Monday, 27 August 2012

Monsoons and Motor Scooters

The color of the Andaman Sea in Thailand

There is a reason we respect safety signs: "Dangerous Curve Ahead", "Biohazard Area, Stay Out” or "Hard Helmet Area" are signs posted for a purpose. So why did my sister, Lori and I not heed the "Monsoon Season, Dangerous Riptides" advice generously displayed everywhere in Phuket, Thailand? Perhaps because we were there for action and excitement; it was our first vacation together and we were in a place that cried decadence and adventure.

It was my mission to provide "THE Beach Experience" for my sister and I wanted more than the overcrowded Karon beach outside of our rustic hotel. We decided to snorkel and see what all the fuss about Thailand's heavenly beaches was about.  We found a southern tour that would take you to Raya Island for one thousand Baht. At this secluded island, we were promised we could snorkel from the boat, look for tiny sharks and rays and then chill on the other side, enjoying the aquamarine water, white sand and sea breeze. What I didn't take into account was the dangerous, rough water we would have to navigate to get to the destination. All of this, led by a sun-baked man named Tiger, and a boat full of Russians, Mainland Chinese and two hick town women from Canada.

Packed like Sardines on the boat
We were shuttled to the ferries early in the morning and herded into a canopied shack to wait for our turn to board the rickety speed boat. While waiting we were told by Tiger that under no circumstance should we take off our lifejackets onboard, and that on every boat he commandeers, someone throws up their noodle breakfast. He handed out anti nausea pills like candy and I wondered what I had got us into as I popped pill after pill. No way were my eggs coming up with a boat load of people that didn't speak English.

We were ushered to the boat and due to high tide and rough water we had to board from the beach, through  the murky sea. We were handed life jackets that were either too large or too small and told to make sure they were secure. They loaded the boat so tight, we were stuck together from our sweat. Body odor was starting to emanate. "Move it people, let's get a breeze going."

I should have kept that thought pushed further down because within minutes, we were on the way to Raya, through monsoon waves. As Tiger explained, "During monsoon season, we get waves all day, we get waves all night, we get waves every day." Why didn't we listen to him before we boarded, why, why?

The trip to the island is usually 30 minutes but with the three meter swells pummeling the packed boat, it was over 45 minutes. We were completely drenched as the water tried to overcome the craft.

Kitesurfing on Karon Beach
What I learned on this trip is that Mandarin, Russian and English speakers all scream "Wooo" the same way.  The woman beside me must have had bruises from me clutching her leg when the boat became airborne. I am not sure she understood, "Sorry" but she just smiled and patted my hand. My sister was the only person on the boat not nervous.  She sang Bob Marley songs to keep me from pitching a fit, as I prayed to Buddha, Allah and did Hail Marys until the ocean subsided.

Finally we got past the bucking waves to calm, crystalline water and all was forgotten.  I couldn't get on my "cheap, Made in Taiwan" snorkel gear fast enough.  Hey, those were Tiger's words, not mine, as I exited the boat. Tiger also insisted on giving us more racial stereotyping before we all jumped. "Chinese are not allowed to drown on my watch, because Chinese can't swim." This old bugger was less than politically correct.

He was kind enough to snorkel with me and help me locate a Sting Ray hiding amongst the colorful coral; the highlight of the trip for me. Swimming with Tiger was not. All of his spitting and hacking from his strong Thai cigarettes into the pristine water, was less than appealing.

Soon it was time to venture to the other side of the island for relaxation and lunch. We were chauffeured by an incredibly classy tractor pulling a flatbed, but only if you were female.  All the men had to hike in the blazing sun to the other side, past the meandering Water Buffalo, just in time to lay down for a late morning siesta.

What a sight to behold, monsoon or not, on the other side of the island. Finally I got to see the white sand and dazzling water I had read so much about. Keeping to a tight schedule we scampered over to a large shack on the beach that was disguised as a restaurant. We literally had to scramble over rocks and sand bags to get to the entrance.  Safety, be damned in Thailand.

