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Phuket Photos

At last, a few photos of my trip to Phuket, Thailand back in December. We stayed at Patong Beach at a couple of different hotels, the Thara Patong Beach Resort (our usual favorite) and at the Ramada Phuket Deevana Hotel. They’re both nice places to stay and have swimming pools (though the Deevana’s is rather small and fills up early), good service and decent food. If you by chance decide to visit Patong and stay at one or both of them, I recommend reserving a room at the Ramada with the free breakfast buffet option. The buffet is awesome, with a few dozen or more choices of food and plenty of hot and cold drinks. The buffet at the Thara Patong is OK, but can’t compare with the one at the Ramada. Either hotel is a good choice, though.

The weather during the first several days of our stay was a bit unsettled at times with cool temperatures and occasional rain, but near the end of our holiday, the sun and warmer weather dominated. As I mentioned in a previous post, I did a bit of shopping and bought a Lenovo Tab Essential, mainly to use as an ebook reader. It was a great buy at $75, and I use it every day. I’m getting in a lot of reading in my spare time, having recently read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” native-Montanan Ivan Doig’s “This House of Sky,” and George Saunders’ “Lincoln in the Bardo,” among others. Next up is “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing, followed by Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” and the first book in a trilogy by Ivan Doig titled “English Creek.” I better get reading.

Here are a few of the photos that I took. More later.

Thara Patong swimming pool

One of the swimming pools at Thara Patong Resort. This is the smaller one, just a little splash pool compared to the much larger one at the main building a little ways behind it. This one has a bar right beside it, featuring a “Happy Hour” (limited selection) every day, so be careful if you swim and imbibe here.

Swimming Pool, Patong Beach.

This is the view from our eighth floor room at the Ramada. The swimming pool is on the property of a hotel next to ours. It looks inviting, but there appeared to be little shade available.

Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand.

This was high season, so there were many vacationers at the beach and in the town. The hotels were booked full and some of the choice spots at the beach were taken. Nai and I always stayed at one particular spot, where we made friends with the ladies who gave massages and sold beer and food under a shaded pavilion, of sorts. This is the scene near that pavilion.

Nai drinks a Heineken beer.

Nai really likes Heineken Beer, even more than Beer Lao, I suspect. Here he enjoys a cold one under the umbrellas at “our” spot on the beach.

Nai gets a massage at Patong Beach

Nai gets a massage from the “boss lady” of this little place on the beach, where, along with the massage, you can get food and drink. This gal, whose name is Ma, I think, was a dear. She addressed everyone as “Dahling”, a la Zsa Zsa Gabor. A very friendly spot.

Paragliding at Patong Beach

Late afternoon paragliders enjoying a flight over the beach. It’s a pretty expensive proposition, costing about $30 for a 3-minute experience (I timed it). Still, a lot of people shell out the dough for it.

Patong cruise ship

Quite a few large cruise ships pulled into the bay off Patong Beach. They didn’t stay long, mainly for a day or overnight. Lots of smaller boats anchored in the deeper water away from the beach.

Patong beach at night

Patong Beach at night. As the evening progresses the beach goers head back to wherever they’re staying. This is a pleasant time to take a casual stroll on the sand.

Final Vacation Photos

Here are a few more photos from my recent trip to Laos and Thailand. This is one of my favorite views of Bangkok, looking into the Silom area and taken from the statue of King Rama VI in Lumphini Park. I probably should have tried to take a panoramic shot to give a better sense of the beautiful skyline that surrounds the park, but this small sample will have to suffice for now. Maybe next time.

After a few days in Bangkok, it was on to Phuket and Patong Beach. We spent a week there, lazing away the days on the beach while getting a sunburn and enjoying the nightlife. I’m always tempted to try the para gliding offered at the beach, but the price seems too steep (about $20) for the short ride (about 2 1/2 minutes). It’s kind of fun, though, to watch people taking off and landing.

The beach is usually crowded, but it’s not too bad to sit under an umbrella and read a book or “people watch.” You can’t see the lifeguard station in this shot, but at least one or two people had to be rescued every day due to the strong undercurrent in this area. The guards kept warning people out of the restricted area, but there were always a few people who ignored the warnings or accidentally strayed into the red zone. Fortunately, no one drowned.

