Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Phuket (Karon Beach)…in the here and now.

I realized I hadn’t written for a while, and then realized I just didn’t feel like going back and writing about the past. So here I am in the here and now. I am sitting in a colorful room, much like I’d imagine a room in Mexico, at the Casa Brazil in Karon Beach. I’ve been here ten days, and just signed up to stay next door (because they are full here) for another week. It’s a beautiful, hot, busy beach with lots of shops and a million tourists (mostly Russians and Europeans).

I arrived here from Luang Prabang with a nasty cold, so I spent the first few days just going to the beach, eating soup, and sleeping. Honestly, when I flew in and arrived at Phuket I was ready to go home. It was a long day of traveling; three hour layover in Bangkok, and Phuket town did not look like someplace I wanted to stay. It was like going from Hanalei to Las Vegas. I was grouchy with a cold, and the people at the airport were not all that nice. But, like I’ve learned to do on this trip, I soldered on. Then the taxi ride took forever (over an hour), and I wasn’t sure if he knew where he was going. I certainly didn’t. I kept trying to call Casa Brazil, but couldn’t get through. I finally did, and they told the driver where to go (which I was getting ready to do, but to a different place). 

When I first arrived at Casa Brazil, the agent came out to greet me smiling and I was so glad to see a friendly face. The place is really unique, and although there are a ton of places around here, it is still the nicest one I’ve seen so far. The owner, I found out, is an artist and musician. I haven’t met him, but his work throughout the hotel is remarkable. It really feels like how I imagine Mexico, but with a lot of Asian influence. I was quickly checked in, and taken to my room on the 4th floor (no elevators, dearie). The room was a bit dark at first, and it took me a few days to really warm to the décor, but once I did, it’s been wonderful. The price, with breakfast included, is about $40.00 a night.

The next morning, after I slept about ten hours, I opened my curtains and stepped out on a tiny balcony to a view of the mountains that looked so much like Lahaina, Maui that I was shocked. That’s when I fell in love with this place.  Then I walked 2 minutes to the beach, which is packed wall to wall with umbrella lounges. Normally, I would run as far as possible from a beach like this, especially at home; but for some reason, I enjoy this beach. I love laying and people watching. There are so many different people, and stuff going on all day. Also, there is no English spoken so I don’t have to listen to conversations. I can just observe the people. That seems to make a difference. I spend a lot of my day on the beach, swimming, reading, listening to music, and people-watching.  I will say this as an observation only; we talk about having an obesity problem in America, but I just want to note that it is not only in America. There are really fat Russians, Germans, Italians, English, Dutch, and French people and they don’t seem to have any problem freely flaunting their flubber for all to see. I’m no skinny minny myself, but I feel pretty thin here. This is not an awesome body beach, although there are a few spectacular exceptions, both male and female. It’s nice, because I don’t feel self-conscious at all in my skin. It’s also a top optional beach, and I would forgo my top if I was with a friend, but not alone. They have everything at this beach from jet skiing to para sailing right off the beach, to little grass shacks with drinks and food, to massage on the sand, to boogie board and raft rentals. Your every need is there. And you can walk right across the street to lunch or shop. Okay so it’s not the Phuket of yesteryear, and I’m sure I missed the best days of this island, but I’m enjoying it for now.
One night I walked to Kata Beach for steak dinner at the Buffalo Grill and how amazed was I to see this huge reconstruction of what looked like Fred Flintstone’s house. It is called Dinoland and there is a huge bar, restaurant, and miniature golf. I haven’t checked it out inside yet, but the outside is so funny to see in the middle of Asia…yabadabadoo!

I rented a scooter for about $6.00 and went riding all over Kata and Karon. It took me a couple of days to work up the nerve. The traffic is pretty thick, and there are not too many road rules. I did great though, once I got going. I went up on the highway a sped my way to the Big Buddha overlooking the bay. There is no other feeling for me like being on two wheels. I just know I have to get a bike when I get home. It makes me feel so great to be riding along with that wind in my hair. Riding on the beach roads through Kata and Karon was a bit more challenging, and just in case my sisters are reading this, yes I did wear a helmet. I did notice that the Thai drivers were very patient, and most of the drivers and riders were not too aggressive.

One day last week I went on a super boat cruise that took twelve hours total from pick up to delivery back to the hotel. Spent all day on a really nice yacht going from island to island, with good food and drinks (soft only for me) included. It was a really good crowd of people from Australia, Italy, Holland, and Russia. Russian tourists are generally not very friendly, perhaps because they usually don’t speak English or other languages, but I did get one of the girls to smile at me. The two Australian families were traveling together, and they were really friendly and wanted to know all about my trip. The beautiful lady from Venice was very nice, but didn’t speak much English. We hung out together because she left her husband in Phuket. It was just a good, friendly, fun crowd; which isn’t always the case on these tours that you get a good mix of people. The crew on the boat was also great. Very efficient and friendly. The day was sunny, but turned a bit cloudy at the end of the tour. I would have like to have spent more time on each island, but it was wonderful just being in a boat on the ocean. I also love boats, and wouldn’t mind taking a long boat trip sometime.  Maybe I’ll charter a yacht and go somewhere for my next adventure, after I go across the United States first.  I had to go to James Bond Island for nostalgic reasons, because I started reading Ian Fleming when I was in my teens and wanted so much to escape from my life and my family (as most teens do). Reading those books and wanting to be James Bond probably influenced my decision to leave the US and travel around the world when I was in my 20’s. Well, the island itself wasn’t much. A lot of tourist shacks selling mostly junk. I did buy a glass beaded bracelet as a memento. I walked around to see the one sight worth seeing, which was the tall spear island in the bay that reminded me of those old 60’s fantasy posters with islands and psychedelic spheres floating over blue seas, which is where Avatar stole it’s scenery  from, I believe. This island was featured in one of the Roger Moore James Bond movies, which I never saw because I never watched any of the Roger Moore movies.  Sean Connery is and will forever be James Bond. We ended our day with a swim in a completely isolated bay. It had gotten cloudy and the water was a bit chilly, but I was determined to have my swim anyway.  By the time I got back to the hotel, I was a happy, sleepy camper.

Yesterday I went into Karon Beach and met up with friends, and then I walked in the hot sun all the way back to my beach. Really dumb, but I was determined to walk it. I got a chair in my usual spot, changed into my suit under my towel, took a swim and laid by the beach until almost sunset. Then I went “home”, took a shower, had a cold soda water, laid down for a bit, got up and went to dinner. Came home and played on the computer. The Internet here is not good, and that’s a bit frustrating. There is no TV in English, so mostly I read, write, sleep, eat, and go da beach. Not a bad life, though.

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