First few days in Thailand.
Arrival time into Phuket airport was 10am Sunday April 27th. I can't believe I've waited so long to visit this country. It's strange that I've already been to so many places on this trip and for some reason it feels like my trip has now, finally started. Even though, I'll admit I'm getting anxious to head home.
Perhaps the other countries were just the appetizers and now it's time for the main course!
On my first day in Thailand so many unexpected things happened.
Shasta's friend Corey who lives in Phuket sent his driver to pick us up at the airport. I know that sounds very high class like but it's not what you think. A lot of westerners in 3rd world countries have a "driver" (some even have cooks and house cleaners because it's affordable). This is basically just a private driver or taxi driver who speaks good enough English that the westerners call them to drive whenever needed.
The airports in Thailand are well known (like Bali) for having a mob of taxi drivers outside the airport doors, yelling at you, "taxi!" Or grabbing at your arm to get your attention. Having a driver there for us, holding a sign with Shasta's name on it was so nice! I loved telling the other drivers, no thank you we already have a hired driver. One of the guys actually laughed at me. A laugh that I knew from my past experience in the last few months. He was thinking, yeah right. She'll be back.
Joke was on him!
We arrived at Corey's villa in a more country - ish town called Kathu were we stayed for a few nights. We paid the driver and greeted Corey, settled in and we all went to the swimming pool outside his apartment.
Corey is a licensed scuba instructor and sky diving instructor. Shasta, her friend Jarred and I had decided to take private lessons from and stay with him at his place while taking the course.
My first scuba lesson and Thai dental cleaning happened day 1! That teeth cleaning was only $25 USD! I finished my scuba cert. on wed. and on Thursday I had another appointment for dental work on what was supposed to 3 teeth but turned out to be only 2 teeth. I had a new cavity to be filled and my (only) prior cavity filling was in need of replacement so I had it removed and replaced. The work for 2 teeth and a tube of Colgate toothpaste, (I chose to buy) was $52 USD! I may have to plan a trip to Thailand whenever I need dental work. Seriously! I was a little unsure of what to expect from the Thai dentist world but I have only heard great things about it. Now I can speak from experience, the dental industry here is great! The dentist I had was wonderful and truely the best dentist I have ever had. In fact we are FaceBook friends now. Haha!
The scuba certification was intense. I wasn't expecting it to be as hard as it was but I suppose the way I went about it compared to most backpackers, I set myself up for tough!
Most backpackers come to Thailand and book a 3 to 4 day PADI (professional association of divers association) certification thru a shop in Phuket or Koh Tao. Backpackers from all over the world are usually in classes of 8 or more and given hotel accommodations and meals included in their cost. As a result they do beach dives instead of boat dives and don't get as much one on one attention.
The 3 of us (jarred, Shasta's Oregon friend who joined us) stayed at Corey's house, used his pool for the first 2 days of the course and did our video training from the comfort of his living room. We did our open water dive days off a boat
Called "Latitude" that included all our gear, friendly Thai assistants, breakfast, lunch and mid day snack. An inflatable SUP (stand up paddle board), 2 glass bottom canoes and an inflatable water slide off the side of the boat. Of yeah and there was a nice (dry area only) lounge with wifi, play station, couches and bean bags! I never saw those electronics in use as we were all pretty busy. The fist day there was maybe 15 people on board plus crew and the second day it was just the 4 of us and another group of 3! It was like we had a private boat.
We completed 4 open water dives off the boat in 2 days. During those dives we practiced and tested for the skills that we originally learned in the pool. Skills such as taking my mask off for a few seconds (in deep salt water) and then putting it back on again. Breathing off a buddy's air tank, switching to their tank while your under water, taking your air supply from your mouth letting it drop and then having to calmly find it and put it back in. All of this and more was done while following the number one rule in scuba diving... Don't hold your breath! The last dive we made of our course was a ship wreck. We didn't go in it just stood on it and swam around the outside, it wasn't as scary as I had expected a ship wreck dive to be. But it also wasn't a huge ship.
I made friends with the 4 Thai guys who didn't speak English on our boat. They assisted us with our gear, helping us get in the water and onto the boat after dives. Really friendly guys! The Thai people are a complete joy and so funny. They interacted with us during our "play" time on the boat.
I happend to ask the correct question which led me to learning that for every western person hired on the boat 3 Thai people need to be hired. I believe this applies to everything in Thailand concerning jobs.
During our evenings after dive class we would typically go into town to buy our dinners at the market. It was cheaper to buy ready to eat food there then buy from the grocery store. Our fist night in Thailand, while eating our market dinner back at Corey's house I pulled a "smart card" and ate a green chili pepper! Apparently the hottest chili pepper in Asia? Why did I do this? Because I was eating a salad and saw the chili thinking it was a green bean! An oddly dark green bean but that's what I thought it was. Ugh! The right side of my mouth went numb for a bit.
I love these markets though! They always seem to hold my attention for awhile. So many different foods and different health codes compared to the USA, it's just incredible!
One evening a Thai dive student of Corey's was at the house studying for her dive master exam. Jarred and Corey had left to have tire repair done on a bike and Shasta was coloring her hair in the bathroom. Phan (the Thai student) was hungry so her and I went to the market together on her scooter. I wasn't hungry, I hadn't really been in 2 days as I was trying to recover from another stomach issue. Going to the market with a Thai was a much better experience then I had, had at a market yet! I was finally able to ask someone what this paper was being sold out of brief cases on the sidewalks. They looked like passes to something but Phan said lotto and it clicked! That's right! Thailand has illegal lotteries that the police generally just turns a blind eye to. I know a friends wife who runs one in Bangkok I just hadn't thought they'd be sold in a food market like this.
