After returning to BKK airport, this time at a reasonable cost we boarded our Air Asia flight to Phuket. If you know me, it's the place that has been my screen saver since 2005, yeah that place!
In our route from the airport we passed through small towns, small patches of countryside, resorts and some under developed areas that looked to be gearing up for new tourism destinations. Phuket seemed to be a vast departure from big city, NYC'esque feel of Bangkok. Bangkok was enjoyable and was completely bugged out, but I was looking forward to chilling out a little by the ocean. On our way to the hotel we drove through the town of Phuket, yep, it literally a small resort town, it's probably a little bigger than the size of south beach. It seemed like a little sleepy beach side place to come and relax, we'd learn that wasn't the case later that evening. After passing through the main strip our hotel was right around the corner, only a street separated our lodging from the sand and the ocean!
The hotel, which I can't remember the name, wasn't a recommendation like the last place so we really didn't know what to expect. However, we were pleasantly surprised! We were lead down a hallway to an open courtyard, our room was situated on the right side on the edge of the courtyard. Once the bellhop opened the door to the room the Charlie Sheen #winning voice sounded off in my head! This wasn't only a room it was a suite! This place had a full kitchen, living room, a workspace (I did ZERO work on this trip, it looked nice though), a half bath in the living area and in the bedroom there was a full bath that had a shower that was 3 sides frosted glass, open to the bathroom, and only a mesh screen separating you from the outside as the roof. The bedroom had a nice size flatscreen TV (which we didn't watch), and an extra large king size bed but, the highlight was the room's private sundeck and private swimming pool!
Once we got settled in and freshened up a little we headed back to the reception to book a couple of tours. Afterwards we started exploring the surrounding areas. Walking out of our hotel to the right we walked down toward the beach, the first thing we immediately noticed was the abundance of scooters parked everywhere which, we assumed belonged to all the people getting their tans laying on the beach. On the other side of the street there was an abundance of little shops, restaurants, and random vendors, selling some of the same Bangkok type stuff. So Phuket started to show its similarities to Bangkok from the start, at that point we didn't realize just how much. We checked out a few of the little places, grabbed a bite at a food court in a place that seemed to be a flea market setup to look like a mall.
The food court was strange because I noticed, that although all of the signage for each of the establishments were different there was a common walkway right behind the counter that connected all of the restaurants. They all had individual kitchens and individual cash points but, they were all connected for some reason. As we walked through the variety of food options we came across a Thai food counter and we started to order, we got an order of crab and pineapple fried rice which was served in a half pineapple, and a side of eggrolls minus the glass noodles. This place despite it's looks the food was extremely good. After eating we were invited to check out this little club, lounge, bar place that sat at the front of the food court. This place had a legit DJ booth with a reggae style sound system, it was early so it's wasn't rolling quite yet but you could tell they were preparing. We had a quick drink just to gauge the prices and continued our journey around Phuket in the day time. After an hour or two of strolling we took it to the hotel for a quick intermission.
After our 2 hour intermission we ventured back out into a completely different Phuket, Night Phuket! It was about 9:30 and the docile beach town we were strolling through earlier transformed it's self into what was essentially a big out door party land! It was a mix between a turned down version of Bangkok's red light district, Biel Street in Memphis during a festival, and mardi Gras in New Orleans and it wasn't even in full swing. As we walked town the main party area there were foam parties happening outside, halloween style costume parties, more sexually ambiguous people dancing semi nude on bar tops and in windows of even seemingly innocent bars, something like a circus freak show happening on the walk way, and a constant stream of ticker tape falling from the sky like snow flakes (I still have no clue where the ticker tape was coming from). Oh yeah, don't forget the ping pong shows, sex workers and smoke guys they were in abundance in Phuket as well. We decided to bar hop for the evening, taking in the sites and taking in the atmosphere.
