Rent a motorbike and do site inspections for a couple dozen top hotels on Thailand’s most famous island and one of the areas hit hardest by the tsunami of 2004. Long before, development had hit most of the good beaches on this island and one wonders if Phuket
– despite its recovery from the natural disaster – is not on the decline. In my mind, Krabi
is the better destination where the karst topography
is stunning no matter how many sprawling villa developments you try to put in front of it. Phuket does, however, have better beaches, the fine, light sand variety, and for a long time tourists have flocked here for lounging on them by day and hitting the nightclub/party scene by night.
The JW Marriott on the long and secluded Mai Khao beach was arguably the most impressive hotel in the lot. The seclusion is key, but development along this stretch is sure to follow. That enviable seclusion, however, can also be a threat. A Swedish tourist was murdered there during an attempted rape while I was on the island. Despite Thailand’s reputation for being a safe place to travel, things can always happen. Topless bathing, alone on a secluded beach (her friend left to get water) can add to the risk. Be careful out there!
Scooter riding in Thailand is another big risk, one that I have frequently taken. (see last year’s blog around this time!) White-knuckled, I race over hills from hotel to tourist attraction on a $5 per day scooter that can hit 60 m.p.h. It is breathtaking. Which leads me to the next story…
I am riding along on the motorbike, heading back to my rented room in a hotel/boarding house in Phuket Town. As I cross a parking lot in front of the ubiquitous Seven Eleven, I can smell some very strong odors of the sewage variety. In fact, for a long while I am passing through the countryside after leaving that particular town, and all I can smell is shit and I am thinking how dirty this country can be sometimes. I fall in behind a truck full of big pink bags of what I assume to be rice. The truck is a bit slow but I am no longer in a hurry so I just hang along behind it. I start getting a little bit of spray in my face and check the sky for a random rain cloud. Nothing but blue. I wonder if it is something dripping out of the trees overhead. Then I realize the truck is leaking and I can see occasional trails of water along the road before me as I am flying along at about 45 mph. The smell comes and goes. I notice the leaking is mostly when it takes curves. I speed up a bit to get closer and feel some more light spray in my face. What the heck is that? I get close enough to the truck to see the guy standing up in back. Then I look at his big pink bags of rice. It’s not rice. IT’S PIGS! Dammit! And that’s not water!!!!!!!!!
I let the bastard pull away and spend the next few miles spitting and trying not to laugh so my mouth won’t open. All in a day’s work.