Phuket. Why not?

Phuket Travel Blog

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toni, emma and me
We went back to Bangkok just long enough to grab our bags and get the next bus out. Our paths would soon part, but Karl, John and I were able to experience the ups and downs of the overnight trip to Surat Thani, together. In case you were wondering, the downs far outweigh the ups when it comes to trying to get an adequate night's rest in a straight-backed stance on a crowded, over-airconditioned bus. However, this was the first time on my journey that such a long, uncomfortable ride was equipped with a friendly shoulder to drool on. For that I was grateful.

The busload of tourists crept its way south along the darkness of Thailand's bumpy roads.
storm rolling in on Karon Beach
Making the occasional untimely stop just at the moment we would drift into a disagreeable-but-better-than-nothing sleep. The interruption came in the name of food at Thailand's equivalent to Linda's Roadside Diner. The country's highways are teeming with these sporadic oases. Each one following the same general blueprint: A large slab of concrete, decorated in plastic patio furniture and sheltered by a wallless roof. (In fact, most restaurants here have at least one open wall, and those that require patrons to actually open a door to enter or get a glimpse are seemingly uncongenial and frankly not worth all the effort.) The chow selection consists of a back wall counter stocked with cookies and a wide range of potato chip flavors creatively fusing elements of nature that should never see the inside of a snack bag.

To the delight of the bus driver and two other Thai people in the vicinity, there's also a 3-4 entree option buffet of unlabeled local cuisine. Curiosity and an empty stomach have lead to my intrepid tasting, on a number of occasions, of whichever entree most closely resembles chicken panang. Usually the bold venture is rewarded with unexpected satisfaction. Periodically, however, my caucasian intestines get a spicy Thai jolt that opts to linger on and kick it with my innards for days.

At 4:45 a.m. the bus pulled into a blackened gravel lot and shut off the engine. This unlikely setting was supposedly the Surat Thani bus station, but I much more appropriately reckoned it to be the spot where they dump unsuspecting and half-asleep tourists before robbing them blind and leaving them, or offing them and throwing the bodies into the water.
the hostel
OR robbing them, offing them, tossing them AND leaving them to swim with the fishes. Luckily I was wrong.

It was here, after a sunrise and couple hours of sitting around, that I had to leave the boys. John was off to reenergize his body with a healthy week at a remote island spa before effectively destroying it again at Ko Pha-Ngan's full moon debauchery fest. Karl was bussing south to Krabi or whichever local beach could provide the R&R necessary after our taxing week in Kanchan. And I was going to make my way to the peninsula of Phuket, just because.

As it turned out, the small-framed traveler John had inadvertently squished throughout the course of the bus ride (but made up for by offering his blanket) was a friendly English girl named Emma, who happened to be heading to Phuket as well.
hanging off the back of a sawngthaew
So when I hopped in the minibus and said my goodbyes to the boys, I did it in the company of a new friend.

I followed Emma all the way to a hostel in Phuket Town, and rewardingly so. Phuket Backpacker's is possibly the cleanest hostel I've ever set foot in, with free internet, comfortable couches and a wall of DVD and book options to extinguish any threat of boredom before it can materialize. On the down side, the 4-person dorm rooms were slightly larger than sardine cans and I was forced to cozy up with my backpack. Oh well. You can't win them all, I guess, and I am rather fond of that bag.

As far as Thailand cities go, Phuket is a nice alternative to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Things seem to move at a more reasonable pace and you can easily find yourself among natives and away from in-your-face vendors.
However, the list of must-sees is small if not nonexistent and we immediately abandoned the town for the tempting beach alternative. The peninsula's outer edges are lined with an assortment of beach options. All of them just a cheap sawngthaew (covered pickup truck with two passenger benches in the back) ride away. We chose Patong beach for the first afternoon and preceded to pick a spot in the sand and pass out. The sand and water were nice, but we were oblivious to it all in our exhausted state. All but the distractingly oily tourist, poised topless with a hand on her hip and arched back, scanning the beach for admirers. She definitely had onlookers. Whether or not they were admiring, I cannot say.

For the second day, our duo doubled in size as we added Emma's long lost Welsh friend, Ryan, and another hostel-dwelling backpacker named Toni. We tried out Karon Beach and were not disappointed. We remained conscious enough this time around to enjoy the water. Unrelenting heat drove us into the sea, and the sensation of a hundred tiny electric stings encouraged a retreat. It wasn't painful, per se, and definitely not enough of a deterrent to alternatively remain baking in the sun. But the cause of the peculiar prickling remains a mystery. Sea lice? Microscopic jellyfish? Investigative probing from invisible aliens of a far off land who use the Andaman Sea as a portal into our planet?? We all have our theories.

We finished our Phuket experience with dinner and drinks on a little side street in town. Then back to the sardine can, for a cozy night's sleep.
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toni, emma and me
toni, emma and me
storm rolling in on Karon Beach
storm rolling in on Karon Beach
the hostel
the hostel
hanging off the back of a sawngtha…
hanging off the back of a sawngth…
photo by: Aclay01