07 – 09.02.2009
I was on a Virgin Blue flight from Sydney to Phuket which was around 9hrs long which only cost me around £200. However disaster at the airport. I had read in serval blogs and forums that you didn’t need to have an onward flight ticket to get into Thailand, however I was proved wrong by Virgin blue staff as they wouldn`t let me board the flight without this ticket. I therefore had to rush to the Quantas desk to pick up a refundable ticket!! I found out later that some airlines don`t bother with this rule however others do. Anyway panic over and it was a sad farewell to the Marie and Australia at the airport, the next destination was Phuket in Thailand and a whole new continent to discover.
I was planning on getting some seriuos rest time on the flight, only i discovered that I was seated inbetween 10 Ozzies who were flying out to Phuket for a 10 day holiday and the party started on the plane!! After a non stop drinking freenzy (by them not me!!) we touched down in a very wet and rainy Phuket. I was only staying in Phuket for 2 nights as my main aim was to get to Koh Phangnan for the Full Moon Party on the 10th of March and also to meet up with Mark and Adam (fellow lads from Hull I met on Fraser Island) and their brothers and another friend who had come over on holiday to meet them.
As I arrived late that night in Phuket there wasn`t much to do but go out for my first proper authentic Thai curry and then head off to bed. After checking into the hotel in the Old part of Phuket I headed straight out and found a street cafe and ordered a lovely Green curry. The curry was nothing like the Thai curries we have a home, a much more liquidy sauce with more empahsis on heat and vegetables in the curry rather than the meat. The curry was beautiful, full of flavour with loads of mini egglants, green beans and peas, garnished with lashings of raw red chillis and coconut sauce. With the bill coming in at £2 with a beer included I knew that I was going to get along with the food in Thailand!! Contented I went to bed to catch up on the sleep that I was supposed to get on the plane..
The next day I woke realtively early (there is only a 3 hour time difference between Australia and Thailand) and decided to explore Phuket town. Lonely Planet hadn`t given it a great write up so I wasn`t expecting much! One of the first things you notice when you arrive in Thailand is their devotion to 2 main things – their King (King Bhumibol Adulyadej or King Rama IX) and religion (Buddism). There are pictures everywhere of Rama 1X (on the streets in shops and houses) and there are small handmade temples (aorund 4ft high that look like birdhouses to us common western folk – designed to call out evil spirits from the homes) on every street and also big Wats (or temples) in every village.
Steeping out onto the street in Phuket is like stepping out into another world if you have never been in SE Asia. You are immediatley greeted by a very busy pace, mainly busy with the 1,000`s of mopeds screaming everywhere. You have to keep your wits about you when stepping out as the seems to be no rules for riding mopeds in Thailand. No indicators are used (or hand signals), no helmets worn and there are no rules about overtaking, undertaking or going the wrong way down a street heading into oncoming traffic!! In fact the most dangerous thing on a moped is westerner as the Thais seem to know what they are doing all amongst this mess! Thailand is a dramtic culture change to Australia, not only in language, cultue and standards of living and food. the Thais themselves are very friendly people and always willing to help with a smile brazened across their faces. The number of street vendors is atonishing, selling anything and everything from food to tupaware to nicknacks.
After a morning walk to get to know the area and to fill some time I hopped into another roadside cafe to have a few spring rolls and a bowl of fried rice. Thais generally like to eat little and often which is something that i was happy to indulge in. After a short lunch I headed off to see my first Wat – Wat Vichit Sangkaram in the center of Phuket. The wat is amazing, beautiful and crafted temple with such vivid colours and beautiful design. After a small walk around the Wat i headed back to the hotel to book my journey to Koh Phangnan.I started thinking out that I would travel there as a real traveller (ie get public transport etc) and not book through any travel agency, but the alure of an a/c mini bus and transfers straight from the hotel to the port got the better of me! in fact it only cost me an extra £3 (total price £13 quid in all) for a 6 hour journey, which in the grand scheme of things wasn`t that bad!!
Bartering is another favourite past time of Thais and I was soon to learn that you never take the first “westerner” introductory price! After successfully booking I had a quick nap and then headed out for some dinner in a restaurant around the corner. This was slightly more expensive than the cafes I had been eating in (the total bill was £6, including 2 beers this time) and I had the most amazing Duck Red Curry. Red curries are one of the hotter of the Thai curries and it certainly didn`t disappoint, 2 rapid beers later and around 10 napkins to mop the brow I was finshed! The curry though was beautiful as the flavours of the lemongrass, chillies and duck blended perfectly. Thai food is always express food and you are always amazed how quickly the food comes out to you after order. Feeling very full and with my lips still quite heated I went to bed, watched a bit of Thai TV (which seemed to comprise solely of Thai soaps and love song) and then nodded off to sleep in preperation of my next trip – Koh Phangnan.