Club Andaman Beach Resort

from phuket to bangkok: traffic & pollution, a traditional show & elephant rides

Monday, January 14:  This morning we fly from Phuket to Bangkok.  We part ways with the lovely Club Andaman Beach Resort.

Goodbye to the Club Andaman Beach Resort in Phuket

Goodbye to the Club Andaman Beach Resort in Phuket

Taking off from Phuket

Taking off from Phuket

Arrival in Bangkok

Arrival in Bangkok

Once we arrive in Bangkok, we spend most of our time sitting in traffic trying to get to our hotel.

Bangkok is a modern city with horrible pollution – the air is actually a gray color.  Many of us get flu-like symptoms upon our arrival, and it becomes clear why people are walking around wearing surgical masks.  Traffic congestion is a huge problem.  Every time we travel by bus in the city, it takes us at least an hour to get to our destination.  Taxi cabs, mostly Toyotas and Mitsubishis in bright colors of royal blue, red, yellow, hot pink, and purple, abound, but it’s faster and more convenient to travel by the sky train.

Bangkok's congested traffic

Bangkok’s congested traffic

Finally we make it to our hotel, where we’re given some free time to settle in and relax.

in the hotel lobby

in the hotel lobby

Later in the evening we go to a touristy venue to eat a traditional Thai meal and watch traditional dancers.

Jennifer, ??, ??, Ryan, me and Luz

Jennifer, ??, ??, Ryan, me and Luz

Thai dancers

Thai dancers

more Thai dancers

more Thai dancers

Thai musicians

Thai musicians

Then we all take turns riding elephants around the square.  It’s not really my idea of an authentic elephant ride, as I imagine riding elephants through lush jungles.

a statue near the elephant ride station

a statue near the elephant ride station

me with an elephant friend

me with an elephant friend

atop the elephant

atop the elephant

riding an elephant in NOT-ideal surroundings

riding an elephant in NOT-ideal surroundings

I really dislike this kind of venue that is set up expressly for tourists.  I find out on this trip that I really dislike group tours of any kind.  I think if I’m going to travel, I need to do it alone, or with only one or two close friends.

Categories: Asia, Bangkok, Club Andaman Beach Resort, Phuket, Thailand | Tags: , | 2 Comments

a relaxing day in phuket

Saturday, January 12:  This morning, we have a buffet breakfast outdoors under a pavilion at Club Andaman Beach Resort.  A Thai woman plays some soothing music, adding ambiance to our lush surroundings.  We attend a lecture in the morning and then we are free to do whatever we want for the day.

the grounds of Club Andaman Beach Resort

the grounds of Club Andaman Beach Resort

Johanna, Jitesh and ?? at breakfast

Johanna, ??, Joe and Sarah at breakfast

me at breakfast at Club Andaman Beach Resort

me at breakfast at Club Andaman Beach Resort

breakfast accompanied by soothing music

breakfast accompanied by soothing music

the grounds of Club Andaman Beach Resort

the grounds of Club Andaman Beach Resort

I opt to spend my day at Patong Beach, the most famous beach resort in Phuket.  I had envisioned the resorts of Phuket would extend directly to Patong Beach, but Club Andaman does not.  There is a busy and tacky business street, with crowds of people wandering about, dividing the beach and the resort.  Massage parlors abound.  I go to the beach for the afternoon and am surprised to have to pay 100 baht for a beach chair.  A young man sweeps the sand from the chair with a straw broom and he drops by periodically to repeat the sweep.  He offers to open my umbrella for me.  Men and women walk up and down the beach offering sarongs, teak elephants and other souvenirs for sale.  You can order fruit drinks from young men that come around or from a shack bar up on the beach.

Many of the women are topless; I know this is quite European and acceptable in all parts of the world, but I have never experienced topless beaches before.  I am surprised at some of the fat or older women who are topless and should not have been!  No one seems to look twice at these women! There are plenty of big-bellied men wearing Speedos – mostly Australians.  All kinds of activities are going on in the water: parasailing, jet-skiing, and boating.  It is much like beaches I’ve visited in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

After I lounge around for a long time at the beach, I seek out a massage parlor in town, as I’ve heard they’re incredibly cheap.

Every other shop is a Thai massage parlor, with petite uniformed Thai girls sitting out front beckoning customers.  I stop at one that looks clean and comfortable, and the girl leads me to a room full of mattresses on a wood floor.  She pulls a curtain around the mattress and tells me to get completely naked.  Then she squats and slathers me with oil.  I am amazed at how limber she is, maneuvering into all kinds of positions to give me the massage.  It’s a little risqué by American standards: the being totally naked, the way the masseuse squats and clambers about rather than standing, the proximity she comes to touching my private parts.  It’s a full hour, full-body massage and costs only 300 baht, a mere $9 U.S.!  I love it, though I feel a little uncomfortable with some of the familiarity.  American massages are much more prudish, possibly because of fears of lawsuits for inappropriate touching.

Thai massage :-)

Thai massage 🙂

I am feeling depressed so far on this study abroad program; our group just doesn’t have the cohesion and chemistry that our group on the Mexico Study abroad program had.  I feel disconnected from everybody.  This is one of the first times I’ve realized I don’t take well to group vacations.

In the evening, a few of us eat at the Cairo Restaurant.  I’m drawn there because I’m missing Egypt so much and feeling like nothing will ever compare.  I feel lost.

