Sunshine, storms and ultimate Jenga
06.10.2011 - 15.10.2011 30 °C
The past week has been a mixture of beach life, markets, regee bars and delicious food. The sun finally decided to make a consistant appearance and we spent our days on Karon beach soaking up the sun, swimming, bodyboarding, drinking beer as the sun set and munching on corn on the cob sold by one of the many beach-roaming sellers who sell everything from food to hammocks and suitcases to the sunbathing tourists.
On Saturday we caught a bus to Phuket town to visit the weekend market. The bus costs 30 baht and you basically wait at the side of the road and hope it comes your way in the next hour! The market was similar to those of Chiang Mai and Bangkok selling all manner of fake clothes, shoes, handbags, CD’s, sunglasses..you get the idea and some amazing and unusual food. We sampled some great sushi at one of the stalls, had fresh crab meat had some random fruits and chilled in a Western themed bar at the centre of the market with a British couple we met on the bus. The owner of the bar was dressed as a cowboy and there were leather waistcoats, belts and checked shirts for sale hung up in a washing line fashion all over the bar. After a few drinks we headed off for a last walk around the market and then since we were told the buses stop at 6pm, taxied it home for 400 baht, expensive but all taxis here seem to charge the same rates no matter where you go, and they aren’t into bargaining like the taxis and tuk tuks in Chiang Mai and Bangkok!
Last Wednesday we headed to the beach early and enjoyed the hot sunshine before a huge rainstorm came to take the fun away, its amazing to watch as a wall of thick dark clouds rolls in from the sea, sending all the tourists including ourselves for cover. A thai women let us shelter in her massage marquee set up on the beach and as the rain bore down on us we made small talk about Thailand and Ireland with her over the roar of the wind. Once the storm had passed the sun came out again and we ventured back to the beach. Less than an hour later as a second storm rolled in, this one stronger than the last we decided to call it a day and walked towards home in the downpour.
Within momnets It got so heavy that in true Irish style we took shelter in a bar called Montana Bar in Bangala plaza not far from our hostel, located just off the beach road. The soi is lined with bars, mostly girlie or ladyboy venues. All of the bars are open-sided with some extra tables outside and featuring the occasional pool table. With names like Winner Bar, My Way Bar, Nan, Nightflower, Black Cat and Jinda all aimed at a certain type of clientelle, Montana bar is the exception. Air-conditioned with a few chairs outside, it specialises in retro music and is free of bar-girls. Three beers each later and we had made friends with the owner Jin, who asked us if we wanted to play a game.. of course we said yes unsure of what we might be getting ourselves into, and waited as she dissapered into the bar and reappered moments later with a Jenga set. Great we know jenga this should be easy..not in Thailand, they have their own ultimate jenga and we played for beers, whoever lost bought the table a round of drinks or shots!
The game was set up by Jin and her friend Nutty joined us to make it four. The rain began to ease off and as the jenga tower rose higher and higher, drinkers at neighbouring bars started to take an interest shouting advice to Gareth who's turn it was. Sadly his was the first tower to fall and the drinks were out in moments. This continued into the evening and by the end of it we were all pretty drunk with the scores standing at Gareth with three, Jin and myself with two and Nutty, who was a bit of a pro at this game with only one loss. We headed to the nearby "lady bar" for a laugh and danced the night away with Jin, Nutty and their friends! A great night and whilst we spent a lot more than we intened it was worth it for the banter!
One place to take note of in the Karon beach region is Mama Noi's a small resturant which specialises in both Italian and Thai food just beside Pineapple Guest house and where we ate most often when we were in Phuket. Its priced well and has a wide range of dishes from western food like pasta, lasagne, salads, sandwiches, chicken and chips and Thai food covering pretty much any Thai dish you can think of. The spicy Penang Curry was one of my favorites from here and the club sandwich with fries is huge and could feed two for lunch on days where we needed a change from the spicy Thai dishes.
