Okay, for those of you with a lot of stamina, here goes. I won't hold it against you if you quit reading half way through...
Tuesday: Work all day, catch the bus to Canberra airport with my giant suitcase. Check in, then stop by the bookstore to buy the new Matthew Reilly book and a packet of Clinkers. Sit around the lounge reading until boarding. Have an uneventful flight and read all the way to Melbourne. Have the crap scared out of by my mother, who runs up behind me at the baggage carousel and sticks her hands over my eyes. Remind her that it's probably best not to do the same to Ness. Excitement when Ness arrives and we realise that we haven't, in fact, bought the same suitcase. Head upstairs to international check-in, and wait for Kat to arrive. Stand in line for an eternity because check-in hasn't actually opened yet. Finally get rid of our luggage and head in search of food (by this point, it was after 10.00, and what Pioneer Woman calls 'Low Blood Sugar Cranky Butt Disorder' was kicking in BIG TIME). Have something to eat and then head through emigration and security. Check out the prices at the duty free store to compare to the prices in KL. Sit around at the gate until the flight finally boards at 12.15. Realise I've left my eye mask and ear plugs in Canberra. Sulk. Snigger at the guy sitting a couple of rows in front of us who has waxed his eyebrows. Realise he's part of a sports team who insist on yelling across the plane at each other. Spend chunks of the flight trying to work out where they're from. Somehow manage to sleep most of the way to Jakarta.
Wednesday: (Okay, so half of the last bit was Wednesday too. Whatever) Read through the two hours from Jakarta to KL. Finally arrive in KL, and find the gate for our flight to Phuket. Realise that none of us have cleared out our camera memory cards, and spend the time sniggering over the ridiculous and random photos housed therein. Am pleased to discover a drinking fountain outside the bathroom, and fill water bottle. Get water bottle confiscated because KL have a secondary security check at the gate. Sulk. Become intrigued by the fact that the Thai immigration card asks you your gender on both the entry and exit portions, just in case it's changed. Board the plane to Phuket only to have my eyes burnt out by the electric colours of the seats. Suspect rubbish air conditioning on plane is serving as acclimatisation. Finally arrive in Phuket, and get through customs and immigration without any issues. Find an ATM, and rather like seeing that my account contains 35,000 baht. Follow the instructions on our airport transfer thing only to have the guy say "But this is for yesterday..." Realise that the travel agent has booked our flights for October 21 and 29, but our accommodation and transfers for October 20 and 28... The transfer guy takes us anyway. The hotel seems unconcerned about the dates, and changes our check out to the 29th without any questions. Spend the rest of the day feeling like a backpacker who'd wandered into a 4 star hotel and is waiting to be called a fraud and kicked out. Also spend the rest of the day by/in the pool. Go for a wander around in search of bottled water, and realise that the hotel charges triple the price for most things. Have dinner on the hotel rooftop. Resolve to go somewhere with cheaper, better, more authentic food in future. Collapse into bed.
Thursday: Eat our body weight in food at the buffet breakfast. Find a store selling hats, and am forced to buy an incredibly ugly one due to the fact that my head is massive and most of them don't fit. Head down to Patong Beach. Rent banana lounges for the three of us for the day - $5. Get harrassed by people wanting to sell us dresses, sarongs, wooden motorbikes, spring rolls, scented candles, coconut oil and aloe vera. Snigger at the Aussie guy who thought white rugby shorts were a suitable replacement for boardshorts. Become intrigued by the number of old white men walking on the beach with Thai girls. Subsequently realise all the girls are wearing the same shirt. Based on the logo, the girls work for a hand holding service... Realise that the Thai guys taking people up parasailing aren't wearing harnesses. Say "Holy shit!" numerous times. Decide that budgie smugglers should be outlawed, and that string bikinis should not be worn by anyone over the age of 25. Have Häagen-Dazs for lunch, which costs about $20. Get caught in the rain on the way back to the hotel and hide out in a bar. Wander around the market stalls a bit, and become slightly horrified when all the people put on outrageously ocker accents and say things like "Come and have a squiz, mate!! Cheaper than Best and Less..." Have dinner at Oasis, which is next door to the hotel. Good food, reasonable prices and free internet - how can you go wrong?? Hit the Family Mart between Oasis and the hotel, and buy more chocolate than is good for us. Also check out the random flavours of Pringles, which is something of a hobby of mine overseas - grilled shrimp, cheesy cheese, and seaweed here. Collapse into bed.
