CURRENT LOCATION: Penang, Malaysia
I believe Zev left you last in the food court of Bangkok International Airport. After one more quick flight, we landed in Phuket, grabbed our bags, and headed through to meet our transfer driver. There's something pretty amazing about being met at the airport by a guy holding a sign with your names on it, even if they are spelt wrong. He shot off to grab the car as we waited on the sidewalk. Much to our delight, he returned in the pimpest (yes, that's a word) van I've ever seen. The inside had all sorts of coloured lights on the ceiling, and a serious sound system going on. It was like a cross between a limo and a hearse. Sadly we didn't get to hear the sound system during our transfer, but that was okay, we had the sights to keep us entertained.
The first thing we noticed was that there are road rules in Phuket. Unbelievable! People use their indicators instead of their horns. The second was the abundance of malls. In the 45 minute drive to the accommodation, we must've passed 15 malls. I'm not sure who is coming to Phuket in search of sofas, but obviously someone is.
Finally, we arrived. A swipe card with electronic gates alerted us to the fact that this was not the type of accommodation we were used to. We jumped out of the van to a warm greeting from Billie and Pete, and Elle and Nick. Background: Billie and Pete are Zev's best man Will's parents, and Zev lived with them for a while during the time his house was getting fixed up. Elle is Will's sister, and Nick is her partner. It was pretty great to see some familiar faces, and even greater that we were greeted with a delicious Thai feast and some beers, in a beautiful house with a private swimming pool. By this stage it was pretty late, so we hit the hay.
The following day, we took advantage of the tranquil surroundings and had a sleep in. Mid-morning, the owner came around and took us on a tour of the surrounding areas to show us the points of interest in his ute. With Nick and Elle sweltering in the back, we checked out the local shops, a slightly further afield beach and lake, and a look out spot, before returning to our local beach, Rawai. Rawai was not ideal for swimming, but there were several restaurants along the waterfront, and it was the launching point for long tail boats to the nearby islands. We managed to pass the rest of the day in a haze of pool swimming, snack eating, movie watching (seems as good a place as any to watch The Beach!) and wedding photo organising (finally!!).
Billie and Pete, Elle and Nick went island hopping, so Zev and I used the time to do some much needed laundry, catch up on emails etc, and book our onward travel. We also discovered what was to become our home away from home for the next wee while, The Breakfast Hut. This place did amazing big cooked breakfasts, and the fluffiest pancakes known to man, all served by the most hilarious stereotypical Thai waitress in the world. Brash and friendly at the same time, she got shit done, and had no time for your nonsense.
When the rest of the gang arrived back in the evening, we ordered a massive feast in anticipation of the arrival of the remaining group members (Will and Grace, and Grace's parents May and Jeff) later that night. Sure enough, they turned up right on cue, and we enjoyed a long evening of eating, drinking, and catching up, before letting them go to bed and get over their jet lag.
Because of our excellent experiences prior, we visited The Breakfast Hut for a 10 person breakfast. It was just sooo good. And the waitress was the best! We spent the rest of day hanging out by the pool, in the pool, catching up on recent happenings, eating snacks, and drinking cold drinks. I ventured back up to the shops to get a $6 haircut, but that was the most adventurous activity for the daylight hours. The pool was heavenly, and slugging out with friendly faces was such a nice change anyway. We booked our pimped out taxi van to take all of us to the night markets that evening. About 30 minutes away, the night market was jam packed with locals and tourists alike. Stalls selling clothes, souvenirs, knick knacks, shoes, snacks and food filled the massive, covered complex. It was a really cool vibe and the quality of the wares were better than some of the previous SE Asian night markets we've encountered. There was no shortage of knock-off designer clothing etc. We did some obligatory bartering and haggling and everyone (except me) came away some new gear and a full belly (especially me)! We returned with our purchases to have some more drinks and play cards outside by the pool, taking advantage of the cooler night temperature.
The following day followed a similar, lazy pattern. Breakfast Hut, pool, drinks, pool etc. I decided to follow up on the haircut with a straight shave. Unfortunately this expedition was not as successful. The cutthroat razor turned out to be a Gillette Mach 3 (just wanted to point out that my razor has actually has an additional blade) and the woman hacked me up pretty good. I even left the shop bleeding. Ah well, can't win them all. That evening, Nick and Elle left Phuket, and after saying our goodbyes, the remaining 8 of us wandered down to Rawai Beach to have some cocktails and a nice dinner. The setting was gorgeous, right on the water, the food was mostly delicious, and the cocktails came served inside of coconuts (for an extra fee of course...)!
The following day we all bravely left the comfort of the pool and took a long tail boat to nearby Bon Island. A long tail boat is a small wooden boat that has a massive car engine mounted to the back (the same as the ones we caught on our first day in Bangkok, which feels like a lifetime ago!). This engine powers a propellor at the end of a 2-3m long shaft...hence the name. The island lies about 1km off the coast of Rawai Beach and has a restaurant set up. Upon arrival we were instructed by the restaurant owner, Dawn, that if we wanted to miss out on a long wait for food we should order some lunch then and there. So we obliged. The food was surprisingly delicious considering the island has no electricity or refrigeration. I guess that means everything has to be fresh....right? Anyways, we spent the next few hours swimming in the sea, throwing a frisbee, snorkelling, and lounging on the sand under a coconut tree. We had arranged for our long tail boat captain, Chain, to collect us at 3pm. At about 2pm a pair of large speedboats delivered about 60 Chinese tourists to the island, which made for some comical viewing whilst they took shameless selfies and posed for some classic, timeless photos. Chain arrived bang on time, which was ideal, as we had all gotten a bit too much sun and were started to become a little overwhelmed by all the other tourists. That night we ordered in some more takeaway Thai food and had another feast at the villa. Everyone was pretty tuckered out from our day at the beach and we had an early night.
On our last full day in Phuket we carried on the tradition of having lazy days and slept in! Will and Grace joined us to try a local BBQ burger restaurant for lunch. I ordered the biggest burger on the menu which ended up defeating me - but only just! It was almost as big as my head. After enormous burgers and plus our exhausting day in the sun the day before, we returned home for a much needed nap. That evening, we all went to DIY BBQ place for dinner. This was similar to the place we went to on Nha Trang, Vietnam, only a bit nicer. The waitress showed us how to cook everything efficiently and introduced us to her enormous, fluffy golden retriever named Whiskey. There were also a number of resident cats who knew how to get some stray bits of meat from the BBQ from all the white faces. Needless to say this was amazing! Lots of quality fluffy pats time was had. Plus the dinner was tasty!
On our leaving day we made one last trip to The Breakfast Hut, of course! Our favourite waitress was sad to hear we were leaving but she will cope, I'm sure of it. We packed our bags and said all our goodbyes. It was so awesome to get to spend some quality time with friends and family. A huge shout out to Bille and Pete for organising the villa, inviting us and being amazing, generous hosts! Thank you sooo much guys! Also, to Will, Grace, Jeff, May, Elle and Nick, thanks for the good times and being awesome company! The lazy days were just what everyone needed, and what better way than to have them with great friends!
Our taxi to airport arrived early and got us there with plenty of time to spare. Upon checking in we almost had a repeat of the day 1 proof of onward travel debacle, despite having proof of a flight out of Bangkok in a week (which is a moveable stand by flight, but they don't know that), but we managed to convince the check in lady that we could show proof of funds upon our arrival into Malaysia if need be, and we avoided having to purchase another ticket. Phew! Phuket airport was our first opportunity to make use of our Lounge pass, so use it we did. We were on our way to a completely new country, Malaysia!
Lots of love,
Z & S
(Original post date: 24th April 2015)