Bad air has descended on Guangzhou in a murky brown haze, causing me to lay low at home as much as possible this week. That, and the fact that most of our friends are away for the holidays, has given me lots of time to catch up on a few projects like writing this.
We spent a wonderful long Christmas weekend soaking up sun and sea in beautiful Phuket. While both of us have been to Thailand before, Phuket was a first. After traveling so much recently, we were both content to take a slower pace and spend most of our time lolling around on the beach or by the hotel pool. Since we booked months in advance, we got a great deal on the scenic Navatara resort in Rawai located in the Southeast part of the island. I was a bit concerned that we would regret that decision since there isn’t as much to do or see in the South. Instead, we thoroughly enjoy the peace and quiet.
Navatara offered a free and delicious buffet breakfast and a free shuttle to the beach and some local sights, so we were well taken care of. We found the places around our resort to be beautiful with lots of tasty local food options and fewer tourists. The best beach near us was Nai Harn Beach, which happened to have a fun market with many food options. We found a great beach cafe called Sea Breeze that offered incredible and cheap Thai dishes.
Nai Harn Beach
Though most of our time was spent close to the hotel, we did venture further afield on Christmas Eve to explore Patong about half an hour away from our hotel. We found a wonderful spa, Siladon, in that area that offered to transport us regardless of the distance, so got a free ride up followed by blissful massages.
View of Patong Beach from Siladon Spa
That was our most active day, which isn’t saying much because we basically laid around on the beach all day occasionally getting up to swim and then dry in the sun some more. Like in Bali, vendors kept walking by selling all kinds of food, drinks, and tourist trinkets. We made the excellent decision to buy these inflatable things, which I have dubbed “beach bananas.” Apparently, they can also be used to lounge in a pool, which seems a bit precarious, but also excellent.
This picture basically sums up our Phuket vacation
We were also thoroughly entertained by locals taking tourists up on parasailing rides. This involved a lot of impressive gymnastics by the parasailing guides who went up with the tourist and expertly guided them around and then back down for dramatic landings on the beach. Amaury had just about got up his courage to try it, and then it was conveniently sunset so he had an excuse to stay on the ground. Personally, I made it very clear from the start that someone would have to PAY ME a lot of money to make me try it… though the parasailing guides clearly knew what they were doing.
As the sunset began, we moved from the beach to a nice wine bar looking out over the sea and bustling street below. As you may know, I love a good charcuterie platter, so we ordered one of those with a selection of cheeses. Good cured meats and tasty cheeses are quite rare in China, and I’d say Asia in general, so always a treat.
We then took a somewhat uncomfortable walk up Bangla Road, which is the main party street in Patong lined with nightclubs, bars, and Thai boxing rings. At 7pm, it was already heaving with people, vendors, and club promoters trying to entice people into their dens of sin.
Notorious Bangla Road
We read online that it’s not a place for children after 10pm, but I’d say it’s never a place for children. Apparently, there are some great nightclubs, but overall it’s a seedy place with club promoters and vendors trying to sell you things at every step including various “shows.” Anyway, it was amazing for people-watching. My top favorite sight was a very well-dressed couple, likely in their seventies, walking down the road with looks of abject horror on their faces, closely followed by this tiger-themed club:
At the other end of the street was a huge night market selling fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, street food, and souvenirs. We enjoyed wandering around that for a bit and ate some refreshing coconut ice cream. Then, feeling worn out after all our relaxing on the beach, we haggled for a bit with a tuk-tuk driver to get back to Rawai. Our driver sped off as we scrambled to hold on in the back of the tuk-tuk that was lit by festive and garish green fairy lights. Fortunately, quite a lot of the way back was uphill along the coast, so the tuk-tuk’s loud but relatively weak engine couldn’t go too fast. Although, that didn’t stop our driver from playing make believe that he was a NASCAR racer.
There are certainly cultural sights in Phuket to see, but I’ll admit that the relaxed beach vacation was exactly what we needed. We slept in on Christmas Day, unwrapped a couple presents we’d brought along, called our families, ate lots of good food, and relaxed. So basically a perfect Christmas in line with our normal traditions… just on a sunny beach.
Another favorite place of ours was Phrom Thep Cape just five minutes from our hotel with sweeping views of the sea. We joined hundreds of people there to watch a spectacular sunset on Christmas Day. Compared to China, the crowds were manageable and we even found a front row seat to nature’s show. It also had a beautiful shrine at the top, I believe to Phra Phrom due to its many elephant statues.
Christmas did seem to last extra long this year due to all the choir concerts and events leading up to it. We also opted to open most of our Christmas presents a few days early before leaving on our trip. Many of these were not surprises. Several weeks earlier we bought a bread maker and a small Nespresso machine as our main gifts along with various bread-making ingredients and coffee. We then wrapped everything up and put it under the tree. This meant that most of our unwrapping revealed bags of flour, yeast, gluten, and Nespresso pods… But it sure did make our tree look lovely in the days before.
And oh my goodness, fresh wheat bread is ours! I may have mentioned the bread deprivation we undergo in China. I’ve realized that just as Chinese people would be aghast at a meal without rice, I am similarly reliant on bread in my life. And now we can make our own! I feel that this is an excellent investment for our likely future as ex-pats in breadless places.
So overall Phuket and Christmas were great successes as evidenced by my slight tan and belly full of homemade bread.