We also had a newly opened subway to indulge in when we were feeling like indulging in western food and were there the first morning it opened for the sub of the day, a bargain at 69 baht (£1.49) and watched as the friendly smiling Thai staff took on western personas greating us loudly with "HI WELCOME TO SUBWAY" and repeating our orders in almost American English accents. Subways seem to be popping up all over Thailand, another strong indication of the constatnt influence the western culture is having on Thailand as it changes to accomadate its ever growing tourisim industry.
At the corner between Siam Commercial bank and the 7eleven, there are a range of street vendors that set up every day selling foods ranging from fruit , fruit smoothies, banana pancakes,chicken and fish skewers, noodles soup and fried chicken to name a few, and these are all priced from 10-40 baht depending on what you go for.
We visited Angus O'Tools Irish bar near the middle of karon beach (http://www.otools-phuket.com/index.html ) for a Guinness that according to Gareth tasted like fresh tyres smell (I don’t drink Guinness so I had myself a nice cold Chang instead) and we subsequently went on a bit of a bar crawl through the neighbouring bars, finding most of them dominated by Asian women looking for the next Western man to entertain but still interesting for one or two (expensive) drinks.
Closer to Kata beach on route from Karon you come across a huge stretch of restaurants and bars and home to Dino Park indoor mini golf and restaurant, one of the weirdest looking buildings in the area (http://www.dinopark.com/gallery.html) and probably worth a visit if mini golf is your thing! Further round at Kata beach beside our favourite SKA Reggae bar and the restaurant next door does a fantastic range of fresh seafood dishes and is worth going to for dinner before chilling the night away next door. We had great shark steaks here for 200 baht (around £4) and friends of ours had the crab which was delicious and the same price as the shark ( http://www.rollinglobe.com/RGWeb/map/details.aspx?loc=2487&city=30169 ).
In all Phuket was a great place to spend a just under two weeks and whilst the prices are higher than Chiang mai the people are just as friendly. While the Indian street vendors dont like to barter prices much and will hassle you ar you walk by the Thai remain a little more approachable and friendly when it comes to bargain hunting. Karon beach is alot quieter than neighbouring Patong for nightlife and has no clubs but has some great bar and resturants and the beaches of Karon and Kata seem much cleaner and are great for water sports. You can rent bodyboards and surfboards on Karon and Kata for around 200baht. We also saw some kitesurfers out on the water as well as jetskis for hire near the middle of the beach. The sunset from Karon was spectacular and worth chilling out on the beach right into the evening to capture your own postcard perfect sunset.
Our initial 30 day visitor visa to Thailand was two days from running out and since the easiest way to renew it is flying out off and back into the country, we left Phuket on Friday to spend a week in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. Pineapple guest house organised a taxi for us for 650baht, which is pretty cheap considering it is an hours drive from Karon to the airport at the North of Phuket. From here we flew with Air Asia and the flight took under two hours. The hostel Suzie’s Guest house (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Suzie-s-Guesthouse-and-Hostel-KL/Kuala-Lumpur/48749 ) provided us with directions from the Airport and we arrived around 7.30pm after taking the free airport shuttle bus to catch the KLIA Express Train to KL Sentral station and then the Rapid Kl LRT train to Pasar Seni Station a short 2minute walk from the hostel, the whole trip cost around 16 Ringgit (around £3).
Once we had checked in we headed to Chinatown for some cheap eats and found that food here in Kuala Lumper is around the same price asThailand, with a meal style munch in the middle of the market costing 17 RM ( £3.50ish) but with alcohol prices alot higher due to the governments tax on alcohol in this predominantly Islamic country, a large Tiger beer cost us around £4.00 where in Thailand the most we ever paid was around £1.40. Clothes and good from the market seem priced a little higher than the markets in Thailand also, which may be a good thing as our backpacks are beginning to weigh a ton! We are spending 6 nights here and hope to visit some of the citys landmarks like the Petronas twin towers and the the 421-metre-high Menara KL Tower amongst other things before heading back to Thailand and renewing our 30 day visitor visa upon re-entry for what will hopefully be a month with more sun and beaches than rain storms and flooded streets, fingers crossed!