Thursday, March 9, 2017

Kristin goes to Phuket

So I want to start this post off by letting my readers know that while there is no defined standard way of converting the Thai script to the Latin alphabet a "ph" combination does not indicate an "f" sound like it does in English, but rather a hard p. So now that you're not accidently sounding really vulgar let me tell you about my awesome trip to Thailand.
I arrived in Phuket pretty late. I think we landed around 11:15 pm and I'm not sure whether or not the clock had rolled past midnight when I cleared immigration, but I suspect it had because my passport was stamped with the next day's date. Most of the people in line were Chinese, Korean (my flight came out of Seoul) or Russian (I didn't know ahead of time, but it was very apparent that the majority of the tourists in Phuket were either Chinese or Russian) and a lot of people seem to have some trouble. They all got cleared, but it took a long time. I had no problems at all.
After clearing immigration I exchanged some money and bought a SIM card (it was very useful and only about USD 12) and then used maps on my phone to find my hotel. I had booked a hotel in walking distance from the airport since I was arriving so late at night. Obviously it was after dark and as a result,  it had cleared a bit, but I was dressed for winter. I had on jeans and a sweater as was carrying my winter coat. The walk to my hotel wasn't long, but I was dying by the time I got there. The first words to the gentleman at the front desk were, "I'm not dressed for Thailand."
The next day I got in touch with some friends and we met up in Patong beach. We were able to find a small hotel which was able to accommodate them and me in a quiet part of Patong beach (known for being quite the party spot) that wasn't too far from the ocean. We had originally thought we might hop around to different hotels, but it was such a good price (less than USD 25/night) with great people and in a quiet area that we stayed there the whole time I was in Phuket and then my friends, who were staying longer, went to another island and then came back to the same hotel.
While we were there we explored the markets, went to the beach, went elephant trekking, went snorkeling and I took a cooking class. It was all so much fun and I estimated that excluding my airfare my 10-day vacation cost me about 500 U.S. dollars.
Our first big adventure was to go elephant trekking. At first, I wanted to go swim with the dolphins, but as best as I could figure out you had to first pay to watch a dolphin show and then to swim with the dolphins and it was all incredibly expensive and I had no desire to watch a show. I had simply seen a billboard advertising swimming with the dolphins and thought it would be cool. My friend T wanted to go see the tigers. We looked into that, but it seemed kind of ridiculous, especially since you only got to stay with the tigers for 10 minutes. Then we asked about the elephants and we knew that's what we wanted to do. The elephants were MUCH more reasonably priced and we quickly narrowed our choices to a 45-minute trek through the jungle or an hour trek through along the cliffs. D and I voted for the hour along the cliffs, but we were out-voted. I don't think it would have mattered which one we did. It was so awesome! T and I rode on one elephant and D and the kids rode on another. After a while our guide (who like the rest of the guides was wearing jeans and a sweater because even though it was in the 80s, it was winter for them) offered for one of us to move out of the seat and directly onto the elephant's back. I jumped (not literally of course) at the chance and carefully climbed down from the chair and onto the elephants back. It was so much fun! I had a bit of a struggle at first because I felt off balance and felt like I was shifting every time the elephant walked (I could feel his back moving with his legs). After a while, I got the hang of it and enjoyed it. I rode for about 20 minutes on the back before the guide stopped and offered T a turn. She didn't want to take one, but I was ready to return to the easy seat of the elephant (it was from this seat that I posted the picture of me riding the elephant onto facebook).
The next day, my friends and I went our separate ways for the day and I did something that I loved; I took a cooking class. My class was relatively expensive, but an absolutely awesome splurge. I took a 3-hour cooking class where you got to make three dishes or your choice. In addition, we learned about the four basic flavors in Thai cooking (prio - sour, wan - sweet, kem - salty and pet - spicy) and the typical things used to achieve each of these. We also learned about the herbs for different types of dishes, how to make both green curry paste and red curry paste and finally about sauces. The food I made was amazing and I picked up some dried herbs at a local store (obviously I couldn't carry fresh ones over the border) and I hope to start trying to replicate the dishes soon.
On another day we took a full day snorkeling tour. The first stop was near an island, but she just jumped off the boat into the ocean and went snorkeling. That was my first time ever snorkeling and it took me a bit (maybe 5-10 minutes) to get the hang of it. I love to swim and even swam on a swim team last year, but using a snorkel is just a bit different. After about 45 minutes we left and went to our next stop an absolutely gorgeous island. We spent two hours here swimming, snorkeling, having lunch and just enjoying the beach. Then we went to another gorgeous island for two hours and here I had the most awesome time. Here there were some amazing coral that I even saw opening and closing, incredible diversity in the fish. It was so amazing I never wanted to get out. Unfortunately, at the same time I was feeling myself burn (I left my shirt on this entire island because my back was already burnt, but my feet, legs, arms, everything was getting sunburnt by this time and so after a while, I left the ocean to find some shade. I will share a few photos from the beach, but unfortunately, I didn't have an underwater camera so I can't share with you the most amazing part.
The rest of my trip was filled with eating experiences, market experiences (we went to the gigantic night market) and just enjoying the beach and swimming in the ocean. After this trip, I can see why a friend of mine told me, "for some people Thailand is like a drug. You can never get enough of it."
Mom and I first saw something like this in Copenhagen and I had
no desire to have little fish nibble on my feet. This time, however,
I gave in to peer pressure. 
At first we both sat up on the seat, but when the
opportunity to ride bareback arose, I took it.

Outside of the touristy areas we stayed, this is some of the housing
I saw.

Good 'ole feet in the sand picture.

Me at my awesome cooking class.

More or less an action shot.

My tom young gong soup

This was the day we went snorkeling. I didn't take
the phone in the water though.

The whole family including the dog on the motorbike.
They caught be taking the picture and smiled and waved.

Everynight these trucks came around blaring advertisements
for the Muay Thai boxing.

One of several beaches I went to.

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