Christmas 2019: A Thailand Adventure Part Two

Part one of A Thailand Adventure explained how we got to Thailand and our first few days in Phuket. This is part two and finishes off the last few days of our Christmas vacation!

Breakfast with a view

Day Three

We made this day our relaxing day that started at the beach! We changed into our bathing suits and walked down the beach to the shacks that served smoothies and breakfast! They had these amazing fried pancakes that they could fill with fruit or covered in Nutella. Both are delicious and we often ate more than one! We patronized many of the local shops on the beach during our stay, but that pancake place was my favorite! We would sit beneath the trees while eating and have an amazing view of the ocean in the mornings. We planned our day and decided to make it a beach morning! Calvin and Korey played in the ocean and made sand castles while the rest of the teachers and I chilled by the pool! The warm weather was perfect and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! We decided the teachers and I would spend the rest of the day at Patong Beach and get massages while the boys stayed at the house!

Beach day!

The teachers and I headed out for 5 Star Massage in Patong Beach around noon. Patong is the exact opposite of Old Town. This beach is much more of a party beach and caters primarily to tourists coming off the cruise ships. There are bars, massage parlors, and currency exchanges everywhere! The area is very diverse, with restaurants that serve Arabian, western, and Thai food to please the masses. If I had known about this part of Phuket when looking for places to stay, we probably would have chosen here. Our place is awesome, but we need a taxi to go anywhere cool! Patong Beach has everything and that party atmosphere a lot of tourists are looking for. Anyways, most of us we were coming to Patong Beach to get massages whilst Jen got her nails done. Maxine, James, and I paid 500 baht ($16.59) for an hour long oil massage that was pretty relaxing. However, there were a few parts that I was a little unaccustomed too. The only massages I had ever gotten were where the masseuse stands next to the table and massages. In Thailand, they firmly believe in the ‘get on top of you’ method and it was a little different. It took a few minutes for me to get used to a woman sitting on me, but the massage was worth it. Also, because James, Maxine, and I came together, they thought it appropriate to have us in the same part of the room with only a sheet separating us from our male coworker. At least I know he isn’t a creeper so I wasn’t worried, but what if any dude was just on the other side of that sheet that didn’t cover fully from wall to wall?? Weird, but I assumed it was just one of those culture things. Once our hour was up, we realized Jen’s nails were going to take a lot longer than we expected. So James and I headed out for a little street shopping while she was finishing up!

Patong Beach. Photo by Maxine

We walked down a few walking streets where many of the same goods were being sold and bought a few little souvenirs. We got to see men in trucks try to garner interest in the Thai Boxing Matches that are big here, food vendors cooking giant sticks of meat for shawarma, and a few ladyboys working at Starbucks! Compared to the street vendors trying to get you to buy their stuff, the ladyboys were unbelievably polite. After Jen’s nails were finally finished, we went to a western restaurant to get some food. It has been quite a few months since I have gotten a good steak, mostly because the places I have been to in China either serve small steaks or don’t know how to cook them. Not trying to be rude, just my opinion. Anyways, I ordered an AMAZING steak and it was cooked to perfection. Seriously, the best. After our 5 star lunch, we walked down the boulevard to see all of the activities that Patong had to offer! I was amazed to see how many BB gun places there were for people to shoot, right there on the street. Where I come from, guns (even BB) can be seen as weapons and have to be discharged in the proper place and be given a lot of space. Not here! I have noticed that Asia has a very different view of guns because many Asian countries don’t allow citizens to carry. The only guns you will see are toys and so the culture treats them as that, fun for the whole family! I had experienced a little of this in China, but not nearly the same scale as on the beaches of Thailand! Anyways, we got all the way down to the beach and could see the cruise ships docked far from the port. There were people parasailing from the beach, jet skis zooming across the water, and crews were setting up stages for the big ‘Countdown to the New Year’ that would begin in a few days. It was all so much to take in! We stuck around a few more hours for Maxine to get her nails done and headed home to meet up with the boys. Christmas was the next day and we had an exciting day planned.

Day Four- Christmas

We all woke up bright and early the next morning for our Christmas excursion! We were heading out to Raya Island for some snorkeling and beach time away from the big crowds. The taxi picked us up around 7:30am and took us almost an hour to reach the meeting point next to the marina. Our tour group had about 30 people from Europe, China, Australia, etc. We had time to rent fins at an extra cost, drink coffee, etc. The boat ride to the island was on a really nice speedboat with a big shade to cover the guests. We all had our life vests on and sat on the back of the boat to watch the water and to take pictures of the views as we left our island and headed to another. It was a perfect time to relax and lather on the sunscreen. Once we finally got to the island, we found out we were docking on the private beach of a fancy resort. This place had a floating dock which was epic! It would bounce up and down as the waves came in and towards the end (near the beach) it would pitch up furiously and you had to do your best to keep your balance. Calvin and I had fun with it and would run up and down so the waves wouldn’t get the best of us. Some ladies didn’t and found themselves on their butt more than once, it was hilarious and I wish I could have gotten it on video. Don’t worry, they thought it was funny too.

