Sunday, 9 June 2013

Final days in Phuket

Time does fly when you're having fun.  We're currently sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for our shuttle to the airport, looking forward to Singapore but not wanting to leave and not looking forward to going somewhere we're expected to do work.
The highlight of Phuket was probably the Discovery Scuba course on our second day.  Even the drive to the boar was scenic, winding down the East side of the island with long stretches of sandy beaches and chilled out shacks as far as the eye can see.  We boarded the boat with probably ~30 other scuba divers and especially enjoyed hanging out with a mom and her 19 year old son from British Columbia (I got many travel recommendations for our west coast road trip, Shann and Becca) and a British guy who was here for a destination wedding.  I must say, the wedding sounded like a dream- there were even baby elephants involved.  The boat ride to the scuba site took a couple hours and I was trying not to think about how this scuba company basically violated everything I learned in NCSU scuba.  You're supposed to stay away from caffeine while diving because it dehydrates you but the most readily available free liquids were Coke, coffee and beer.  We lucked out with a private instructor (/cameraman) for just the two of us, which was especially helpful considering the lack of instructional direction we received.
Ready or not... getting ready to dive!
Not only did they want you to quickly sign your life away liability-wise, but there was a ten question pop quiz with basic scuba information that you were supposed to review with your instructor before diving.  He’s like “you don’t have to worry about that.  We’re just going to get wet and swim, swim, swim!”.  His 5-minute introduction to the equipment and scuba didn’t even mention the golden rule of scuba: never hold your breath.  So basically, that was that and before we knew it, we were suited up and in the water.  The first dive was for about 40 minutes in a sandy section around the island.  We saw blue starfish, found Nemo and swam through huge schools of smaller fish.  After lunch, we went on a second dive for about 40 minutes but that time, we went down 21 meters in a coral reef area, which was absolutely breath-taking.  Honestly, it didn’t seem like there was much difference between our dives and the dives that our scuba-certified friends went on.  This scuba company was pretty… relaxed, haha.  But it was an amazing experience and I’m certainly thinking about finishing up the actual certification process especially if I can do it with Ken this summer.  Those two open-water dives count toward the certification so adding some theoretical information and some skills tests should be relatively simple.

After a long day in the sun, we came back to the hotel, went for a swim, spent some time in our “office” at happy hour at the hotel bar (you could only get free wi-fi in the hotel hobby and restaurant so we’d set up camp with our electronics and buy one get one free gin and tonics).  We watched an extraordinary sunset from our perch and they had a band playing live music, with only us to enjoy it.  A little later on, we went for a walk under the stars and dined on Pringles and wafer cookies (Ken and I make a good travel team for the most part but we’ve been struggling to find good food places and thus have been sustaining ourselves on interesting combinations of snacks like these). 
Our final full day in Phuket, we took full advantage of the beach and pool at our resort.  Originally we were going to rent a scooter and explore the East Coast and go up to the Big Buddha but there was some miscommunication regarding our last rental and we were feeling lazy so we hung out by the resort.  It was somewhat unfortunate because we had plans to meet up with Jenna and an Aussie couchsurfer if we could get there, but we had to cancel those.  Jenna’s boyfriend just moved to Singapore so hopefully we can meet up there next month!  Swim in the ocean, swim in the pool, play pool, massage and a movie… so our last day passed in a blissful blur… and now I’m about to board the plane to Singapore.
Closing thoughts about Thailand?  Beautiful, relaxed and easygoing country, which is relatively easy to get around and travel in, even without knowing the language.  The people, especially in Chiang Mai, seemed really generous and helpful.  I left postcards in one of the tour vans early on and they made a special trip to drop them off at the hostel for me before our flight departed.  Ken was supposed to pay to check a second bag at the airport and they waived the fee saying “you’re checking a stroller, right?  No charge”.  Even coming to this airport, I was dragging my luggage down a wrong ramp outside and some security guard interrupted his smoking break to run down the hill and help me bring up my bags.  He was adorable and wanted to know my name and life story after I stopped huffing and puffing.  We lucked out with the weather even though we’re approaching rainy season and it rained every day but it never interfered with our daily plans.  Which also meant it was off-season which means it felt like we had Phuket to ourselves most of the time.  Overall, an amazing six days.  I’m looking forward to seeing what Singapore has in store!

Sunset on the second to last night from our hotel