As the evening started to progress we found a cool little outside bar to sit and chill for a while. This little spot had a great view of the strip which had turned into a sea of people drunk off their ass, partying like it was 1999 and you couldn't find something better to watch if you had paper view! As people got drunker their confidence level rose and you saw "dudes" go into holler mode! These guys were literally spitting game at anything walking! Sitting here observing this all we could do is sit there, laugh hysterically and order another set of drinks! At a certain point I had to ask the question, "Do these guys even care who they are talking to?" and I'm not saying this because they were getting at ugly chicks. I said, "maybe they don't know" but, Jay quickly corrected me and said, "Nah, they just don't care." I'm sure there were some interesting if not odd conversations at breakfast the next morning after all the drunk guys sobered up.
Like clock work, this same scenario popped off every night we were in Phuket after the sun set!
The next morning, we were scheduled to do a speed boat tour of Pi Pi island, James bond Island and a few other Islands. We were picked up after breakfast in the morning, in one of Phuket's customary pimp my ride style Nissan Vans. We stopped at a few other hotels and resorts to pickup more people on the way to the dock. Once arrived we were sitting at an unimpressive dock that was about 1.5 football fields long surrounded by thick mud and grass on both sides for half of the length, almost like we were in the swamps of the everglades. However at the end of the dock sat a nice sized speed boat (maybe 40ft) with 3 outboard engines on the back that were labeled at 750HP, I recently found out outboards that big don't actually exist, I'll assume they were 300's, either way that's a lot of power!
Prior to boarding the speed boat we were greeted by our tour guide, a middle aged Thai woman named Share. Share was easily the most colorful person I met on this trip! She gave us a bunch of kindergarten type instructions followed by a set of do's and don'ts to reiterate the instructions, it was redundant but very clear. We boarded the boat, Jay and I chose to sit near the bow, so we could have a good view of where we were headed and to feel the breeze! Once we shoved off we entered a no wake zone where we creeped out of mirky chocolate milk colored water, as we approached a set of yellow buoys the water seemed to turn to a normal color and at the same time the engines kicked into full gear and we were off!
Being from Florida and living in Dubai, I've been on my fair share of water craft, but this speed boat wasn't joking about the speed part! This was easily the fastest boat I've ever been on! The water was a little choppy so as the boat dove in and out of the water the hull sounded like it was going to crack. Nothing could phase our captain though, not the choppy water, the boat being in the air, the sea spray or the people's heads he constantly had to look over, buddy could flat out drive! With the number of boats we passed on the way to our first island I figured we were running late or were in a race.
Our firs Island was Monkey Island and as you would imagine, it's filled with monkeys! Share brought a bunch of random fruit (apples, oranges, melons, and a few others I couldn't readily identify) to throw out to the monkeys! Although these monkey's seemed to be complacent and lethargic, as soon as the fruit started flying they turned into Terrell Owens with hands and the greedy ones were playing their best role as free safeties picking off the easily catchable fruit from the fat ones. The next island was the one used as the hideout for Captain Jack (not Daniel's) on the Pirates of the Caribbean. We weren't allowed to get out of the boat on either of the first two stops but they were good photo taking opportunities and we got to feed the monkeys! Once we got a few snaps of Captain Jack's hideout it was full speed to Pi Pi island. (Literally full speed ahead)
Pi Pi island was our first opportunity to get out of the boat and walk around. The boat backed in up to a certain point then one of the ships crew jumped into the water and swam about 30 yards to shore to get a rope, then swam back to the boat. They raised the engines on the boat and pulled it in by hand then anchored. Prior to exiting the boat Share reiterated two things, the name of the boat and not to get cut by the engine propeller. As we were exiting the boat the ship's crew put wet towels on the engines to cool them down. They were so hot you could hear the towels sizzle as the steam rose from them, that was a first. We wadded in kneecap deep water to the shore of the most beautiful island my eyes have ever seen! Jay and I explored for about 15 minutes, got some great photos, and went to the restroom real quick before we received the signal to get back on the boat.