Near day’s end.

Ok, that wraps up my vacation shots. I’ll try to get some Yeosu photos up soon, although this week sees the beginning of a 3-week kids’ camp and next week marks the start of a week long camp for children of faculty members, so I’ll be quite a bit busier than I have been.

Another Year in Yeosu, June Vacation

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention in my previous post that I’ll be signing on for another year here. Lots of reasons for doing that–familiarity with the job, pleasant people to work with, friendliness of the students and the people of the area, the beauty of the countryside, and, the biggest reason, the upcoming 2012 Expo next year, about which I’ve posted quite a few times. (Use the search box to find the relevant posts.) So, I’m pretty stoked about being here for at least another year.

The new contract begins at the end of August, so there’s still a bit of time to go before then. In the meantime, I’m heading down to Thailand and Laos in June. I purchased my ticket from Thai Air last week–I’d been logging onto their web site for about a month, waiting for their ticket prices to drop, which they do around this time of the year. Sure enough, prices went down about $100 for a round-trip ticket in June. Sweet!

I have a ton of frequent flier miles built up on the Star Alliance frequent flier program and they expire soon, so I probably could have used those for a free flight, if I’d been lucky enough to grab a freebie at that time. I’ve read that it’s very difficult to get a seat by using miles for free flights, and a more realistic scenario would have been to get an upgrade. However, I thought that wasn’t really the best way to go. I’ve decided to use the miles for a hotel room in Patong, Phuket, Thailand for a week for my friend Nai and myself. We’ve stayed at the Thara Patong Resort before, and we really enjoyed it, so I’m going to use the miles for that. It’s an upscale hotel, right across the street from the beach in Patong, with friendly staff, a very large swimming pool, and a pretty good inclusive breakfast in one of the restaurants. (I’m the early bird breakfast zombie–Nai usually sleeps in, lazy guy. :smile:

Here’s a quick snap of the pool from our hotel room, back in 2007.

So, as of now, my tentative plans are to fly into Bangkok on June 11th, take the overnight train to Nongkhai, Thailand on the 12th, arriving the next day, then goofing around in Nongkhai and Vientiane (Laos) with Nai until the 19th. We’ll then take the train back to Bangkok and fly out of the City of Angels on the 22nd for Phuket, returning on the 29th. Back to Korea on July 1st. Too short. But, it’ll do.

So, long term–another year in Yeosu. Mid term–the trip to Thailand in June. Short term–get in beach shape. I’ve taken off 5 kilograms (about 11 pounds) since the beginning of the semester in March, and I’ve got a long ways to go. I’ve been working out at the gym on the weight machines, so I’m trying to develop the physique, along with losing the weight. This recent illness has slowed my progress, but I’ve got a couple of months to go yet, so I’m hopeful that I’ll look like this guy. More later.

Not kidding about the physique. Jack LaLanne at 95 years old. Fantastic.

On to Singapore

Back in Bangkok, after spending 12 days in Phuket, I’m off to Singapore today, returning to Bangkok on the 18th and to the U.S. on the 24th. It seems like the last few months have zipped by, though my bank account will testify to the growing number of greenbacks I’ve scattered along the way.

The Phuket stay was finally accompanied by some beautiful weather, partly cloudy to sunny and not too hot. Unfortunately, I was laid up for a day or so from eating some bad shrimp (I think) on the beach. I got a case of “Montezuma’s Revenge” or whatever the Thai equivalent might be named. Nothing serious and not really a vacation-breaker.

Anyway, it’s off to squeaky-clean, high-rise laden Singapore, an expensive city, so I’ve read. I’m staying at Bugis Backpackers Hostel at a relatively cheap $50 per night for a room in the Chinatown section of the city. I don’t really care for the dorm-style living quarters, so I got a room. Singapore is also famous for it’s food, so I’m sure I’m going to add to the ample weight I’ve already acquired since arriving in SE Asia. Not much exercise, too much good food. I’d better go get packed. More later.

