Ok, here’s the deal…after spending a delightful week with my son James in Bangkok, I went North to Ayuthaya to see the marvels of the Ancient Kingdom of Siam. Amazing temples, Buddha’s head being enveloped by a tree, ruins of ancient temples with rows of headless Buddhas, stuff like that. Then I intended to go further North, but could not get a ph***n ticket because, as the man at the bus station said “No ticket, because Happy New Year Thailand” (say in Thai English inflection or you totally lose the idea). Apparently all of the Thai people take the rare holiday opportunity to visit their families in the North, and who can blame them? So the wonderful woman at the Baan Lotus Guesthouse, (a wonderful place to stay in Ayuthaya by the way), recommended I go South, to Phuket. Another traveler from the guesthouse, a lovely man from Italy named Alberto who happened to be going to Phuket, and I hopped on the train back to Bangkok and were going to take a train but found out that we could take a pretty cheap flight instead and so hours later, suddenly I was in Phuket. Way down South.
It was dark when we arrived and we took two rooms at the first guesthouse we came across. I was satisfied as it was clean and cheap, even if the showers were not hot. We then, because it seemed Alberto was enamored with the idea, allowed a Tuk Tuk driver to recommend an expensive restaurant by the sea where we went for seafood and wine and ambience. One whopping hell of a commission later, he brought us back toward the hotel where a fell into my room and watched the continuing saga of the devastating news about Benazir Bhutto on BBC news. After spending night after night watching her battle through the last few months while I was traveling around in India, I felt a closeness that I can’t explain. I am really sad to see her struck down. A shining light for Pakistan, and for women of Islam has been darkened. But again…I digress.
In the morning I walked out of my room at 7:30 in the morning to find Alberto standing outside my door about to knock. Primed to go find coffee and then try to make the 8:30 boat to Koh Phi Phi, we both shot out of the hotel and went on the hunt. Not an easy thing to find coffee before 9:00 unless you like Thai coffee. We ended up in a busy Thai food market eating dim sum and drinking Thai Coffee with the locals. That was my favorite moment in all of Phuket. We missed the 8:30 boat as we decided to relax and aim for the 10:00 boat which made for a more relaxing morning.
When we got to the pier we bought tickets to Koh Phi Phi, which left at 11:00 instead of 10:00 so we waited. More and more tourists showed up until it was obvious to me without even going to the island that I was going to really hate it there. This was NOT my scene, young 20 something babes in miniskirts and tattoo covered men with shaved heads, jet setter families with tow heads and golden tans, not a single Thai person to be seen. My stomach began to get tighter and tighter. I’m not the partying kind, I’m more the lying around with a book kind. I’m the 300 baht a night kind, not the 3000 baht a night kind; the only option on Koh Phi Phi. I was obviously about to be with the wrong people. Alberto wanted to go there to say to his friends that he had been there. He was heading out the next day. I thought I wanted to go with him for the same reason, but the more people that showed up, the tighter the knot in my stomach became. The boat was late. I ran back to the reservation booth and cancelled my ticket, apologized to Alberto and kissed him on the cheek, said bye bye and hopped in a taxi back to Phuket town and to the airline ticket office to get tickets North. By tomorrow night, I should be in Chiang Rai, where I really want to be. Temples, mountains, rivers, Thai people. One or two tourists, not BILLIONS.
But since I was in Phuket, I thought that maybe I could find a nice quiet beach for one night. Even if it cost me a little bit more than I’d like to spend.
Um. No. Read my lips, DON’T COME TO PHUKET TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL. If you want this vibe, just go to Venice Beach. Seriously! If you go anywhere, I hear Krabi province has more hope for peace. But even then, really, avoid Thailand at Christmas and New Years. Just don’t come here.
So then, I paid a good deal of money to a taxi man who took me from beach to beach to find a hotel, and every supposedly dreamy beach looked like hell to me. This was from the tsunami of people and development; the other tsunami’s damage is no longer visible. I finally landed in Patong Beach, probably the most chaotic of them all. I Ph***n hate it here. Get me the Ph*** out of here. “Tomorrow morning, first thing,” says the God of the North.
Oh, and by the way, Phuket, in case you didn’t know, is pronounced Pookette.