Our first stop in Thailand was Phuket. We knew very little about Thailand, but we'd heard good things about Phuket and there was a Hyatt with an amazing points and cash rate, so we booked it for 4 nights. (Between free breakfast, daily cocktail hours with dinner food, and the gym, this may have been the highest value hotel of the trip thus far.)
|Long-tails off Kamala beach|
Arrival at the airport was a bit chaotic -- a thunderstorm had broken out after we landed and it was POURING rain. We decided against changing all of our leftover money from other countries and didn't go to the ATM under the assumption that we could book a taxi with a credit card. Nope.
|Some wedded couples posed *in* the sea!|
No worries, though, English is fine and US dollars are accepted (at a highly favorable to them conversion, but still, once you are out of the secure area in the airport, you are a bit of a captive audience).
|American Muscle Car Engine + long tail prop = amazing Thai Engineered Long Tail Boat.|
Speaking of English -- again, in Thailand, I was reminded every day what a privilege it is to be born into a country that speaks the world's second language. There are actually quite a few French-speaking tourists, and one day at lunch on Kamala beach, a Thai woman laughed and joked with me that those French tourists had the gall to ask if she had a French menu. "English, good, but Fren? No. I no speak every language."
|Not a bad view... and 2 Km walk to the beach was fine, too.|
Our time in Kamala was gloriously decadent. Lots of sleeping, lounging on the balcony, daily walks to the beach to eat a lunch at one of the many bamboo-furnished sand-bottomed outdoor restaurants, and one day of sight-seeing to visit the Big Buddha and Wat Chalong. On the sight-seeing day we drove through Patong and agreed that we could completely skip it -- too much of a party town for our tastes. Instead, we hit the gym a few times, enjoyed the laid back town of Kamala, and, of course struggled to get our laundry done.
|Wat Chalong - first of many Wats this trip - E is super wat-overloaded at this point.|
We found a laundrymat and mangled our way through the explanations of how to put the coins in the machine, buy detergent, etc. When we returned after lunch, it was explained that the dryers had a queue and our clothes couldn't be dried for at least 5 hours. So we took our wet clothes back to the Hyatt, laid them out in the aircon, and packed up damp clothes before we took the ferry to Ko Samui (where our guesthouse owner gamely laid all of our laundry on drying racks in front of fans).
|E either cuts me off or cuts off the top of the site... I need to work on selfies farther from the site...|
In Ko Samui, we paid way too much for a taxi to our guesthouse, she was incensed, saying we should have called and she would have picked us up for free. Except, of course, we had called and she hadn't answered... Our host talked us into renting a very high-powered scooter and touring the island. This was nothing short of terrifying. I hadn't ridden a scooter since I was 20. E hadn't ever. After evaluating each of our skills, I refused to ride as his passenger and he agreed to be mine (which was apparently extremely scary).
|No, seriously. You just buy bottles of gas (refilled whisky bottles) to fill the scooter (give the funnel and bottle back...)|
The driving on the left side, SouthEast Asian driving in general, variety of trucks, tricycles, motos, scooters, pedestrians, etc. and being on the *main* road of Koh Samui was just inside of my risk assessment saying we should just go back and call it a day. But, somehow, we finally made it to Lamai beach and had a delicious lunch next to the crashing surf (E ordered grilled squid and they brought him the *just* caught squid to get him to OK it before they cooked it -- bigger than we expected, and we had to pay per 100g, but E was happy).
|Enough Gas, comfortable on the roads, helmets...we were like rock stars at this point.|
When we got back on the bike, my brain seemed to have dredged up a bunch of old instincts because I was so much more physically confident and comfortable -- I sat differently (more relaxed, shoulders back, less weight on the handles), moved differently as I drove, and realized I should be using the left hand mirror more (driving on the left and all). We took the scenic route back, stopped at 5 islands beach for some photos, and it was a very wonderful way to spend the afternoon. Upon arrival back at our guesthouse, I handed E the keys and begged him to be careful while he went out for his own solo jaunt. I was *very* happy when he returned in one piece. That night we went out for a taste of the chaos of Samui for a night in Chaweng beach (chauffeured by our guesthouse proprietress, otherwise, we probably would have skipped the nightlife and gone to bed onsite).
From Koh Samui, we took the ferry to Koh Tao. We spent 5 days diving
and it was arguably some of the most enjoyable time we've spent this year. By the end of the PADI Open Water and Advanced certifications I was a complete convert. I can't wait to dive more and plan trips around getting in the water and enjoying the silence, the fish, the floating, and just the grin-inducing awesomeness. Also, bonus, all the divers we met were super cool people. We made friends with 2 new couples that we are very likely to travel or dive with in the future.
|Koh Tao... we love you...|
Good job scootering! We also rented a scooter to get around Green Island (Taiwan). Luckily, Tim knew how to ride and they drive on the right side of the road there.
@Jen -- we both would have loved Tim to drive us around in Koh Samui! Something about the wrong side of the road coupled with scooter/motorcycle chaos was difficult (but not insurmountable) for both of us. I'm actually really glad we did it. Both of us had a great time. In fairness, my brother was a competitive dirt-bike rider and my 70+ year old mom was a roadie until 5-10 years ago, so it's certainly in my blood -- in fact, I'm not gonna lie, when I thought about backing out, I felt like I had my dad on my side, laughing at my ridiculous fear. But it was touch and go at the beginning, for sure.
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