Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9 – Phuket Circle Tour

My eyes snapped open and I was sure it was eight in the morning so I checked the time - 1:30 am. The Zombie hour was upon me. I knew I shouldn’t have taken that afternoon nap yesterday. I rolled around in bed for an hour and then admitted defeat and got up. There was not much else to do besides write so that’s what I did to pass the hours.

I walked down to the lobby at six and was soon joined by Mac who was quite sure he’d picked up a touch of heat stroke the previous day, so was thinking of taking a pass on the car trip we had planned for today. Soon the rest of the Henriques appeared, all of whom had woken up in the middle of the night. Damn, and I thought we already had this time difference licked.

After eating we packed up our day bags, squeezed in the car, and took off. Tony was in front acting as lead navigator and I was at the wheel, but in order to survive in this driving environment I had to get my crazy face on, so I flashed back in time to my first experience with driving around insane people – Karachi, Pakistan. I learned that unless you drive as ruthless and aggressive as those that surround you, you are sure to get mowed down.

Our first stop was the beach town of Patong, known to be the sleaze capital of Phuket. But arriving in the early morning, it appeared to be anything but sleazy. We found a parking spot near the beach and took a long walk down the sandy shores, with Magnus chasing down every sand crab he could find. This was the hottest day of the trip so far as the clouds had parted and we had full, intense sunshine. We found a giant Patong sign and did the obligatory photo shoot. These things are such fantastic marketing tools for a tourist destination. You know that every single person who visits and takes a photo in front of the sign posts it to their social media pages. It makes me wonder why we don’t have one in Paris or Brantford.

By this time many of the shops were opening up so we spent at least an hour dipping in and out of them and perusing the merchandise. Stella was looking at iPad cases, fidget spinners and clothes while Magnus focused in on weaponry, finding a lovely set of brass knuckles for 400 baht. He negotiated hard but could not get the vendor down to what he was willing to pay. He didn’t even bother negotiating on the taser.

From Patong we continued down the western coast, making several wrong turns and exploring all sorts of interesting dead ends, but we were not in a big rush so we just enjoyed the scenery. We passed through Karin and Kata beaches, winding up and down, shaking up the stomachs of the backseat passengers, but fortunately nobody got too car sick. We settled on the southern town of Rawai for lunch, but first we got parked and then did a walk through the fish market, where the vendors had tanks full of live giant prawns, lobsters, squid, and fishes of all varieties. There were also some fresh fruit vendors, and on the sneak I picked up a nice slab of durian, a fruit that we sadly did not try the last time we were, but I was determined to make that right.

We had lunch at a cool little beachside restaurant called Nikitas. At the end of the meal I whipped out the durian treat but it received a very cool reception from my comrades. Durians smell truly awful, sort of a mixture of garbage and sewage but, like strong cheeses, smells can be deceiving, and I always say that if there are 100 million people who love a certain type of foul smelling or foul looking food, then there must be something to it. I cracked out the durian and the non-heavenly odour erupted, further diminishing the chances that anybody else would be joining me. I took a spoon and dug out a creamy chunk of the fruit and stuck it in my mouth. It was not bad, not bad at all. Strong, yes, and definitely an unfamiliar flavor, but it was pretty good. After seeing this both Stella and Magnus agreed to try it. I gave Stella a small spoonful and she instantly began gagging and spit it out on the street. Magnus then tried a bit and did actually get it down, but was quick to grab the water bottle. “Any more takers?” I asked. Of course, my main man Tony suddenly appeared with three plastic forks, and he dug in. Angela wasn’t interested, but she did grab her phone and take a photo of us enjoying this fine Asian delicacy. Bucket list item 85 – check.

Our next destination was the Big Buddha – a giant statue on top of what looked like the largest mountain in Phuket. We had visited this site previously and the Henriques were keen to check it out. The drive up the mountain was of course twisty and turny, and along the way we saw quite a number of elephants at the various tourist stops. The views from the top of the mountain are outstanding and one can see far out into the ocean and over the harbor of nearby Phuket town. The Buddha site itself is still under construction, and didn’t appear to be much more finished than when we visited three years earlier.

We had one more stop to make. Located in the far north-east corner of the island was the Yacht Haven Marina, home to Elite Yachting – purveyors of fine catamaran charters. It took quite a long time to navigate all the way up the island due to traffic congestion, red lights, road construction, and a few bad turns, but we eventually made it. The marina had been completely rebuilt since we last visited and it was amazing. The marina itself is designed for very large boats, so many of the yachts looked to be over a hundred feet long. We didn’t have a lot of time, as the car had to be back by 5 pm, so we had a quick look at our vessel, named “Toy Boy”. The catamaran we rented previously was 36’ long and this one, at 40’, looked much, much larger. This was going to be fun.

We made it back to Bangtao at 5:09, just slightly late, but considering we took about ten wrong turns we still made pretty good time. Driving around Bangtao is simply confounding, and it seems there are at least a dozen different routes we can take back to the hotel. After this sweltering day of driving we all jumped into the pool for a lovely swim. The only exception was Ana, who had picked up Magnus’ rotten cold, so she spent the time lying down in the room trying to recuperate. She and Magnus have a special bond. Every time he gets sick, she catches it.

Tony, Magnus, Stella and I goofed around in the pool for a long time, and enjoyed a few drinks at the swim up bar. Even though it was Buddha Lent, and the island was still on booze lockdown, the hotel was okay with serving its guests alcohol, and we were okay drinking it.

For dinner, we returned to the beachside restaurant we dined at the first night and had another lovely feeding. During dinner, we put together a meal plan and shopping list for the boat trip as we planned to stop at the grocery store on the way to the marina to get all the provisions we would need, and wanted to get in and out of there as fast as possible. There are not going to be many dining options while we are out on the water so will be making nearly all of our meals on the boat.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel and Tony and I shared the last beer I had stashed away in my mini fridge. He also ordered up a couple glasses of scotch, which provided a fine finish to a fine day indeed.

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