Oh, and the pics are on my FaceBook too, if you want to check them out individually.
Firstly, though I vanished from around here on the 24th November (aka Election Day), the flight didn't actually leave until a bit past Midnight. Which meant I spent a number of hours lurking around Melbourne airport, attempting to keep track of the election results on someone's little TV on a desk, and getting text updates from fa11ing_away when Johnny conceded.
Speaking of which: Huzzah for Kevin07! I am deeply, deeply relieved that Howard was ousted (and highly amused when I later found he also lost his seat), and am more so after what his initial actions have been so far. Hopefully he'll keep it up.
Anyway, back to the holiday.
On the plane, I discovered that plane seats are completely impossible to get to sleep in, and thus spent about about half the flight to Bangkok attempting to get comfortable, and the other half watching movies (The Simpsons Movie and Transformers, to be precise). Once at Bangkok, we discovered our flight to Phuket was delayed by several hours, which was less than fun. I mean, there's only so much wandering around airport shops you can do.
The Bangkok airport is insanely big, by the way, and shopping strip is freaking massive (I think I read somewhere it was like 2km long). Add the fact about half the shops are the same, and after wandering along it for half an hour, it's definitely feeling a bit Twilight Zone-ish. Anyway, after we got sick of walking around and ended up sitting around reading until boarding for a couple of hours. I started rereading Deathly Hallows, which I'll probably finish sometime soon when I have nothing else to do.
Phuket flight was short and not really worthy of note. Phuket itself was hot and, for the most part, freaking crowded. Also, insanely busy. I have no real pictures of the town parts, so you'll just have to take my word for it, but it was. You couldn't step 2 metres outside the hotel - this one, for the record - without being hassled by people trying to get you to take a taxi ride with them. Or walk along the street without like a zillion people trying to sell massages or DVDs.
You got some amusing stuff, mind. If they found out you were Australian, you got some highly amusing ocker impressions (Paul Hogan would be proud, honestly), though they didn't seem to much about Australia apart from Sydney or Melbourne.
I also got a vast amount of comments about my hat (that big white wide-brimmed one, for those who've seen in). And got compared to Shakira (!!) at one point.
We were staying in Patong, which is about the biggest tourist area, mind, and the market, which was vastly fun was just across the road. Still, it was mad. Fun, but mad. The shopping hours are really weird, too. Apart from the 7/11s (Yes, they were as omnipresent as ever), and a few other places, most seemed to keep to hours that started at 10 or 11 am, and didn't close until 11pm or Midnight. This included the main shopping mall. It puts new meaning to the words "Night Shopping".
Also, there was some highly amusing Engrish around. I can't recall any off hand (except one tour which asked people to wear "short" and "slipper", but given that asking people to buy things is probably all the English half the people knew, it's sort of understandable. Though still amusing when pretty much any time you want to buy something, people dig out the calculator, and put in number. Ah, money, the universal language...
Even the tour guides didn't have all that spectacular English. Which got amusing at times, I'll tell you.
Oh, and you could also see signs like these all over the place:
Kind of understandable, given the events of a couple of years ago (One island we visited at one point lost fully a quarter of it's residents to the Boxing Day Tsunami). But they're sort of weird when you first see them.
Another thing you saw all over the place were photos of their King. Due to the fact his 80th birthday was coming up (it's tomorrow, apparently), and he is very, very popular. Like, the sort of popularity most national leaders could only dream on. One thing I read said that he was sometimes considered semi-divine, which is most impressive, and probably explains why, despite being a Buddhist country, people were more likely to have pictures of the King than Buddha stuck up in their shops.
I bought, oh, a whole heap of stuff that I can't be bothered describing, but there's a couple of sarongs, quite a bit of things of Thai silk (I couldn't go to Thailand and not get any, could I?), and of course I took advantage of the many cheap "designer" goods available at the market. Ended up with two pairs of sunnies claiming to be Louis Vuitton, and a Chanel bag that is such a good fake it even has a genuine looking tag of authenticity.
