Phuket, Thailand

11 05 2009

May 7th 2009 – May 11 2009

After our long and tiresome day of travel, we finally arrived in Phuket at about 10:30pm, just enough time to check into our hotel and have a bite at the restaurant downstairs. Our hotel is at Kamala Beach which is around 15-20 min from Phuket Town and from Patong -the touristy area I guess.

Since the last few days have been all about treks, tours and tasks, we decided that Phuket was going to be all about relaxing and maybe pampering ourselves a little bit. So Zai and I started out the day with a workout at the hotel gym and then we all went to ‘Mama Fatima’s’ restaurant for some lunch on the beach. It was great… this cute little hut right on the beautiful Kamala beach – and cutie little Mama Fatima was there all ready and excited to cook for us… again, it was just like being at home. Fatima told us that she’s been in Phuket and has owned this exact restaurant for over 25 years… she told us about how the Tsunami completely wiped out everything she had. Her son would have been 24 years old this year if he hadn’t been killed in the Tsunami. It’s unfortunate that stories like that aren’t really uncommon in this area… and when we look around, most of the people we see have likely lost someone or been affected by the Tsunami in someway or another…stories like this really humble you and make you appreciate what you have. Okay everyone- hug whoever you are sitting beside and tell them you love them… and if you’re alone, send a text!! 🙂

We didn’t really do a lot during our first day here… walked on the beach, dodged a few white spiders scurrying all over the place, checked out the Kamala town and that’s about it. Now the evening was a bit of a different story… We went to Patong Beach to check out the Phuket nightlife and just like everyone says… tourist central! Big flashy onings, insanely loud North American music, girls dancing on tables everywhere…lady boys all over the place. Phuket really is like the Cancun of Thailand, minus the lady boys. But I didn’t really mind it… I guess it’s like it was our vacation from our vacation.

Zaileen and I had split up from the boys for a few when we first got to Patong and when we finally met up with them again, they were at the bar having a ‘disagreement’ with the bar-tender. The issue was that the bar-tender swore Hussein gave her a 500Baht bill for his beer and he was certain it was 1000Baht, so the change back was obviously inaccurate. Zai and I get there half way through without really knowing what’s going on, and Zai being true to her man tells the bar-tender she is a Liar! Oooooh – not the best idea to be pickin’ fights when you’re in a foreign place!! The bar-tender was maaaaaaad! ‘Who are you calling a Liar? You weren’t even here!’ By now we had about 5 people behind the bar just totally starring us down. In the end… Hussein thought about it a little more and realized the bar-tender was right and he was mistaken. He apologized gracefully and we eventually left after playing a couple of rounds of connect four (there were connect four stations set up all over the bar… cool but weird at the same time) and getting a million death looks from the staff!!

The next day… I wasn’t feeling well at all. I had a bit of a headache and I think I may have got some food poisoning the day before because my stomach was hurting quite a bit. No matter though… can’t let that stop you when you are in Thailand!! We decided that this day we were going to go and check the Internet and just hang by the pool at our hotel for the day. Well I didn’t last at the Internet for more than 5 minutes because my I just felt like junk. So… we started to walk home – and as we did, I somehow managed to kick my big toe nicely into the concrete because the sidewalk is so uneven… it was an extremely painful experience and although I had a nice bruise to show for it… again, it was fine – I had the pool to look forward to! As we continued walking home I hear this super loud and slightly high pitched yell…it was Farhan… poor guy thought a spider was crawling up his leg when it was really just an acorn he stumbled upon.

After a day of relaxing by the pool (when we finally got back to the hotel), we all got ready and began our walk to ‘Phuket Fantasea’ which is basically a huge amusement park of games and kiosks…a few elephants walking about – and a Cirque Du Soleil type of performance is played in the theatre as well. I was feeling much better by now… tons of energy, nicely relaxed and rejuvenated. As we are walking… somehow the uneven ground manages to find the exact toe I stubbed this morning, and before I know it I am screaming as I’m looking down at my fully cracked and bleeding toe! As blood is being lost, panic is in the air and the locals are even trying to help… we manage to get some band-aids and wrap this bad boy up! I’m not gonna lie… fainting was definitely at the top of my list of things to do after I ended up vomiting in the near by bathroom from the sight of my own toe. In the end… we did make it to the show, though I think I have now officially become the gimp of the group.

