Warning: This is a long post. Hope you're not in a hurry!
The hotel, while kind of dirty and lacking amenities, was in a very convenient location to get to the airport the next morning.
Don't lose your subway token!
On the way to the airport
Ready for take-off
Alas, we made it to Phuket. A friendly couple from New Zealand sat near us in the minibus from the airport and gave us suggestions on what to do during our visit. They had already been to Phuket once on their trip and loved it enough to go back again. Despite the negative comments from the Brit, I knew I had made the right choice choosing Phuket.
Upon arrival at our hotel, we were greeted with juice and a cold towel. Nestled in the mountainous jungle, Karon Cliff had everything we needed. Our room overlooked the beach, the staff was friendly and we got free breakfast every day! It was $20 a night well spent. I had only booked the hotel for one night but every day we requested to stay one more night.
After settling in, we headed to the beach for the rest of the afternoon and found a quaint little place to enjoy a late lunch.
Ready to hit the beach
View from the hotel
The next day we were up early. Poor Ashton (even though he would never admit it) had jet lag, causing him to fall asleep early and thus wake up early. For those of you who know me, I am NOT a morning person, but on vacation it's alright.
After breakfast we arranged for transportation into town to ride an elephant! That was one of two importation things on our list of stuff to do in Thailand. I had read and heard about elephant sanctuaries that treat the animals badly, but the place we went to was family owned and seemed to treat the elephants well.
As soon as I stepped onto the deck, the majestic creature we would soon ride came up and greeted me with her trunk. Fact: I don't know if our elephant was male or female. Fact: I named her Lucy in my head.
Even though the ride wasn't bear-back and we didn't tromp through the jungle it was still amazing. I felt sorry for the elephant because I would have been sweating my butt off and out of breath had I tried to walk up that hill and here she had to do it with two people on her back and one on her head. She got to rest and eat a snack at the top of the hill while our guide snapped some photos in exchange for a tip. On the way back down, Lucy took a hefty dump.
Lucy and her keeper
Our lovely Lucy
On the way up
View from the top
Photo: 30 baht
Is the baby elephant tall or man short?
Me and Lucy
Before heading back up the mountain we stopped at (my beloved) Family Mart to stock up on snacks and beverages for the rest of the day and night. The rest of the day was spent being bums on the beach and exploring the beach town.
We had a quite enjoyable time people watching. We saw a topless woman; she must have been European. Being a silly American, I found it challenging not to stare and gawk. The gawking continued when we saw an old man, probably 100 years old, wearing a black thong. That's it. I tried really hard to take a picture but he kept turning around which defeated the purpose of the photo. Before I could summon the courage (Ashton refused to stand near him so I could pretend to take a picture of him, not the old man butt cheeks), he put on his Speedo and then the rest of his clothing and left. Sad day.
After all that fun, it was time for food and beverages. Chang was nice and refreshing. We stopped for two or three along the way! (Side note: After being in Asia I can't fathom a place where you can't openly walk around with alcohol in your hand.) Plenty of sunscreen was a must on this blistering hot day. Real clothing was much less necessary.
Did I rub it all in?
Second elephant ride of the day!
Or chef at the 'German' restuaurant
Then it rained...
...but we waited it out.
Silly Thai boys burying their friend and building inappropriate body parts for him.
Sunset after a long day in the sun
I had to ruin at least one photo...
This day was probably my favorite of the trip. The previous day we had arranged for a speed boat trip to the Phi Phi islands. I was especially excited about this because the islands have been the location for so many movies. Have you seen The Beach lately? Watch it. I was at a lot of those places! Maya Bay was one of the main shooting locations for The Beach but we couldn't go there because the waves were too big. Our van picked us up nice and early. We were late... oops!
Let me just tell you, riding in a speed boat in the ocean is very different from a lake. The waves were much bitter than I had anticipated. The breathtaking scenery was well worth the bumpy ride.
This smile means I have no clue how rough this ride will be.
It's not too rough now, but just wait!
Still holding on for dear life.
I don't remember anymore how many islands we visited. They all just run together. Each and every place was lovely. I'll try to recount.The first stop was Viking Cave. This place is home to Thai specialty, bird nest soup. No, we didn't try it. On Close by was Monkey Beach! While I snapped photos, others on the boat fed the monkeys bread. Wouldn't you know, the smallest critter got the most food! On the other side of the island was a nice quiet cove for swimming.
