This time I am flying with Thai Airways from Bangkok to Phuket using the third of my four Thailand Star Alliance Vouchers. The one hour flight saves me the 13 hour bus trip to Phuket and I arrived safely 10 a.m. local time. The newspapers in the plane were full of the 2005 Miss Universe election which is held on Phuket, but there was actually none of them in the plane. They must have been on a different flight. Other wise...
I spent two great days in Bangkok and was quiet tired boarding the plane. Good luck I got the Lonely Planet Thailand Guidebook with me that makes traveling a lot easier. While munching on the coconut muffin which the cabin crew passed along with some morning tea I had one hour to get myself sorted. The island itself looked quiet big and I decided the best way to discover is by car. I got a very good deal right after departure at one of the local rental agencies outside the airport. The supplied free map was very useful and I decided to head straight to Kamala Beach 25km south of the airport on the eastern part of Phuket.
The weather was good and we had about 34 degrees with some clouds and sunny bits, as well as hardcore humidity. I really have to get used to the humidity. It is above 85 percent here and since I arrived in Thailand I am sweating like a pig. I drove on the 4030 and passed Pansea Beach, Surin Beach and Laem Sing before I arrived in Kamala. The rainforest on Phuket is as impressive as on Ko Chang I would say, just that this island is a lot more developed. I saw huge trees of all sorts when driving through the serpentine hills.
When I arrived in Kamala reality brought me down to earth. I saw what the Tsunami had left and how severe the destruction of the town was even five month after it happened. Rubble, rubble, rubble, destroyed buildings, sometimes half of it missing and a lot of buildings were gone, forever. The trees, especially the bigger ones did not seemed destroyed at all.
I just imagined what must have happened here when the wave came and it was really scary. I feel very sorry for everybody who was affected by the Tsunami here. If you see it while being overseas, in front of the TV, that's not half as real and scary as if you are standing here, almost half a year later and a lot of things look like normal. Many people started rebuilding their houses and so there are brand new houses, next to ruins, where people have died or not having enough money to rebuild.
The next morning I started early to drive along the coast to get to Cape Phromtep, the most southern part of the Phuket peninsula. The first shocker came when I came to Patong beach. I wasn't shocked of the devastating tsunami effects, which were severe here too, but of the Ibiza like mass-tourism which happens here in the main-season. Skyrocketing ugly buildings, McDonalds, burger-wurger and so on. The beach has nice water and squeaking white sand, that makes funny noises when you walk on it. Nice beach, but the rest was definitely not what I was looking for. The same is valid for Karon beach further south. Upmarket 5 star deluxe bunkers and ugly in the morning beer drinking european mid fifties men in search for sex. This is the only thing that turns me totally off in Thailand. As if humans are commodities and we exchange sex and good looks for well-being and security. But anyway.
My next stop was Kata Main Beach and then Kata Noi Beach. The first is very cozy but much bigger than Kata Noi and has very good swimming and even a bit of surf when I visited. I wanted to have breakfast at Kata Noi, which is a beautifully set little bay around the headland. Unfortunately none of the cafes in the Lonely Planet where existing anymore and the tidal wave had a very destructive effect in this peaceful looking bay. I stopped for breakfast at Bruno's Bakery and bought some pumpernickel to get a bit of Freo's Abbis Bread taste. The snorkeling at Cape Prompthep was alright and a big thunderstorm was approaching fast. This is a very good spot to chill out with its setting between to hills.
Rawai beach with its many long-tails boats and turquoise waters forced me to stop for a while as I liked the boats a lot and was waiting for some good light to take photographs. With the picturesque Lone Island in the background I assumed this would be a prime kiteboarding destination in February when the tradewinds reach twenty to thirty knots here.
When I found a place to check my emails I enjoyed the air conditioned room and drank an ovaltine energy milk-drink. Yum. The next task and this is a daily task if you are traveling independently, was to look for accomodation. First I did not want to go to Phuket town but I am glad I did. The Talang Guesthouse was my domicile of choice and it is set in a very nice part of the old Phuket. This house was build in the Sino-Portuguese style around 1900. Large rooms with very high ceilings. Even though my room was very basic I lit a candle rolled out my yoga mat and got comfy quiet fast. There are some nice cafes and italian places as well as a very good second hand bookshop around and I reckon this is a good place to crash for one or two nights or when you want to go to Phi-Phi. The hostel staff is very attentive and I enjoyed my stay.
Next morning it took me some time to get going and I drove to the Khao Phra Taew wildlife reserve to do some jungle hiking. I hiked to the Bang Pae waterfall which is best seen in the wet season and on my way I met an Iguana which posed for me nicely on a tree. Tigers, rhinos, elephants and sun-bears used to live here once but that is unfortunately history. The Gibbon Rehabilitation Center is run in this park and you can hear them for kilometers. The aim of the center is to re-introduce gibbons that lived in captivity before to the wild. Good stuff. Next day I continued to the Ao Phang-Nga National Park.