This evening, I write a letter to R, someone I have been seeing since the end of May, 2007.  Here’s what I write:

Dear R,

I’m tired of the whole group vacation.  I think this is the last one I will take.  I’ve decided in Thailand I will be branching out on my own.  The group is fine, but I don’t seem to be bonding with anyone. Ryan is great fun, but he’s determined to hook up with some young chick.  Johanna is fun, but has joined at the hip with Luz.  Michal is getting on my nerves big time.
 
We arrived in Phuket yesterday; we ate at a Thai fish open air restaurant, then shopped in the market.  Today, we had a lecture and then I spent the afternoon at the beach.  Had a few beers in the pool with some of the group, then had a very OILY Thai massage.  Ate at the Cairo Restaurant.  I loved Egypt so much more…I can’t tell you why.
 
Tomorrow, I’m going on an all-day canoe excursion to the James Bond island and caves.  Hope it will be fun.  We fly to Bangkok on Monday.
 
Singapore was a big disappointment.  Too orderly and pristine.  I like chaos and real culture so much better. I can’t believe I was in the biggest shopping mall in the world (the whole of Singapore) and I didn’t shop.  I just bought two gold rings in Little India.  Love, me
Categories: Asia, Club Andaman Beach Resort, Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand | Tags: , | Leave a comment

from singapore to phuket, thailand

Friday, January 11:  This morning, we leave Singapore and fly to Phuket, Thailand, where we have the weekend to relax before our new round of lectures begins Monday morning in Bangkok.

the view of Singapore from my hotel room window

the view of Singapore from my hotel room window

me and Ryan, waiting to leave Singapore

me and Ryan, waiting to leave Singapore

Johanna, all dressed up and ready for Thailand

Johanna, all dressed up and ready for Thailand

We fly to the airport in Phuket and drive to our hotel,  the Club Andaman Beach Resort, in town.

flying into Phuket

flying into Phuket

getting closer to Phuket

getting closer to Phuket

Arrival at the airport in Phuket, Thailand

Arrival at the airport in Phuket, Thailand

Road signs in Phuket

Road signs in Phuket

view of Phuket from the bus window

view of Phuket from the bus window

Phuket is a bustling town on Patong Bay in the south of Thailand.  I see no visible signs of the tsunami that devastated the town in December 2004.  It seems to be business as usual, although I must admit I don’t know what it was like before the tsunami. Christmas lights and New Year’s decorations are still up throughout the town, reminding us of what we’ve left behind in the U.S.

At Club Andaman Beach Resort, we are greeted by a charming Thai woman in a green dress, serving lime green drinks of guava juice.  The club is lovely, with an open air lobby and teak walls.  Another Thai woman sits cross-legged on a platform playing a tranquil melody on a musical instrument of some kind.  The grounds of the Club are impossibly green and beautifully manicured.

The resort includes Thai style cottages and a high-rise, white, concrete building. The Thai style village cottages are more basic than the rooms, overlooking 15 acres of landscaped tropical gardens and pools as well as a nice pond.  Our room is in one of the Thai-style cottages.

The resort is located near the famous Patong Beach, but not on the beachfront.  Patong Beach offers nightlife, as well as a range of restaurants and shops (ebookers.com: Club Andaman Beach Resort).

Drinks, anyone?

Drinks, anyone?

We go soon after to settle into our rooms (agoda: Club Andaman Beach Resort).

A room I share with Johanna

A room I share with Johanna

our rooms at the hotel

our rooms at the hotel

the other high rise rooms in the hotel, surrounding the cottages

the other high rise rooms in the hotel, surrounding the cottages

the grounds of the hotel in Phuket

the grounds of the hotel in Phuket

Thai music performance in the hotel

Thai music performance in the hotel

We head out to explore the streets of Phuket.  Motorbikes are everywhere in Phuket: a very cheap mode of transportation for the poorer population.

the streets of Phuket

the streets of Phuket

A number of us walk down the main street from the Club and pick out a sidewalk restaurant that has photos of the food posted on a billboard.  I order tiger prawns and asparagus; I’m able to pick out the number and sizes of the fresh prawns for them to cook.  The food is delicious.  I order a Tiger beer; it is much less expensive than the 15 Singapore dollars I paid at the Meze Bar in that city.

dinner at a fresh fish restaurant along the street in Phuket: Johanna, Luz, ??, Juliana and ??

dinner at a fresh fish restaurant along the street in Phuket: Johanna, Luz, ??, Jennifer, Juliana and ??

me with my tasty dish of fresh fish

me with my tasty dish of tiger prawns and asparagus

We find a six-person taxi cab, open air with two bench seats facing each other.  It’s like a motorized stagecoach.  We take it down to the open air markets, where there are Buddha faces and figures, teak elephants and vases, purses made of Thai silk with gold threads in elephant patterns.  Sarongs, cheap bags, shoes, and camouflage shorts are all the rage.  At each shop, a girl or young man calls out softly, “Madam.  Madam!  You want look?”

Luz, ??, and Johanna in a tuk-tuk in Phuket

Luz, ??, and Johanna in a tuk-tuk in Phuket

a little bar at a night market in Phuket

a little bar at a night market in Phuket

Categories: Asia, Club Andaman Beach Resort, Patong Beach, Phuket, Singapore, Thailand | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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