Friday, July 16, 2010

At Peace in Phuket

Once upon a time I viewed with scorn and derision those who traveled great lengths of the world to do nothing more than bake on the beach of some faraway getaway. beaches at home? Not even a backyard hammock or public park to just put up the feet and sleep the day away, they have to go to Bali, Tahiti, Fiji and the Seychelles just to get a tan? Feh!

I didn't understand it then but I kind of do now.

Work in 2007 was stressing me out beyond anything I'd ever experienced and I needed desperately to get away. Because I was in retail I didn't have much time as everything at work was always urgent, a priority, just around the corner and almost here. Including the days scheduled for travel I had ten days in July of that year to experience Thailand for the first time though only six usable days on the ground once I'd arrived. This time around, for the first time in my life, I was going to schedule in some much needed "down time" to do exactly what I had always viewed to be a complete waste of money and time on vacation: sleep.

After the first three days exploring Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi I found a Southwest-style fare on Air Asia for about $100 round trip between Bangkok and the resort island of Phuket, 60 minutes south of the capital. In a country loaded with seaside nooks and crannies to explore or just chill and enjoy, Phuket is the place to be.

I did not know until then that Phuket was an island. Instead of building any anticipation for the next three days of sun and sand ahead of me the hour long bus ride from the airport at the northern end of the island got me to thinking about travel time to get back for the long journey home. Come on, bus!

July is the monsoon season and thus the "low-season" for travel to Thailand. It is equally rainy and extremely hot and humid - the monsoon of 2004 did considerable damage to the local infrastructure and confidence of foreign travelers that Phuket depends on. For these reasons the Best Western Karon Beach that I chose was offering a rate of only $37 per night, a major factor in my choosing to visit Thailand in the first place. The entire country was on sale and once I arrived at my resort I do not exaggerate in saying that I and maybe 10 other guests had the entire property and accompanying beach to ourselves.

There were taxi offers to drive up to Patong for only $5 whenever I wanted to partake of the Miami Beach style nightlife there; I didn't. There were other offers to drive to some view point farther south for a glorious ocean sunset; ANYWHERE on the beaches of the Andaman Sea offer glorious sunsets, so I didn't. Numerous boating, fishing and sailing tours were on offer as well, some including a day trip to the famous "Scaramanga's Island" where scenes from the James Bond thriller "The Man with the Golden Gun" were shot but I passed again. Exotic and nearby, yes, but it wasn't the best of the Roger Moore films, anyway. I walked a bit within the village and almost bought the then newly released final Harry Potter book to have something to read on the flight home but figured I could get it cheaper when I got back.

However inexpensive the tours or tempting the trinkets I was done spending money. I was through ripping and running trying to get the most of every day touring, taking pictures and waking first thing in the morning. My room was comfortable, the property beautiful and the beach was all mine. In two more days I would begin the grueling flight home, so as much as I needed to get away from work and after three days of taking in the sights, it was time, finally time, to kick back, relax and enjoy the beach, the ocean and the sunset. Hmmm, this do-nothing seaside holiday thing wasn't so bad after all!

Like I promised myself I would that first day at the beach, I slept. For eleven hours.........without sunscreen.

Gotta go.

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