- Days 1-11: Phuket
- Days 12-15: Koh Tao
- Day 16- Bangkok
- Day 17: Chiang Mai
- Days 18-24: Elephant Nature Park
- Day 15: Bangkok
RTW Trip 2014: Peru→ Chile → Argentina → Antarctica → Argentina → Uruguay → Argentina→ Chile→ England → Morocco → Spain → France → Belgium → Netherlands → Germany → Czech Republic → Austria → Hungary → Croatia → Italy → Thailand → United States → Thailand → Laos → Vietnam → Cambodia → Australia → Taiwan
Dates: August 1-29, 2014
If you have ever wondered what a “ping pong show” is, you aren’t going to find out in this post. What I will say is that if there’s one thing I’ve learned on the BBC this past week, it is that Ebola spreads through bodily fluids. I’ve also learned that ping pong shows are offered up in abundance on a Saturday night in Patong Beach, and that I’m glad Tim and I prefer to sit back and watch the action of Bangla Street unfold rather than actively participate in it.
To be blunt, the area of Phuket, Thailand we stayed in, called Patong, is known for its sex industry (mostly just at night). That said, walking around at night feels no different than walking around downtown Las Vegas, or even the Las Vegas strip- it is a place where locals, tourists, and families of all ages mix in the midst of many vices (we saw one elderly woman taking a picture of a younger couple and their toddler outside a strip club on Bangla Street). So just imagine taking a stroll through Vegas, superimpose in more Asians and transsexual individuals, and you have Patong.
And to be fair, you can find any flavor of nightlife you prefer here- from strip clubs and sex shows, to small dive bars with cheap beer, the area caters to the tastes of the masses. For us, that meant spending most of our time at a great bar with an even better cover band.
Patong is also the most popular and, from what I could find, cheapest area to stay in on the island of Phuket, which is why we choose to make it our home base, despite the warnings about how overly-touristy the area has become. For example, our hotel, with it’s magnificent swimming pool, onsite bar and restaurant, cable with English channels, and cool AC cost us only $10 per night. That is cheaper per day than my old apartment in Madison, by more than half. And after our long 20+ hour travel from Rome to Phuket, a relaxing place to veg out and catch up on sleep for a few days was exactly what we needed.
Our stay in Phuket was pretty much pure leisure. We would wake up whenever we wanted, head down to the pool eventually, lay out and read for a while, eat some lunch, lay out some more, go for a swim, and eventually head down the street from our resort to the delicious and cheap street vendors to get some dinner for less than $2 per person. We would then sit by the beach, enjoying our dinner. I do not think there is cheaper ocean front dining anywhere else in the world.
We stayed there for a total of 12 nights, or maybe it was 11. The days all blurred together. One of the major highlights, however, was meeting a group of vacationing Russians at our hotel- three girls and one guy, who is the brother of one of the girls. The coolest thing about spending so much time with this group during our stay was seeing how language barriers do not necessarily need to be a barrier. One of the girls in particular, Kate, speaks very good English and acted as translator among the group, but we spent most of our time together teaching and learning new card games and taking goofy pictures underwater. We had a lot of fun together- a good reminder as well that political divisions (it is no secret the US and Russia have quite a bit of tension these days) do not need to apply to how we relate to one another as human beings just trying to have fun on vacation.
For a few days Tim and I rented a scooter to explore some of the other beaches, since Patong was always crowded and not very clean. We really enjoyed Karon Beach just 10 minutes south, and we also visited Surin Beach 15 minutes north (though accidentally at high tide when the beach was entirely under water). The first day we got a flat tire, but the rental place upgraded us at no extra cost to a much nice bike when we brought the one with the flat back, so all in all we fared a lot better than the many tourists who end up crashing on these little motorbikes (our Russian friends got a few road burns).
We also made it a point to explore some of the neighboring islands, by doing a day trip to the Phi Phi Islands. We visited Maya Beach, where the film “The Beach” was filmed, had lunch and snorkeled on Phi Phi Don island, and laid out on Khai Island. A quick note on Maya Beach- it is packed with tourists to the point where it is difficult to even walk around comfortably. It is certainly still beautiful, but it is not the secluded island paradise you may expect from the film. One of the most interesting moments of this trip was visiting a cove with many monkeys in the trees. I love monkeys and seeing them was certainly very awesome, but despite the “Please do not feed the wildlife for their safety and yours” signs, people were still feeding them bananas and one monkey even drank soda out of a bottle. A funny sight, but also quite sad in my opinion. Despite that, it was still an enjoyable day and the snorkeling in particular was a good refresher in prep for getting scuba certified the next week in Ko Tao.
Which reminds me… with an early morning to wrap up our scuba course tomorrow, I should probably be getting to bed. Cheers!