Phuket – I upgraded you
We have a long, tough day getting to Phuket. It starts at 6am when we drag ourselves out of bed, pack our bags and wander the empty streets searching for an ATM that will agree to dispense us money. (The one in 7Eleven keeps rejecting us for no reason). Having put some cash into our practically empty purse we engage the owner of the hotel to book us a transfer to Phuket. This is duly done and leaves us about ten minutes before the pickup at 7.30. We have just about enough time to try and do an inventory of all the extra insect bites we’ve accumulated during the night. The result? Too many – we lose count. True to his friendly nature, the owner ushers us out the door with our bags to wait on the steps for our transport. God forbid we should sit in reception out of the heat with them. I’m really not going to miss living in boot camp.
We’re lucky to be the first passengers picked up. The next couple is left sitting on the back of the truck as we speed off to Saladan pier for our first ferry. It seems there’s a Swedish invasion planned for Phi Phi that day. The boat is crammed with Swedish families complete with their blonde bawling children. Staff circulate the narrow confines of the boat we’re trapped in selling everything from accommodation to taxis during the hour long trip towards Phi Phi. Before we reach the island we pull up alongside another larger ferry and the man with the megaphone announces it’s time for anyone bound to Phuket to abandon ship. Literally. We leap the gap between the boats hoping not to slip and fall between them. I’m not very confident that the crew would do more than possibly throw me a life jacket and leave me to swim for shore. Speaking of which, I can’t see any lifejackets nearby. Health and safety rules don’t seem to apply here. Thankfully no death by misadventure occurs and our bags are sent flying after us none too gently. We’re thankful that anything breakable is in our hand luggage which we haven’t entrusted to any of the crew to handle.
This new ferry is so crowded that both indoor levels are full and we have to sit on top in the baking sun while it slowly heads towards Phuket. We’ve had so little sleep recently that we find ourselves stretching out on the deck to try and catch a little bit of rest. When we finally come in sight of Phuket it looks about as unpleasant as we were expecting. It’s like a farmers market as people are offloaded from the boat and herded into groups depending on what transfers they’ve paid for. We’ve even been tagged with stickers. We’re eventually pushed into a van with some other misfortunates and take the last part of our journey to Kata Beach which is reported to be one of the better, if not best beaches on Phuket. There we find a thriving tourist town with resorts sprouting up everywhere. The driver’s first attempt to dispose of us fails. He deposits us in front of a majestic hotel that aside from being far bigger than the small spa we’re expecting, is obviously way out of our budget range. This looks like something out of the pages of Hello magazine. While our driver struggles to extricate our rucksacks from the piled up front seat luggage, I offer the nearest bellboy the page with our hotel details. We both sceptically look at the page, at the ultra posh hotel, then the garb myself and Brodie are wearing, and agree this is definitely not a match. Reluctantly the driver rings one of the contact numbers I have and has to admit that this is not where we’re supposed to be. On the second attempt however he gets it right and we arrive at the spa, a small place nestled on a hill that looks quite pleasant and homely.
One of the proprietors is waiting to assist us. I’ve exchanged a few emails with him over the last couple of days so it doesn’t take him long to place us. Then he utters the magic words that every weary traveller is delighted to hear, “I upgraded you”. Some story spews forth regarding sewage and smells, but the salient point is that we’re getting treated to what looks like a super deluxe room for the same price. As this place was already 10 euro cheaper a night than the Boutique Bootcamp on Koh Lanta, it now seems like all the effort to get here might just reap some rewards. Our studio room is huge. It has all the expected amenities for a decent room in Thailand and then some. To cap it all off, there are even two La-Z-boy chairs. It’s all comfortable and clean and we won’t be tiptoeing around for fear of putting a smudge on the floor. As advertised, the spa is only 50m from town. We’re not very enamoured with the town itself which you can’t walk through without being harassed from all angles, but it does at least bring the benefits of a large built-up town. Walking the opposite way from town we’re a mere 100m from the north end of Kata Beach, which also seems to be the nicest part of the beach. We take an evening stroll to see the boats being brought in on the crowded beach where the sunset is beautiful to witness.
Tomorrow we have our one day Introduction to Thai Massage course. The general gist seems to be that we have a masseuse at our disposal for 5 hours who has been instructed to enlighten us in a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ fashion on how to give a proper massage, focusing on the problem areas of the shoulder and back that commonly afflict Brodie. We’re not entirely looking forward to the prospect of doing the class itself, but are hoping to enjoy some benefits from what we learn.