Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Winded in Phuket

Our flight from Udon Thani to Phuket was an easy 1.5 hrs as we travelled from the Mekong River of NE Thailand to the Andaman Sea, SW of the country. It was wonderful to meet Cil at Phuket airport. Our luggage now comprised of 8 bags with 16 wheels altogether, and we needed the extra large trolley to move our stuff out of the airport.

It was another miracle for our chartered van to swallow all of us in it. No doubt the latest model of Toyota's Hiace van is bigger but we had one more person plus BF Tikit in a case. Travelling with foldies is truly the way to go.

Instead of hanging around the beach areas, we booked ourselves into the heart of Chinatown in old Phuket Town at the newish Chinotel.

They were quite bike friendly and didn't mind us. To be precise, they didn't know what were in those cases! We enjoyed a lavish dinner at a fancy Seafood restaurant which came to double the price of what we were used to in Isaan. It was interesting to be served very well and delicately by a "waitress", who was more feminine than usual.

We spend the first morning free and easy. KC and TW took a bus to Patong Beach while I went for a walk to check out the wonderful old quarters of Phuket. This part of town share many similarities with Penang and Malacca, and to my surprise, had a Peranakan or Straits Born population.

Think old-style bungalows of the rich Chinese Towkays of yesteryear, British style five foot way shophouses, antique and curios shops, Chinese temples and you get the feel of the rich history of this most "un-Thai" town.

We started our ride proper after lunch and wanted to cycle to Cape Panwa via Patong Beach to see the sunset. Little did we know how steep and impossible the hills were. Mid way to Patong, the road started to really get serious. A truck which overtook us stalled in the middle of an incline, and its load of bricks fell all over the centre of the road. It was a good thing we were on the left side! It was like an ominous sign of what was to come.

Almost all of us started pushing our bikes up what felt like Everest, and it was only with the help of my BF Expedition very low granny gear that I just managed to ride up. It nearly burst my lungs doing so.

While catching my breath and waiting for others, I noticed Uncle Ken and TW missing. Dr Mike and I quickly walked down the steep hill only to find Ken sitting at the side of the road breathless and face red as a watermelon. He had severe over-heating and immediately, we cooled him down and gave him lots of drinks. It was a blessing that nothing else went wrong but we didn't risk it and flagged a tuk tuk to take him to Patong Beach. The rest of us finished the gruelling 16km and decided to watch the sunset there.

Patong is always a hive of activity especially at night when the bars, massage parlours and all sorts of night creatures come alive. But in the evening, it was surprisingly quite pleasant with cool breezy winds.

Celia got a surprise treat from Rod and Ken in the form of a Para-sailing flight. It was very generous of them and she enjoyed a wonderful bird's eye view, 100m in the air!

Dinner that night was probably the most enjoyable one we had in our entire trip. We walked past the trendy SeaU restaurant at Ranong Road and the elegant maitre d' invited us in saying, "If you don't like our food, we won't charge!" It helped too that Tacha had the brightest smile. Her food and especially service was better than flying Singapore Airlines First Class! Needless to say, we went back again.

We spend the whole of next day doing something very different - from land to water. We went kayaking with John Gray Adventures. It was the most expensive event we spent on our whole Mekong trip at US$120 per person but it really was worth it.

Transported door to door, served great meals and unlimited drinks, given professional guides and experienced breath-taking views that money cannot buy.

The guides spoke good english and steered our kayaks skillfully. I had one that was extremely knowledgeable about the eco-system of the amazing limestone caves and the rich wildlife. It helped that he was a joker as well!

We also had opportunities to swim in the warm sea and that was so good. It was a little scary going through the caves as we had to lie down and the top of the cave barely cleared our noses. Kudos to our guides.

This was a wonderful way to end our Mekong adventure. The 8 of us began the journey 8 days ago as strangers but ended up the trip as firm friends. We had slept together, ate together, got drenched together, suffered together, flew together and most of all, laughed and enjoyed priceless time on our foldies together.

As we said a sad goodbye upon arriving at Changi Airport in Singapore, we knew somehow this would be the start of many more delightful trips in the future.


*My special thanks and deepest appreciation go out to Brother Taiwoon for taking most of the lovely photos here and for being the best sweeper ever. He made sure no one was left behind and did a brilliant job on his Brommie!


omegaforest said...

The GoPro Video quality is really good!

Taiwoon said...

Looking at the photos and writeup, it brings back all the pleasant memories... which I will always keep dear in my heart. Thank u Bro Al for leading the ride. It was a real pleasure and honor to ride alongside u! To more touring rides!! hear! hear!!!!!