We found the sun!!!

Trip Start Nov 21, 2005
Trip End Apr 30, 2006

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Well, it's been a while since we've updated our activities - so here goes!
As we mentioned the sun has now been out for the better part of a week (yesterday - Dec. 26 was actually the hottest day that we've experienced - even the locals were fanning themselves). We spent four of the last seven days on the beach - including the whole day of Christmas. We try to get our exercise also by going into the ocean at least four times a day to do about 20 - 30 min. of exercise at a time (also helps cool off). It sort of makes up for the rest of the day vegging and reading our books on our beach chairs.
Even though the skies were grey the last few weeks we kept pretty busy. We spent a couple of great days (Dec. 12 & 16) with Karen Klasen and her two daughters, Kelly and Kristie (she is a friend of our friends in Vancouver, Weldon and Diane Congdon). The first day we met we just went up to Kamala Beach where they were staying and had poolside drinks (thanks again Karen)and dinner together. Then a few days later (the day before they left) we spent a good part of the day sightseeing the southern part of the island - through Karon, Kata and Kata Noi beaches; around the tip of the island called Promthep Point where we visited the lighthouse and a huge shrine. The three girls were jammed in the back seat of our small Toyota but we had lots of opportunity to get out and stretch our legs - see the picture of the girls with the elphant. After a late lunch at a neat, very rustic outdoor restaurant, we headed back up the east side of the island through Rawai Beach. This is where a lot of the fishing boats are moored and the fast boats to Phi Phi Island leave from. We then stopped for an hour in Patong. This is a really busy area (almost as large as Phuket City) - lots of restaurants, bars, hotels and tons of shops. Kelly, Kristie and Karen demonstrated their bargaining powers. It was lots of fun!
On Dec. 17 even though it was still grey we headed out to the Phuket Golf Course to check things out and hopefully use the driving range. It turned out to be closed as it was the final day of the Asian Women's Masters Tournament which was being played at the course. We looked around though and had a very tasty snack in the restaurant. We returned the next day to hit some balls at the driving range. Great value!!! A rack of 50 balls is 50 Baht (about $1.50 Cdn) We practised using about 5 racks (250 balls between the two of us) and then spent another 45 min. practising our chipping. We haven't played golf since the end of August so it was great to discover that we had not forgotten how to swing the club. The next day we went back to the golf club and played 18 holes on the 9 hole course (twice around). It is a full length course with lotttttsssss of water. It was the first time that I (Ann) have ever played with a caddy - what a great way to play! They pull the golf cart, clean the clubs and ball between shots, show you the direction to hit and give you the yardage and line up the puts. We just couldn't believe how they don't collapse from the heat though as they wear these full length jumpsuits. It wasn't sunny but very warm and humid. The Thai people definitely seem to have different metabolisms that we North Americans (the fact that they also have 0% body fat may help a bit).
We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner at Fredfik's restaurant - Karlssen's. He put on a huge Swedish buffet. Upon arriving we were given a cup of 'gluvine' - haven't had that since the early days of skiing at Whistler. The food was terrific - ham, meatballs, spareribs, salmon, smoked salmon, three kinds of herring, caviar with eggs on toast, cheeses and fruit, great bread and a special potato dish that Fredrik makes with lots of whipping cream and spices - all in all a very non diet but marvellous tasting meal!!!
As we have been touring around the island and just doing day to day activities we have had a lot of fun observing the differences in how things are done here. Some of them are:
1. Methods of transportation - As we mentioned earlier, there are scooters everywhere - and you can see up to four people on one scooter! We've seen - a little stool infront of the driver with a little kid riding in front; three people carrying all their groceries, packages, etc.; a driver with two dogs on the scooter. There are scooter taxies and we've seen women dressed in skirts riding on the back side saddle. You wonder how they keep their sandals from falling off their feet as they seem to just be hanging on the ends of their toes. The buses are large open air affairs and the Tuk tuks are a tiny version of a truck with a semi covered back cab with benches along the side to sit on.
2. Construction methods - The scaffolding is mostly all hand made - sticks tied together and erected up the sides of buildings. The workers will climb up these structures and walk on roofing three stories high - all in flip flops! Most of the cement is mixed by hand in buckets or for a really big job a wheel barrow. Workers seem to work very long hours - generally starting around 10 or 11 a.m. and working right up until about 11 p.m. At night they turn on lights and keep working.
3. Road resurfacing - Everything is done by hand and they lay the new ashvalt (sp?) right over the old surface - no scraping off the old and prepping for the new surface. David particularly noted how they use a string stretched between two people to form a straight line and then push/pull this small machine by hand to form the line along the string. Some of the corner curves are interesting looking. And - just like home - you will see one person working and four or five "supervising". They do seem to get things accomplished though as a large portion of between Karon Beach and Patong has been completed since we've been here. Definitely an improvement from when we arrived!
4. Tourists - most of the tourists here are from Sweden and Germany. We don't hear a lot of English spoken. It is however the universal communication language and most of the restaurant and shop staff speak basic English. Menus and signs are in both Thai and English. We can't quite get over the fact that is seems as if 90% of the people we see have tatoos! Men, women, young and old have tatoos on their arms, legs, shoulders, backs, chests and any other place you can imagine! And there is not much left to the imagination as a good percentage of the women on the beaches go topless. (We realize that it is the custom in Europe on the beaches but in our research before coming here we read that the Thai really don't like it but put up with it.) It also amazes us how many tourist still smoke. You will see fathers and mothers at dinner with children blowing smoke right at them. Guess we've been spoiled in North America with the strick smoking restrictions. It's interesting how much we notice the smoke when someone sitting beside us in a cafe or on the beach lights up.
5. People we have met - We have met some really wonderful people. We are going to take some photos of them and describe them in another travelogue.
Well, that's it for today. Going to upload some pictures now and sign off.
All our very best wishes for a healthy and happy 2006!
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