The Phuket Fantasea show itself was great… we really got to see a glimpse of the Thai culture through the show… and the way they used the animals – amazing! I’m talking elephants, chickens, sheep, birds… all somehow trained to play a role and they did it really well! Who knows, maybe ‘Phuket Fantasea’ will be the next Vegas show!

The next day was our last day in Phuket and the plan was to go on a tour to Koh Pi Pi. After everything that happened last night with my toe and feeling so crappy, I had to pass on the tour, but everyone else went and said it was great. Koh Pi Pi has the whitest sands and the clearest and most blue water to date!! Farhan and Hussein even went snorkeling…. they had a blast and definitely recommend a visit to Koh Pi Pi if you’re ever going to one of these islands.

This is pretty much all there is to say about Phuket…. hopefully I’ll have better luck in Singapore!


Chiang Mai, Thailand

7 05 2009

Just Like Home…
May 5 – 7th 2009.

We get to Chiang Mai and of course, Farhan and our new cabbie… Mr Surisit become best friends. Zai, Haji and I are sitting in the back and all of a sudden we hear ‘I am Farhan de Canada. Where you go laundry? Clothes washing?’ I’m not gonna lie… I am slightly concerned about my boyfriend’s language abilities when we get back to Canada, but I do love him for being so friendly with everyone all of the time.

Chiang Mai is very different from Bangkok. It’s actually quite the opposite. Chiang Mai is like a little town or a village with small shacks for homes… and then hour tall hotel smack in the middle of it – an odd set up, but it works. So far this city has been one of our favorites. It’s a really quaint little city and you can walk everywhere!! The air is clean and the people , as usual, nice as ever! Eating our here is the best because it really is like your getting a home cooked meal everytime. The first place we went to eat was at this cute little place next to our hotel. It wasn’t the place or even the food necessarily that made this restaurant so delightful. It was the sweet little old Thai Lady who was cooking our food. Farhan and Haji called her ‘Maaji’ which means grandma in our language.

Finally we got our long awaited Thai massage here in Chiang Mai!!! All I have to say is ‘wow’! These Thai ladies do not mess around! There is no appropriate ‘massage etiquitte’ when it comes to getting a Thai Massage! They will climb right on top of your to get the job done….but man oh man do you feel like a million bucks when it’s all over!

We spent our evenings in Chiang Mai at the night bazaar which is very very different from the Bangkok Market. Chiang Mai’s Market was clean, orderly, structured and full of great shopping!!! This city is a must if your are planning a trip to Thailand anytime soon and plan to shop. I think my favorite was when Zaileen was bargaining for a piece of jewelery and the guy must have started at 1200Baht. Then Ms Zaileen “balls to the wall” Haji says… ‘oh no no no… 150 Baht. I was like “Are you kidding me? You just basically asked this guy to give you this for free!’ They finally did settle on a number… 500baht I think it was, and then Mr Haji steps in and was not having that… ‘no no, best price or no buy’ he says.200  baht later Zaileen gets her wish! Farhan and I have a lot to learn!!

Our second day in Chiang Mai was all about the tour… and what a great tour it was!!! We started out with some elephant riding!! Yes it’s true… I actually sat on an animal – don’t get me wrong, I was definitely a baby about it, but I still did it! Farhan and I were on one elephant together and Zai and Haji were closely behind us. These things are hungry ass mofo’s let me tell you. Along the path of the elephant walk, there were stations where you can buy banana’s and sugar cane for the elephant. We bought four bags full of food for this hefty dude we were riding in the span of less than one hour! I had to be ballzy and attempt to feed it because Farhan was busy trying to take pictures…so as we are walking, all of a sudden there is a big wet snout in my face, waiting for me to stick a banana up his nose… not gonna lie – I was super grossed out by it. Still though… we got to ride an elephant!! How awesome is that… not something you can do in Calgary on a random weekend that’s for sure.