Anyways, because the beach belonged to a resort, almost no one was on it and we were the only tour group there. It also meant that we had to pay for the most ridiculous things, like 20 baht to use the restroom. I couldn’t believe it when we found out, I have never had to pay to use the restroom before. Jen said it isn’t entirely uncommon, especially on an island. We took to the beach and had a great time swimming in the crystal clear water. There were fish swimming so close to us and we had goggles to view them and we weren’t’ even snorkeling yet! I think this was my favorite time the whole trip because we were all together, swimming and having fun. I had purchased a waterproof phone carrier the day before so I could take a bunch of pictures, too. It was also a bargain at 110 baht ($3.65) compared to the 540 baht they were charging at the snorkeling place. We were there for about an hour and a half before it was time to head out to snorkeling on a different part of the island. We packed up our belongings and got back on the boat!

My favorite part with my favorite boys

It took another 15 minutes to get to the part of the island where we would go snorkeling and there were a few other tour boats there as well. Our group of 30 jumped out of the boat and began snorkeling around a coral reef a little ways from the island. We saw many types of fish swimming in the reef and many came really close to us! It was amazing to see the schools of fish swim around in unison, so many different types too! I would just float at the top and many would come so close to my face! I really wish I had pictures but unfortunately, my camera wouldn’t work underwater despite being in a waterproof container. Calvin and I think that snorkeling was one of the best parts of our Thailand trip! The water was so clear and not too cold. It also seemed as if the fish were not afraid of our presence in their reef, despite a certain young boy trying his best to touch one (Calvin). We had a lot of fun and earned a lot of sunburn for our efforts. We swam for roughly 45 minutes before we headed back to Raya Island for the included lunch buffet on the interior of the island.

Snorkeling buddies

The tour guides took us by tractor-led wagons to a restaurant behind the resort where we ate and used their free bathroom. The food was pretty good and we were exhausted after snorkeling and swimming in the hot sun. Afterwards, we wandered around and saw giant monitor lizards that are native to the island! They were huge and swam in little lagoon areas that were present on the island. Don’t worry, we didn’t get too close to any of them because I couldn’t remember if these little monsters were dangerous or not. Plus, the size of these things was enough to make any in our group second-guess ourselves. Eventually, we headed back to the beach where Calvin and I swam another hour thanks to his dad buying him a brand new snorkel set. The tour ended up staying on the beach another two hours, which honestly was a bit too long. Most of the group was exhausted and ended up napping in the shade of a beach bar whilst waiting for the boat to return. I took Korey’s chair after Calvin and I got back from swimming and passed out for almost an hour. But the boat came back and we headed for home! Despite being back by 4:30pm, no one the left the house that night for dinner!

Scary Monitor Lizard. Picture by Jen
Maxine, Calvin, and Korey ready to go home!

Day Five

On our last full day in Thailand, the ladies and I really wanted to see some elephants (ones that weren’t being abused or mistreated). We decided the night before to go to an elephant sanctuary called Phuket Elephant Park about another hour away on the island. James and Korey respectfully declined, so the ladies and Calvin headed out early to see some elephants! We got there and found that the sanctuary was completely surrounded by jungle. They fed us breakfast and spent the first hour explaining what the sanctuary was there for and how their four elephants came to be there. We had seen many posters around the island for elephant trekking or riding. Our host explained that many of these industries severely hurt their elephants to discipline or keep them without food/water to keep up with the tourist demand. How did he know? He had worked for one for over a decade and had a change of heart, helping open this elephant sanctuary. He said the best way to help the elephants was for tourists to stop paying to ride them or see their shows! Many of these companies used hooks on the elephants and a few of the elephants we saw had holes in their ears as proof, it was heartbreaking. It takes one million baht to buy an elephant, even a blind or injured one. This park had four female elephants and we got to see them all. The youngest one was 42, the oldest was 70.

These elephants, despite not having a great history with humans, were so great. They allowed us to feed them, get pictures, and let us close enough to watch them eat. I knew elephants had big brains, but watching these things eat was amazing. Gentle Lady, the elephant in the picture above, would step on the stem of the leaf she was trying to eat and rip off the leafy green part so she didn’t have to eat the stem. She would also smack the leaves against her front legs to shake off any dust and dirt that was on her food. They also love fruit. Another elephant was particularly fond of bananas, but the handlers were trying to get her to eat more bamboo and less sugar. So they would have Calvin or I feed her a banana and then swap it out last second for a bamboo stick in an effort to trick her. This sassy elephant always caught on and would throw the bamboo stick down angrily and hold our her trunk waiting for her banana. It was so cute! The saddest part came at the end, though, when we met their 70 year old elephant. I didn’t realize elephants could be so fragile, but this elephant was having trouble standing and was in a halter holding her to a beam above while they gave her medicine. It kind of made the group a little somber towards the end. But I am still glad that she was getting the care she needed and wasn’t being forced to carry logs, her previous job before coming to the sanctuary. Once our tour ended and they gave us lunch, they encouraged us to tell people about the park so they could stay open and help more animals. They can only stay open if tourists help! So stop by and see Phuket Elephant Park!

