“Eat Shop Tan”: My spontaneous Asian adventure – Part I

Written by Bev. Posted in Musings, Travel

Wow, it sure has been a long time since I made a post in this blog! In 2012, I plan to (or hope to) be more diligent with posting in here. I’ve just been so accustomed to microblogging and tweeting and, well, lazy.

So I begin 2012 with a post about my trip to Thailand in December 2011 – Thailand mainly, but with a few days bookending the trip in Hong Kong (mainly to shop, hence the Eat Shop Tan). This trip would last almost a month, leaving December 8th and getting back the evening of December 26th. A whole month away from work, a much needed break!

To say this was a trip I had planned meticulously for and thought a lot about would be a lie. It kind of came as a surprise. I was just frustrated with things in my life and wanted a change.

I went from:

To

I recently had read Eat Pray Love and was inspired to do something similar, but less committal. I knew I wanted to go somewhere where I could relax in the sun in a bathing suit (it was getting dreary in my neck of the woods and all my recent vacations were walking around type of vacations) but also provided something more, in terms of a cultural experience, than a boring old resort vacation. I started looking through the Contiki website for ideas and between the Australia Beaches and Reefs and Thailand West Island Hopper tours, I ended up deciding on the West Island Hopper tour. Maybe if I can get more vacation time in the future, I will go on the Beaches and Reefs tour because it sounds like an awesome time. It’s just that the flight down there from here would be brutal and take up a good chunk of my already lacking vacation time.

I left home on December 8th with butterflies in my stomach and muchos anxiety (thanks to well-intentioned friends and family who had instilled fear in me and were making me rethink my first solo trip attempt) and after a long, long flight -with a layover in Detroit- I got to Hong Kong late at night December 9th. Jet-lagged!

December 9th – December 12th

I mostly ate and shopped over those first few days. I also visited Aberdeen (where I saw a stray dog wearing a shirt! I noticed a lot of dogs, stray or otherwise, wore outfits. My kind of people!) and Stanley.

Aberdeen – a little fishing town

Nearby Stanley Main Street at dusk

Stanley has beautiful homes and really interesting architecture. Places worth millions and that I can only dream of affording!

We went to Murray House for dinner, a German restaurant called King Ludwig Beerhall with beautiful views overlooking the water.

On December 13th, I flew to Phuket, Thailand a day early before my Contiki tour started. A 650 baht (700 baht with tip) taxi ride later, I got to my hotel, the Sawaddi Patong Resort in Patong. It was past midnight and I was tired so I pretty much just fell asleep right away.

Day One: Arrival in Phuket

The next day when I woke up, I decided to check out the area, visit the beach and look for a universal adapter. Let me just tell you, the walk down to the beach and past the shops was a feat in and of itself. I think I cheated death at least 10 times. The motorbikes whiz by at fast speeds and there are no stop signs or pedestrian lights. I stood at an intersection for almost 10 minutes before I could tag along with others crossing the road because I was too scared to cross the road by myself. Those who know me, know that I am really apprehensive about jaywalking and tend to skedaddle across the road like I’m in a game of Frogger (similar sound effects). Needless to say, after my twenty minute walk to Patong beach and back, I decided to spend the rest of my time at the relatively safe hotel pool.

Views from Patong Beach – where I was hounded by a dozen “beach entrepreneurs” selling everything from fruit to knick-knacks to use of beach chairs (100 baht, by the way for the latter. Equivalent of about $3 CAD).

Later that night, we met up with everyone in our tour and went out for dinner at a restaurant on the beach (yes, the same beach I had nervously walked to alone earlier in the day. When walking in a huge crowd, it’s less daunting). Hoover, our tour guide, introduced us to the new acronym T.I.T.S. – This is Thailand, Sucka! – the notion that you shouldn’t expect things to be like how they are at home. A theme that would play out throughout the rest of the trip.

This is where I ordered my first meal in Thailand: thick rice noodles with beef. It was alright tasting.

After dinner, we went to Bangla Road where there are tons of bars, clubs and random girls on poles in plain view.

Drinks are quite a bit cheaper than what I’m used to but my Sex on the Beach drink that I ordered at Aussie bar was blue for some reason.

Later, we went to a nightclub called Seduction where we were approached by this guy, a magician. He was good times!

Day Two: James Bond Island, Koh Panyee and some other islands I can’t remember

Hopped onto a speedboat bright and early!

Whizzed around some cliffs.

Drove by Monkey Island (which we would eventually revisit, later on in this post series)

We got to a little village, Koh Panyee, built on stilts and the only thing we saw (and apparently was the only thing interesting about the place) was a restaurant. We had lunch there and bought some things in the souvenir shop inside, as it helped support the local community so I didn’t feel so bad buying trinkets for people that would likely go into a dusty corner eventually.