Phuket

I’m in rainy Patong Beach on the island of Phuket, staying at the lovely Thara Patong Beach Resort. Yesterday was very beautiful during the day, but rainy at night. No problem, though–it makes for a good reading/sleeping atmosphere. I’m staying here for a few more days and then heading on to another part of the island or else going to other areas near by. I haven’t yet decided.

Then, on the 14th, it’s on to Singapore–I’ve been trying to make a hotel reservation, but I won’t know if I’ve been successful until after the weekend. I’m a bit pressed for time right now, so, as always, more later.

A Stunning Development!

Not much to say about Thailand. We’ve been to Koh Samui and are now on Patong Beach on Phuket. So far Phuket’s been cloudy and rainy–not much sunshine, but it’s keeping things cool. We’ll probably head out of here and go back to Bangkok on Friday, then maybe over to Koh Samet.

While on Samui, I received an email from John, my former boss in Morocco. I read it and I thought, “What a jokester.” Then, I realized it wasn’t a joke. He was notifying me of a new English Language Fellowship position that had just opened and that the one-year rule about serving as a Fellow was being waived for this very special, high profile assignment. He asked if I’d like to apply for it. I hesitated for about 5 seconds before deciding, yeah, I want this one. What is the assignment?

Ok, all you Red Sox fans that read this, especially you, Karen, sit down and take a deep breath. The assignment is for an English language teacher at Boca Chica, Dominican Republic at the . . . . New . . . . York . . . . Yankees baseball campus!!! It’s a new facility where young prospects from all over Latin America come to show off their skills and receive instruction, etc. I assume they’re young guys, probably between the ages of 16-19.

So, I was accepted for the assignment and I will probably be returning to the States around the first of September. There are still many details to be worked out, flights to be reserved, paperwork to fill out, etc. I’ll keep posting here about how things are going. It’s not a done deal yet, but everything seems to be coming together ok. Am I excited? If you know me, you know the answer to that question already. More later.

Phuket Island–July 19

Well, just a few more days and I head back to Korea, with very mixed feelings. I love Thailand and Laos, so I hate having to go back, and I still don’t have another job lined up. I’ve heard from only one of the Korean universities to which I sent applications, Sangji, and they turned me down, and the SIT people in the States told me a few weeks ago to be patient a little while longer–I haven’t heard back from them either. To say I’m a bit worried is an understatement. I suppose things will work out, one way or another, even if I have to come back to teach in Thailand or Laos for peanuts, but there are always loads of good-paying jobs in Korea, though the conditions might be somewhat less than optimal.

Meanwhile, Patong Beach, THE big tourist area on the island and one that was nearly wiped out by the tsunami, is moderately busy. Now is the time to visit here, before the hordes of tourists return. Prices are relatively cheap–we got a great deal on a hotel room across the road from the long, beautiful beach. I’m paying about $24 a night for a room with a view of the ocean, a balcony, swimming pool, and free breakfast. I would guess the charge would be closer to $40 under normal conditions. There still seem to be quite a number of tourists, but remembering the conditions last year at this time, I think the place is running only about 50% of normal. The destruction of the tsunami is not all that evident, but if you look closely you can see areas of construction, especially behind temporary fences put up to block the view. Frankly, it doesn’t look much different than it did last summer, so the folks here have done a remarkable job getting the place back together.

Nai is having a great time, too, frolicking in the ocean and experiencing other new things. I took him bowling on Koh Samui, his first venture at the sport. He had a blast! The first ball he threw was, amazingly, a strike! He was hooked from then on, though he had trouble breaking 100 most of the time. We went to Phuket Fantasea a few nights ago, a show which I detailed in last year’s trip, so search through the archives for a description.

All in all, despite worrying about the job, it’s been a very enjoyable trip. We fly to Bangkok on Thursday, then on Saturday I go back to Korea and Nai flies back to Laos. All too soon the holiday is over. More later.

