After a 14 hour train ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, and a quick hour and a half flight from Bangkok to Phuket, we were at the beach baby! Phuket could not have come any sooner, and I think we were expecting a lot and finally ready to do some real lazing about, with no agendas and a lot of downtime.
Let me first get out of the way, the biggest gripe, although it will probably only apply to budget types like backpackers. Phuket is a tourist capital, and everyone here is trying to get as much from you as they can, especially if you are staying at a resort. They know you have money to spend, and don’t mind taking you for a ride, or two, to get some more of it. Hired transportation on the island is also very expensive relative to the rest of Thailand. The Thai Mafia or something like it, apparently controls many of the tuk tuks, and they are notorious for organized strikes and civil disobedience to get their way. This means no regulation, little accountability and consequently you get ripped off. So is life in Phuket I suppose.
The beaches here for the most part are really great. The sand is typically fine, and pretty clean. Patong beach is very popular, but the beach although wide in length is not very deep and right along a busy road. Not very relaxing. Rent a scooter for 200-300 Baht a day, and adventure to some of the other beaches. All the beaches on the west side, for example Kamala and Bangtao are great, and more quiet.
Manali and I were excited to see the beautiful blue waters, with wonderful clarity at some of the beaches on Phuket. It rained a couple of days we were there, so opportunities for clear waters and great sunsets were limited. Despite the fact it is October / November, the weather remains scorching. You learn to deal with a constant sweat over your body. The breeze off of the ocean does help though when it is blowing.
One of the few decent sunsets we were able to catch. So far we have either been on the move, or didn’t have the view to take in a nice sunset. We’re hoping that changes soon, and our itinerary for the next month, as we will be at beaches for at least that long, looks promising.
The place we stayed, Phuket Laguna, was a pretty neat place, providing everything you could ever want, leaving you to concentrate on your tan. Another great perk they threw in, was the resort elephants, Lucky and Lily. We had no clue these beautiful creatures were going to be here prior to arriving, but having just come from Chiang Mai, with elephants still fresh in our minds, we were thrilled.
Mahouts would escort these two baby elephants out every morning to join guests in the breakfast area, and then in the afternoon down at the beach. Our first morning, Manali was sleeping in, as she does quite religously, and I headed to breakfast to pick something up. As I was turning to corner, here walks by Lily the elephant, carrying a trash bag, tossing it into the nearest collection can. Lily and Lucky were even smaller than the baby elephants we knew in Chiang Mai, so to us they of course were extra adorable. The Mahouts were really great as usual, and the experience again was very casual.
Elephants continue to amaze us, and here is an example where I’m getting kisses from Lucky. She takes her trunk, wraps it around your neck pulling you in snugly and with her little snout gives you little puffs of suction. We couldn’t help giggling and laughing like little kids. If you wanted a picture, Lucky or Lily would take a particular pose, lifting up their trunk, straightening our their right front foot, and bending her right rear over the left rear.
Based on transportation costs of any other kind, the absolute best way to go is renting a scooter. Initially we were very cautious and hesitant to even take on the venture. Although dorky looking, we did get helmets which was some comfort, as we knew the hardest part would be navigating the traffic. We were only partly correct in that assessment.
Our first night we set forth for Patong beach, from Bangtao, a 30 minute ride south. We were a little surprise to find out we had to traverse several mountainous passes, ascending steeply to thickly vegetated overlooks, descending to the beaches and towns of below, one after the other. Throw in the fact that these roads ascending and descending peel right or peel off left curving quickly there and here leaves you wondering how much you can take. Then a huge downpour hit us about 10 minutes before we arrived in Patong beach on the scooter. We were soaked from head to toe in 30 seconds, shivering and cursing our luck. The rain didn’t trail off until late that night leaving us to ride back the entire way belted by wind and rain. A first nights experience like that leaves you a pro, and the next two days brought good weather and good miles on our trusty and fun scooter.