Saturday, 24 August 2013

Hop, skip and a jump; you've landed in Phuket.


Arriving into Phuket our thoughts were initially, will we find some surf at Kata Beach and of course, when should we go and visit Patong?

Heading in the direction of Phuket from Koh Lanta we decided to make a quick detour and spent the day in Koh Phi Phi. It was a nice change to be arriving somewhere by ferry. Staring straight towards Ton Sai Bay from the distance the island did hold an aurora of beauty and calmness. 

Walking along the pier towards the rustic shop fronts and crowd of tourists I had to have a laugh to myself. Even in the low season everyone is coming to Phi Phi in search of their own utopia. Struggling to distance ourselves from the hordes of cameras clicking we dumped our packs in their temporary home and headed in an eastern direction.

We did feel like a ‘ship in and than ship out’ tourist as we only had 4 hours before the next and final ferry of the day departed for Phuket. Because of this one-minute we were drinking back a coffee and chatting to a woman in the cafe about the power shortage that day next minute we were sitting up tall and proud on our own longboat heading out of the madness of the main island.

Koh Phi Le starts to build up the image of the film The Beach, before you’ve even swam towards the rocks, climbed the swing ropes, stumbled up the stairs, paid your 200 baht (for the National Park) and than wandered through the stench of human waste (coming from the ‘toilets’) finally arriving at Maya Bay, that epic scene where Leo reaches breaking point in paradise, only to smell reality that your surrounded by fuel stinking speed boats lining the beach and people everywhere. It’s a shame to see that your 200 baht isn’t used well here. Perhaps instead of charging people to come here as a  part of the National Park fee they should instead fine those who keep leaving their plastic water bottles behind. I don’t remember seeing Leo's character picking up plastic water bottles when I last watched, The Beach. 

We had a couple of hours left to enjoy our 'longboat royalty' but chose to spend it wisely overboard snorkeling and rescuing a trapped anchor in a bed of coral. 

No longer open to the public we did have a brief stop at the famous 'Viking Cave.' A few locals looked like they are still camping out there and keeping to tradition to collect the birds nests eggs for turning into a popular soup for the Chinese. 

Our time in Phi Phi was very short lived but I did feel that the 4 hours spent there gave a taste of an island that isn't quite my cup of tea after enjoying pure escapism in Koh Lanta. Later that day we spoke to a young English guy on our mini ride van towards Kata Beach in Phuket. He joked that although he's still a serial Full Moon Party goer, every time he stops in Phi Phi he feels like the arrival of new people to the island is like a scene from the film, The Island. Everyone is heading there for something that they believe may be paradise but maybe not completely realising that everyone else has this same intention. 

The West Coast of Phuket doesn’t feel like it’s a real part of Thailand, which holds truth to some degree as it is only connected to the mainland by the Thao Thepkasattri Bridge. To appease the masses of tourists it feels like it’s lost the Thai identity and you can quickly loose face that your actually in a foreign country.  Although we did manage to explore most of this part of Phuket on our scooter named Bob, our time here was mainly spent in Kata, Kamala and Surin Beach so I could be speaking with a small minded attitude. 

Finding Western comforts in this part of Thailand was all too easy and depending on what you were after something could be said for a night in Patong. 

Speaking with many locals about Patong the reaction we received was a face screwed up in disgust and few words of praise. We all hear how much of an institute this area is in Phuket, driving into the dust, dirt and smell of anticipation that runs through Bangla Road I was ready to be just another tourist who witnesses what goes on here every night. 

A carnival of fake taunt flesh, flashing lights, lady boys dancing on podiums and way too many dog eared, laminated ping pong menu signs getting thrown in your face - everything and anything is possible and available but everyone demands a price. The word 'free' is used very loosely and 'happiness' has a very ambiguous definition here. 

Those stereotypes of who are the regulars are all what you'd expect. Waiting at the bar. Perched on a stool. Often alone. Nursing a drink. Ready for someone to approach for a chat (unless it's happened already and there's a crowd of 'new friends'). They definitely stand out from us tourists. We are the ones that are like spectators at a tennis match heads turning from left to right and back again trying to take everything in at once. 

On the surface walking down Bangla Road it felt like a spectacle of curiosity and lust for some. Something that everyone comes here for a innocent laugh. 

But nearing the end of the street you see the women couched in a squat or sitting on makeshift stool selling fresh flowers. Single stems, elaborate made to order bouquets, there are roses of every colour and red ribbons to match. 

Some of those come to Patong for a one night wonder others are here to find their own happiness. 

I was just there to get a few pictures. 

Toodle pip x

Koh Phi Phi. 

Viking Cave.
Elephant shrine at the Lighthouse, Phuket.

Casual road traffic.

View towards Kata beach.

Patong traffic.

The dancing never ends in Patong.

A day care centre that comes with full time dedicated staff.

I couldn't find the drinks menu?

Entrance to what some refer to a 'great night out' in Phuket.

She didn't ask him to dance.

Flowers always win a heart?
Afternoon skies on Surin Beach.