Scrambling over the rocks to the restaurant
I was warning my sister that in Asia, queues mean nothing, when three women tried to bypass her in line. Her piano teaching instincts took over and she informed these rogues "budders" she was next.  The chastised women slunk to the back of the line, HA! We were rewarded with Tom Yum Soup, and unidentifiable deep fried veg, plantains and pineapple.

We still had to return to Phuket, and I would like to say the waves had subsided, but that would be wrong. If nothing else, the boat was more jam-packed and the waves were higher.  I am not certain how we managed to bring more people onboard, or where they came from, but this time, there were not enough life jackets for everyone.  Tiger tried to tell me I would be fine, to which I told him, "Not bloody likely."  He miraculously found one for me and then tried to entertain the green passengers with brain twisting puzzles.

Ladyboys are everywhere in Phuket
The rest of the trip was a whirlwind of Ladyboys, dancing, cheap booze and hot, hotter, and hottest days. Nothing out of the extraordinary happened if you don't take into account that women that once used to be men proposition you every two steps, and you see nasty, old Western men with "Younger Than Their Grandchildren" girlfriends.  While this may seem strange to some, it is perfectly normal in Thailand. It is Vegas, but 95 per cent more insane, naughty, wild and raunchy all rolled into one.

On the day we were to leave, I had organized a taxi to pick us up for our early flight on Tiger Airlines (Yes, everything in Thailand is named Tiger). Of course, the taxi didn't show, and the thousands of taxis you see during the night were all sleeping at this ungodly hour. 

I had security, and workers all running up and down the street trying to flag down a taxi, when a man on a motor scooter flew by, jammed on his brake and yelled, "Taxi?" I told him to hurry because we needed to get to the airport.  He looked at the luggage, then Lori, and told me to hop on.  I roared off, leaving her with the bags on the side of the road, while we located his taxi. In just a few short minutes we zoomed back to pick her up and blaze through every red light in Phuket. I ended up paying him almost double what I would have paid the airport taxi, but at this point, I would have paid him anything.

Selling crepes on the street - yummy
When safely ensconced in Singy I spilled the adventure beans to R2, who challenged me with, “Darling, you will not know travel until you go to Phuket with me, so brace yourself. We will take in Ping-Pong Shows, serpent entertainment, and Hunt for The Red October.” He is probably right, traveling with the Mexican whirling dervish will provide stories that are highly censored in the puritan society of Singapore. I guess I will have to wait until October when we make another visit to Thailand: The Land of Smiles.

15 comments:

  1. Did you see the calves below that skimpy purple dress? wow, Thai girls are hot, I am so going there during my next vacation.

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    1. Sorry Camel Tony, that was NOT a girl!

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  2. Too funny! Easy to forget what is fearful at the moment! Just remember Bob's words - "don't worry about a thing, every little thing will be all right!".

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    1. And that is the song she sang and sang as I screamed, cringed and needed to change my Depends!

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  3. what an awesome adventure...can't wait to meet up with Lori to get all the fantastic stories of her trip.

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    1. I hope she can remember them all Laura, we were so busy, I already forgot what we did.

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  4. Can I have a Ham Cheese Vanila Crepe ?

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    1. Are you the Crepper Man, and not the Creeper man? Ham, Cheese and Vanilla? Yikes - what a combo.

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  5. Good Gawd, you have soo much fun! I can write a story about a boat ride I took at Round Lake if you like!!! Lol Keep the stories coming Layna, I love hearing about all the adventures you take!

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    1. Sure, bring on the Round Lake boat ride story - would love to hear it.

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  6. coool, thanks for sharing your story. Generally scooters are not suitable for such whether , snow falling and in hills area.

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  7. Best story - love your stuff Layna. Keep the stories coming - now I want to come to Phuket - too many places, so little time

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