First stop in Phuket, Thailand was Kinnaree Elephant Trekking to ride elephants. We slapped down $30 for a half an hour ride. Prices were quite high for what you would expect to pay in Thailand but what tourist can resist such bragging rights?
Second stop was Patong. The taxi driver dropped us off smack in front of a huge outdoor mall, complete with a McDonalds, Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and more western luxuries. We were all a little disappointed by this because we had been to enough western malls in Indonesia. Where was the real Thailand?
I broke off from the pack and ventured out on my own, hoping to find just that. First stop – an ATM to get some Thai Baht. I withdrew 500 ($17), and went on my way, passing one smoothie shop after massage parlor after restaurant after bar (and at least THREE more Starbucks!). It was as if each block repeated itself. I walked until I hit the beach and then I continued along the boardwalk. Soon I was hot and thirsty and opted for one of the many smoothie stands. I ordered their “most popular” drink, a mango smoothie, and it was divine! Hands down the best smoothie I’ve ever had – the only ingredient being chilled fresh mango. It was so thick and amazing!
Soon I was hungry as well, and because I was still looking for the real Thai experience I decided I was going to purchase a meal from a street vendor. There was one that seemed quite popular and I got in line. A few Thai girls were also in line and I asked one if she spoke English and if she could help me order. She ordered me the same meal she had, which was a soup dish of noodles and meat, and I added hot pepper, basil, crushed peanuts, and sprouts.
The meal was amazing. Just as shockingly good as the mango smoothie. I lapped it up happily with chopsticks and felt proud of myself having had a real Thai experience.
All in all, every one of us enjoyed Thailand. When we met up we reported the activities of our day to each other with smiles. The people of Thailand were kind, we felt safe, it was mostly very cheap, many of us rode elephants, went to the beach, or had amazing spa visits. (I was the only one to eat street vendor food…)
People like to ask me which ports are my favorite and which I would return to. Thailand has definitely been added to the list, as well as the amazing Singapore, which will be the next post.