Back From Phuket

Things have been so very busy this past week traveling, so now that I am back in Bangkok, it is the best (and perhaps only) time to reflect upon it. On Monday we flew into Phuket to meet up with Jet’s sister Pookie who had arrived there a few days earlier. We flew on Bangkok Airways for the 11:55am flight, which was interesting because we were allowed to sit and relax in their VIP lounge (eat snacks, drink juice, etc.) before our flight and did not have to have a certain number of frequent flyer miles to enter. Jet booked the flights online before we left Alabama for about $100 and also booked our hotel (the Woraburi for $50) which was on Karen beach in the southern part of Phuket because it was close to the hotel that Jet’s sister was staying at. We were only going to stay there one night because Pookie’s friend was returning back home after that night and we would then have room to stay with her in her room. Ben was a terror on the short flight (just over 1 hour) and Jet had a hard time keeping him under control, so for the last few minutes of the flight Ben sat with me and he settled down as he enjoyed seeing all of the islands, water, beach, and other airplanes as we reached the ground. Pookie had already arranged for a car to be waiting for us to take us the 1 hour+ drive from the airport to our hotel (for about $17) so that is what we did. The hotel was fine for us as it was just across the two-lane road that flanked the beach, and to keep Ben satisfied, we walked over to Karen beach and let him play in the sand for a little bit before we grabbed a bite to eat for dinner. Jet and I were still a bit jet-lagged, so we stayed in for the evening, only to be awoken by a very loud party going on just outside of our room at the front of the hotel. It turned out that it was the night of the annual staff party, so there was a lot of screaming, a lot of karokee, and a tough night sleep for us.

I took Ben outside at about 6:00am in the morning to let Jet and her mom sleep in a bit and we walked along the beach and we enjoyed the sunrise and the handful of joggers passing by. At every hotel (it seemed) there is an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet that goes with your hotel reservation, so we started eating breakfast while Jet and her mom joined us a few minutes later. The buffet had a mix of Thai food (curry, pud see eew, fried rice, etc.) and Western food (French toast, omelets made-to-order, sausages, bacon, etc.) so there was plenty to eat no matter what your taste was. We walked over the beach once more after breakfast to relax before we checked out of the hotel and moved in with Pookie at 11:00am. Pookie was staying at the Katathani hotel just south of us on Kata beach and the difference between that hotel and our first hotel was night and day. Pookie’s hotel was right on the beach, had several private pools, massages given out on the grass underneath the palm trees next to the beach, and had its own long stretch of private beach that was in immaculate condition. We spent more time at the beach that day with Jet getting into the sea (and trying to get Ben to do the same), building sandcastles with Ben, Jet and Ben playing in the pool, and just enjoying the terrific weather (partly cloudy, 90’s). I called it an early night while Jet and her mom walked around outside before it got too dark out. Jet had mentioned that there were a few Japanese tourists that kept taking pictures of Ben like he was some type of celebrity, which sounded both a little funny and a little creepy. Jet’s sister returned back late (9:00pm) so I was asleep before she came back. Pookie had spent the entirety of her past few days training to be a “master” diver and taking in the sights underneath the water and would be doing the same the next couple of days (Wednesday and Thursday).

Ben had a rough night and developed his fever again, so that certainly concerned us and we decided to take the next day (Wednesday) pretty light. I woke up early again with Ben and he had a blast running along the shores of the beach as these little (ranging from the size of a quarter to the size of a cookie), clear crabs were scavenging for bugs. Ben had such a great time and showed no signs of the fever he had that night, as always is the case as it comes and goes for about a 3-day stretch. Jet, Pookie, and their mom greeted us at the beach and we all walked over to the breakfast buffet which was also night and day from the previous hotel we stayed at. There were about twice as many items to choose from and everything was nearly made-to-order fresh. I loaded up on the freshly made waffles with whipped cream and maple syrup – delicious. After breakfast, we walked back to the beach and spent the rest of the morning chasing the waves running in and out of the shore, and what Ben liked most was the occasional wave that made it up to him and got him all wet. It was just a lot of fun.

