Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Phuket, Thailand - Again.

After a 2 hour flight I found myself back in Phuket, Thailand. I couldn't believe that it had been 6 months since I'd been here last. Where does the time go? It really felt as if I was just here. Since I had 3.5 weeks before I'd meet my cousin in Macau, I thought I would spend my time in Thailand and revisit some friends in Phuket and Pai.

After I retrieved my luggage and walked past the sliding doors, I was bombarded by people who hounded me to take a taxi.

-"Sir, sir. Taxi, taxi?"
-"Where you go? Take taxi?"
-"Take taxi, sir? Come with me, come with me."

Good Lord, they're relentless. I walked straight past them, however, and to the Information desk. The woman at Information said I could take a bus which would cost much less than a taxi, but that I would have to wait awhile before the next bus departed.

"Time is not an issue," I said, smiling. "It's all I have."

I needed to call Josh and let him know that I had arrived. I CouchSurfed with Josh for 9 nights the last time I was here and had an amazing time. I was looking forward to seeing him again. But because I don't carry a cell phone, I had to bum some change from a random person to use the payphone. Josh, who sounded happy to hear from me, said he would pick me up from Central Mall located near his house.

The woman from Information was right: I did have to wait a long time, as it took nearly 2 hours before the bus departed. On the bus, I met a man in his early 70s from New Zealand who said he'd been to over 100 countries. Wow. I love speaking to people who are well traveled like that.

Once I arrived at Central Mall, I walked inside and borrowed someone's cell phone to call Josh. We arranged to meet at the fountain; however, there was another fountain that I wasn't aware about - the one Josh was talking about, of course - and we missed each other. As Josh thought I had already left, he went back to his house. I ended up taking a taxi.

Communication, communication, communication! It's sooo important. Eh . . .

It was great to see Josh and to be back in Phuket Town again. I love Josh's neighborhood, too. It has everything: Internet cafe, laundry service, street food, barbershop, etc. Josh was hosting another CouchSurfer at the time. Her name was Gabi from Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was Gabi's first time out of Argentina. She had been traveling nearly 2 months and had already been to Europe, Egypt, Turkey, China and northern Thailand.

Damn, she was moving fast.

But her sister, who's a flight attendant and could give Gabi cheap plane tickets, was quitting in a few months. So Gabi found herself on a mission to see as much of the world as she could while she had access to discounted flights.

Soon after I met Gabi I met Tata, a friend of Josh's, who just had a fight with his boyfriend and asked Josh if he could stay with him for a few nights. Of course, Josh, being the kind person that he is, said it wouldn't be a problem. Suddenly Josh had 3 people staying with him. That night the 4 of us went out to eat and to a market before returning to Josh's home. After talking to Josh for awhile I went to sleep.

The next morning Gabi and I headed for Kata Beach. Because taxis in Phuket are expensive, and neither one of us wanted to spend the money to rent a motorbike, we decided to hitch. Yes, Kata beach is fairly far from Phuket Town, but I knew if the both us intended to go to Kata it wasn't a matter of if someone would give us a lift but when. And as luck would have it, we hitched a ride with a sweet, pretty Thai woman who was standing on the side of the road. She worked for a hotel which provided a free shuttle service for its employees. Once the shuttle arrived she asked the driver if it would be alright if we hitched along. He didn't have any qualms about it so we hopped in. And where was the location of this hotel she worked for? Yeah, it was just down the street from Kata beach. Oh, how things work out, ey? You gotta love it.

Gabi and I bought some fruit before finding a free, shaded area to enjoy the beach. After a long pleasant conversation with Gabi, she hired someone to teach her how to surf while I kicked back and read. After a full day at the beach, as it was nearly 6 in the evening, we hit the streets in search of food - cheap food. This turned out to be a difficult task as we were in a tourist infested beach town, so everything was marked up. But don't underestimate the will of a few stingy, frugal backpackers. Where there's a will, there's a way. And I eventually enjoyed the most delicious dish of pad thai that I've ever consumed. Gawd in heaven, it was good.

Next it was time to head back to Josh's house.

As we refused to pay the exorbitant amount of money taxis were charging, we attempted to hitch again. Back on the grind.

As we walked towards the town of Karon we found ourselves in a difficult area to hitch, especially since we were going to Phuket Town. We figured our best bet would be to hitch to Patong, then, from Patong, hitch to Phuket Town. It didn't turn out to be as easy as the both of us would've liked. There was a lack of traffic on the road to Patong - well, at least in terms of cars. There were, however, plenty of motorbikes and taxis. And the few cars that were heading in our direction continued to pass us by.

"Okay, okay," I said. "Look confident. We got this."


And they continued to pass us.

We began to feel discouraged. "Okay," said Gabi, "I'm not having fun anymore." A minute after she said that, a truck pulled over and we hopped in.

It felt so good to sit down after hours of walking. And strangely enough, the driver was playing a Norah Jones cd, someone who I'd been listening to recently on my Ipod. The Thai man drove in silence as we headed towards Patong. He had picked us up at the perfect time, too, as we were miles away and the roads had become quite hilly. When we arrived in Patong he asked us where we wanted to be dropped off. We told him we were actually heading to Phuket Town and that it would be great if he could drop us off outside of Patong. He turned his head, looked at us, and cracked a smile.

"Give me 2 minutes," he said, after he pulled up to a hotel and parked the car. "I'll be right back."

Once he shut the door, Gabbi and I exchanged glances and smiled.

"You don't think he's gonna take us to Phuket Town, do you?" I said to Gabbi. We became giddy with anticipation. Once he returned and began driving, he asked us where we stayed in Phuket Town. I instantly smiled as I was looking out the window, and I knew Gabi was too.

"Thank you so much!" we repeatedly told our driver as we exited his truck. After he drove off, Gabi and I gave each other a high-five. We couldn't believe he drove us all the way to Josh's house. So nice.

At the house that night, I met a few friends of Josh's from New Zealand of Asian descent. They left New Zealand with the intention to travel through Southeast Asia, only to get stuck in Thailand after blowing $20,000 New Zealand dollars during their first month of traveling. Since then, however, they have started their own web design business and are living in Thailand. We all went out that night, but because I was so tired, I didn't enjoy myself as much as I would've liked. Don't get me wrong: I did have a good time; however, I just wanted to go to sleep. I didn't understand how Gabi still had the energy. I fell asleep in 2 seconds when we returned to Josh's home.

The following and final day consisted of me hanging out with Josh's friend in the morning, watching a movie in the afternoon, and hanging out with Josh in the evening. Josh took me to a scenic view point which he recently discovered. It had a 360 panoramic view overlooking Phuket Town, the adjacent islands and the sea. We were there for sunset. Man, it was amazingly beautiful. It was a fitting ending to my stay in Phuket as I was leaving the following morning.
It just so happened that Gabi had a morning flight as well, so we agreed to share a taxi together.

Though my return to Phuket was short lived, I had a really nice time and was glad I'd come back. It was especially great to see Josh again. It's always sad when you don't know when you'll see a friend again. He told me he's flirting with the idea of moving to Norway. So perhaps I'll see him there if I decide to go to Europe. But whether or not he's in Phuket, I'll continue to be reminded of him and my days in Phuket when I hear the song "I got a feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas.

I gotta feeling! . . .


Next Stop: Pai, Thailand

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