Friday: Eat slightly less than our body weight at breakfast, having felt sick for a large part of yesterday. Then spend most of the day by the pool. Have an early dinner at 'The Best Restaurant'. It lied. Their food is pretty craptacular. Head back to the hotel, get dressed up, and head to the Simon Cabaret. Marvel at the lady-boys and the ability of Thai plastic surgeons to make men into convincing women. Get the opening song stuck in my head for the next week and a half, along with Nobody, a song by a South Korean girl group called Wonder Girls. Other acts include ‘Beyonce’, ‘Tina Turner’, and ‘Gloria Gaynor’. Decide to rewatch Priscilla when back in Canberra. Wonder if they ever do the Pussycat Dolls...
Saturday: Have a lazy morning, and get picked up at lunchtime in an old Land Rover to go elephant trekking. Notice that the tachometer has gone right around, and the Land Rover has apparently done 495 kilometres in its life... Become slightly terrified when I realise that elephants are freaking enormous and that there are no fences between me and it. Come to the conclusion that I much prefer zoos. Go on elephant ride where Ness laughs at my inability to relax (it's very high and the elephant kept walking very close to trees - could you relax under those circumstances???), and we discover that it's very very hard to take in focus photos when on a moving elephant... Have photo taken next to elephant at the end of the ride, and later discover I look more than a little panicky. Go to baby elephant show, where young elephants have been trained to paint, play soccer, kiss their keepers hello, and play the harmonica. Find this much more enjoyable than elephant ride, despite mosquitoes the size of albatrosses. Then to a rubber tapping demonstration where we discover that Ness could make her fortune in rubber simply because she can reach an extra three feet of the tree. Next to a curry paste making demonstration, which end in a serve of chicken and pineapple curry. Make notes about curry paste ingredients and the need to buy a mortar and pestle when I get home. Then comes a demonstration of shelling coconuts and making coconut oil. Discover that coconut juice is mostly tasteless. Next up is a demonstration of how monkeys are trained to pick coconuts. Monkey appears to be all cute and innocent, but manage to get a photo showing its true and evil nature. Am rather amused by evil monkey photo. Finally, we ride in a cart pulled by a water buffalo. Am distracted when the buffalo starts moving and nearly fall off the seat. Then back in the Land Rover, and back to the hotel. Get changed and head out for a night on Bangla Road. Dodge numerous touts trying to persuade us to go to ping pong shows (*shudder*), and end up at the Butterfly Bar, which sells cocktails in glasses shaped like naked ladies. Bar also provides entertainment in the form of Jenga, Connect Four, and a game where you take turns hitting a nail into a piece of wood with a bizarrely shaped hammer. Eventually exhaust the list of bizarrely named cocktails, and head home to bed.
Sunday: Spend the morning in our room due to torrential rain. Once the rain eases up a little, head out in search of a tuk tuk to Phuket Town on the other side of the island. Despite being a 40 minute trip, it only costs us $15 – really wish taxis here were that cheap!! The rain has cleared by the time we arrive, but as a result it was stinking hot. Head in the direction of one of the attractions listed in the Lonely Planet guide – a Chinese temple. Turns out to be one of Lonely Planet’s less inspired choices... Then head up the main street of Phuket Town, to find that the street is packed with stalls for the Vegetarian Festival. Wander around there for a good long while before finding the bus back to Patong Beach. Hit the markets for a while, then spend the rest of the day in the pool.
Monday: Spend the day on a trip out to Phi Phi Island. First stop is Ma Ya Bay, where The Beach was filmed. While sailing there, it starts pouring with rain. Amusingly, you could tell the Australians because they’re the ones who strip down to their bathers rather than hiding under towels or pulling out plastic ponchos... From there, it’s snorkelling aplenty. Find Nemo, and see some angel fish, giant clams, parrot fish and sea cucumbers. Also have a brief stop on Phi Phi Don to feed peanuts and bits of banana to monkeys. These monkeys were equally evil – a couple of them tried to attack people. Lunch is a buffet at a resort, which includes mysterious gelatinous substances for dessert. The afternoon is spent on a slightly bizarre tiny island that basically consists of sand, deck chairs, a bar, and hundreds of tourists... Suspect the tour guides get a commission from the bar, because we’re stuck there for an hour and a half... My ugly hat, sadly, gets wet and then squished under someone’s bag, and is beyond rescuing. Damn...
