Translation: “Hello Phuket, Thailand!”
I still can’t believe I’m here. It seems a bit surreal, as Europe was so consuming that I didn’t do much thinking about the post-Europe part of my trip until the very end. I do feel that traveling through the Balkans was a great way to ease from the comforts of Western/Central Europe to the organized chaos of Southeast Asia. Here are some observations from my first 8 days in Phuket:
- Old Phuket Town was once a very wealthy tin-mining town, which makes sense as many of the buildings are converted from the old tin merchants mansions:
- The architecture in Phuket Town is called Sino-Portuguese, a hybrid between Chinese and Portuguese architecture styles. The Portuguese came to Phuket to trade, ended up settling here, and employing the Chinese to build houses for them. So the town is full of a beautiful colorful mix of European architecture and Chinese art.
- The food is so good. There’s a small Phuket Town night market that runs Wednesday – Friday (I arrived Wednesday morning) and the big Phuket Town night market is on Sundays, so my first several nights were spent sampling anything that looked 75% safe to eat. I started out slow, eating something and waiting…just to see how it settled, and by the big Sunday market I was eating pretty much everything. I’d say the markets are 75/25 locals to tourists which is a nice mix, and there is always some form of live entertainment, from a kid juggling fire to high school bands to old women singing karaoke.
- Growing up in the Bay Area and going to school in Seattle I’ve spent a lot of time around Asian communities. To be honest, I’ve always found the languages to sound a little annoying. But now that I’ve learned a bit about Thai, I can understand and appreciate the sound more. For example, in Thai, to show respect, you add a word at the end of your sentence, krap for men and ka for women. The longer you draw out the last word the more respect you are showing. For example, “Hello” is “Sah wat dee” and if I were saying it I’d say “Sah wat dee ka”. Also, the locals really appreciate when you attempt their language (and will correct you if you say it wrong or forget the “ka” at the end!)
- The exposed cables are insane, and you can literally hear the cords buzzing with electricity above you.
- Yes, it’s very cheap, but many countries in the Balkans were cheaper, so I’m a little underwhelmed. A plate of pad thai here averages 80 baht (USD $2.43), but if you go to a local spot and order pork fried rice it’s closer to 50 baht ($1.52). Busses (pickup trucks with two built in benches and no windows or door) to the beach from Phuket town (about an hour each way) costs about $2.50 round trip.
- Bargaining is less intimidating and more fun than I expected. Thai people love to say things like “300, 400, same same”. Um, no, not same same, that’s a $3 difference, I could buy another pad thai with that.
- The little girls wearing school uniforms riding their motorbikes are so badass.
- Monkeys are cute and scary. If you have a backpack or accidentally make a sound drinking from your water bottle they assume you have food and are there to feed them and will jump right on your backpack. Yes, I got my rabies shots! 🙈
- I bought some new clothes!
- The first monk I saw was riding side-saddle on the back of a motorcycle, saw me, and gave me a huge smile. So I love monks.
- There’s something called mango sticky rice here. The sweetest juiciest chopped up mango you will ever taste served with sweet rice covered in coconut milk mixed with brown sugar and topped with toasted sesame seeds. 🤤 I heard it’s even better up north!
- Bug fear is proving fair: 8 days, 10 bites. Good news, they don’t itch as bad as bed bugs and I think I got them all the same day so… 🤦🏽♀️
- It’s not 2017 here, it’s 2560 BE (the Buddhist calendar is 543 years ahead of the Gregoria’s calendar). BE stands for Buddhist Era.
- Phuket Town itself is overlooked by most travelers coming to Phuket as they stick to the beautiful beaches. But I have a feeling that will change soon, as Phuket Town is doing a lot to increase its tourism, from the huge Sunday night markets to brand new malls, water parks, and zoos. I would definitely recommend it!
After almost a week in Phuket Town I headed over to Siray Bay (Southeast Phuket). When I was a kid my family became friends with a family whose son, Bryan, played on my brother’s basketball team. Their daughter, Stephanie, who lives in Hong Kong, was on vacation with her family at the Westin in Phuket. So, thanks to some SPG points from mom and dad (THANK YOU!!!), I joined them for a couple of days! Their son Murray and daughter Madison are adorable and I had so much fun hanging with them! Thanks Adam and Stephanie for letting me crash your vacation for a bit!
We also spent a morning at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. This sanctuary opened in December 2016 and rescues elephants from places where they aren’t treated well (basically all over Thailand, from the circus to live shows, or anywhere they allow you to ride an elephant). This sanctuary is partnered with the much larger Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai and currently has seven elephants, with plans to house up to 20. The elephants are truly happy here, they describe it like a five star resort for elephants. Their schedules basically consist of eating, playing, eating, bathing, eating, and snoozing. It was fun to see them in their natural habitat and they really did look happy!
Some other photos from my Phuket escapades:
Walking around Phuket Town:
The Westin at Siray Bay (yes, that would be an infinity pool on the balcony…again, thanks mom and dad!!!):
Next up: 1 day pit stop at Koh Phi Phi (where The Beach was filmed!) then on to Krabi.