If I'm talking a bit much about this stuff, I will point out that only about half the time we were in Thailand was actually spent doing things. Rather a lot of it was spent wandering around the market, hanging around the air-conditioned hotel, or taking advantage of the insanely cheap drinks available at one of the many Happy Hours going on. Trust me, two-for-one hours in which you can get 2 drinks for 170 baht (a bit over $6) is utterly gold.
Thai food is also quite nice, though I will admit that I got rather sick of having the same thing for almost every meal by the end of the trip (Not a huge vegetarian selection at most places, alas). Of course, you could get Western food at a lot of places, but Dad insisted on eating Thai food in Thailand, and you don't really get any other options on day trips.
Also, when they say spicy vegetable curry, they really, really mean it. I seriously got through over a litre of water trying to cope with that meal. I mean nice, but oh the burning heat!
And now, onto things with lots of pictures!
Day Trip Number One: To the inland jungle region.
Featuring: Elephants! Also, a monkey or two, a buffalo, and educational type things.
First of our 8am starts, which are less than fun, I must say. Especially since Thailand, as mentioned, seems for the most part to run on hours that are far more sensible than Australia's (says a long avowed Night Owl). Got a bus - well, basically like a truck with seats and a roof on the back. No windows - to our first stop, then a jeep type thing up a ruddy great hill on top of which there was stuff. Namely, Elephants!
See what I mean? Baby Elephant, and trainer. Yes, these elephants did tricks.
Like giving this random lady a massage. Or poking her with it's foot, at least. I wasn't quite brave enough to give this a shot meself, but she didn't come to any harm.
This one above was just a poser, really.
And Mum, Myself and The Sister (in that order) with the Elephants. Shortly after this we fed them, and man they were greedy little things. They'd grab food right out of your hands.
We also learnt how they got rubber from rubber trees, which was mildly interesting, learnt about how and what they did with Coconuts and assorted materials within - oil, milk, et al - and the ingrediants for making a jungle curry. Chicken, so I didn't try it (the fact some people around me were questioning if it was actually chicken didn't inspire me much, either). There was also a ride in a Buffalo cart, which was not exactly rollr coaster material.
Of course, one of the main attractions was a ride on an elephant. Full size one, not a baby like in those photos above, and with the Mahout trainer dude, who I'm not sure spoke any English at all. Also, though there are pictures taken on this, they are all in need of scanning (or on other people's cameras), so I can't supply any of me on Elephant back right now.
I can give you a picture of the view from an Elephant's back*, though:
*Note: This only applies if said Elephant is on top of a mountain at the time of picture taking.
There was also a monkey trained to pick coconuts, which was very cute. We got a brief run down of the process of training, too.
See, ain't he sweet?
And, the training process, step 2. (1 is teaching them how to spin coconuts, 3 is picking from actual trees)
If this had been shown in an episode of Doctor Who, it would be evidence for a deep soul mate love.
Thus, I am currently expecting to be "shockingly" reunited with this monkey despite our unavoidable separation any day now.
And that's the end of one day trip. Well, half-day, technically, but since the rest of it was spent getting a bust to Phuket Town, and hanging around the shops there for a bit, I don't think it really counts.
Dad showed up a bit after lunch the next day - he'd already been in Thailand for a week, and had come from Chang Mai up in the North. He had some interesting pictures and stories. Oh, and he got me a little Sapphire necklace (they're mined in Chang Mai, I believe).
Anyhoo, next trip was a speedboat day trip around the Phi Phi islands (the ones that were really badly hit by the Tsunami) and local regions.
Again, an early start, as we got a mini-bus to the other side of an island, and then onto our boat with about 15 other people, and about 4 crew. It was very, very splashy, I must say, but rather fun - at least until the smell of fumes from the engine started to get to me. I feel sorry for the guys in the back seats who were literally quite soaked by the first stop, though.
The first stop in question.
We could just sunbathe or swim around here. Or try snorkelling, though it was a bit too wavy for that. Also, not really pretty coral or fish were around.
