We arrived in Phuket Thursday afternoon. The flight from Bangkok was pretty easy and everything just worked out perfect. Everywhere we go, Anton seems to be the big hit. Such a pale, western boy they simply just HAVE to approach, talk to and often touch. So far he seems ok with this, but I have a feeling that eventually he will have enough!
The good part is, that we always board flights as the first ones, giving us time to stow away our hand luggage in the overhead compartment, before all the other passengers board. THAT is nice!
We had one whole day in Bangkok, before flying to Phuket, where we are currently staying. We spent it on sightseeing in the areas surrounding our hotel, and ended up in a Tuk-Tuk that took us to a few of the most important temples. We met a local Thai who explained to us which temples were the absolute most important ones to see, and he then called a Tuk-Tuk for us. (A Tuk-Tuk is a small, open taxi, run by a small moped-motor). Because of the Thai New Year and a tourism promotion, the government has suspended all taxes on tourism-items and services, thus we ended up paying just 40 Baht for a whole afternoon in that Tuk-Tuk. (See the picture above, where we are inside enjoying the ride). I found this extremely cheap. After a while I realized why. The chauffeur had some bonus in sight, if he brought us to some selected shops (a jewelry store and a tailor) and if we bought something there, he would, for instance, get coupons for gas or the like. We are not in the market for a new suit or some fancy jewelry, so we politely refused everywhere he took us. I could tell from his expression that he was disappointed, so I gave him 20 Baht extra when he dropped us off by the hotel. He lit up and thanked me. I do not think that a total of 60 Baht (Appx 2 USD) is much for a whole afternoon. Not when you pay no less than 50 Baht for a can of soft drink in any restaurant you go to. (They cost 15 Baht (50 cents) in a mini market). After all, the poor guy drove us around for many hours.
But I guess this just tells us something about the relation between the amounts of money that comes with the tourists, and the everyday life most Thais are living. It’s hard to comprehend! I do realize that we, as tourists, pay a lot more than the locals for anything we buy. But still, there are many places where the locals can never come because they cannot afford it.
Anyway, we learned one of the most classic and basic rules: Anything cheap comes with a hatch! In this case it was the occasional de-route to places that we did not want to go to ourselves. And that was actually the worst part! I can keep in the act as interested, potential customer buying a tailor-made suit for a while, but when the time comes and I refuse anymore dealing, it can get pretty awkward, when I insist on being driven back to the hotel.
Here in Phuket everything depends on tourism as well. It is obvious everywhere, and I would go as far as saying that there really is no local Thai culture here. All the signs and cards in bars and restaurants are written in a number of languages. The bars (there are MANY of them!) all play loud music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s from huge loudspeakers and they show European Soccer on their big flat screens. I got pretty well updated on Smokies Greatest Hits until 2 AM the other night. And I do not particularly like Smokie! Also, I still have yet to see ANYTHING actually authentic in the stores here. You see copies of the most amazing things. Things I would not have thought it profitable to copy at all! You learn something new every day!
I often wonder what brings so many people back here, again and again. Most likely it has to do with the warm weather. Because everything else obviously have to be just “as usual” and have a “home-feel” to it. Except, many of the guests here do party a lot harder than they do at home (I hope so!). Apart from that, they could just as well be sitting at home in Manchester, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo or Moscow.
In spite of all that, we are HAPPY to be here! We KNEW all this before we arrived and it is no worse or better than we expected. We have come here to relax by the beach and enjoy the sun. Because this is also about making the trip a good and fun experience for Anton. And for this particular purpose Phuket is just the place to be. They know how to entertain the entire family.
We will, however, also try to find some of the more traditional Thai culture in the area, and indeed when we get back to Bangkok. We have a whole week in the hottest big city in the world, before moving onwards to Australia.