By 11:00am we were packing again to leave for another hotel, the Cetrana Kata, which was about 1 mile up the road. The rate for booking with this hotel online was about $180 per night, but we were able to get it for about $50 a night because Jet’s uncle and cousin from Phitsanulok (her hometown) were joining us and her uncle had a membership of some sorts that could be applied there. Unfortunately the hotel was not as nice as the Katathani and it was not within walking distance to the beach, but it was catered to families as there were a few places dedicated to children (a day-care type facility, a fenced in sand area with slide – that no one seemed to use, and kiddie pools and water slides) and there were lots of children running around. We ate a light lunch after we arrived and that evening we headed out to the “Phuket FantaSee”, which was the big Las Vegas-type show advertised everywhere in Phuket. Well, I had never been to a Las Vegas show, but I imagine it would be something like this. For about $45 per person (Jet had negotiated for the best price – others were charging at least $20 more), the package came with a ride in a van to and from the show (about a 45 minute drive), an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet, and the show.

The show was just north from where our hotel was and it was a winding road to get there. Even worse, the show only started at 9:00pm (dinner at 7:00pm) so we knew it would be rough on Ben – we just didn’t know how much. For the first few minutes of the ride, Ben sat with me and was complaining a bit. We could tell his fever was returning and he didn’t like the twisting ride up-and-down the hills. I passed him off to Jet in the row ahead of me and a few minutes later Ben threw up a couple of times. I think he did it more for the ride than for his fever, but that was just the start of Ben’s long night. The driver of the van mentioned the beaches that we were passing along the way up to the show were some of the hardest hit from the Tsunami, but only took 6 months to be back up and running as if nothing ever happened. Once we arrived at the show, there were lots of shops and some games to play (along with the cheesy theme song “Phu-ket Fan-ta-see” playing continuously) like any theme park. We took a few pictures here and there, but Ben just did not feel well and didn’t want to take part which made it hard for us to do much. The buffet was outstanding as there were lots of variety to choose from – not as much selection as a Las Vegas buffet (or a Sunday brunch at Classic on Noble in Anniston, Alabama), but it was good food none-the-less. Ben was just awful the entire time and I had to walk him around the very large ballroom where everyone was eating just to keep him from complaining. Poor little guy. Jet felt terrible as this was likely the first time that she had forgotten to bring her children’s Tylenol with her – she ended up taking Ben to the nurses station and they gave him some anti-dizziness medicine of some sort, which I suppose helped out some. After dinner we walked over to the show and sat down just in time for the start, and Ben was out sleeping in Jet’s arms. The show itself was great – lots of elephants, Thai dancing, singing and performances. Jet told me throughout the show (about 1 hour and 15 minutes in length) that much of what was being done were traditional Thai stories, which was very neat to know. There were fireworks going off here and there throughout the show, but Ben amazingly stayed sleeping for most of it. When Ben did have his eyes open briefly, he saw elephants dancing around, and it made me wonder if he thought that he was hallucinating. Jet’s mom had a great time throughout the show, clapping and saying “wow” many times, but perhaps the most excited she got was at the end of the show. All of the elephants performed together and some, er, took care of business on the stage. This just made Jet’s mom go hysterical as she was so excited to point these incidents out to us. What a fun time. Thankfully, Ben slept for the whole ride back to the hotel and it was (for the most part) a quiet night for us.

