Thalandia (Part 1- Phuket)
Touch down after a 6 hour flight. As we were flying in, you could see all the little magnificent islands and instantly thoughts of blue lagooning the crap out of this trip came to mind.
Going from Dubai to Phuket couldn't have been a more drastic contrast. It's crazy that 6 hours and two 3 time zones can transport you to a different world. From the second we stepped off the plane, this place had adventure written all over it. The very serious signs about disrespecting Buddha- much respect. Signs about elephants rights- we were not longer anywhere near Kansas. The struggle to communicate is quite real, but everyone is so slowly and grateful it's easy to make it work. Hand gestures, pointing, using your calculator to barter on costs-- This trip is Going to make me even more of a hustler.
Our first little hotel was a cute series of little bungalows up in the hills of Mai Khao. If someone would have explained how massive Phuket was, we probably wouldn't have stayed all the way up here, but we got to meet some really cool people, eat some amazing food, and definitely experienced that stick life. The manager, Pirait, was the sweetest guy ever. He couldn't have been more that 25. He told us that his uncle started the hotel with only two bungalows. Now they have 12 and are currently building out their lobby, pool, and more bungalows. He said if we come back in three years Mai Khao Will be unrecognizable. Huge hotel chains are buying up a ton of real estate and since the beaches are the most virgin left on Phuket, it's where everyone wants to construct. If you are up that way, make sure you pay this little place a visit. Also, up that way is JW Marriott and Anantara Spa. Check them both out for food and massage. We had the most unreal Pad Thai and Coconut Sticky Rice on the beach at the Marriott. The property is insanely large- 12 minute walk from lobby to beach ( if you don't get lost like us). I felt like I was dropped in Jurassic Park before the dinos destroyed it. It's quite magnificent, but would be better if Pratt Pratt Pratt came to save us from our navigational deficiencies.
On. our first day we definitely did the most touristy day we will probably have, but it was perfect. Tiger Kingdom was Stop 1. Played with small tiger and biggest tiger. I really wanted to hug them and cuddle their faces, but there is a strict stay to their rear ends policy. I guess if you come at them like your bros they will want to "play,,," aka bite your face off. From there, we had already made the hour long journey, so we decided to stay in the area for lunch etc. Stop 2- Joe's Downstairs. A Cliffside lunch at the top of patong. Stunning views. Amazing food. From there we were feeling a bit froggy, so we hopped down to Bangla Rd to see a man about a tat. So there are like a billion tattoo shops that I wouldn't buy an churro in let alone let then stick me with a needle, but. Celebrity Ink is legit as hell and owned by a bunch of Aussies. More expensive, but safety first. Made our appointments for the end of the trip and made our way back out to satans layer. It was fairly early, but the lady boys, ping pong show hustlers, and just anyone else trying to get a seady buck were in full swing. Real underbelly stuff, but interesting to see them out it all out there.
Day 2 in Phuket and Still trying to work out the kinks of our jet lag, we managed to take a full day adventure tour that was unreal. We went with Phang Nga Exploration Co. But Simba Sea Trips was also a solid choice. Having two former "lady boys" as our guides definitely made it the most colorful and entertaining your I've ever been on. From 9 am - 6pm it was non stop. Pick up at hotel, drive to Phuket Royal Marina (which is gorgeous btw) then speed boat out to Kho Kai Island for snorkeling, Hong Island for cave kayaking, James Bond Island to tap into that tourist vibe for a minute, lunch at The Floating Village, then ended the day with a little nap on this perfect little island called Rang Yai.
After realizing that these hour long drives out to the sticks wasn't worth it, we had a change of venue. A real aggressive play to a proper hotel, but it was right on the beach and only a block away from Surf House- my new favorite local joint. Kata Beach is definitely less aggressive and in your face than Patong, but it gives you that hint of civilization. with a dash of western culture (aka a Starbucks and a Subway) that just makes you feel held.
Day 3 and 4 kept them fairly simple. Exploring Kata Beach and its surroundings, frequenting Surf House, tending to my sick travel buddy. Note to self- don’t go all in on the ethnic foods. I thought that I could take it being a Mexican and all, but Thai spices and questionable seafood don’t f around. They mean business. Went to a Thai herbalist to get some pills for the ill and he was able to turn it around before our next departure. Unfortunately, we lost out on some good surf, some elephant trekking and other stuff, but we will be back so no harm unless you are our bathroom toilet :o)
Night 4 we were able to prop the second half of this travel duo up long enough to go to one of the most amazing restaurants. MAKE SURE you go to Mom Tri Kitcken in Kata Beach. Go for sunset drinks, stay for the 5 star meal. Wine list was impeccable. Everything was just divine.