Sorry for the delay on this last part of my Pad Thai for Two adventures. I’ve been having lots of computer issues, which hopefully are resolved, but have also been having a difficult time thinking about how to write this last post about my trip to Thailand. I didn’t have the best time here and I think I’m still actively trying to forget moments that bummed me out there. Writing a blog post about it had me reflecting back and trying to make sense of that time; what made it negative and what positives I can take from it all.
Just a heads up: I do NOT want to really dive into those negatives here, at least not in this post.
The last five days of the trip was purposely planned to have more of a relaxing vibe. My friend Rachelle and I wanted to have some time to reflect and not plan much, be beach bums and get some sun therapy before returning to our lives back in California. We decided to spend those last couple days on the beaches of Phuket.
Flying into Phuket from Chiang Mai on a hot afternoon of Songkran, the Thai New Year’s water festival.
This area has been known for some time now for being a beach vacation destination. We were looking forward to island hopping and swimming in the warm waters. Especially after the busy itineraries of the last couple cities, it was nice to have practically nothing planned for Phuket. Even when finding the area to stay, we chose a beach closer to the southern end of the peninsula in hopes to be away from the partying that we knew would be going on in the cities for Songkran. Songkran was actually still in full swing when we arrive in the airport, but other travelers had the same idea, and there was a long line for transportation. Between taxis, hotel shuttles, and shared vans, there was no good way to get from the airport to anywhere in Phuket. People (both travelers and airport workers) looked annoyed and tired. I understand the situation, I mean really it was a major holiday. Rachelle and I were still positive, but I immediately felt the uncertainty building about this part of the trip.
Luckily we were in a closed-window cab ride to the hotel as Songkran festivities were still in full swing. People were lining the roads and even on the roads with water guns, buckets of water, and baby powder to engage in the country-wide water fight.
That was only how it started, but it continued to feel strange. We waited an hour for the most expensive cab ride I’ve ever had in any Asian country, for those curious it was about $25. We sat through Songkran traffic for a little over an hour to get to the hotel in Kata. On an up note, we got a room upgrade! Apparently, the other rooms got taken and we were offered one of the rooms with a private pool access! Holler! At that point we were too beat from the traveling to have the courage to venture out again, also we had a private pool so why bother. We got into our suits and spent the rest of the day escaping the sun and the street water fights of Songkran in our pool.
Opting to enjoy the bonus room upgrade and hang out in the private pool rather than suffer through the traffic on the streets because of the holiday.
That first night was the first time we both actually had a craving for food that wasn’t Thai. Maybe we were a little homesick, but we wanted a burger and a salad. Note to travelers: Don’t bother ordering something like that in places that are not known for anything like that. It’s really tempting to do this in Phuket, their menus are about the size of a small bible and pack all sorts of food to satisfy all the different tourists who come to visit. I don’t even want to go into details about how terrible that meal was as I really would like to forget I ever had it. The next day was a walk to the beach, some spa time, a little shopping, and through all these fun activities I couldn’t help but feel something was off. The town was different from other places we had visited in Thailand. The people were different. How they treated me was different. Even the beaches were unimpressive with garbage and random plastics hitting you as you took a dip to escape the heat. Lastly the tourist thing was not easy to avoid, things were overpriced and everything seemed like a trap to get you to spend more.
One of our favorite places to eat in Kata, “Red Duck”. Offering a menu with vegan and fresh juice options.
Kata beach in Phuket. Although it looks pretty clean, there was a lot of trash and plastics left out. We began using a pocket of our backpacks just for garbage as there was no receptacle to throw trash away when you had it. It’s such a bummer that something as simple as putting trash cans out could really help to keep the place beautiful.
The facial part of the spa day with my friend, Rachelle. We had massages, facials, and a manicure to help us wind down from our vacation and get us into a relaxed mood.
I finally had enough of exploring and was a little disappointed in how the area was affecting me, so I retreated to really focus on enjoying some alone time, maybe in reflection or maybe just in avoidance, I’m not sure. I went to the hotel pool (not the private one) and met a lovely young family from Germany. They were out on maternity leave with their one year old and had just spent 3 months in Thailand. They also had been to Phuket 3 times, the last was only 2 years ago. We swam and drank at the pool bar, and they told me how the place has changed. Some things that had bothered me didn’t really make sense to me until that conversation. They really helped me to re-evaluate what expectations I had for this city and I was so glad to have met them. We stayed in the pool until it closed, then stayed in the pool longer. We stayed until our fingers were so wrinkled from the water, then we stayed even longer still and shared some locally distilled rum, Chalong Bay Rum. It was a night I think I will always have with me because they brought the perfect experience at the perfect time.
I know with my own personality, I start to shut down a little when stuff really starts bugging me. I try not to, or at least be more aware of when I do. I had already talked to my traveling partner, Rachelle, about things that I was noticing about the place and the people. I didn’t want to complain about anything or even change her attitude or feelings toward the place, it was more to get stuff off my chest. We ended up taking a nice little excursion to Promthep Cape at the southernmost area of Phuket to watch the sunset. It was a sweet date night for us and we got to get into more conversation in a beautiful setting over a picnic of fried chicken and sticky rice. I was already starting to feel much better about the whole situation.
Catching the gorgeous sunset at Promthep Cape with a fried chicken picnic and some great company.
A beautiful spirit tree at the top of Promthep Cape. People tie bright ribbons around the tree to ward off anyone who may cut or harm the tree in any way.
This cute little guy waited so patiently for fried chicken bones as we had our picnic.
Obligatory date night photo with the beautiful, Rachelle.
Promthep Cape was actually named for the Hindu god of creation, Brahma. An elephant shrine was built in his honor and people come to contribute various elephant statues to this shrine. You can’t really see it in this photo, but there are hundreds of tiny elephant statues all around the inner circle.
The street ice cream with all the various toppings that Rachelle ordered from a sweet old man at the base of Promthep Cape. She asked for coconut, she got durian. Rachelle was so disappointed.
From then on, I felt like I started making more of those connections. A bar owner who’s hospitality and company were so warm and inviting. Some exciting new people from Finland who showed me a night out to remember, which included a friend who understood some more personal feelings tied to Phuket. Even one of my closest friends Danny, re-appearing in my travels after last seeing him on a trip to the Philippines a couple months prior, coming back at the right time to connect again.
Bar owner, Chai, of the Hippy Bar in Kata.
De-stressing on the swing at Hippy Bar.
The short snippet of our crazy night with the Finns around Phuket. The clip from Rachelle’s snapchat is only proof that we drank so much that we couldn’t even spell Thailand correctly. hahaha.
Spending the last day with one of my closest friends, Danny. He’s been on a loooong vacation through a couple Asian countries since November, and I miss talking in the same time zone with this guy.
In the end, it may have been a lesson in not just the experiences you have with places in your life but also a lesson in the people you meet along the way. Sometimes it’s a feeling of the world being small because you can totally relate to a complete stranger from different backgrounds. Sometimes it’s a feeling of the world being so massive because of all that you can learn from someone with totally different experiences. Those connections you have in your life that come around and you are a little more whole from meeting them. I’m a firm believer in everything in life being about timing and opportunity. Beyond travel experiences, some people come into your life for reasons you may not understand at the time. The whole time in Phuket, these people happened to come into my life at the perfect time to get me out of my head for even a bit. Maybe these moments are fleeting, and we may not meet again (I hope we do), but if it was only for that instance, it was perfect timing.
The flight back to California was bittersweet, as all ending are.
Featured image: when you had a couple beers and you loose all sense of typography layout. Ugh, this bugs me still just looking at the photo.