Wednesday – February 16, 2011 –
I have been fortunate to swim in three of the world’s four oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic (briefly!). Today I would finally get to visit the Indian Ocean on my journey to the Thai island of Phuket!
This morning I woke up in Bangkok at 5:45 a.m. Then I was in for an unpleasant surprise! Unfortunately I couldn’t get into my safe, so it took a few minutes for the manager to come up and help me unlock it. Then I checked out of the Royal Ivory Nana Resort and grabbed my arranged taxi to Suvarnabhumi airport. I was little worried that this delay might make me miss my flight, however traffic wasn’t too bad and I made it with plenty of time.
Before leaving the U.S., I purchased a Bangkok Airways Discover Airpass for Baht 11,040, or about $345. The pass included four flight coupons. This would be my first coupon this morning. After checking in and going through security, I boarded my Bangkok Airways flight for Phuket. We departed around 8 a.m before arriving in Phuket at 9:30 a.m.
Located off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. It is slightly smaller than the size of Singapore and is connected to mainland Thailand by two bridges. Historically, Phuket earned its wealth from tin and rubber. It was located off the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign ship logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traders.
Upon arrival, I felt like I was in Hawaii. The island is so beautiful with its palm trees and azure waters. After grabbing my luggage, I booked a minibus with other customers that took me to the southwest corner of the island and the town of Patong. I could believe how mountainous the island was. I thought about all of the people who died here during the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, and I began to appreciate that many people would have had higher ground to retreat to if they had advance warning.
Not long afterwards, I arrived in Patong at the Club Bamboo Boutique Resort & Spa, located off Nanai Road. I booked this resort on Expedia online and it only cost $105 for two nights, but I was not quite sure what to expect. There I found out there were two locations and the location I booked was full. I would be staying at their beach location tonight and they would move me to their main resorts in the hills for the next night.
After checking in, I had the rest of the day at leisure. I walked down to the beach for a little while and swam in the Indian Ocean for the first time. I cut myself on a coral reef, but it wasn’t too bad. The water was warm and beautiful. Virtually all the guests at my resort were Russkis from Siberia escaping the brutal winter. I went to the pool for a while and made some Russian and Ukrainian friends before returning to my room.
That evening, I caught a baht bus with some of the Russian guests. Baht buses are pickup trucks with seats in the back which cater towards transporting tourists to the nightlife. I rode down to the famous Walking Street. I ate a Pad Thai dish at the bar of an outdoor patio restaurant surrounded by live music and had a tropical banana split. It was absolutely delicious! I went into a bar for a drink after some pretty Russian girls outside invited me in. I didn’t realize until afterwards it was a Russian-run strip club. That’s not my cup of tea, and I started to feel like the place was potentially run the Russian mafia, so I didn’t hang around.
Later I toured the infamous Bangla Street. The go gos and beer bars were something else! I dropped by a few bars and enjoyed some pretty good bands. Most of these bars catered to young westerners and the rock music was good. I listened to some bands cover everything from Nirvana to Linkin Park. Of course there were quite a few other bars that had the bar girls (working girls) that looked to capitalize on tourists. Not my cup of tea, but nonetheless, it was interesting to see the interactions between different cultures.
After a night out, I returned by tuk tuk o the Club Bamboo Resort & Spa. I had to get up in the morning so I slept well after a long night.