I can't actually recall the exact order of the stops: At one point we went to Monkey Bay, which was fun (though I have far better monkey pictures from my last trip, which are further down), past some lovely scenery, and interesting spots.
This was one such interesting spot, apparently, though tourists aren't allowed inside. There's apparently a painting of a Viking longboat inside, or something, not that I'd know.
Not that I'd want to go in if that's the only entry method.
We also had some snorkeling, which was brilliant fun. We were on this reef thing that was nice and still, and had really pretty fish, which we could feed by dropping bits of bread or banana over the side of the boat, and then watch them swarm.
I decided to try something different, and carried banana in my hand when I went in snorkeling. Which got me a freaking awesome view of the fish, as they swarmed to get to the banana.
And then, of course, one of the fish bit me.
Which was rather cool, actually, since it wasn't particularly hard bite, but still...
I got bit. By a fish.
Snorkeling on the whole was great fun. Also, it enables one to work on their Darth Vader impressions.
We also stopped at one or two other places for swimming and/or sunbathing, but I can't really differentiate the pictures, so I'll post them all together.
And lunch was on this island in a building that was literally half built. As in, you had to walk through a building site to get to the toilets, and they were in an unfinished room.
After that was more snorkeling (less good this time: it was open water rather than in a cove, so the water was a bit rough and I kept inhaling salt water), and beach going. One of the islands we went to at the end had it's own souvenir shops and bars. Which sounds like no big deal, until you realise the entire island is like the size of a football field.
And then it was back home. Rather fab day out, I must admit.
And now, I give you photographs of scenery to admire. (I have like another dozen or so I didn't upload, too)
You had to go through this jungle to get to the bathroom on one island. It made the whole thing feel vaguely like an exotic adventure to find a lost city or something. Rather than, you know, somewhere to pee.
The picture just above is from the beach I photographed in the one before.
Those boats there are fishing boats, not tourist ones. They're rather neat looking close up, too.
This would be that football field sized island with all the shops.
The next trip wasn't so much a trip as getting a guy in a taxi to take us a few places around Phuket Island. Some were interesting, some were less so, but it still occupied most of a day. I don't actually have all that many pictures of this trip, partially because not everywhere we went was particularly photo worthy, and because some of my pictures were Polaroids which I might scan in at one point (there's one with me and The Sister and a baby Tiger. So cute!
We went to the shooting range, for some reason or another. Mum was rather good with a Rifle, and Dad was surprisingly not good with a pistol, which amused me.
There was also just a lot of driving around looking at things.
Lunch was at this Seafood place on the coast, where all the different fish and/or crustacians were alive out the front in tanks and you got to chose which one to kill. Which somehow feels weirder when it's an outdoor restaraunt in the country with tanks that look more like pens than in a city restaraunt with fish tanks.
Nice view, though.
I do think those fishing boats look nifty.
We also went to the Zoo for a bit. I have to say, I felt rather sorry for the animals when compared to those at, say, Melbourne Zoo. Their pens didn't look at all nice, and a lot were really small. And at least one Elephant was chained up.
Also, there's something mildly surreal about being able to buy snakeskin things in a zoo with many snakes, several of which you can be photographed with.
Actually, there were lots of animals you could be photographed with. Lots of animal shows, too, though we only saw the monkey one, which was rather cute. No photos, though, since I couldn't get any good ones quick enough.
I had my picture taken with the Baby Tiger, as mentioned, but you could also get it with a big Tiger, with the teeny cute monkeys from the show, or with some big honking snakes (I got one on them, too).
We also went and spent some brief time looking at this rather stunning looking temple.
Rather bling, don't you think. We didn't go inside, because The Sister wasn't appropriately dressed, and I'm not sure if I was or not.
And that was that trip.
Oh, but one more thing, which I really couldn't resist posting:
And we had one last trip amidst some time I spent actually doing some shopping, rather than just browsing. (I worked through the rather infamous List, and got everything on it, which was nice. Also, a Thai copy of Harry Potter, which I cannot read a word of, but looks quite neat.
