Thursday, May 7, 2015

Phuket, Thailand

A couple of months ago Kyle had some time off that we absolutely couldn't pass up.  Our friends had recently taken an amazing trip to Thailand, so it was an easy choice for us!  It was the dead of winter, so a relaxing beach vacation sounded absolutely perfect!  We pretty much did the exact same things that our friends did, which made planning easy for me!

We flew out of Frankfurt on a HUGE double decker Airbus 380.  It was so big, it didn't even feel like we were on a plane!  Our original flight path was over the Ukraine, so we were a bit relieved when we saw on the map that the pilot flew a bit south instead.  It was night when we flew over the border between India and Pakistan, so we could see a loooong lit wall on the border separating the two countries.  (They're not exactly what you would call friendly neighbors.)  We had a quick layover in Bangkok before we reached our final destination, Phuket.

We arrived in the morning, and were lucky to be checked into our room early.  The hotel, the Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa, was so nice and exactly what we were hoping for!  The gardens were beautiful, as was the infinity pool!  Everyone that worked there (and the Thai people in general) were incredibly friendly and welcoming. The hotel is located on Mai Khao beach, which is a protected nature area, so it was nice and secluded away from the hustle and bustle.  The hotel had several restaurants with a variety of foods, which was nice since we were pretty far away from everything else.  I loved the breakfast!  They had every type of breakfast food imaginable including the English breakfast, fresh made-to-order smoothies, Asian food (fried rice with breakfast was definitely a first for me), American breakfast food, etc.  My favorite were the miniature pancakes with banana and caramel sauce and coconut.  Delish!  One evening they held a beach barbecue, which was a lot of fun!

Our first couple of days we spent getting over our jet lag and relaxing by the beach.  There was a Thai massage place set up on the beach right by our hotel that Kyle took advantage of more than I did.  Kyle went several times throughout the trip, but I only did it once.  I'm not used to massages that hurt!  I don't need people yanking on my toes and cracking my back to help me relax!

Our breakfast spot!

The casual beach/pool bar and grill

The Thai restaurant

Mai Khao Beach

On our third day in Thailand we took a speed boat tour of the Phi Phi Islands.  (Unfortunately it's pronounced "Pee pee.")  The tour was with a great company called Phuket Sail Tours.  Our day started very early in the morning, which is a good thing since we beat the crowds to many of our stops.  We saw gorgeous views of the turquoise waters and interesting rock formations on our way to our snorkeling, swimming and beach stops.

Our first stop was the island where they filmed the movie "The Beach," starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  The beach isn't so secluded anymore!

"The Beach" beach

Our first snorkeling stop of the day was in a spot called Shark Bay.  (Really makes you wanna get in the water, right?)  I actually did see a small shark, but nobody else saw it so I don't know if they believe me!  We saw many beautiful, brightly colored fish and sea life.  Our friends were nice enough to lend us their Go Pro, so Kyle got some cool photos and video while we were snorkeling!

We stopped in a neat little cove for swimming and came across a monkey!  We actually saw him eating a banana, which I got a huge kick out of!

Hard to believe the water color is natural and not pool water!

The picture below shows a cave where they collect the nests of swallows.  They use the nests to make a soup or a drink which they believe is very good for you.  That's a delicacy that I decided I could do without!

We made another stop by an island where we saw a lot of monkeys!  We stayed on the boat while we looked at the monkeys since they can sometimes be aggressive.

Our last stop of the day was a gorgeous beach and swimming stop.   I couldn't get enough of that beautiful view!

We spent half of the following day with a private tour guide to see some of the cultural sites of Phuket.  Our guide, Jo, was so much fun and very knowledgeable!  (The first thing she said when she saw us is, "You're really white!"  Uh, thanks?) We saw a couple of Buddhist temples, the huge Buddha and Phuket old town.  We also had some extremely delicious (and so cheap!) local cuisine.

Wat Chalong

View of the big Buddha from the temple

It was a very hot day, so luckily we were able to drive most of the way up to the big Buddha.  (They say in Thailand that the weather is either hot, hotter or hottest.)  Construction on the Buddha is actually still not quite complete.  There were gorgeous views from the top!  There were a lot of bells hanging around the Buddha, which people write on and then hang up to send up continuous prayers when the wind blows and rings them.

I had to wear the snazzy skirt to be proper at the religious site. 

Phuket old town

This power line was one of the safer ones we saw!

Visiting a Chinese Buddhist temple

The next day we had another full day speed boat tour with the same company as our Phi Phi Island tour.  We toured the Phang Nga Bay, and saw a wide variety of interesting sites, not to mention the breathtaking bay views!

Our first stop of the day was for snorkeling, and we found Nemo!

The small beach and cave in the picture below show where native sea gypsies sometimes live.  It would have been interesting to see them there, but on the other hand I would have felt pretty awkward staring at them!

We took a nice, relaxing spot on a truly secluded beach.  It felt like Gilligan's Island!

We took a little canoe ride through a mangrove forest.  The rowing was left to the professionals, so we were able to sit back and enjoy unique scenery.

That's quite a claw there, Mr. Crab!

We stopped for lunch at an amazing village called Ko Panyi.  It's a Muslim fishing village built on stilts over the water, so it looks like it's floating.  It has a very small population of only 360 families.  They actually have a very good soccer team that was started by young boys that played soccer on a floating field that they made out of found wood.  The town does have electricity from a generator, but it turns off at 10 pm!  We had a great lunch, and took a really interesting walk around the town.

It was low tide when we visited, which is why you don't see water in the picture below!  In the mud we saw tons of crabs and mudskippers (walking fish), which was pretty cool!

The primary school room

Back on the boat, we rode by a few more cool sites.  Below are some ancient cave paintings.  We also drove by what is now called James Bond Island.  It's where they filmed part of The Man with a Golden Gun.  (We didn't stop there since the only thing to do is buy tacky souvenirs!)

Ancient cave paintings

James Bond Island

Our last stop of the day was pretty cool.  We waded through knee deep water through a cave into a beautiful enclosed lagoon area.  We saw tons of mudskippers and brightly colored fiddler crabs.  (Fiddler crabs are pretty fun to watch.  They have one over-sized claw that they wave around to attract the attention of the lady crabs.) We didn't know how deep the water was that we would be wading through, so Kyle didn't bring his camera to get pics.

We spent our last couple of days in Thailand relaxing at our hotel by the beach.  Kyle enjoyed taking pictures of birds and critters that we're not used to seeing every day.  We definitely enjoyed drinking our Mai Thais in Thailand as well!  One evening, there was a wedding on the beach at our hotel.  The couple getting married rented an elephant for the wedding!  That's not something that you see all of the time!

It was a long 12+ hour flight back to Frankfurt.  Once we got back to Frankfurt, we had about a two hour drive back to Stuttgart.  (That was very rough on Kyle who was driving!  I tried to stay awake, but just couldn't fight it!)  However, the long travel time was well worth it!

Kyle and I had such a wonderful time in Thailand.  It was the perfect mix of relaxation and sightseeing.  I would love to go back to visit Bangkok and other parts of Thailand.  Being there also made me want to visit more of Asia.  It's funny how the more you travel, rather than checking places off of your list, the list grows longer instead!  I highly recommend a visit to Thailand!

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