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Posts tagged phuket

Super Cheap Phuket

After Phuket’s Big Buddha, our next stop on the way to the airport was a store called SuperCheap. It was a huge mistake to go here in the middle of the day as there is no air conditioning. The place felt like it was over 90 degrees and humid, not exactly a pleasurable shopping experience.

The inside was sort of like a Costco in the states…

…only it was much bigger…

…and the selection was different…

…and included a carcass of something which you could order a piece of if you like.

We didn’t actually buy a thing. Instead, we looked and looked. When we could stand the heat no longer we went to a nearby restaurant for smoothies and shakes to wait for our cab driver to come back.

Given the hustling and outright scams in Thailand, we couldn’t fully enjoy this day with our cab driver. Not only did he try to drive us to a bunch of places we didn’t want to go (so that he could get a commission if we purchased anything at these places), but he had all our luggage in the trunk of his car. Until we made it to the airport my heart couldn’t rest easy.

We did eventually make it to the airport, with luggage too, so we did finally relax. The sunset out the plane’s window was fantastic.

We pulled into Tokyo the next morning to a glorious sunrise. Even though we had some great times in Thailand, and Tokyo is far too cold at the end of December compared to Thailand, I was happy to be “home” in Tokyo. I like living somewhere with a decent infrastructure, where you aren’t asked every two seconds to buy something, and where you don’t have to worry about your safety and security as you walk the streets. The streets of Shinjuku, when we returned on December 29, were very peaceful compared to what we experienced the prior nine days. Actually, they were peaceful compared to most places in the world as most businesses were closed (for the New Year holiday which lasts about a week to 10 days beginning the 29th), many people had left town, and those Tokyoites that were still around stayed warm by staying inside.

Big Buddha of Phuket – Part 2

The Big Buddha of Phuket is big, giant even. If you have seen the Daibutsu of Kamakura, imagine one more than three times as large on a hilltop. Personally, the Kamakura Daibutsu is more awe inspiring to me, but it had 750+ years to get that way. The scaffolding doesn’t help Phuket’s Big Buddha win this comparison at the moment either.

It’s a bit of a pilgramage to get to the Buddha’s base. The road leading to the parking lot includes at least a dozen speed bumps (and we scraped across each one in our driver’s Toyota loaded down with five people and luggage). Then there are the stairs up in the heat and humidity.

The views from the top, of the Buddha and of the surrounding area, are well worth the effort.

Big Buddha of Phuket

Our flight back to Japan, from Phuket through Bangkok, was a “red eye” so we didn’t need to arrive at the airport until late afternoon. We hired a taxi to take us to a few places before dropping us off at the airport. The first place we went was to the south, to the top of Mount Nagakerd, where Phuket’s Big Buddha is being constructed.

The bronze Buddha on the left is dedicated to the queen of Thailand. The Big Buddha is, you guessed it, dedicated to the king.

This is what the grounds are supposed to look like when everything is finished. Like most things we encountered in Thailand, I’m guessing this place will be partially finished for years to come.

Ellie, once again, couldn’t enter without covering up.

Patong Pics

The Sea Hag was our favorite restaurant on Phuket. We went two nights in a row. After the first night I took the above photo of Ellie enjoying the warm evening.

I made friends with this guy. He set up our chairs on the beach. Later on he noticed I was reading a book in Japanese so after we chatted for a while I ended up teaching him some phrases in Japanese that he could use on Japanese tourists. He practiced them every time he approached me the rest of the day, but I don’t think they were sticking too well.

Racha Yai Island

The weather forecast on Christmas Eve was for decent weather on Christmas day and then not so good weather for our last two full days in Phuket. As it turned out, the weather was pretty much the same everyday, but at the time we figured we should do our snorkeling adventure on Christmas to avoid possible bad weather.

We debated between going to the Similan Islands or the Phi Phi Islands. The Similan Islands were supposed to be less crowded and have better snorkeling opportunities, but the cost was almost twice (1,500 – 2,500 baht per person) that of Phi Phi (900 – 1,300 baht per person) and it takes forever to get there and back from Patong. We didn’t really like the idea of being given only 20-30 minutes to snorkel on the Phi Phi tours or bumping into people while snorkeling which is how crowded the Phi Phi tours are.

So when we were told about a new company, that just began doing snorkeling and diving tours off the Racha Islands, we were intrigued. The cost was about the same as going to the Similan Islands, but we could get there quickly and not have crowds. We booked the “Island Discovery Daytrip to Ko Racha Yai C” with Raya Oceanic Diver and hoped for the best.

I think Ryan and Ellie’s favorite part was getting there. I didn’t get sick, but I was ready for the 30 minute boat ride to be over after about 25 minutes. We went really fast on the speed boat, and the water on the way there was pretty choppy. The way back was much smoother. From Chalong Pier to Racha Yai felt like a very long rollercoaster ride to me–only there were no tracks so I felt less secure.

We started off in Batok Bay (pictured above), an absolutely beautiful location. The place seemed geared up for a few hundred tourists, but we didn’t see more than a dozen people on the island all day. And this was supposed to be their busiest week of the year!

We were quite pleased with our tour with Raya Oceanic Diver. We were their only customers on Christmas which meant we got lots of personal attention. Our guide, Reiner from Germany, snorkled with us–pointing out things we would have missed had we just been dumped off (which is what I hear the other tour companies are like). We experienced over an hour of snorkeling in two different locations (about two and a half hours total). We probably could have gone even longer had we requested such. I’ve read other reviews of people who went to Phi Phi who said they weren’t allowed to snorkel for more than 20 minutes so we felt very fortunate for the time and personal attention provided by Raya.

Patong Beach (again)

This is Patong Beach. Even though we saw very few Japanese in Thailand (most tourists seemed to be from Scandinavia this time of year), we sat next to a Japanese couple on their honeymoon (pictured in the lower left). It was nice to talk to an Asian face again in something other than broken English.

Ryan and Ellie had a great time playing on the ocean toys.

And here is the view from in the Indian Ocean. The beach can get crowded after noon. From 9 a.m. until noon it was very nice though. The water may look a little dirty in these photos because of the sandy bottom, but it was actually quite clear. You could see fish swimming around you without even putting your face in the water.