morning, we went to another island and took a nice walk through the jungle taking in numerous sites. Later that afternoon, we went to the island famous for its appearance in the James Bond movie, "The Man with the Golden Gun" and took some great shots there. The coolest hike of the day was through a cave on a neighboring island where we emerged from the other side to see numerous monkeys playing in the treetops which made for some more great video footage. At this point you might be asking, "that sounds really cool, but where are all the pictures?"
During the last stop of the day, we decided to put on our bathing suites one more time and dive in to the warm water for a final swim. I took the GoPro and got a great video shot of my first dive into the drink using the head mounted strap. I decided to go up for a second dive, and when I dived in this time, the video camera popped off my head and now rests somewhere at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. I was really panicked because the camera was $300, and more importantly, I had ALL of my vacation photos on the SD card that resided inside it. Luckily, I have backed up my photos on my laptop every single day since I got here because I was paranoid the camera would be stolen (never mind my potential for error). That being said, I really only lost the photos and video from that day and a $300 camera. Let's just consider it a sunk cost. I only got one with my other SD card, but despite not having photos, it was definitely a great day.
The sole picture from the islands
I decided to take it easy the next day and set off for a day at the beach. Accompanied by a few newfound hostel friends, Norman and Jong, we embarked on the local bus to Kata beach on the West Coast of the island. The bus ride was pleasant, but it definitely struggled to get up a few of the hills. There were a few times where we glanced at one another wondering if we might need to eventually get out and push. The beach itself was quite pleasant and I even got a shade darker in the afternoon sun.
Our not-so-glorious chariot
That night we trotted off to a famous eatery called "The Cook" in Phuket town. Tired of big resort cooking, the chef decided that he wanted to make delicious food that was affordable to all. I had an amazing garlic pork dish and shared another wonderful entree called Tom Yum pizza. The pizza was essentially shrimp, squid and mushrooms with a spicy sauce underneath. It was absolutely sinus-clearing, and was a fantastic end to the night.
Tom Yum Pizza (emphasis on the "yum!")
The cute store front
The last day in Phuket was spent on the Phi Phi Islands just off the East coast. The Phi Phi islands (pronounced "pee pee," go ahead and chuckle) was the last spot on my To Do list, and Jong decided he was also up for the journey. The first stop was a beautiful island between Phulet and Phi Phi where there were over two dozen types of fish that inhabited the shallow reefs. I snorkeled for about an hour and then it was time to be transferred back to the mother ship. The dock to the island was made out of numerous plastic jugs that were strung together and looked like an oscillating bridge that would be found in a Super Nintendo era video game. I kept a low center of gravity and luckily made it to the transfer boat, thanking all deities in the process.
Sites on the way
A nice little beach shack
Becoming one with the fish
Taking it in
The precarious foot bridge
The second snorkel spot was Maya Bay which was South of the main island. The fish were nearly as plentiful, and there were a lot of spots to explore. We even managed to snorkel through a cave which was really neat. After a short shopping stop on the main island and one delicious pineapple shake later, I arrived back in Phuket town, had an amazing dinner of street food and then promptly passed out. It's off to Koh Samui and more island adventures, more to come soon.
My friend, Jong, on the boat
It's amazing how good blended ice and pineapple can taste
The peninsula at Phi Phi Don
Another amazing sunset