Back to the speedboat and off we went to James Bond Island. To get to the “proper” part of the island, you had to trek through this mountain with makeshift, narrow steps with a billion other tourists. There were some reinforcements to keep you from tumbling down, but it was really just a hand rail and I had flip flops on. Luckily, I did not die.

The iconic shot at James Bond Island (with my iconic pose 🙂 )

Now the same shot but with my fellow tour travelers/buddies

Back to the speedboat to be dropped off for some kayaking (except we had someone kayak for us. Which is a good thing too because with my upper body strength, we’d just be going around in circles in the same spot).

Our kayaker was a hoot. He kept asking us if we were on “HONEYMOON” and singing. Of course, he also provided me with a minor stroke when he brought this creepy thing onto the kayak and kept giving it to me by its tail, to make me hold it. I was freaking out and seriously, if he insisted on making me hold it, I might’ve jumped overboard.

On our “honeymoon” (which it appears, they do this leaf heart thing for pretty much everyone). Not feeling so special now…

Taken by another kayaker (with their own version of a heart carved inside a leaf… he insisted on the photoshoot because he almost knocked me across the head with his paddle)

It was a really serene, awesome, wonderful experience going through the caves and taking in the sights. There was a part where we had to flatten ourselves into the kayak and push through a small crevice in the rocks, that was something.

Getting ready to go in…

And squeezing through!

After the kayaking, we went back into the speedboat and headed to a tiny island – the name of which I cannot remember. BUT WHAT I DO REMEMBER WAS MONKEYS!!!

Some random dude had three adorable monkeys that he was obviously exploiting (100 baht per monkey for pictures) and I feel terrible for supporting such exploitation but good lord, it’s a freakin’ monkey. In pants! I spent almost all my money earlier in the day so I could only afford one monkey.

We then headed back to Patong and went for dinner at Jungceylon mall. Downstairs, they have a food court with many Thai food options and I had pad thai (one of my many pad thai meals on this trip). I think we went out that night but I can’t for the life of me remember what we did (as I didn’t take any photos). The rest of the group went to Muay Thai boxing but I did something else… maybe went to sleep early because I’m an old fart.

Day Three: Patong Beach, Ladyboys and “Ping Pong”

This was one of our free days, where we could do whatever we wanted. After a late breakfast by the hotel pool, we headed over to Patong beach where I worked on mah tannnnnn! By tan, I mean my redness because by this time, I was as red/burnt as a lobster. Nonetheless, I knew I couldn’t come back home pasty pale or I’d never live that down.

This was also the day I finally got to take a tuk tuk for the first time! Wheeee! It wasn’t one of those cool, ballin’ tuk tuks with the blaring dance music and the neon lights, but it was still exciting for me after hearing about tuk tuks from other people who’ve been to Thailand.

Fantastic, I don’t have 500 chins in this photo!

That night, we went to two activities you can only do in Thailand: see a ladyboy show and a “ping pong show”. Not to sound like a creep, but these were two things I was really looking forward to after hearing a friend’s stories of her trip to Thailand, where I found out a “ping pong show” wasn’t actually two people hitting a ping pong ball back and forth. Oh no.

Let’s start with the ladyboy show at Simon Cabaret. I don’t actually have pictures from the show because they had very ominous warnings about photography in the auditorium but let me just say the show was super campy and enjoyable. They did Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Aqua’s Barbie Girl (amongst numerous other ethnic songs that I didn’t know). I had seats up in the balcony so it was harder for me to analyze the “situation” as to whether and how much they were “passing” but they seemed pretty decently passing. It was such enthusiastic lip-syncing, more enthusiastic lip-syncing than the Britney Spears concert I went to.

After the show, people were invited to take photos with the ladyboys. Of course, that was not without a fee – 100 baht per person fee. I could only afford one ladyboy and the one I wanted, she had to get someone else to accept my money (or something) and then I was suddenly dragged off by another ladyboy. You can’t just politely decline a ladyboy to go to another, it just seems rude. So I just went with her instead.

They sure are aggressive about getting the photo ops in! They will literally grab you if you look even slightly interested in a photo.

And then we went to the “ping pong show”.

You’ll notice I keep putting it around quotations and I’m not doing that for no reason. There are no ping pongs — well, there might have been later on or earlier in the show, I only stayed around for 15 minutes. There are budgies, goldfish, various liquids in Coke bottles, bananas, pins, frogs, amongst other things. But no ping pongs nor paddles!

If you want more details, just Google that up. I’ll just say that I didn’t know one’s vajayjay was so versatile and provided so many career opportunities! While I watched these women with shock, amazement and a little bit of vomit in my mouth, I also couldn’t help but feel pity for them. I can’t imagine they are too happy with their lives but then, it could just be me projecting. The sociology major in me wants to critically analyze/deconstruct this whole cycle and blames myself for financially supporting this industry, but then I remember the milky water liquid that came out… and then I lose my train of thought.

But I still feel really bad for them.

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