Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand

On January 24th we flew from Hong Kong to Phuket, Thailand with Air Asia. They made a big fuss over insulin at security, finally let it through, then announced diabetic in loud voice when boarding, then made suggestions about taking the insulin away for the duration of the flight, then as we boarded the plain saying that we weren't giving them the insulin barked at us in a very hostile tone that they wouldn't take it even if we wanted them to. Good news since we didn't want them to. On arrival at our seats, for which we paid extra to get more legroom, we learned that their "exit row" on the flight was scarcely - if at all; you'd need a measuring tape to be sure - bigger than the normal seats. As the flight commenced we learned that although we paid for food when booking someone forgot to tell the waitresses. They demand our itinerary (which we often don't print and bring; luckily we had it this time!), fuss, generally treat us as if we're trying to cheat them out of a sandwich, review the itinerary with three separate waitresses - each of whom for some reason has to examine it twice - and finally produce a tiny amount of food. If we hadn't brought the itinerary (not a required item and hard to print in some locations!) we'd get no food and doubtless no refund for the (small) amount we paid for it. Good job Air Asia!

On arrival in Thailand we promptly encounter the taxi nonsense travel books warn of. Our taxi driver wants 100 THB + the meter fee and wants to give a lift to another taxi driver whose engine is "kaput". We say OK and taxi away. It's very warm even at night. We eventually get to our hotel in Karon and meet up with Tanya, a friend who is accompanying us for our Thailand jaunt. She's been in Thailand for ~6 hours at this point. Amusingly it turns out her taxi driver negotiated a fixed rate of 1200 THB with her whereas ours cost 460 THB (100+meter). Lol. The hotel seems nice and it's situated directly on the beach. We're here for a few days, then we plan to book a somewhat cheaper hotel.

On the 25th we suffer near the beach, Pavan and Tanya get an "ocean-view massage" (which at grossly overpriced "good hotel" rates is still just $10 each) then wander over and grab Thai food. The beach is pretty standard: umbrellas, chairs, Europeans who claim chairs they aren't using the whole day with their towels, etc.

Later on we check out the night market. The highlights are wooden elephants (of course), soap carvings, and some neat pictures made by punching and cutting holes from leather. The proprietors are rather grouchy about photos so we have no proof of any of this.

On the 26th we switch hotels to the Kata Poolside. It's slightly less fancy than the previous resort and is an entire block away from the beach. This is almost intolerable of course but it makes up for it by costing about half the price of the resort.

We're all feeling internet withdrawal symptoms so we locate an internet cafe and lounge for an hour or two. The cafe has great coffee, breakfasts, and even bagels. The latter makes Rod very happy.

On a subsequent stroll we observe that Thai electrical wiring is apparently largely a DIY matter.

Further suffering on the beach follows. After dinner and a stroll through the night markets we go back to the beach and follow the noise to the south end and find a reggae bar. We hang out there for a while. Unfortunately while there someone manages to shove a cigarette firmly into Pavan's knee, creating a small but charming burn. For Pavan and Rod this puts an end to the night. At least this means we get a bit of sleep before our Thai cooking lesson booked for our party the next morning.

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