Transportation Fail Part 1
We nearly didn’t make it to Thailand. I had forgotten to check us in online and had horribly underestimated how long it would take us to get to the airport during Friday evening rush hour. I explained our plight to our sympathetic cab driver, who rushed us as quickly as he could to the airport. With 5 minutes left until the check-in window closed, I sprinted to the check-in kiosks with both of our passports in hand as Tabi paid the driver. Fortunately, we were able to get our boarding passes and clear security in plenty of time for boarding.
Transportation Fail Part 2
If only that had been the only hiccup that night. Taxi cabs from the Phuket airport to Karon Beach are extortionately expensive. Upon landing, we saw a shuttle bus that could take us there for 40% of the price, and when I asked when the bus was leaving, the guy at the ticket counter said “right now”. After quickly shuffling to exit the airport, the rest of the night went something like this:
- Wait 20 minutes to board bus, as guy taking ticket seems to be ushering everyone except us (including people who arrived at the departure area well after us) on to the busses
- Finally board bus, wait another 10 minutes for no real reason
- Drive 10 minutes, pull into parking lot where someone asks us to come inside to provide the company with the name and address of the hotel where we need to be dropped off
- Quickly give them our hotel information, wait 20 minutes while a couple on our bus peruses the tour options the shuttle company is selling, oblivious to the fact that they are holding up 8 other really tired and impatient passengers
- Everyone starts grumbling and regretting trying to save money on this stupid shuttle bus
- Couple returns, we all wait another 10 minutes
- Chinese family in front of us realizes they were supposed to get off and give the company their hotel information
- Wait another 20 minutes for them to complete this task
- Arrive at hotel 1 hour later, half dead and 1.5 hours behind schedule
This was a terrible way for Thailand to introduce itself. Fortunately, the rest of the trip was much better, and we learned our lesson and forked over the money for a cab on the return flight.
Thailand’s Redemption in Photos
The next morning, refreshed from a good night’s rest and with the traumatic airport transfer behind us, we set out to explore Karon Beach, situated on the west coast of Phuket, Thailand. Since we had a boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands planned for the next day, we actually only spent 1.5 hours at the beach, opting instead to get massages and explore Phuket island itself.
Our first stop was the Chalong temple, one of the 29 buddhist temples on Phuket island.
Next, we headed over to the Big Buddha, a 150-foot Buddha statue that sits atop the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata. The statue is constructed with concrete covered with mosaic squares of white jade marble that shines in the sun, giving the Buddha a very ethereal feel.
The site has 360-degree views of Phuket island, with vistas of lush hills and beaches in every direction.
Construction for this site began in 2004 and is funded entirely through donations. The Buddha itself is complete, but the base and interior halls are still under construction. Inside, you can see workers actively tiling the interior columns.
As we walked through the temple below the Big Buddha, we noticed monks reciting prayers and providing blessings to guests. It struck me that to the monks, it must be so odd to have throngs of tourists coming in and out of their religious site at all hours of the day when they are trying to pray.
We then wrapped up our island tour by stopping at Promthep Cape, which might be the island’s most photographed location. Every evening, visitors flock to the island’s southernmost hill in order to watch the sunset.
We fought the crowds and managed to find a spot to sit and enjoy the sunset.
As night descended on us, we wandered around the town of Karon Beach in search of the night market and food. We struck out on both accounts, as the restaurant we had picked for dinner was randomly closed on the one day we were there, and the temple market I had read so much about was no longer open on Saturdays.
Fortunately, we did manage to try some street food when we stumbled upon this cart selling grilled meat of every variety. I thought it looked delicious. Tabi thought it looked suspicious.
I skipped gleefully up the cart and ordered “One chicken liver please!” Tabi, who only 30-seconds ago, was encouraging me to eat bugs in Cambodia, was skeptical of chicken liver and settled on some grilled chicken. Both were good and no one got sick, so I’d call it a major win.
I noticed they were grilling up whole fish, though I didn’t try any. I found myself wondering how someone manages to eat fish as street food. Do you hold it and eat it like you would a hot pocket? If anyone knows the answer, please leave a comment so I can put this question to bed already.
Across from the barbecue cart, Tabi noticed a cart making fresh ice-cream rolls. The rolls are made by pouring liquid ice cream and any mix-in toppings (green tea flavoring in our case) over an ice-cold metal plate. Then, metal paddles are used to mix and chop up the base before spreading it into a thin layer.
Finally, they use the paddles to roll the ice cream into round spirals for serving. The whole process takes about 2 minutes, and it’s just as fun to watch them make the ice cream as it is to eat it.