We boarded the boat then shoved off, right back to the same pace as before. We were headed to our next stop, an island that I'm not sure of the name but, it had a nice resort only accessible by boat or helicopter. This was our destination for lunch which for such a nice resort was marginal at best. We may have spent 30 minutes there eating, drinking and taking more photos then, It was off to the Island we would be at for the duration of the trip to enjoy the beach and relax. Once we departed this time we didn't immediately make the jump into competitive race mode. We went a nice distance away from the island (maybe 25 minutes at a normal pace) where we anchored for 15 minutes, to snorkel. Once again Share reiterated one of the common themes, don't swim close to the engine propeller.
Share handed out snorkel mask to those who didn't bring their own and then it was to the water for most of us. Jay and a few others stayed behind. I opted to jump off the bow of the boat instead of jumping in from the rear by the engines like most of the people did. I quickly discovered that I was not as confident in the water as I used to be so I swam back to the back of the boat to get a life jacket! Now armed with my life jacket and snorkel equipment I had the chance to check out the amazing under water life. The water in Thailand is probably the clearest most aqua blue water I've ever seen in person and the abundance of colorful fish, and strange under water formations didn't disappoint either.
The trio sprung into action to try to help stabilize Mr. Cut-leg, and at the same time the ship's captain fired up the engines and we were GONE! Share calmly told everyone on the boat that we were going to skip the relax and chill spot and head back to the dock to get medical assistance. Needless to say most of the people on the boat were PISSED, we paid for that part of the trip too! One person messing it up for the rest of us, that little dummy! I know I previously said that we were going fast well, apparently the captain wasn't running wide open on the way out to the islands but, once this situation occurred it was really go time! Running wide open the engines howled as the boat cut through the now calm water. I started thinking we might just make it back to dock with enough time to talk Share into taking us back to the last island.
As soon as I started putting my plan together to rally people on the boat to persuade Share to take us to the last island once we drop Mr. Cut-Leg off, the engine noise came to an abrupt stop! We coasted for a minute then came to a stop. You guessed it, OUT OF GAS, in the middle of the ocean with Mr. Cut-leg needing medical attention. The boat's crew help the trio sit Cut-Leg further toward the back of the boat then, they proceeded to pull the floor boards up to check the gas tank. I'm not exactly sure what they did, but after about 10 minutes playing with fuel lines and trying to start the engines, all three of them roared back to life and once again we were on our way!
Everything was going smoothly as we approached the wake zone marked by the yellow buoys. In the distance we could see the dock, the flashing lights of the ambulance and the paramedics waiting on the dock with a stretcher. As soon as the captain turned the engines down to enter the no wake zone, all three went silent. the boats crew once again went to pulling up the floor boards! We sat dead in the water for almost 30 minutes while the boat's crew tried desperately to get us back moving. At this point we were only about 300 yards from the dock but we were making Zero progress. After another 5 or so minutes you could hear the captain attempting to start the only engine still in the water. After another 3 minutes of coaxing the engine to start it finally started but instead of it's normal noise it sounded like an old lawn mower. That last 300 yards to dock took over an hour after the engines stalled out. After docking, Mr. Cut-leg was taken away by the ambulance and we all reluctantly gave up on seeing that last island. I wasn't happy with Mr. Cut-Leg's dumb ass!
So the summary of the rest of the Phuket trip. We rented scooters which we found out came with the room at the hotel, we rode out 2 tanks of gas in one day riding the coast line and seeing some of the surrounding towns, we partied one more night, tried out a few more of the restaurants in the tourist area (wound up liking the flea market mall food court spot the best), swam in the private pool, went to the beach and then boarded the fight back to Bangkok! We spent one more day in Bangkok where Jay got her MSR fix and we picked a few more nic naks before heading back to DXB!
I highly recommend Thailand however, I suggest spending more time in Phuket than you do in Bangkok! See you next trip!