Sunday, January 20, 2008
Sundays from Singapore: Thailand part 2
Okay, where were we? Oh, yes, we had made it to the hotel. Our first afternoon was spent unpacking, fighting over limited drawer space, and swimming in the black bottom pool.
That evening, the Morg's invited is to join them at a favorite restaurant at the resort next door, the Adamapuri. What I did not understand when accepting the invitation was that after ascending those 5200 extra high steps back to the lobby, we were going to walk uphill to the next hotel. And I was wearing heels, for once. But being the good sport of high endurance that I am, I only moaned and groaned part of the way. My humor was stretched, however, when Mrs. Morg frantically signaled us to retrace some of our steps to see a monkey or lemur hanging in a tree. Well, that would have been quite a sight, especially for my budding primatologist, Not Quite Grown, but it turned out to be nothing more than a fallen palm frond caught in some other branches. Mrs. Morg was told to wait until the next one bit her before causing 6 other well-dressed people to dash uphill in evening wear.
Dinner was marvelous, in a surrounding even more Thai than our own. The restaurant overlooked the ocean and the setting sun, with much appreciated breezes. I don't even mind that all the pictures taken that night have my hair (you know, the Beatle do) standing straight up in the wind. I dined on Caesar salad, rack of lamb, and a triple chocolate mousse dessert that would cure any and all ails. Waddling as we were, we elected to have the hotel valets drive us home in glorified golf carts. Now, if I could just have persuaded them to carry me back down the steps.
I'm much cooler now... no glasses, longer hair that doesn't stand up, and i know I am younger and slimmer! That's NQG next to me on the left, followed by Almost Grown, Mrs Morg and her mom, and Morg on the right, all wating for our reservation.
The night passed quickly, soothed by the sound of the crashing ocean and the very efficient air-con. After a breakfast buffet, the "girls" in the group over the age of 2 took the shuttle into Phucket town. Poor NQG forgot her Dramamine, and boy, did she need it! We were supposed to be transported in a van, but for some reason, ended up in two Volvos instead. The Morg women went in one, and we went in the other. Our driver deferred to the other and let him lead the way to town, about 30 minutes away.
Remember I told you that Singapore motorists drive pell-mell and can't stay between the lines? Well, they are stellar compared to these two! Thailand still has you drive on the left-hand side of the road, with an equal number of scooters and cars/trucks. However, a good 50% of our time was spent racing in the opposing traffic lanes, honking at every scooter we passed, even when approaching a blind curve. The Morg's driver seemed determined to beat out all the other vehicles headed in the same direction that we were going. Our driver, Boy, started laughing like crazy, pointing at the other disappearing car, and desperately trying to keep up. Most of our trip was conducted at about 70 MPH. Mr Toad's Wild Ride has nothing on these guys! Needless to say, driving in Phuket involves a strong stomach, a good grip on some handle, one hand to cover your eyes, and a lot of honking.
We arrived at an unscheduled stop at a jewelry mart, where I'm sure the Morg's driver had an uncle working or he was receiving a kickback. Undaunted, we wandered through a very nice showroom filled with Thai rubies and sapphires, and other assorted ornaments. I was shopping with Almost Grown for an appropriate 16th birthday gift, but she became overwhelmed by all the choices and developed a headache. So, off we went for the center of town.
*New* camera set on sepia. Why I thought this was a good idea, I'll never know!
After being pursued by a cabbie who wanted to show us all over town for the equivalent of 9 cents per person, we dodged a powerful rainstorm, ate some pretty good pizza (I know, not very adventurous) and then had to hightail it to another street where we suspected the really good stuff was hiding. At the traffic circle, another man approached and asked where we were headed. He proudly showed his official Tuk Tuk license and tried to convince us that there was nothing much to see on the street we wanted. Of course, he had a much better place in mind to shop. We persisted and he finally offered to take all five of us in his Tuk Tuk to the desired store, a handicraft shop, for 50 bhat, or a little over $1US. And he would wait for us and take us to a "much better place." Well, I'm no fool, and if someone wanted to drive five of us, wait while we shop, and then take us some more for a buck, I'm okay with that!
A Tuk Tuk, it turns out, is a cross between a pickup truck and a camper. Picture a short flat bed truck, with a metal canopy top, open sides and benches bolted facing each other. Oh, and paint it screaming red, too. Into this we disappeared, and roared off on another crazy ride. Almost Grown took some pictures of Not Quite Grown and I holding on for dear life and making scared faces as we bounced along rutted streets.
Hanging on for dear life!
Not Quite Grown (even younger in 2001!) illustrating the terror of the ride.
The shop we wanted turned out to be the coolest thing we had seen all day, and I'm glad we insisted. It was a cramped little store, filled with wood carvings, silk scarves, silver jewery, porcelain, and purses. I could have spent much more time there, but we had told our driver (based on the unimpressive storefront) that we only needed a half hour.
Very neat handicrafts shop.
Wood carvings of every size.
Porcelain and jewelry.
Personal household shrines.
Celadon porcelain. Lovely soft green color, should have used color setting!
We selected and haggled, paid and wrapped, and loaded back into the racing red lorry for our next stop. This, of course, turned out to be an overpriced tourist stop, that had nothing neater than what we had already bought but at greatly inflated prices. One little wood birdhouse I purchased for 390 bhat, cost 900 bhat at this last stop, I rode back to the shuttle stop feeling smug about my finds, and not a little terrified by the ride itself.
The next and final installment of Thailand will include how I melted into a puddle of steam over my curry dinner and the pursuit of the perfect Sweet Sixteen gift.