Thursday, February 23, 2017

SOLO TRAVEL: PHUKET ON A BUDGET


The waters are warm and aquamarine blue, the sunsets are gorgeous, diving is amazing, cost of things are cheap, and it's only an hour and a half away.


I'll always go back to Thailand. 

***
Most people turn up their nose at Phuket in distaste, picturing a place ruined by rampant overdevelopment and swarming hordes of tourists.

It is true that the main stretch of and around Bangla road is awfully crass, glaringly loud, disgustingly over-sexed, and in your face (ping-pong show, anyone?)

However, Phuket is a large island and there is so much else to do - diving, trekking, shopping, nightlife, eating, island-hopping, and the list goes on. 

Just a mere 15-20 minute ride away from rowdy, dirty Bangla road will take you to the idyllic beaches of Karon and Kata - or if you really feel like getting away from everyone and everything, Panwa and Surin. 

In the Andaman sea surrounding Phuket, manta rays and whale sharks lazily glide around. The harsh cliffs and dense foliage of hundreds of uninhabited islands with beautiful pristine beaches are perfect for daytripping, sunbathing, and snorkelling. 

Another upside is the cheap, cheap prices (if you know where to look). I recently spent a week in Phuket. Here is a breakdown of how much it cost me

Accommodation for one week: MYR 104 /  USD 23
Expenses for one week (massages, shopping, food, transportation): MYR 600 / USD 135
Flight both ways (Kuala Lumpur): MYR 190 / USD 43

Grand total (flights, expenses, and accommodation): MYR 894 / USD 201

I've not included diving in my cost as this is a subjective activity (not everyone dives).

Here is my one-week itinerary for Phuket on a budget.

***
Day 1 (4 Feb, Saturday)

Afternoon: Arrive in Phuket. Airport minibus to Patong (180 bht one way). Check in to hostel link HERE (Full Stop Hostel Patong)

Review of hostel - I stayed in the 6-bed dorm at 140 baht per night. Good WiFi, strong air-conditioning, clean showers, and each bed has their own charging sockets and reading light. Quite a distance to the main area (approx. 2km to the markets, restaurants, beach, but best value for money in Phuket). It is up north on the quieter side of Patong, so the plus points are crowd-free beaches and a peaceful sleep.


Evening: Window shopping, dinner, and massage (300 bht at That's Siam Massage Parlour) in Jungceylon Shopping Mall 



Street vendors selling mango sticky rice.



Sunset by the beach, just before it started raining.


Bangla road and the famous ladyboys.

***
Day 2 (5 Feb, Sunday)

Morning til afternoon: Diving in Racha Islands (3900 bht per day)

Evening: Dinner at night market, full body Thai oil massage, sightseeing in Bangla Road.



Pre-dive buffet breakfast on the boat.



Racha Noi island.


Racha Noi.



On the dive deck just before getting into the water. There was a manta ray floating around the vicinity - others in our group spotted it but not me! *cries*

***
Day 3 (6 Feb, Monday)

Morning: Breakfast Thai Red Milk Tea (20 bht) and grilled chicken (60 bht for quarter chicken) 

Afternoon: Public bus to Phuket town (30 bht one way). Walking and sight seeing in Phuket town.

Evening: Dinner and window shopping in Patong



Breakfast before heading out to explore town.



Trying to con me into sharing my meal.


Avoid tuk-tuks or taxis because they're expensive and a ripoff starting at 500 baht. Take the public bus at a maximum rate of 30 baht.

Got to Old Phuket Town and walked about wandering.


Old doorways.



Colourful shophouses.



Street murals.


More interesting street murals.

***
Day 4 (7 Feb, Tuesday)

Morning: Breakfast (same as day 3)

Afternoon: Pickup by Tour East Thailand for Phuket walking and sightseeing tour to Karon and Kata viewpoints, Big Buddha, Wat Chalong, Phuket old town, Cashew Nut Factory, Jewellery Factory (Cost of tour = USD 9 link HERE [Phuket Half Day Tour]) 

Review of tour - very good, excellent value for money. You can request your guide to go to Big Buddha with an add on 300 baht as it is not included in the original itinerary.


Evening: Tom yum in local roadside coffeeshop (100 bht)



Karon viewpoint



Kata viewpoint.



Ornate window frames in Wat Cha Long.



Wat Cha Long.



Big Buddha.

***

Day 5 (8 Feb, Wednesday)

Morning: Breakfast (same as day 3 and 4)

Afternoon: Public bus to Kathu waterfall. Bus dropoff on main road, self-guided trek with Google maps. (Cost of bus = 25 bht one way. Admission to waterfall = free)

Evening: Catch beach sunset, Thai full body oil massage, dinner in Chinatown. 



Entrance of waterfall.


First tier.



Second tier.



Ice cold water.


Ending the day with this glorious sunset.

***
Day 6 (9 Feb, Thursday)

Morning til afternoon: Diving in Phi Phi islands (3900 bht per day)

Evening: Dinner and window shopping in Banzaan Night Market



Saw a leopard shark sleeping in the sand, was a good dive.

***


Day 7 (10 Feb, Friday)

Morning: Breakfast (tom yum in local coffeeshop 100 baht, thai milk tea 20 baht)

Afternoon: Minibus to airport (180 bht)

Evening: Back in KL. 




***

Additional notes:


  • Photos all taken with a Huawei Honor 5C by hostel mates, dive buddies, or whichever random strangers who happen to be standing around (such is the life of a solo traveller).
  • Number of massages had during this trip: 3 Thai full body oil massages (average cost per massage = 250 thb)
  • Shopping on this trip: 3 bikinis, one formal evening dress.






Tuesday, February 14, 2017

WIFE WANTED

" 我来自中国 (Wo lai zhi zhong guo).  " 
" I am from China. " he declared as a manner of introduction when I checked in to my hostel (we were in the same dorm).

***
He spoke slowly in a deliberate nasally tone, occasionally pausing to adjust the thickly-rimmed glasses resting on the bridge of his nose. No, he wasn't from Beijing nor Shanghai nor even Shenzhen. He was from a poor rural farming village (of which the name now escapes me).

His clothes were stained yellowish gray with age and grime. Dirt was lodged underneath the crevices of his nails and his hair was matted. He was 35 years old. It was his first time venturing out of China.

When I asked him why he was travelling, he answered

" I hope to find a wife. "

Huh?

The below conversation ensued.

***

" How many siblings do you have? " He enquired.

" Two. " I responded. 

" Hmmm... there are three children in your family. " He murmured.

" Yes. " I affirmed.

" During my time, the one-child policy was enforced in China. In the cities, they were either educated enough to embrace the birth of a daughter or wealthy enough to pay government bribes if they wanted more children. In the villages, it was a different story. Sons were highly valued to help with manual labour and carry on the family name. Daughters were killed at birth. "

" Because of this damned policy, males far outnumber females of marriageable status today. There are no women left in the villages! "

" I came to Thailand because I heard the women here like foreign men. Do you think that is true? "

" Uhmm.. ehmm.. " I uhmmed and ehmmed. 

The all too common theme of old white men with young Thai 'girlfriends' surfaced in my mind's eye - could a farmer from rural China compare? However I kept silent, not wanting to dissuade his dream of happily ever after.

" Well, you can try! " I feigned encouragement.

***

When I left, he had yet to find his bride.