Thai Vacation Journal — 7/3 Still at Kamala, 7/5 — At Hat Raileh

7/3 — Well, I decided to stay on another day at Kamala, and I can book the boat from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi to Krabi from Benjamin Resort. It’s noon and about time for the afternoon shower, though we didn’t have one yesterday, just a brief early morning sprinkle. Now, ominous black clouds are building up and it looks like heavy rain is possible. So far, these showers have only lasted 15-30 minutes, with a maximum of two showers in one day. The accompanying wind really cools things down for a while, but it’s never been unbearably hot or humid since I’ve been here. Another thing I’ve been looking forward to is huge thunderstorms bullying their way in from the Andaman Sea, but they’ve failed to materialize so far.

7/4 — Ok, I took the boat yesterday from Kamala to Phi Phi to Krabi.
Continue reading Thai Vacation Journal — 7/3 Still at Kamala, 7/5 — At Hat Raileh

Thai Vacation Journal–6/28 Flight to Bangkok, First Night

Ok, finally I’m going to get started on the vacation journal that I promised. I returned a few days ago and have been getting organized ever since (those of you who know me well–quit laughing). I’ll make entries over the next few days (or weeks) and add photos to the blog and to the Photo Gallery on the main page, so keep checking back. I’ll probably just keep appending my journal entries to this post, so keep checking back. Without further ado, as written in my journal at the time, with a little editing . . .

I had a smooth flight from Incheon Airport in Korea, leaving about 10:30 a.m. Flight time–seven hours, but since Bangkok is two hours behind, I arrived in Thailand at 3:30 p.m. Bangkok definitely needs a new airport and they are, indeed, building one. The flight stopped in Hong Kong, and from what I saw of the city from the air, it looked impressive, with modern high-rises and surrounding mountains, which reminded me of Missoula and its encircling mountains (no “M” on the side of any hills, nor even “HK”). From Hong Kong to Bangkok the flight took us over the South China Sea. Popcorn clouds speckled the blue waters to the horizon, towards the unseen Philippines. From 35,000 feet I could see toy ships painting white, feathery wakes on the blue canvas below. The ships had to be huge tankers whose gargantuan sizes were belied by the altitude.

So, it was into Bangkok in the mid-afternoon. My first impressions of the city were that it was crowded, congested, exotic, dirty, and a mixture of old and new–amazing Buddhist temples (wats, as they are known in the Thai language) and modern skyscrapers. The traffic going from the airport to the guesthouse at which I stayed was a nightmare. In Thailand there is left-lane driving, but it seemed that vehicles, especially the myriad motorbikes, were taking whatever space they could find. The motorbike drivers (daredevils, I would later find out firsthand) and pedestrians weaved in and out of the clogged streets, the bikes poking their noses between buses and automobiles to wend their way to the front of the pack stopped at the traffic lights. They have their own little space at the front, and when the green light signalled to go like a bat out of hell, they did, racing ahead of the taxis and buses to get to the next red light. Amidst all the traffic was the occasional vendor; I saw one girl, who looked no older than 12 or 13, walking down the middle lane against the traffic, selling what looked like yellow paper flowers, or perhaps it was pineapple cut into flower shapes.

After about an hour-long ride, the shuttle bus from the airport dropped me off at Siam Square, one of the main shopping and entertainment districts of Bangkok. It was a fairly inexpensive ride, about $2.50; many things in Thailand, like food and transportation, are very cheap. As far as I could calculate, the price of gas here is about the same as in the U.S. Thanks to my friends Andrew Loader and Stephanie Gibbons, inveterate Thai travelers, I was able to find my way to Wendy’s Guesthouse with very little effort, although walking against the human tide for a few blocks threatened to exhaust me. I will stay at Wendy’s for the first night, paying 550 baht (the Thai currency, 40B = $1, about), about $14. Wendy’s is a small, clean, friendly guesthouse tucked away on one of the side streets of the Siam Square main road, Thanon Phra Ram I. Thanon is the generic name for street, so most of the main roads begin with its abbreviation, Th. Thus, Th Phra Ram I. Wendy’s is on Soi Kasem San 1, soi being the designation for a smaller street. So, off of Th Phra Ram I, you might find Soi 1, Soi 2, etc., or streets with other names, like the Soi Kasem San 1 of Wendy’s. I won’t try to get into the address system too deeply; it can get quite complex. Luckily, I have with me a couple of Lonely Planet guidebooks, complete with maps. So, I stayed at Wendy’s and later went out to eat my first Thai food, dinner at a small open-air restaurant just a few doors down from Wendys. I had stir-fried shrimp with rice and a Pepsi for 60B. Good price, great food. The menu was in English and Thai, so it was a simple thing to avoid squid, which I do avoid like the plague. I’ve had it in Korea and I don’t like it. I’m as averse to eating it as I am to eating cauliflower (note: later, I would eat both and not mind them too much). Tomorrow, I go on to Ko Phuket (poo-KET) (Ko = island), where I hope to stay at Benjamin Resort on Hat Kamala (KAH-mah-lah) (Hat = beach).