Tuesday: Spend most of the morning shopping at the markets and at the shopping mall. Very tempted to buy a new pair of Cons, because they’re only $30, but it’s entirely too hot to contemplate trying on Cons. Downstairs at the mall, we discover a bunch of massage places. Ness and Kat decide that they need to try a thing where you stick your legs in a fish tank and little fish eat the dead skin off your feet. Apparently it tickles. A lot. And Ness ends up cranky, because the fish eat her tan... Also try mango with coconut rice at lunch, which is pretty freaking awesome. There’s another tropical downpour while we’re wandering back to the hotel through the markets, so we hide out in a bar hoping it will stop. Amusingly, the girls working at the bar are dancing to the song by the Wonder Girls that we heard at the Cabaret. So of course it winds up stuck in my head AGAIN... Eventually give up waiting for the rain to stop and get completely drenched walking back to the hotel. After we dry out, we head out to our Thai cooking class. It starts with teaching us to make green curry paste. Then we use the curry paste to make green chicken curry, which is really good, but a bit too spicy for my liking. Then it’s Tom Kha Gai – chicken in coconut milk soup, which is completely delicious, and cooks in about 5 minutes flat. Finally, everyone but me makes Tom Yum Goong – Thai hot and sour prawn soup. We also get a little cookbook with all the recipes that they teach at the school. And provided I can find fresh galangal in the nation’s backwater (aka Canberra), I’ll definitely be making a bunch of them!! After the cooking class, we head out for another night on Bangla Road. This time we wind up at a much seedier bar, and spend most of the night playing Connect Four or Jenga against the bar tender. The whole bar games thing seems like a great way to avoid bar fights – distract the drunks with Jenga blocks!
Wednesday: Phang Nga Bay. The day starts out with an hour and a half’s drive to Phang Nga province, on the mainland. First stop is another rubber tapping demonstration. Then it’s on to Suwankuha Temple. For most people, the appeal of this was feeding evil monkeys. For me? It’s the giant golden Buddha statue that’s inside a cave. From there, we board long tailed boats, and head out onto the Bay. After lunch at a restaurant on Koh Pan-yi, we visit James Bond Island, which apparently featured in Man with the Golden Gun... *shrugs* The highlight of that is that there are a whole bunch of Japanese couples wearing head to toe matching outfits. Including a couple wearing shirts that say ‘Soul’ and ‘Mate’ respectively. And their shorts match too... *shudders at the schmaltziness of it all* After James Bond Island, there’s a trip around the Tum Talu sea caves by inflatable canoe. Thankfully we don’t have to do the paddling – we have a slightly creepy and incredibly annoying canoeist who keeps referring to Ness as “Beautiful Wanessa the Cowboy” (because of her hat), and insists on taking photos for us way more frequently than is necessary. The evening consists of packing and doing some last minute shopping. Thrilling, no??
Thursday: Head to the airport, and fly to KL. Once again, the air conditioning is less than brilliant. At least it was only a short flight... In KL we have nine hours to kill, which we did wandering the duty free stores and then in a $42 lounge, which gives us food, drinks, showers, internet and much comfier chairs than we would have had in the gate lounge. Oh, Kat and I also have an interesting moment while Ness is off buying perfume. There’s suddenly a massive stream of people walking past, and they’re all in very orderly lines. Suddenly we realise they’re in orderly lines because they’re flexi-cuffed together. The women running the perfume place notice us looking at the flexi-cuffed people, and tell us that they’re being deported from Malaysia. So there’s something you don’t see every day!! Finally it’s time to board the flight to Melbourne. The leg to Jakarta is uneventful. But our hour long stopover in Jakarta turns into a three hour long stopover. At the end of the first hour, an announcement is made that they’re going to be repairing the starboard engine on the plane, so we’ll all have to disembark. But of course, we can’t enter Indonesia, so we’re stuck in an airport lounge for nearly two hours. Which means that if we want to go to the bathroom, we have to take our passport with us, surrender our boarding pass and get a five minute transit pass, then speed-walk through the airport to the bathrooms... And then to make up for the delay, the airline serves breakfast as soon as we take off. Except that all three of us are asleep by the time they do so. Which means that we don’t get any food from about an hour outside of KL until we get Dad to stop at the Macca’s outside Melbourne Airport... Awesome... And that’s about the extent of our shenanigans in Phuket. If you’ve made it to the end, I commend you. I’ve written post graduate essays shorter than this... ;)