May and Shawn remember Phuket, jewel of Southeast Asia.
I’m unfamiliar with resorts in Southeast Asia, where might I find Phuket?
May: Phuket is a very popular destination in southern Thailand. In 2004, a massive tsunami struck the area so there were many global relief efforts. You might have heard of it then. Thankfully, they’ve worked hard to recover because it’s a really beautiful area.
What sets Phuket apart from other popular resort destinations?
May: The beaches! They travel along the southern area of the province (Thailand has a unique shape, like a nail). The ocean surrounds both sides of the province. Also, Phuket is a hub, so from there you can go to many different islands.
Shawn: There are many international tourists. You see people from all over the world. We took a fun ferry ride around the island that took an hour or two to see everything. There is even a Muay Thai bar where you can watch fights.
Do you have a favorite city in the province?
May: Karon, one of the most popular cities because of the beaches, but many are privately owned.
OK, what might I find interesting there?
May: Shopping is very cheap and you can get many cultural items unique to the area. Each tambon (district) has a special craft. For example, there is a watch district that sells just watches, or a rug district that sells rugs.
Shawn: Also, you can pay to have a foot suckerfish to suck the dead skin off your feet. It tickles and is gross at the same time.
Are the people easy to relate to?
May: Thailand is called the land of smiles. Wherever you go, expect a smile and a greeting.
Shawn: We met some polite and entertaining people that gave great tours. No place is perfect though. As with any city, there are certain places you just don’t go like some alleys and places like that. While I was there, though, I never met one sketchy person. Funny story, I actually got lost and walked around an entire island trying to find my way back, but I never felt in trouble or in danger.
People were very polite and they really like to party. The island of Phi Phi does not sleep. They played music until four in the morning.
You both went with a group of people, what did you all do?
May: When people think of Thailand, they often think of elephants. We did an elephant trek, kind of like a little safari, where we saw all sorts of crops you don’t see in the states, like dragon fruit.
Dragon Fruit? Sounds like something…unpleasant.
May: It tastes like heaven. Seriously! It has prickles, sort of like a red pineapple, but is very sweet and refreshing.
That’s new to me. Shawn what’s something new you can tell me?
Shawn: I discovered that Elephants have thick hair. That’s something I didn’t know before.
Interesting! Sorry, back on topic, what else did you do?
May: After we did the elephant trek, we had a traditional Thai massage. It’s different then a Swedish message because the masseuse will get on the table and use their whole weight to dig into your muscles. Some will even step on you. Trust me, it feels great after.
Besides Dragon Fruit, what else can I eat?
May: Please, please steer away from Pad Thai. It is such a stereotypical dish. Yeah I know it’s good, but there are so many places to find it state side that it’s just a waste to eat it over there. There is this solid curry called hor mok. It’s a red curry in a solid form that tastes custardy that is best with rice.
Shawn: We liked street vendors. They would cut corn off and put it in a Dixie cup then load it with butter and season it with cinnamon so it was very sweet. We also tried to get mango sticky rice any chance we got. Our group did a cooking class where we made this delicious yellow curry.
With little time, what should I do in Phuket?
May: It’s been mentioned already, but visit Phi Phi. It’s a small island, much more beautiful than Hawaii. You breathe in the nature and clear blue sky. The water is very clear and popular with divers because of the well-preserved coral.
Shawn: Phi Phi is beautiful, but it can get really touristy and crowded so plan accordingly. Phi Phi nightlife is really fun though, with lots of bars, but they literally never stop partying. We also did a dive tour.
Nice, anything else besides Phi Phi?
Shawn: Try an excursion on long-tail boats. They use them everywhere. We went to Monkey Beach on one, and it was quite inexpensive. The water in some areas is very clear so take a waterproof camera if you go.
Whatever you decide to do, make a plan, there is a lot to see. Flights are really cheap too so take advantage.
Give me a basic survival tip.
May: When you buy something, you need to haggle. Things might seem cheap to foreigners, but you can get anything for at least 1/3 of their asking price.
Wait, like its tradition to haggle? You should do that?
May: Yup, or you will be ripped off. A six-dollar purse seems cheap right? You can get it for like a dollar or two if you haggle.
Shawn: You have to, and they really drop down to nothing. They can be forceful sometimes. Everywhere you go they sell to you. Sometimes you have to get stiff with the assertive ones because you can be roped into a lot of stuff sometimes.
What is something you didn’t expect?
Shawn: Let’s see…Thailand has a strong Muay Thai culture too along with a lot of other martial arts. It seems like a strong fighting culture with many gyms and rings around the cities.
Oh, and they love their king. There are pictures of him everywhere and when he got sick a little while back, the people got genuinely worried. It’s not something forced on them, like a dictatorship, the people honestly love the guy. He seems to have done a lot of good for the country.