All those vendors selling mystery foods who couldn't speak English to me was now solved! Phan translated for me pointed out things I had missed and she bought some things she thought I should try. We even found a few new sellers. There were fish lying on trays just as I had seen on the days before but this time I noticed they were still breathing! Fish, small shark, snails, lobster, all alive. Phan had been telling me everything was fresh and I believed her, I just hadn't realized it was "still alive" fresh.
She asked me if we have markets like this in Oregon so I explained to her that yes we do but they are called farmers markets and we don't have chickens and other raw hunks of meat just sitting out on tables. We have a lot more produce and less seafood then they have available but we have safety rules on the way meat is sold. Our meat is usually stored in coolers on ice or wrapped in plastic or butcher paper.
During all this conversation I found out Phan has a boyfriend in Oregon. She met him through Corey, he's an engineer and around 56 years old. Phan is my age, 32. I asked her how old her parents are, (they are 61) and what they think about her dating a guy so close in age to them. She went on to explain that it's common in Thailand for women to marry older men from other countries. She said they treat them better and know what they want in life.
She had been married to a man from England for 3 years (I forgot to ask how old he was) but he cheated on her a few times and once she found out that marriage ended.
Before we left Corey's place I experienced driving a motorbike a.k.a. a scooter on my own through the neighborhood and eventually to Patong city, a tourist beach town. It was great! Totally fun and I picked up the Thai defensive driving skills right from the start! Dodging cars and other bikes as they weaves in and out of each other. If Oregon wasn't so wet during the year I might consider getting one for home.
Before I forget, I want to make a mention of a new found pill that I'm pretty impressed with!
In Bali while Shasta was sick someone recommended to try taking charcoal. I bought her some and it seemed to work very efficiently.
It's a natural ingredient so when it goes into your body it absorbs anything bad in your system and disposes of it when ready.
Well, one of my street food meals in Phuket, Thailand got to me and had me back in the bathroom again for a few mornings and evenings. This of course was happening during dive training too! So I pulled myself together like a champ and managed to pass the course. I even had a fever the night I took my final written exam. Shasta had me take some for my first time and within a day I was feeling results.
Jarrod, Shasta and I left Phuket yesterday and took a 2(ish) hour ferry ride to phi phi island. I am now island hopping my way to Bangkok to meet up with a good family friend, Joe (he lives there) and to meet 2 friends of friends.
The ferry ride wasn't bad, there was AC on inside and lots of room. I slept most the trip to pass the time faster. We arrived to phi phi around 2pm and we were funneled into a single line taking us through a gate where they charged us a $20 baht island entrance fee. That's $.60 in USD. Kind of ridiculous, I thought.
By the time our day was over yesterday I was feeling like I was in Gili T. back in Indonesia, again. It's a small island with no vehicles and it's a party island, for sure! They don't have horse carriages hauling people around so I don't have to see horses in desperate need of water, again. Phi phi has mostly stone laid roads, unlike Gili and it's dirt roads that turn into a mess during rain storms.
The 3 of us along with a German couple we met on the ferry went on an adventure hike looking for nicer and hidden beaches on the island. We decided to do this AFTER getting into the ocean at one beach and getting out to find a nasty brown film on our bodies.
We found 2 very nice beaches with beautiful water but they were definitely a hike away from the home stay accommodations we booked. On our hike out from the last beach we hear a commotion in the trees to our left. After watching them carefully for a couple of minutes we realized there were heaps of monkeys in them! We kept moving as there was no reason to stick around and see if they wanted to take stuff from us. We wondered back a different way and ended up trekking thru a very non tourist area.
We saw parts of the island most travlers won't ever see. I was welcomed back to seeing mounds of garbage just sitting on the side of roads and seeing how the Thais live compared to the accommodations most travlers stay in. It's always a good lesson to see this in the places you travel.
A few of the towns people have monkeys they walk around with and they'll charge you $100 baht if you take their photo! One monkey had a diaper on and a gold chain necklace around its neck and a gold bracelet on both it wrists. The other monkey I saw was taller, wearing a flannel shirt and overalls walking around with a Thai toddler. I wish I had a photo to show you but it wasn't worth $100 baht out of my pocket.
At dinner last night I had some really great Pad Thai and noticed the restaurant cats hanging around in this open aired dinning facility. Apparently they enjoy a good cool off on occasion, as well.
We are on this island for 2 nights and tomorrow I'll catch a ferry to Krabi. I decided to use today as a research day on my next stops since I'm not to impressed with this island. Shasta and I have also discussed partying ways but we might not just yet. She tends to like to relax in ine spot more then I do but this is also because of the heat and her monstrous back pack, I don't blame her. I'm okay with relaxing in one place for a few days as long as the location keeps me occupied. I'm not occupied on phi phi. One night was to much and this morning I was alone for a bit and I realized I was having an anxiety attack about being stuck here for another night. So I talked it out with her when she returned, it was a great conversation and I think the 3 of us are all moving on tomorrow. Jarrod will head to Bangkok for dental work and Shasta will follow me to krabi.
Oh and... RIP CITY! To all you Portland Trail Blazer fans, party in the streets of Portland tonight!
The revival time of "bust a bucket" is here and now! :)