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Phuket-me-not

May 12, 2012

Phuket-me-not

May 12, 2012

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by Kt

12.05.2012

This was my blog title. I didn’t not ask Mark for one, for obvious reasons.

Well, We spent just over a week in Phuket and I have to say that I didn’t immediately love Thailand which worried me as we planned to spend so much time here. I knew Phuket was very developed and as we drove from the airport, the hour south to our destination of Kata Beach, you didn’t really see much other than business and buildings. I’d picked up a map from the airport and the plastic bag it was in had an advert for a plastic surgeon – I’d known Thailand was a location for holiday plastic surgery but you can certainly see this when you arrive. I’ve never seen so many dentists, opticians and plastic surgeons. I was secretly delighted at this and when Mark is not looking I will be sloping off down a back alley for some bargain botox… relax, I’m only joking!! (or am I?)

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Kata Beach, which we explored not long after arriving didn’t do much to make me feel any more excited – there were lots of europeans walking the streets with slight speedos and no top on. Mmm. Lovely. I realised that we hadn’t really been to a holiday destination like this on our travels so far – a town which mainly caters for foreigners. It reminded me of the places I didn’t like in Spain or Greece (or rather the holiday makers I didn’t like). The beach itself was gorgeous and had the finest white sand which was lovely to walk on. It is out of season and you could see why. The sea was pretty choppy and it’s the time when the surfers descend on the area. A few people were in the sea but not very far out and the red flag was up.

We stopped off at a small bar on our way back to our accommodation and the girls there were lovely but I did cringe when they immediately grabbed the TV remote control to change the channel of what they’d had on – some Thai soap opera I think – which I was watching with fascination – and changed it to the football. The football is on in pretty much EVERY bar or restaurant in the place. When we found a place to eat that evening near our hotel, I groaned at the prospect as their big selling point was their huge, projector style screen with the football projected on. None-the-less, the food was amazing.

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We learned that Kata beach had been a favourite of Scandinavian and German holiday makers in the past but was now most popular with the Russian holiday makers. Indeed, the guys who owned our hotel were Russian. There was lots of signs of the Scandinavian side though, particularly in the food. You could get a smorgasbord style breakfast for instance. We found an amazing German bakery just down the road from us where the bread was to die for and I had a danish style burger in one place with rocking pickled cucumber (I do love a gherkin), we also had a pizza one night which blind-sided me with the goodness of it. I really wasn’t expecting that in Thailand, especially in a resort type place.
But those few westernisations aside, we mostly ate Thai food and quite frankly couldn’t get enough. It is SO good, it’s not true. There was a really small cafe near us which basically had the ‘dad’ out the front making everything in one wok. There were two tables in the restaurant so you could max seat about 9 people. And he had to make everything in turn, but it was so worth the wait. This was the cheapest food we ate in Kata and it was the best. As I gradually got used to it (and ate my way through) I saw that I was going to like Thailand after all.

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Though I must say, I never warmed to Kata, puzzling at the fact that it had come up as the nicest beach in Phuket in all my research. Mmm – maybe that’s it. Maybe it was meant literally. The beach really is amazing but not the resort that goes with it.
One night there was someone with a baby elephant we passed on the way home. That was a touch sad. But I guess if people didn’t line up to have their photos taken, they wouldn’t be there. I had heard about this so wasn’t at least shocked or perturbed to stumble upon an elephant in the dark.

We did find one place that we were rather fond of due to the connect 4 sets available on each table. We got very competitive in fact. I very much loved whipping Marks butt which I very often did. Though staying sober and not getting cocky would have helped considerably when Mark got the better of me.

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In our first few days we did spend a lot of time in our hotel room for a few reasons. Firstly, air-con – it was hot out so it was often a refuge. Secondly, shelter – in rained a lot (May being the beginning of the rainy season in Southern Thailand). This is not just an hours rain and then it gets lovely again kind of rain. It pelts down with lots of thunder and lightening and it goes on for ages and can easily start again not long after finishing. Thirdly, we didn’t like to leave because we didn’t like coming back. Our hotel was up a hill. I knew this was the case as I’d seen it in the reviews but that didn’t bother me. Cheaper places are often a bit more awkward to get to. But OMG and all the other acronyms – this place was up a hill and then up another one which was practically vertical. You could either take the steps (I shudder thinking about those steps) or go the longer way around which was just slightly less painful but you still needed a run up to get up the last slope. This explained why this hotel was such a bargain!! It had a small pool, but other than that there was no communal area. Our balcony/seating area was a chair outside our door in the hallway. So if we wanted to be in the hotel, we’d have to be in the room. But it was fancy smancy to us anyhow. Air con, a TV, a bathroom inside. Get us!!! And quick WiFi in our room. So we hibernated a fair bit those first few days.

