A 23 hour bus journey
01.10.2011 - 05.10.2011 29 °C
Well we made it to Phuket after a 23 hour bus journey from the beautiful and busy Chiang Mai. We checked out of our hostel just before 12pm, had lunch at a little restaurant opposite Sompet Market whilset it poured down outside. The women who own the place where we had eaten a few times since moving to Mojito house hostel because of the awesome dishes all priced 35-45 baht (around 73-93p) were happy to see us again and asked us about our travel plans and wished us well on our travels as we left to leg it through the rain and flag down a taxi.
Thailand has certainly lived up to its reputation as the 'Land of smiles' as almost every Thai person we have met so far is so friendly and welcoming and willing to help if they can! We grabbed some water and snacks in Tesco Lotus (yes Thailand has tesco, and Boots) that just opened between Moonmuang soi 5 and 6 then headed to the bus station via taxi bus for around 1.30pm. We originally planned to bus it back to Bangkok then get another bus from there to Phuket but we discovered that there is a newly opened service run by the Green bus company (http://www.greenbusthailand.com/) that goes the whole way there costing 1770 baht (£37) and covering a distance of over 1500km.
We stopped three times along the way for lunch, breakfast and dinner, dinner and lunch were both free. We also got a snack at the beginning of the journey consisting of chocolate wafers, crackers some sort of cake thing, orange juice and water. Our bus attendant a smiley happy guy called Jack (well that was the English version of his name apparently!) was really helpful once he found out we were Irish and brought us maps and gave us advice on which areas of Phuket to visit and which to avoid, Patong beach is pretty hectic according to Jack and pretty dirty so luckily enough we are staying at Karon beach further south and one of the nicest beaches on Phuket. We arrived in Phuket an hour before schedule after a speedy (and bumpy) journey and having been advised by Jack earlier not to take a tuk tuk as they cost over 500 baht for a short journey to Phuket town center, we jumped in a taxi and got dropped off at the bus stop in the market area where a Vegetarian festival was in full swing with the streets packed with stalls selling food and soviners as well as the usual fake bags, clothes, hats and sunglasses.
We got dropped off near our hostel; Pineapple Guest House (http://www.pineapplephuket.com/) and the bus journey cost 30 baht each, which was cheap for the distance we traveled compared to the tuk tuk to town which was 100baht. The hostel is awesome, huge room, fridge, air conditioning, fridge/freezer en suite shower room and safe box and only £5.19 a night! Its 5 minutes from the beach and right in the middle of shops, banks, tattoo parlors, bars and restaurants. The beach itself is awesome and clean and we cant wait to get some sunshine so we can enjoy it!
So far its rained a lot here as there is a tropical storm 'Nalgae' off the coast but its due to get sunny again tomorrow or the next day so fingers crossed for some beach time in the sun! We rented a motorbike yesterday from a cool Swedish couple who own a guest house around the corner from ours for 150 baht to share. Having never ridden a moped before we got a bit of practice in with the help of our Swedish friends who then guided us on moped to a nearby petrol station to fill up and as it started to rain showed us where to buy ponchos! Then we hit the road in what can only be described as a baptism of rain as It started to pour down with a vengeance and Gareth, who was driving, navigated the crazy Thai traffic and we headed to Patong beach for a visit over the some of the steepest winding roads ever as the rain beat down and we tried not to die.
With Gareth quickly becoming a bit of a pro on the old motorbike we made it safely to Patong beach 15 minutes later and walked off our adrenaline hangovers along the busy streets lined with stalls and Indians with fake Australian accents trying to sell us everything from fake watches to custom made suits and navigated through the thick crowds of tourists and holiday makers shopping a baht shaped hole in their wallets. The beach is separated by the shopping area by a busy main road and the place resembled china town in New York with a bit of Koh san Road thrown in. It was hectic and unpleasant with loads of western foodchains like McDonalds, Burger King and Starbucks dotted along the main road and restaurants and bars all clogging up the beach front. The beach didn't look to clean but that could have been because of all the rain, although having a busy street and road beside it probably didn't help.
We realised too late that it was quickly getting dark and jumped back on the moped and floored it back to Karon beach in near darkness. For someone who has never ridden a motorbike on main roads Gareth did an awesome job, once the weather picks up we are getting one each for a bit of sight seeing. We were warned by the Swedes to be wary of road pirates who roam after dark and who rob westerners on mopeds so night travel might be kept to a minimum while we are here!
We hit a reggae bar at the South end of nearby Kata beach last night called Ska bar, met some cool travelers and the owner and his mates and drank too many cocktails and Chang beer. One of the guys who is friends with the owner gave us a ride home on his moped which was nice of him! Id say we will definitely be back there a few times before we head to Phi Phi island on the 12th.
So far Phuket is a lot more expensive than Chiang mai for everything, food is over triple the price, where before we paid 35-40 baht for a big meal and around 40 baht for a small Chang beer we are lucky to get a meal for under 180 here and Chang is at the cheapest around 65 baht. We've found a few good restaurants selling cheaper food and there are street stalls dotted around at random times of the day so our budget travelling might survive a while yet! Hopefully the sun will make an appearance for the rest of our time here although with the rainy season in full swing we might have to put up with rain for a while yet!