Siam Square, with MBK Shopping Center on the right
(where are all the motorbikes?)

Bangkok (89k image)

6/30 – 7/2 At Hat Kamala

I was going to leave Hat Kamala for Hat Raileh, a roadless beach area further east on the Thai mainland, near the town of Krabi. However, I decided to stay a while longer at Kamala–it’s very peaceful here, not too many other tourists and pretty laid back, but many places are closed because it is the low season. I visited Patong yesterday (7/1), which is the main tourist beach on Phuket. What a mess! Very crowded, very touristy, very noisy, with everyone trying to get your money–come in and buy this, buy that, take a tour here, hire a taxi to go there, and, of course, all the sex shops. Even though Kamala is only about 6 miles from Patong, it is a world away in terms of ambience.

On Wednesday (6/30) I took in the nightly performance at Phuket Fantasea, which is just up the road from where I’m staying. Wow! It’s a Vegas-style show that focuses on Thai mythology and culture. It is very well done, quite impressive, including Cirque du Soleil type aerial acrobats. There was a pleasant buffet proceeding the event, and though it wasn’t great, it was adequate and filling. Unfortunately, my table companions, from England, were a bit gruff and they didn’t seem like they wanted to make small talk with me. The main show, however, was worth the price of admission (2000B). I wish I had brought my camera along to take pictures of the park the event was located in, even though cameras and other recording devices were confiscated at the entrance to the auditorium; I knew this in advance, which is why I didn’t bring my digicam. The banquet hall seats 4,000 people and the auditorium, I believe I read on the website, seats 3,000. The show was a celebration of Thai culture, history, and mythology. It incorporated trapeze acrobats, high tech lighting and special effects, 20 elephants, water buffalo, goats, chickens, and doves flying through the auditorium. When the cast came out for a bow at the end of the performance, there must have been easily more than 100 members. Orchids (I think, maybe some other kind of flower), were floated down from the roof of the auditorium, as were scented soap flakes at the end of the show. The show detailed the kidnapping of a princess and her subsequent rescue by a prince. It featured a huge battle scene as the finale, complete with cannon fire and dragons. The hero wore an amazingly beautiful suit of lights and he had a magic elephant to help in the victory, the elephant levitating and disappearing in mid air as its chores were finished. There was much, much more, but, overall this is a great spectacle, and I highly recommend it if you ever get to Phuket.

Benjamin Resort gets a good recommendation, too. There is a nice deck outside my spacious room (600B/night), though the view of the beach is blocked by palm trees. The surf sound is melodic, providing a sweet symphony to lull me to sleep at night, and the veranda/deck provides a dry haven from the daily afternoon showers, which rattle on the roof, sometimes drowning out the shuushing of the ocean. The resort is right on the beach, which is about 2-3 kilometers long, and is delineated by rocky headlands at its north and south ends, which are home to very upscale resorts. Even farther north is the very exclusive Amanpuri Resort, costly at $1,000 per night. The Amanpuri provides a fairy-land look at night, beautifully lit in the distance.

Tomorrow I’m off to Phuket City to catch a boat to Ko Phi Phi and on to Krabi for the night, there to take a longtail boat to Hat Raileh, if the seas aren’t too heavy during this monsoon season. That’s the nice thing about the low season–you can journey just about anywhere in the country and have no problems with getting decent accomodations. In the high season, approximately Nov.-Feb, although this varies in places, it is usually necessary to make reservations well in advance.

Kamala Beach, looking south toward Benjamin Resort, way down at the end

Kamala Beach (50k image)