We had originally planned to spend our beach time on Koh Lanta, the more relaxed and less expensive beach a four-hour drive from where our plane from Chiang Mai would land in Phuket. But there were a few things that we wanted to see in Phuket, and our plane arrived very late at night, necessitating at least one night in Phuket anyway, and it just began to make sense to spend all of our time there. Plus, it was the low season, so we were able to find a great deal on a four star resort on Kamala Beach, one of the quieter spots on Phuket Island, which is known for its parties and clubs - not generally our scene.
We were concerned, though, about things being too expensive in Phuket, and especially at our swanky resort. We booked it only after reading a review that said that it was close to a 7-11 (as almost everything in Thailand is), so we thought that in the worst case scenario, we could at least scrounge some instant noodles for sustenance. We also made plans to deal with Phuket's notorious 'taxi mafia' and their exorbitant price-fixing. Since the airport is nearly the only place where you can access a metered taxi, we would use one there and then get the driver's business card so that we could call him whenever we wanted to venture around the island. We landed in Phuket and found the metered taxi stand, but when we asked the driver for his card, he told us that we didn't need it because we had our own taxis at the hotel. We tried to insist that we would rather give him our business, but it became clear that he was so scared of the taxi mafia that he wouldn't even drive onto the resort grounds, other than on this initial drop-off. We stuck to our cheap guns, though, and promised him that we would walk 20 minutes down the main road to a meeting spot away from the eyes of the mafia when we needed him.
Our first task the next morning was to scope out the food scene, and determine exactly how far away this all-important, life-sustaining 7-11 actually was. We had browsed the menu of the hotel restaurant, and while it wasn't too bad compared to Canadian prices, it was certainly much more than what meals should cost in Thailand. We had spied the 7-11 on our drive into the resort, and we set out to fill up on supplies. It turned out to be about a 15 walk down the highway - without sidewalks, beside dusty traffic, but doable. We also found a couple of nearby restaurants with reasonable prices, at least for the touristy area in which we had found ourselves. We were so relieved; we could eat without breaking our budget. We also felt smugly pleased with ourselves for hacking the fancy resort tourist-trap. We high-fived as we loaded up our 7-11 basket with instant noodles, yogurt, cookies, drinks, and a $5 bottle of Thai rum to sneak to the poolside. And we couldn't resist trying the pancake-with-syrup-flavoured potato chips for breakfast.
After an afternoon spent relaxing by the pool, we took a walk down the beach to look for a spot to eat dinner. We decided to follow a little path that led into a park that featured a monument dedicated to the 2004 tsunami, and soon we found a whole, bustling, very nearby town complete with a 7-11 that was a five-minute walk down the beach instead of a 15-minute walk down the busy highway. We felt like we had stumbled upon a miracle, and were so happy that our hack was suddenly made that much easier.
The next day we decided to take a look around the nearby, larger town of Patong. Patong is known as a party town and is the hub of tourism, and, unfortunately, as we discovered, sex tourism, in Phuket. We wandered around the shops and past the shady massage parlours and rows and rows of bars in the oppressive heat, then decided to take a break in the enormous and air-conditioned Jung Ceylon mall.
We spent the afternoon in a refreshingly frigid movie theatre watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. When it was time to return to Kamala Beach, about a fifteen-minute drive away, our metered taxi driver was on the other side of the island and wouldn't make the trip to get us. We were left at the mercy of the taxi mafia if we wanted to get home, and we spent the next hour walking up and down the main street negotiating with drivers while dodging invitations to girly shows. James' negotiating skills finally resulted in a price that was only about twice as much as we paid to get there.
The next blissful week and a half was spent alternating beach time with pool time, swimming with hanging at the pool bar, napping with doing aqua-size led by the resort's
Part of being in Phuket at the low season meant that the beach was officially 'closed' due to high tides and strong undercurrents, but like most of the tourists, we ignored the warnings and played in the fun waves.
In the evenings, we walked into town for dinner and then retired to our room to watch our favourite TV channel - strangely but wonderfully, it showed only two things: reruns of Law and Order, and magic shows.
We did venture outside Kamala twice more during our stay. Once was to go to Splash Jungle, a water park. We debated whether we should bother going at all because it was expensive and mostly aimed at children, but we had a lot of fun going down the big-kid slides and floating down the lazy river countless times.
The last time we left Kamala was to go to Phuket Town to see a soccer game between Phuket FC and Almeria, a visiting Spanish team. We killed time before the ticket office opened by playing on some exercise equipment in a nearby park.
Six dollars got us great seats near the centre line, and luckily, just under the overhang, because torrential rains came down for most of the game.
The cheers for the hometown team were not dampened, though, despite an eventual 3-1 loss.