Sunday, April 2, 2017

Phuket Adventure, Part I


Ima try something crazy: I'm going to blog as I go. I'm on spring break (Spring Break!!) in Phuket, Thailand (Thailand!) with a friend from school, Michelle. I never travel with my laptop, but because I need to get some school work done over break (ugh), I decided to bring it along. So, I can actually type up some blog posts about our adventures.

So far, there haven't been many adventures, which doesn't make for good copy, but makes for a less-stressful adventure.

We decided on this trip about a month and half ago, when Michelle and I were working one afternoon at Starbucks. Michelle has always loved elephants, and she had heard about volunteering at an ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand from other friends at school, and asked me if I'd be interested in going. An ethical elephant sanctuary, for those of you who don't know, takes care of elephants rescued from the entertainment business. Apparently, in order for elephants to be ridden and do tricks they go through an extremely cruel process of training and gentling them. There are at least two sanctuaries in Thailand (the same organization) working to rescue elephants from this industry. More on this later.

We learned that the sanctuary in Chang Mai was full for our dates, so we decided to check out the one in Phuket. It's not as well-known as the one in Chang Mai, and only about a year old. We did some pretty deep google searches to make sure it was 1) ethical and 2) real. After assuring ourselves it was the same organization, we took the plunge and booked our stay!

Except that their paypal wasn't working correctly, and so we had to wait a week.

And then it worked.

See, not too exciting - bad copy.

After a grueling March - grueling! - we finally made it to spring break. Back in February, when everything was still sunshine and roses and rainbows and unicorns (not quite, but better than March), we decided to leave Friday night, to arrive in Phuket around 8:00 Saturday morning, to stay at a nice hotel Saturday night before our volunteering started Sunday evening. In retrospect, we probably should have given ourselves a day to rest before taking a red-eye flight, but it's hard when you're caught in the moment of Elephants! Thailand! Break!

Friday came, and neither Michelle and I were trilled about travelling or our vacation in general. I had (have) a terrible head cold, and I should have called in sick at least one day that week, but I just wanted to power through. We both had long, long weeks, and we stood chatting Friday afternoon, after school, complaining about leaving that night.

It's all about perspective, friends - you're probably sitting here shaking your head about the fact that we were not excited about Thailand and the Beach and Elephants! But we were tired.

Like, really, really, really tired.

Nevertheless, we found a small modicum of energy, packed that afternoon (of course) and we were headed to the airport by 7:30 with some other friends headed to Thailand - but to Bangkok, not Phuket. At the airport, we ran into a friend, Eda, on our same flight to Singapore (where we had a connection). And then we ran into more school friends headed to Phuket, as well, but on a different flight and a different adventure.

On our way through customs, Michelle was stopped and asked if she had a camera battery in her checked luggage - she did - it had been scanned, and they had flagged her passport. She wasn't really sure what was going on, but a man who spoke English explained what was happening, and that they would probably remove it from her luggage. She was very disappointed as we stood in the customs line. As she stood there, a man kept looking at her, and thinking it was the man who she had talked to, she kept smiling at him - only to realize that it wasn't man she had talked to in the first place - it was someone else entirely. He seemed quite interested in her advances, even talking to her at one point, but she gave him her best teacher face and he moved on. I was ready to pull out my best staving-off-Senegalese-taxi-drivers-marriage-proposal defenses, but it wasn't needed.

Our flight to Singapore was fine - cramped, but fine. I don't think either of us slept very much. It's hard to sleep when your sinuses are completely stopped up. We landed in Singapore mind-boggingly tired. We had to go through immigration and check into our next flight because, as the woman at the counter told me "because you buy very cheap tickets." Yeah, that's on me. I'm all about the frugality.

Before checking into our next flight, Eda, who has lived in Singapore before, and had a longer lay-over, treated us to toast.

Yes, toast. I know.

Actually, it was very good toast, and apparently a delicacy in Singapore. I did not take any pictures, in part because it was 4:30 in the morning, and it was toast.

After checking in, and finding our gate, Michelle slept on the floor -- which was carpeted, by the way (the Singapore airport is quite nice), while I tried to pretend I wasn't that tired.

Our flight wasn't full, and so I got a window seat thanks to the family sitting next too me who wanted to be all together. I was able to sleep on that flight, other than the child sitting next to me who woke me up by repeating his brother's name over and over again (LUCAS! LUCAS! LUCAS! LUCAS!), finally ending with "AM I TALKING LOUDLY?"

It's okay, because he had a cute little Aussy accent.

Flying into Thailand - lots of islands!

After landing in Phuket, we got a taxi really easily (too easily, my suspicious mind thought!). It was about an hour's drive to our hotel, which is at the southern point of the Island.

Phuket is beautiful - it really is a tropical paradise. We're stayed in Kata Beach, which seems like it's not the smutty part of Phuket. Our hotel was up on a hill, with beautiful views of the ocean. There are frangipani and plumeria trees surrounding everything, and the sound of trickling water surrounds us from the waterfalls by the pool, and the frequent rain storms. As we arrived, it was pouring rain, but it was a lovely tropical rain and not a pollution-filled cold Chinese rain. Oh, and the air is so clean and fresh - it's so refreshing to take deep breaths and not worry about all the little PM2.5 toxins you're breathing deep into your lungs.

View from our balcony. 

After a nap, I headed to the pool, and enjoyed floating for a while (yes, Mom, I used sunscreen). There's something so lovely about floating freely with nothing scheduled, the warmth of the sun adding a little bit of color to my pasty white winter-skin.

Bliss: clean air, ocean, breezes, book, and a coffee.
For supper, we walked down the very steep hill to the town, where we found a touristy restaurant (because that's all the restaurants in Kata Beach, and probably all of Phuket). We chose the restaurant based on the amusing coaxer (I don't know what you call those people) who danced and made silly poses at us to convince us to eat at his restaurant. We were also enticed by the 100 baht happy hour cocktails (about $3). We laughed at him during our entire meal (which was unashamedly enormous because we hadn't eaten since 4:30 AM toast), as he posed and coaxed almost every single group that passed to come and eat.

This morning, we awoke suddenly to the sound of water falling in our hotel room. I leapt up - actually, I didn't leap, I really just stumbled up in my half-asleep stupor - to see what was happening. Water was pouring from a light fixture above the suitcase wrack near the door...fortunately we hadn't been organized to put our suitcases there. The water was rushing down, and I emptied the bathroom trashbin into another bin, and put it under the leak. Fortunately, it eventually became a trickle, and then stopped. Fortunately, nothing of ours got wet. Fortunately, it wasn't too early in the morning - 7:00 AM.

I am actually strangely glad we were awoken so early, because I headed down to the beach to walk and pray and read my Bible. The beach was calm and lovely in the morning. I don't know why I don't live near the beach. I honestly can't think of any other place in the world that makes me feel so completely content.

Today (Sunday) we head to the Elephant Sanctuary. I'm typing this in the lobby of our hotel as we kill some time before trying to find a camera store to replace Michelle's battery. An afternoon rain is falling around us as we sit in the open-air lobby of our hotel. Despite the leak, I would probably come back here - the ambiance is wonderful.

I don't know what to expect of our accommodations for the rest of our break. Michelle thinks it's going to be cold bucket baths. I'm hoping for a little bit more than that, but I keep reminding myself that I'm from Africa and I can rough it anywhere.


As long as it's clean.

And the toilets aren't squatty.

(So much for the being from Africa part.)

Next blog post - Elephants!

Phuket Adventure, Part II
Phuket Adventure, Part III
Phuket Adventure, Part IV

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