Our next stop was definitely one of the highlights of my day. We went to another island to do some snorkeling! I had never been before so it was simply majestic! Not that I'm mature by any means, but there are certain places that make me act like a five year old: Zoos and aquariums. I go nuts when I'm around animals or fish. Sometimes I get so excited that I pee my pants. Luckily, this time I wasn't even embarrassed when I wet my swimsuit! (I'm totally kidding by the way. I only pee my pants when I laugh or cough too hard.)
Since I was in the water I couldn't be heard but I was squealing like a little girl the entire time. I was in my own little Heather world in the water, just slowly floating around, taking in all that I saw. I saw clown fish, parrot fish, angel fish, and a bunch of other fish that I'm ashamed to not know the names of.
How do I look?
Ready. Set. GO!
Ashton and I made friends with a couple from South Africa who were on their honeymoon. The girl was not happy at all when they made us get back in the boat. I could have snorkeled for hours and hours! Pretty sure my next step will be diving. And getting a water-proof camera is a must!
After snorkeling our next island was just to enjoy. We drank some beers, took pictures and swam around a little. This particular beach was in the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio and the others swim however many meters to get to the island. (By the way, that movie is pure fiction when it comes to geography of the islands.)
Our final stop was at Krabi for lunch. It was a delicious Thai buffet. The ride there was particularly bumpy. So bumpy, in fact, the husband of the honeymooners got really sick and had to take a nap so he didn't hurl everywhere. After we ate and let the food settle, it was time to get back in the water! There was a nice area roped off for snorkeling. I was a child again. At one point I was trying to get Ashton's attention to take a look at a particular piece of coral and got a mouth full of sea water through my snorkel. Not cool. Luckily he was close by and came to my rescue. Next was a lot of coughing and up came that delicious Thai lunch. Apparently the fish thought it was delicious because I was soon getting nips at my legs. The moment was priceless and perhaps you had to be there.
"Go away, Ashton. Don't look!" [BARF] "Don't come over here! Go away!" [BARF] "Ouch! They're biting me!"
The ride back to the marina was much more pleasant and we were both asleep early that night.
For our last full day in Phuket we decided to just explore more and take in as much of the beach and atmosphere as we could. We laid out on the beach for a while and then walked into town. After lunch and some shopping it was time to get massages!
First, we got fish pedicures. The sensation was unlike anything I'd ever felt before. It kind of tickled? It was strange. Ashton wasn't a fan at first but finally started to relax towards the end. After that it was time for massages. I got the oil massage (naked!) while Ashton opted for the traditional Thai massage. We walked into the shop (which was much more legit than the place I went to in Bangkok. This place actually had real massage tables) and Ash was unusually apprehensive. I didn't know why until we left. During my massage my masseuse conversed with others in the shop. I was in and out of conscious bliss at the time but noticed afterwards that the voice was strangely low. I said to Ashton, " I think my masseuse was a lady boy." He confirmed and let me know that's why he had reservations about the whole thing. He thought that was going to be who massaged him. I was nakedly massaged by a lady boy. Now I can check that off my bucket list...
He's trying really hard to smile when all he wants to do is cringe!
Fish, feasting on my dead skin
After a delicious second lunch of curry and some more shopping we finally started to make our way back to the hotel. Every day we explored we walked further and further up the beach. This day we'd finally made it clear to the other side of the beach (about 5km). That's only 3.2 miles but it's seems so much longer when you're walking on the sand, with bags in tow, trying to battle the incoming tide. It probably took us two hours to walk back. It was nice to enjoy the setting sun on beautiful Karon Beach.
Karon Beach sunset
This was a very sad day. It was time to leave our beloved Phuket. *sniff sniff*
Goodbye, Phuket :(
Ashton has a friend, Matt, who lives in Bangkok so he picked us up from the airport once we arrived. Funny story... They hadn't seen each other in a few years and we didn't know what kind of car he would be driving so we waited at the designated spot. A car pulled up and waved to us so we assumed, "That's Matt!" It wasn't. It was a random guy in a random car, trying to play taxi for naive tourists.
We didn't have much time for Bangkok, as my flight left at 1 a.m. and it was already 7 p.m. Matt and his lovely girlfriend, Fon, took us out for a fabulous meal and drinks. A lot of drinks... Needless to say, I slept well on my flights back to Korea.
Matt and Ashton
Tasty veggies, curry soup and the best chicken wings I've ever had!
I didn't want to leave Thailand or my wonderful travel buddy, but that's the way life goes. I need a job to financially support my travels. I'm already planning my next trip and if everything goes well, I'll be going back to Thailand again before I return home after Korea.