Trip Start Sep 03, 2002
18Trip End Sep 27, 2003
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a) It's the closest resort to the Similan Islands, one of the world's top ten dive spots
b) Flights were cheap so Nick wouldn't end up murdering any Thai bus operators
c) The weather looked good
d) It couldn't be any worse than Koh Samui
Despite low expectations, Phuket was actually fine. It's no desert island paradise but it is not as tatty as Samui, which is in the middle of a painful transition between a backpacker destination and a resort island.
We arrived on the Island for the Loy Kratong festival, where offerings are made to the sea goddess to celebrate the end of the rainy season and apologise for all the crap dumped in the sea throughout the year
We spent a couple of days on Patong beach (think Ibiza), blissing out on Starbucks and Hagen Daaz. There was one nasty moment when Nick wandered by the Patong Holiday Inn swimming pool, he had NEVER seen so many seriously fat people in one place. I had to physically restrain him from running to a dive shop to buy a spear gun whilst crying "Ishmael, Ishmael, bring me the number six harpoon.". After a few days we moved down the road to the quieter and prettier village of Kata where we secured a lovely bungalow for 500 Baht per day. Kata was hardly touristy at all, apart from the Dinopark where you could play minigolf through plastic dinosaurs and volcanoes and then finish off with a Dinoburger served by a girl in a crimplene leopard print dress.
We did a couple of days diving from Patong just to get back into the swing of it. The water was beautifully warm and the diving generally easy, though our first (ever) wreck dive was a bit interesting as visibility went down to about 5m and swimming in and out of the decks on the sunken car ferry was a bit creepy
The diving was excellent, if a little challenging at times. The Similan Islands are covered in huge boulders, much as I imagine Easter Island must look. Underwater this jumble of rocks results in some really quite interesting currents. On one early morning dive we were taken down from 25 meters to 40 meters by the current almost without noticing - rock and roll!(for non-divers - that 15m is a BIG difference)
We had read that in Thailand there are many of the very aggressive Titan Trigger fish. Although not a large fish, with a bite strong enough to allow them to chomp on coral these babies have the potential to really do some damage. I was quite calm about it all, believing that I had never seen one of them, until someone kindly identified one for me and I realised they were in fact everywhere. This, combined with the presence of highly venomous (dead in about five seconds) three metre long sea snakes, meant that I spent the next two days looking over my shoulder and trying hard not to do anything that would require another Loy Kratong candle
As always we had an interesting cast of characters. Most of the entertainment was provided by the three "Lads" on board - two Danes, Bo and Torben, and an American called Mike. Their divemaster was a very attractive Japanese girl called Yoko. The boys were as mesmerised as I was by the fact that she was wearing an obviously padded bikini top that gave her a really quite startling figure. Nick of course claimed not to notice. Torben soon emerged as the main suitor and thought he was doing really well until he discovered that the phone number that she had given him was for her home in Tokyo.
Apart from eavesdropping on Torben's super smooth chat up lines, entertainment also came from watching the lads filming themselves jumping from the highest point on the boat (really quite high) and listening to their plans for "project castaway". Having watched one too many episodes of "Survivor" the lads had hatched a plan to be left alone on a desert island for three days, paying the boat captain with half of a 500 baht note, the other half to be paid when they were picked up. There were varying schools of thought on the rules of engagement. Mike wanted to be thrown off the boat half a mile from shore, buck naked and with no supplies. Torben wanted to take emergency supplies of food and water
After a great three days on the boat, and a couple more days on the beach, we headed back to Bangkok, then off to Hong Kong. Those nice people at Cathay Pacific obviously recognise quality when they see it and immediately offered me an upgrade to Business Class. Nick, travelling on an airmiles ticket, was clearly a second class citizen and I had to beg before they would upgrade him too. Even then, he was pointedly ignored on the plane, whereas I was the pleased recipient of much major sucking up - so thanks CSFB for the privileges associated with my former status.
As we have now come to expect wherever we go, it was grey and rainy when we arrived in Hong Kong
Although not somewhere that either we or our wallets will feel the need to go back to in a hurry, Hong Kong certainly makes an impression. There is more serious, high end retail per square meter than any place I have ever been to and the highlight was definitely sipping cocktails in the Peninsula (could be what broke the bank) whilst looking over the water to the best Christmas light show ever.
Four days was over all too soon and so we packed our bags again for the flight to New Zealand. Nick spent some time pressing his best pair of shorts before we left, desperately hoping that if he looked smart enough he might get upgraded again.....