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Then our lives livened up dramatically when my friend Elena arrived. Well, didn’t we have a whirlwind, stamina breaking weekend when whirlwind Elena blew in! She lives and is from Singapore so Asia is her backyard and with Phuket being a hop skip and a jump she knows the place well. I do always like going to places with people who live there or who know it well, you get to do things/find little gems that you most likely never would if you were on your own. And I have hung-out with Elena in Spain, London, the Cotswolds and Bagshot(!) and laughs are always on the agenda. Of course seeing a mate when you’ve been traveling so long is a bonus in itself. She had booked us in somewhere for Friday night but we did not know where this was. When we finally met her on Friday, she only managed to alarm us by using phrases such as ‘ don’t worry if the road looks dodgy’ and ‘don’t worry when they shut the doors’. So after a few swigs of champagne in Elena’s room (Elena is the champagne queen – but that’s a whole other blog), off we went on our magical mystery tour.
We arrived on a dark, nondescript street and as soon as you rounded the corner off the payment it looked lovely. The window facing the street was a water wall. I don’t know what these are called, but you know that ones that are windows but have water running through them. Anyhow, that created a nice vibe and the place was full of rich wood and colour and flowers. It felt so lush yet comfy.
We were given menus and it became clear this wasn’t your usual restaurant setup. There was an entrance fee which basically covered you for all the food, you just payed for your alcohol on top. Before we could make any kind of decision on food, they descended on us with 3 or 4 dishes of sides – I do love not having to make a decision. These were really nice and in the end we kept ordering various starters as this meant we can share. Then, a couple of people started dancing in the middle of the restaurant. This seemed perfectly natural as there was enough space there and there was a happy vibe in the whole place. Over the next hour or so, all the tables were gradually moved back to the sides of the room and the lights were dimmed, the music turned up and the place became a big, camp, fun disco. They had a couple of amazing drag queens and the drinks flowed and there was lots of dancing and there was… wigs – I don’t know where they came from but who doesn’t love a good wig eh?? It was incredible how subtly this placed turned from restaurant to party. There was no awkward moments of standing around or eating while people are wanting to move you. I guess they’ve just honed this down as they’ve been doing it quite a while, so it all works really naturally. Apparently they don’t actually have a license for the cabaret bit, hence the doors closing on you. I must confessed I partied a little too hard and Mark (I know amazing – he was the most sober one) was in charge of getting us two ‘vibrant’ girls home.

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I woke up the next morning feeling like death and realising that I am sorely out of practice. We had no food and we didn’t have the energy to so much as make a cup of tea. We dragged ourselves over to Elena’s at about 1 or 2 and she assured us that champagne hair of the dog was the order of the day and boy was she right!!! So off we went to Patong to feed our hangovers. We had a bit of a wander around. There were a lot of shops in Patong but it didn’t seem to be the crazy, party town I had found it described. It was a tourist haven but had a nice vibe. We settled on an Irish bar to get some stodge. While we were there we saw the most impressive thing. The guys doing the beer deliveries were carrying the beer boxes behind them. So there arms were either side of them but behind and they had 3 or 4 boxes, each with umpteen beer bottles in. Wow – that is using muscles I think I don’t have. I couldn’t see how there was anyway they could put them down without intervention from another person. What if they sneezed?
Anyway, after that we had our first tuk tuk ride from Patong, up the coast to the Catch Beach Club. We stopped outside the hotel where Elena usually stays when she is in Phuket and tottered down to the beach to the beach club. Now, I don’t have a lot to compare it to having only ever been to one beach club, in Spain (with Elena of course!) but this was really nice. All white sofas and firepits and a gorgeous beach. Mark had a little paddle and of course got wet shorts. We drunk champagne, cocktails and wine while watching a sunset and watched fireworks being set off on the beach. Meanwhile we had the most ambient music possible going on – it was someone with bongos and an electronic drum pad – I was so shocked when realised it was live. All in all it was a most relaxing, luxurious treat. Having said that, apart from the champagne which has some bizarre, expensive, luxury tax put on it, the cocktails and the wine at this amazing place were actually same price, if not cheaper than in one of our Brighton locals. Mark did, to our shock, order himself a Cosmo. He has never heard of them apparently and thought it was a manly cocktail – or so he says – rather than the Sex and the City fan staple.
And to top it all off – their toilets smelt like lemongrass *sighs happily*.

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After chilling out here for a while and after it had gotten dark, we headed up the beach to find some food. We didn’t find the place we were aiming for but we did find this to-die-for restaurant on the beach. We sat at a table, feet away from the sea which was lit up with some seriously strong coloured lighting of some kind. The food was incredible. I had a slight choking incident on the Beef salad Elena had ordered as Thai hot. I thought I was toughening up – but I swear all my organs stopped working for a moment with the heat of that.

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Another tuk tuk back to Patong. It started pouring on the way but they just have plastic sheeting that you ping on. We arrived in Patong and headed for the main night life road. I then saw how different it was at night. This was crazy nightlife. There was this immense bar complex with huge tiger statues above it. It was like Time Square with all the lights and colour and craziness. There were some gorgeous lady boys, lots of drunk westerners and lots of people offering ‘shows’ to you on a menu. We walked down most of the length of the street, taking it in before deciding to go for it and went in to see a ‘show’. It’s totally anti-feminist and wrong on many levels, but frankly, it’s life and we’re in Thailand it has to be experienced. I won’t go into any detail on here for obvious reasons but lets just say it was one of the most expensive round of drinks I’ve ever known, it was a mixture of interesting, impressive, amusing and after a while actually a bit boring. We left when the place livened up a bit and it didn’t seem so rude and went to find transport home. Well we had the best transport home – the other tuk tuk drivers where trying to get us to go with them, but Elena made sure we got our dream carriage. This was the most bling tuk tuck you ever did see. It was the hip hop tuk tuk and the bass shook the whole thing as the neon lights blazed bright. It was a fair way back to Kata beach and we basically had our own little club in the back. It was frankly the coolest thing ever. I became very gangsta and insisted on wearing my sunglasses most of the way home. Who cares if I couldn’t see anything!

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We were dropped at Elena’s and hung out at hers for a little. More champagne anyone? Mark was very brave and removed a big spider. Then he swam in the pool in just his pants. Then Mark and I walked back to our hotel room. Down a hill, up a hill then up the steep steps. This, I can tell you is no fun at 4 in the morning after a ‘lively’ day. It’s a wonder neither of us fell down the blinkin’ mountain.

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