So far, Thailand is a lovely, beautiful place. The water is clean and calm, the sand is fine and white, and the accommodations are cheap! We stayed almost a full week in Kata Beach, which is near the southern tip of the island. It’s pretty mellow in Kata and Karon, but the food prices let you know it’s still kind of a tourist town; it’s not nearly as cheap as Indonesia.
On our first day, Zac and I walked/struggled the 3-4 miles up the tallest hill in the area to find the Karon View Point. It was really cool! Even though we were in flip-flops, and the pictures came out hazy, it was well worth it. We could even see the famous Big Buddha from far away.
We enjoyed a much-deserved coconut for our efforts! I’m a big fan of coconut water for hydration and electrolytes, and drinking from a coconut tastes almost exactly like ZICO and O.N.E. coconut water! Good job to those two brands.
While in Kata, we spent a good deal of time at the beach as well, climbing the rocks, enjoying the refreshingly clean water, and just having leisure time. Kindle = awesome. Wandering around is advised before 11am and after 3pm. Not in between.
Khai Nai, Khai Nui, Khai Nok
We decided to fork up the 25 bucks for a half-day snorkeling trip to some nearby islands. It was well worth it, but not what I expected. These Khai Islands are all close together, with clear blue water, soft white sand, and plenty of fish. The islands were so small, that they were obviously purely tourist attractions; each had a drink bar, an ice cream bar, a textile shop (sarongs, etc.) and a beach littered with lounge chairs and umbrellas at 150 Baht ($5) for the hour. (Absurd!)
The best part was the mid-sea snorkeling. Our guide stopped the boat between two islands and let us all out to check out the wildlife below the surface. It was only about 2-3 meters deep, and there were plenty of colorful fish and sea urchins amidst the corral. Zac was afraid of damaging his waterproof camera/video camera (which I got for his birthday last year), and decided against bringing it on the trip. We missed a great opportunity to get some awesome shots/video. He’s an idiot.
Even though it’s pretty hot here in Thailand, running in the early am isn’t too bad. It’s a nice place to run along the beach, and plenty of people were out enjoying the relatively mild morning weather. You know you’re in a touristy area when the only other people up at 7am are jogging westerners. In fact, most of the shops and restaurants don’t open until well after nine! Zac and I are both kind of early risers, so it’s been a hassle to find breakfast almost every morning.
Kata Beach Market
On Mondays and Thursdays there’s a huge market at the end of our street with incredibly cheap food and a ton of clothes, trinkets, shoes, and souvenirs. We skipped over the shopping and headed straight for the food stands. We were both able to eat some sushi, tonkatsu (pork) with rice, vegetables, soy-sesame balls and some glazed donut holes (gross) for about $4 total. They also had some pretty intense foods that neither of us wanted to try.
I know I promised a food blog, and it will come, but I’m just going to throw in an aside here. Vegetables are hard to come by, but these countries LOVE their fruit. We’ve had and seen a lot of fruits I didn’t know existed, and I’ve spent the last three countries trying to figure out what these purple fruits were called. Someone in my hostel finally told us they’re mangosteens. They’re delicious. That’s all.
Amazing! So in Phuket, there’s this giant, 45-meter high Buddha statue. It’s a completely donation-funded tourist attraction, complete with a 360-degree view of the east and west coasts, and Buddhist monks camping out back. Apparently a couple of friends were hiking up this crazy hill 15 or so years ago, and thought it would be a great place for a viewpoint, and came up with the idea of throwing a huge Buddha statue up there as well.
You can see this thing from the beach, from the Karon View Point, and from just about everywhere in the area. After spotting it, I just knew we had to check it out. The best and cheapest way is to rent a motorbike, so Zac and I got one from the hostel for about 8 bucks for the day. We braved the crazy streets of Thailand, and were surprised that we actually found our way, as signage isn’t Southeast Asia’s strong suit.
We went a few kilometers up the final hill, and when we reached a tight curve with a steep incline, we decided it was a little too sketchy and dangerous, so we parked the biked next to some tethered elephants to walk the last 600m.
Oh wait, the sign saying, “View Point 600m” wasn’t for the Buddha, it was for the View Point Restaurant. Buddha was another mile or so up the hill. See what I mean about signage? Ah well, gotta get our exercise somewhere. The hike was hot, but pleasant, and we stopped to take in some awesome views along the way.
After sweating through our shirts, we finally made it to the top. The Big Buddha is really impressively. Made entirely of marble, it rests on a platform, under which is hollow. We walked underneath to find some shrines and a few people praying in Thai.
I don’t know much about Buddhism, but there were smaller sculptures as well, and I’m sure they had some sort of meaning. I’m pretty sure there’s just one God in Buddhism, and these are representations of different aspects of God. I think it’s something like that; I’ll leave it up to you to research though. Here’s a mini-size version of them.
Well that’s about it for Phuket. For those of you on the Heisey side of things, Zac was forced to post a blog addressing his family and friends, so be sure to check that out and make fun of him and stuff. We’re off to Pattaya tomorrow, solely because Zac promised TJ that we would check it out (you’re welcome), and then it’s off to Bangkok for a couple of days.
**Update – Thai BBQ**
A fun thing we did on our last night in Phuket was go to an all-you-can-eat BBQ place. About 10-12 of us from the hostel went there in a group, but little did we know that you had to cook the food yourself! We piled on all kinds of raw meat, veggies, fish, and noodles, as the employees laughed their heads off at our ignorance. We eventually figured it out. They put a huge slab of fat on top, and you can use tongs to coat the metal grill-like apparatus. Then, meat goes on the grill, and all veggies, fish, and noodles go in the moat – which makes a soup. It was pretty fatty, but delicious.