Let me start out this blog post with a quick thought. Over the last few weeks, Howard and I have experienced this more than once... Have you ever walked into 7-Eleven seeking a Slurpee? Usually, you have Coke and another option (or two) to select from. As you walk up to the machine, you see that one flavor, inevitably Coke (because its normal) is still 100% liquid, and thus not Slurpee-worthy just yet, whereas the other flavor(s) are frozen and ready for delivery. However, the other flavors are weird/strange/awful sounding like "Coconut Delight" or "Orangutan Orange". Without a doubt, you rationalize the decision to go with this weirdo flavor, simply because you were seeking a Slurpee in the first place. Then, following the initial "brain-freeze" one gets from the initial shock of Slurpee slurping, you regret your split-second decision... We've done this about 15 times over the last three weeks, but like the insane people that we are (see: definition of insanity), each time we are placed in the same scenario, we make the same decision and expect different results... Pretty sad on our part...

We arrived at Phuket on Friday and enjoyed and quiet and relaxing evening and Saturday on the beach and at the hotel. Our bus ride to the hotel involved another "unscheduled stop", much like in Bangkok. Here, we were brought to a travel agency that tried to book us on tours to surrounding islands or get us hotel rooms (which seemed dumb, considering we all had reservations already - they were needed to get on the bus in the first place). Our hotel, the Seaview Patong, was right on the beach and has 2 excellent pools:

The excitement began on Saturday evening. Howard and I went out to the bar/restaurant scene in Bangla Road. The road is quite touristy and has a more subdued feeling than Patpong. There is still plenty of bars, clubs and random go-go bars, with the promoters outside pushing tourists to go to shows, etc. It was a weird experience, and frankly something I was kind of tired of, having just dealt with it (to a heavier degree) in Bangkok. We found a nice restaurant and ate dinner, then checked out the markets and watched an Australian Football match at a local Aussie bar.

One thing to note is that the tourists in Phuket are quite different from those in Bangkok. There are tons of Australians and Europeans, not many Chinese or Japanese. Additionally, Phuket has many older tourists and many venues for them (i.e. Elvis and light music bands). On numerous occassions, Howard and I found ourselves wondering where the young people were...

On Sunday, we took a day trip to James Bond Island (named for its prominence in "The Man with the Golden Gun". We took a tour with SIM Tourism Group, specifically because their advertisement is centered on not taking tourists to unwanted shopping stops. Since we had already experienced that, it was a great pleasure to avoid these shops this time around...

The tour included three stops: 1) Suwankuha Temple(Monkey Cave) with the Reclining Buddha statue, 2) A fishing village near James Bond Island, 3) James Bond Island itself. The last two were reached by longtail boat. The sites were quite cool, although there was minimal substance here...

Suwanka Temple was surrounded by a monkey park, in which wild monkeys walked and climbed around everywhere. There were a handful of people in the immediate area selling fruits to feed the monkeys. Boring and a bit scary (who wants Rabies!)... Inside the temple were a few cool statues, the reclining buddha and two caves (dark and light). Not a lot to do here:

i love it when people follow the rules
the wild monkeys

We then took a longtail boat to the fishing village. This was a pretty cool place to see, with amazing views of the surrounding islands:

Finally, we arrived at James Bond Island, home to a sea shell beach and a breathtaking rock formation in the bay:

the cook rock

The next 007? I think we always knew...

That evening, we ventured out again to Bangla Road, and took in the local culture. What happens in Phuket stays in Phuket, but here are some photos to give you a sense of the atmosphere:
Christin Massage Parlor - a brothel the size of a city block
Looks like one sick grandpa!
"Hard Rock" bar, with a U2, Bon Jovi, and Metallica tribute band
The concept of the tribute band was much better than the reality of it (really awful)
Howard in front of Sharkey's bar, home to dancing women in schoolgirl uniforms who like to play Connect 4
Another shot of Howard at Sharkey's

Here's some shots of the beach:
lots of mopeds/cycles/bikes for rent

Yesterday, we explored Phuket City, which was a huge letdown. We did get a chance to try some exotic fruit though, at this fruit stand:

Pineapple was amazing

We also had the chance to see the great industry of Phuket, Latex:

We ate lunch at the local mall at a Thai shabu shabu-type place - the vegetable plate for 2 was about $100 baht ($3.33 USD). After our time in the city, we took a 20 baht (roughly 66 cents) local bus back to the beach. The bus was crazy packed, leaving Howard and I sitting next to two schoolkids in a 2-seat section of the bus. We were still better off than this elderly gentleman who was asked to sit on a box next to the driver. Needless to say, he did not look happy:

Today is a travel day, with a stop over in Bangkok. Since the stopover is somewhat short, I've decided to relax in the Novotel Airport Hotel... We'll be in Chiang Mai later tonight...