Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Phuket Day 1 -- Sun and Sand

Catching the sunset at Patong Beach
This morning my mom and I took an early morning flight to Phuket. We haven't been to Thailand in a very long time and thought we'd like to take in some sun after a dreary winter in Hong Kong.

Everything went smoothly up until we were seated on a Dragon Air flight. It's a small plane, three seats each side. My mom and I sat in the middle and aisle seats and across from us another middle-aged couple. However sitting in both window seats was a young married couple and the woman pulled a long face having to sit apart from her husband.

Wearing a thin black shirt and jean shorts, and sporting sunglasses, she sat in her seat but was not happy and kept staring at her husband, he was also wearing sunglasses and looking at her. He asked the flight attendant to move them to have two seats together and the flight was pretty much full.

Tourists walk along the beach or swim in the ocean
The flight attendant asked us if we could move, but we refused out of principle -- it's a four-hour flight -- do you really have to be together? However the problem was solved and they were moved to another aisle which was good for us, having the window seat free.

My mom thought it was terrible that the husband had to give in to his wife's demands as she looked annoyed and threatening to have a temper tantrum.

Nevertheless, our flight was on our way and relatively smooth.

At Phuket International Airport, there's either transportation that's booked in advance or metered taxis so we went for the latter. We told them where our hotel was and it seemed like a flat rate of 800BHT even though his meter was running and came to just over 600BHT when we arrived.

Our driver was friendly enough, wearing a severely pressed shirt and he was quite professional; he only answered his phone when it rang -- an iPhone no less -- and even though he received many text messages he didn't check them while we were on the road.

And what a winding route it was! We took some side streets with many speed bumps and into what looked like remote areas which reminded me of Vietnam which I visited almost a year ago.

The last of the sun's rays
There are shacks and fields, and then a luxurious-looking tiled home, or a compound with box-shaped homes on stilts. We also saw many skinny cows at one point.

Finally we made it to Patong Beach and our hotel, which is just off the main road. We wandered around for some food and found a Thai restaurant where we were practically the only customers at 2pm.

The staff took our order but we waited for over half an hour for the food to arrive. But good things come to those who wait -- we had a large grilled fish enough for three to four people, vermicelli with vegetables and tom yum goong that was speckled with bits of red peppers but wasn't too spicy. The restaurant threw in a small plate of stir-fried vegetables probably to apologize for the delay.

Nevertheless the food was fantastic. The fish was perfectly cooked though a bit bland. It was enhanced with lime and a spicy sauce on the side. Pretty soon we demolished it along with everything else. Sorry but we forgot to take a picture of our feast!

After a nap we wandered out in the late afternoon the famous beach. The sand is so fine and soft, the temperature of the water is nice too. However the visitors to the beach come in a range of sizes -- mostly large sunburned ones from Russia...

A cute crab tile we found along the sidewalk!
Thailand is famous for its fruits, but we were hard pressed to find any fruit stands apart from the ones that sell cut fruit. On the edge of the beach we did buy a mango and guava and then on the way back to the hotel managed to find the only fruit stand on Patong Beach.

The mango was so sweet and smooth, hardly fiberous and the seed was very thin! Wax apples were crunchy and fresh young coconuts hit the spot.

Everyone seems to come out of hiding in the evening after the hot day in the sun and the nightlife here is bustling. There are shops selling tacky souvenirs, small massage places with young women trying to lure customers in, other stands with fake handbags and wallets, as well as bars and restaurants selling fresh seafood.

Many places seemed to have hardly any business -- which made me think of China where young people manning stores played with their phones while waiting for customers.

At one point we saw a bright red open-air taxi pull into a nightclub spot and several young pretty girls coming out -- straight out of the scene from Golden ChickenSSS when Sandra Ng's mammasan character leads her girls to entertain some clients...

We've pretty much done Patong and are looking forward to some adventures tomorrow on other parts of Phuket. Stay tuned.

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