Gentle Lady
Sassy Elephant

Calvin and I went hope and spent the rest of the day relaxing! I got one last massage on the beach, though this time it was a Thai massage. If you have ever gotten a Thai massage, then you know that they often use their elbows and it hurts. Yup, nothing else to say about that.

Day Six

This was our last day in Thailand and we were out of the Airbnb by 11:00am (Jen had flown out earlier that morning). Unfortunately, our flight didn’t leave until 10:20pm, so we had a lot of time to run around. James’ flight didn’t leave until the next day, so we came up with the ingenious idea to get him a hotel room in Patong Beach, put our things in his room, and then run around having fun for 6-8 hours! We took the cab and went to the hostel he paid for. Unfortunately for us, the front desk would not allow us to put our 5 bags into the room he paid for. They said they could hold our luggage, but it would be out in the open where literally ANYONE could get to it. Because this wasn’t ok with us, we went down a little bit where we found an Indian restaurant that read, ‘rooms available’ outside. We told him our predicament and how we wouldn’t be spending the night, just needed a room for our stuff while we run around. Thankfully, he graciously allowed us to rent a room for the day for only 400 baht ($13.40). Maxine and my family shoved our luggage in there and went out for our last day of fun! We ate in the Central Mall of Patong and had many Western favorites that we couldn’t typically enjoy.

We soon said goodbye to James and separated from Maxine so they could do their own activities. My family and I walked down the boardwalk where I had a surprise waiting for them! I had seen a bunch of tourist doing it when I was in Patong earlier in the week and decided to surprise the boys with….parasailing!! We walked onto the beach and found the parasailing pros right away. Because it was both Korey and Calvin, we made a deal to have both go the long route of 3 km for 3,500 baht ($117.33) and I would get to sit in the boat to take pictures! They led us to the boat after we paid and Calvin and I got in while Korey was strapped to the parachute. They began the boat and he began to run…straight into the water. I am still not completely sure what happened but instead of going up, he went down, fully submerged in the water. But no worries, the boat picked up enough speed and he was flying through the air. I hope he could hear Calvin and I cheering him on from the boat!

There he goes!

For the driver’s amusement, he reduced the speed of the boat down a bit and allowed Korey to fall into the water again before speeding up again. I kept thanking god we thought to give me his cell phone ahead of time. When his ride finished, he was dropped gingerly into the water and fished out with a pole. We headed back to land so Calvin could have his turn and he was more than excited after seeing his dad do it. We started up again and Calvin took off from the ground like a pro, no falling in the water for him! We saw him waving his arms from the boat and having a great time. The driver tried to be mischievous again and drop him in the water like he did Korey, but the boy was too light and kept his height far above the water! The driver waited too, he was fairly determined to get our boy into the ocean. After a few minutes, he gave up and continued with the ride. Eventually we were done and Calvin finally fell into the water. The smile on his face was a mix of joy and pure adrenaline. I will never forget how happy he was when we pulled him back into the boat…magic!

Now that both boys were completely soaked, we headed back to our rented room and let them change into some dry clothes. We still had another 4 hours until pickup for the airport, so we headed to the mall to catch a movie. Unfortunately, nothing was playing for another hour and we didn’t want to risk it. However, we had passed a sign for an activity called, Escape the Room. We had all heard of it before but had never actually played. Of two room options, we decided to do the Temple Room. We had 30 minutes to get ourselves out of room by solving puzzles and using our wits. This one was exciting because of the decor and a secret room that laid beyond the one we were locked in. Unfortunately, we did not pass and once our host told us the secret to winning, we realized there was no way in heck we would have gotten it. We walked away lamenting our loss. But, we are super competitive and headed back to take on the other room! This one was a robbers’ scenario and we had to escape before the cops got there. I thought this one was way harder, but we had already lost once so we weren’t going to lose again! We got ourselves out of the room with 5 minutes to spare and felt pretty badass. It was a great teamwork exercise! We went to McDonalds for a quick break and yes, the McDonalds in Thailand is better than China. No offense to China, but the cheese on the burgers there is weird. Thailand made it just the way I am used to in the states and it was heaven!! Afterwards, we went to the basement floor of the mall and man, I was mad! I found all of the gifts I had ALREADY bought in a store called ‘100 baht’. Yes, a store that sold everything for 100 baht. PRO TIP: Skip the walking streets and just go there, safe yourself some money. Once we had spent all the rest of our baht, we headed back to the room to wait for Maxine and get to the cab.

So many trinkets….

The cab back to the airport took forever to get out of Patong! The beach and tourists meant a lot of traffic which we neglected to think about. However, we left early anyways, so our 1.5 hour cab ride got us to the airport on time. We left Thailand at 10:20 after having SUBWAY!! I haven’t had a single meatball sub in China because their Subway doesn’t have it!! I know, I don’t get it either. But our flight home was non-eventful and we got home around 6:00 am Beijing time. The boys and I agree, the trip to Thailand was the most amazing we have ever had and are so thankful we got to spend our Christmas there. Until next time Phuket!

Calvin’s first time parasailing!

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