The breakfast buffet at the Centara Kata hotel was similar to the buffet from the first hotel we stayed at – not outstanding, but the food was still good. It was now Thursday and Jet had planned on spending the day snorkeling at some of the islands. This is something that I just had no interest to do, but with Ben not feeling well, I still encouraged Jet to go ahead with her uncle and cousin while I stayed behind with Jet’s mom to watch after him. Jet was gone from 8:00am – 5:00pm and much of the day I spent with Ben in the swimming pools. Ben had felt better (again, the fever comes and goes) and really had a great time in the water. It also felt great not packing as this was the first (and only) day that we did not switch hotels after one night. Jet returned that evening and said that she had a great time out on the water. By then Ben was starting to feel a little bad, so everyone went out for dinner and to do some night market shopping while I stayed behind with Ben and put him to sleep. After the busy day I had with Ben, some extra sleep is just what I needed. Putting Ben to sleep so early (7:00pm) did have its pitfalls as he awoke by 5:00am. Once again, I took Ben outside and walked around with him while everyone else slept. It was pretty humid out that morning and by the time the breakfast buffet had opened at 6:30am, Ben was asking for some toast to eat. Ben just loves eating toast with butter on it – many times, however, just to lick to butter off of the toast. Ben had a couple of bites of toast and some juice (Ben always insisted on having a little bit of every kind of juice in his glass the entire week – a mix of water, guava, pineapple, and orange juice) and then gave out a large belch, followed by throwing everything back up. I actually don’t think this was related to the fever as it was very warm and humid out in the morning and I just think Ben drank his “juice” down too quickly and was a bit unsettling for him. I walked Ben back up to our room and we both changed out of our clothes. By 7:00am, we were all back down eating breakfast together and Ben was just eating everything in sight showing no effects of what happened only minutes earlier. Ben insisted on playing in the water again, and that is what we did until we had to check-out at 10:30am so we had enough time to catch our 2:00pm flight back to Bangkok. One of the things that we have been able to get out of Ben lately are answers to the questions “are you having fun?” or “are you happy?” which have let us known how Ben is feeling. While floating around in a child’s airtube in the water, kicking his feet wildly away underneath the water, Ben said to me unprompted, “Daddy … Ben happy”. I think that will be the moment I remember most about our week in Phuket.

It was a smooth flight back to Bangkok with Ben sitting at my side – nothing like the flight to Phuket. Pookie’s friend had picked us up at the airport and after we unpacked at Jet’s condo, we put Ben down to sleep at around 5:00pm. Ben had barely any nap at all that day and was still feeling warm. This was likely not the fever any more, but the heat of the day outside that was getting to him. We have all come to the agreement that Ben’s hair will have to be cut short soon as it is just too uncomfortable for him to have long hair over here. Ben is always breaking out in a sweat and has broken out along his hairline as a result. No other kids have hair as long as his over here, so it is just something that we will have to do pretty soon. After Ben went to sleep, Pookie’s friend took Jet and I to see the condo that I will be staying at that Assumption University (ABAC) provided for me. When we arrived there (it is only a block or two from the shopping mall where I will be teaching at), we were both impressed. This was nothing like the dorm-room accommodations that I had last year but a high-rise condo with a great view, a TV with 40+ channels, a stove, a full refrigerator, a microwave, and most importantly – a washing machine! We took a taxi back to Jet’s condo at 7:00pm where Ben was still sleeping and could not be woken up. I decided to call it a night there and it was a good thing, because Ben was back awake at 3:00am, so I played with him until everyone else woke up at 6:30am. After some packing and a light breakfast, we headed out to do some shopping at the “MBK” mall, which is only a couple of blocks from the mall where I will be teaching at. In fact, with all of the shopping malls in so close of proximity, they consider it to be the biggest shopping area in all of Southeast Asia. Jet helped me buy a new wardrobe (two pairs of pants, three dress shirts, and three ties – all for $62) and then it was time for lunch and time for us to part ways. I was going back to my new condo to stay, while Jet and the family were off to the wedding of one of her cousin’s that was being held today (Sunday) about 5 hours away from Bangkok. I would have liked to have joined them, but since my first class teaching is tomorrow morning, that would have made it very difficult for me. It always is tough to say goodbye, but man it was really tough to leave Jet and Ben after a week of extended time together. I don’t know when I will see either of them again – maybe Jet this coming weekend, but we will see.

Update: Here is a video of the condo and area I am staying at in Bangkok this summer.  Here is the video from last year to compare with.

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One Response to “Back From Phuket”

  1. Kristin Says:

    Andy, thanks for trying to call me yesterday. We got cut off, but it was still the thought that counted. I hope you have a great time teaching today. I’m glad that you had such a great time witht hte family last week. You are always so busy it’s nice that you can finally make time to be together. Tell Jet happy Mother’s day a day late when you get to talk to her again. Your condo looks great! You are right it is a BIG improvment over last year. Let us know how school is going next time you get a chance to post. Take care. P.S. How has your stomach been?

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