After elephant riding we went to visit one of the tribes in Thailand called the ‘KarenTribe’ – these people are originally from Myanmar and were forced to leave their home when the Burmese took over. We learned all about their heritage and where they came from…and as expected, like everywhere you go in Thailand, they were also selling things! There was one cute little old man who was selling all sorts of nick-naks, and when he smiled, his teeth were all black from the beetlenut he’d been smoking for so many years. In their culture… it was actually encouraged to have black teeth because it was seen as ‘make up’ or ‘lipstick’ on your teeth and considered to be fashionable. Now a days though, with the latest generation of their people they are taught to have clean, and white teeth in order to be accepted in mainstream society.

From the Karen Tribe we did a trek and it really was the true definition of a trek too! We hiked up hills, crossed over rivers by walking on thin little tree barks, went over shaky bridges… a couple of times I thought I was going to fall in! It was really insane. This trek lead us to the next tribe which is the Moong Tribe. To be honest, I don’t really remember a lot of what we learned here, because we weren’t here for very long. But according to Farhan… the movie ‘Grand Turino’ is completely set around this tribe – so that’s a pretty cool fact in itself.

Next was Bamboo rafting! Experience of a life time for sure. Seeing as I have a major water phobia – this was huge in my books. Basically… you have a bamboo raft that consists of about five long pieces of bamboo – all attached by shreds of car tires. You have your rafting guide at the front who is actually standing on the raft the whole time, directing the raft with a stick… and then come the passengers. Me, Zai and Haji were sitting behind each other in a row and then Farhan had to stand at the back… steering on his end. This is really something people should get some sort of training for… but – I gotta say, he did pretty well! The waters were generally calm, except for the odd bouts of intense currents… or huge trees in the way where the guide and Farhan would have to duck – and that was usually when you would hear Farhan yelling.. ‘oh shit oh shit. Okay, it’s over. I’m done… right now, I’m done right here. This is it, I’m going in.’ – He had to do some serious dodging and ducking all over the place… but kudos to him, he didn’t fall in once and actually made it the whole way! We all looked so serious while we were sitting there on this thin raft… slowly getting drenched with ants and other weird insects crawling all over us, that when we would float by the locals, they’d start to splash us like crazy to make us laugh. I was annoyed that I was now completely soaked from top to bottom… but I will admit that it did make me laugh a little :). Three quarters of the way through the ride, Farhan and Haji switched and he had to stand… which he did quite gracefully actually. Ahhh the joys of being a girl… never had to worry about being called on to do the tough stuff! All in all… fantastic tour – you have to do this if you ever go to Chiang Mai!!

So we’re finally done Chiang Mai… get to the airport on May 7th at about 1030am for our 11:45am flight and the baggage attendant says in a very casual tone ‘ your flight cancelled… sorry.’ Of course, being the paranoid Canadians that we are (minus Haji who is always calm and happy) we started freaking out. To make a very long story short… they cancelled our flight because there weren’t enough people on it, bumped us up to the next flight, but also changed our connecting flight to Phuket to a later time too… so all is good – just have a few hours to kill at the Chiang Mai airport now… then switch to the Bangkok Airport for a while and then at 8pm… finally board our flight! Though this stop over was not so ‘breezy’ for all of us. We figured while we were waiting from 4pm to 730pm, we would have enough time to drop off our extra shopping we had done in Chiang Mai, at our hotel ( we stored some stuff at the hotel the first time, and will be coming back to Bangkok at the end of the month). So Zaileen and I stayed at the airport while the boys went to the hotel. We called our good friend ‘Mr Boongerd’ to pick us up… he sent his friend ‘Sam’ who got to the airport promptly at 430pm. It turns out that this wasn’t really an easy task… they ended up hitting major traffic and this happened to be the day that South East Asia was having a major conference on Swine Flu… in Bangkok!!! The boys barely had enough time to get to the hotel… throw our extra baggage to the doorman, in hopes that he knows what to do with it… and barely make it back. Poor Sam was driving like a mad man to get them back to the airport in time. Luckily they made it with a couple minutes to spare.!!! 🙂

Phuket here we come!!!!