Phuket - The “h” is Silent
So after our adventures in pet sitting with Rosie in Kuala Lumpur we realized that it’s much nicer when someone comes into our room each day to change the sheets, make the bed, bring us fresh towels and leave us some bottled water. It hasn’t taken us long to get spoiled, huh? As usual Tom was drying out, feeling the need to get back in the water for some diving. Some of the best sites for diving in Thailand (actually in many places in the world) are only accessible from liveaboard boats as it takes too long to get many locations, even with a fast boat. One such site is Richelieu Rock located in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Phuket Thailand. We saved some money pet sitting so a liveaboard started to look affordable. Tom zeroed in on the Manta Queen 2
out of Khoa Lak, Thailand. For about $25 a dive he shared a room with three other divers complete with a bed to sleep in and pretty much all the food he could eat. They also would pick him up from Phuket, deliver him to the boat and then return him “home” in much the same condition as when he left, but with great pictures and a lot happier! With this in mind we booked two weeks on Karon Beach in Phuket, Thailand. We arrived in Phuket from Kuala Lumpur via AirAsia: the budget bargain airline of Asia.
*Aside* If you actually want to pick your seat you pay extra. Food? Yes, that’s extra. Your carryon shouldn’t weigh more than 7 kilos (that’s about 15 ½ pounds if you need the conversion. I’m fairly sure my purse - that I left in the US weighs more than that.) And of course we always have to pay for our over-weight baggage, but we do it up front. It costs even more at the airport. *AirAsia Rant* You cannot book a ticket on AirAsia on your laptop. It simply isn’t possible. You get to the final step and it won’t fund your ticket. I’ve tried. Tom has tried. We’ve cleaned out our cache and tried again (AirAsia’s advice). Their website doesn’t work; you can however book on the AirAsia App on your phone. You can look things up on the website and you can check-in on the website, but try to buy a ticket and you’ll grow old and your teeth will all fall out before it happens. How can that be possible?? At one point (in the Philippines) in desperation we went to the AirAsia office at the airport to book a ticket because we couldn’t do it on line, only to find that it would be more than double the price of the online price. That’s when, on a whim, we tried downloading the app and bought the tickets. How does any of it make sense?
Okay - back to Phuket. We booked a room in Phuket in a hotel called Room Actually. *Aside* I’m not sure who named the hotel and I have yet to figure out what the name means, actually.
We booked through Air B&B finding that the price was significantly cheaper than Booking.com. It always pays to compare. When we arrived they upgraded us to a much nicer room with a balcony at the front of the building rather than the back. We were able to look out on all the hussle-bussle of the street. The room was spacious and clean with a soft bed and decent pillows. Since we were only about 5 blocks from the beach and we are surrounded by restaurants, and massages we were quite smugly happy. We had a small refrigerator and a hot pot so coffee and tea are available anytime.
We had four days before Tom heads out on the liveaboard so he decides to get wet in preparation. He dove near Phuket on Friday and tried to dive Phi Phi Island (yes the “h” is silent so it is pronounced Pee Pee) on Saturday but the weather and another diver’s chest pains confounded group so they had to return to dock, scrubbing the dive. *Aside* This unfortunately did not prevent Tom from slipping on a slick metal step to remove a
layer of skin from his ankle. It might have been okay, but eleven liveaboard dives later - pulling his dive sock and boot on and off at every dive - the wound looked like hell. A trip to the doctor and some antibiotics put him on the mend. The Karon beach in Phuket is a public beach. It is beautiful, remarkably clean and although there are a lot of people, it’s not really crowded. The waves and the sound of the waves are tremendous! You can rent jet skis and sky ride, but we pass on those activities to just walk the beach in the surf. *Aside* Daily walking in the wet sand smoothes out all the rough places on my feet.
Tom goes to the liveaboard. I walk the beach.
*Aside* I have been slowly but surely losing weight. I’m eating healthier and a lot less! I’ve discovered that I enjoy yoga and I now have a daily yoga practice. I suddenly realized my pants are all too big for me. When I put my cell phone in my pocket I have seriously low-riders. I can pull my shorts down without unzipping them. The tailors in Phuket are almost as plentiful as the restaurants and masseuses so it’s time for some alterations. I dropped off my shorts at the tailor shop. They came back skinny(er).
Tom enjoyed his liveaboard experience returning with a picture (among others) of Honeycomb Eel - the first time he’d seen one. *Aside* The big Honeycomb Eel he saw, the one that was out and fully visible in his amazing hugeness, was on the one dive he didn’t have his camera with him. But on the next dive he found this one, albeit not nearly as big or photogenic! As Tom describes to me the “Dive, Eat, Sleep” philosophy of a liveaboard which includes four
dives every day, I am thankful that I had a beach to walk. When he further describes how many people got sick as the waters got rough (he did not), I am thankful again that I don’t have a desire for a liveaboard experience. *Aside* Honestly trapped on a boat that is pitching and tossing over the waves listening to people retching in the next room, or even the next bed does not sound appealing (to me). But he got to see places that he wouldn’t otherwise have seen and returned with some awesome pictures. *Aside* Tom is now indicating that he has reached the limits of his camera and is starting to make “I need a better camera” noises.
We enjoyed good food in Phuket and close at hand. In the restaurant two doors down from our hotel there is fresh fish delivered every day and they grilled it perfectly. Across the street traditional Thai dishes are inexpensive and delicious.
Just before we leave Karon Beach we booked a cooking class with Jim and Sally (no those are not their Thai names) at their Kata Thai Cooking School. We booked the market tour as well.
We learned to identify of all kinds of vegetables, the differences in price in farm raised vs. fresh caught shrimp, high fived a frog, saw the eggs that had formed inside a hen, then sampled some crispy fried bugs along with a few other Thai delicacies. Back at the school we made Green Curry (from scratch), Holy Basil Chicken Stir Fry and Pineapple Chicken. We learned the difference between Red Curry and Green Curry is the color and the number (and therefore the heat) of the peppers in the sauce as well as amount of garlic you put in it. We also learned that yellow curry is more Chinese than Thai. We chopped our ingredients and ground them in a mortar and pestle. Then we each got our own wok and cooked our own dinner.
*Aside* I just want to say that MY Green Curry was the best I’ve tasted! I’ll also say that Tom’s was hotter than mine, which is fine - I don’t like as much heat as he does. Sally also demonstrated how to make Pad Thai - very specifically how to keep it from being too wet! When we get home a trip to the Asian Market will be scheduled and the Thai (the “h” is silent) will be cooked by us!!