This one was to the Phang Nga region of the Thai mainland, as well as around that bay and some of the islands there. Including a particular one which I took a number of pictures of that James Bond fans may want to check out...
The drive to get there took an age, I must say. Understandable, since it was about twice as long as any other trip while as Thailand, but still, it was less than fun.
First stop was to this Cave Temple. Or former cave temple, I should say, since there is now a proper outside temple after money was raised for it. Still, it's a cave full of a whole heap of Buddha statues, some of which were rather huge.
This one was massive.
Outside the cave temple were zillions of monkeys. No kidding, there were heaps of them, and given you could buy food for them at the temple entrance, they were very, very fearless around people. And I really mean that.
Personally, I got mobbed by monkeys at one point, when one of them realised I had a bag of peanuts in my hand, and literally climbed my leg and tipped the bag over. Which is a rather unique experience, I must say.
There was another monkey which would catch the peanuts I threw at it right out of the air, and there was one, after it knew I had food, which was freaking stalking me. Which is another unique experience, being followed by a monkey.
There were also a couple of mothers with babies, which were a world of cute.
All in all, the monkeys were adorable, if a little scary. They made at least one little girl cry when I was there, anyway.
Me, feeing the monkeys. Not nearly as many as when I got mobbed, though.
A couple of monkey close ups. These pictures make it look like I have been doing interviews with them for a documentary or something.
I'm just the hand positions away from a See no evil et al. gag here.
Little monkeys are, without question, cute.
...And mothers with babies are even more so.
Next stop was lunch, and then into another cave. No photos allowed in this one, so I haven't any, but it was a rather nice cave. And rather exciting getting into the depths of it - you had to go part of the way on canoes, and then a bit further on these bamboo rafts, and then you walked the rest of the way in about knee deep water. We got these rather interesting lamp things on our heads, but no helmets, like I am used to in caves.
Some nice stuff in that cave, too. Also, it was nice and cool away from the heat of the day outside.
After that we went to the pier and got onto a long-tailed boat (similar sort of thing to the fishing boats, but less pictaresque and more touristy, for some more sightseeing on islands. I have less pictures around here, and the water didn't look nearly as nice. I wouldn't want to swim in a lot of it, anyway.
Anyway, our first stop was to a certain island. James Bond fans, should find these images somewhat familiar:
For those who are having trouble, here's a hint.
Yep, this little bit of scenery here was a filming location for The Man with the Golden Gun (which I will actually have to watch soon), and is known by pretty much everyone now as James Bond Island, despite actually having a proper Thai name. (Ko Tapu, according to wiki).
It's also another insanely tourist location, as you will notice in the picture I took of the beach I was standing on for the first picture
Yep, it's another teeny tiny island covered in stalls selling things. The other side of the island is even worse, given that's where you get on and off boats.
The people selling things here were also the most insanely persistent of anywhere I went in Thailand. Which on one hand is irritating if you want to just browse or take pictures, but handy in that I got a couple of sarongs down to less than a third of their original price.
Our final stop was on the floating fishing village.
Which, as implied, has quite a lot of it as buildings over the water. It was mildly weird to look down through a crack in the floorboards in the middle of a covered building, and see water several meters below. More shops here, but also the strong smell of fish. And, possible as a result of the last fact, several cats. Interesting, though.
And then it was back to the pier, and then back to Patong (by which time it had gotten dark).
The final day was spent packing, lazing about, or wandering around the shopping mall (the basement of it was pretty much entirely devoted to Thai things, rather than chain store type tat, so while like half of it was probably the equivalent of the tourist junk you see and scoff at at the Vic Market, it was quite neat. They also had rather cheap Thai massages (I haven't as yet mentioned this, but I had one at an earlier point. They somehow combine being painful and relaxing, which was interesting, but rather pleasant).
And then it was Phuket to Bangkok, more hours in Bangkok airport - luckily we weren't delayed again, so we only had four hours to kill - and then another long trip in impossible to sleep in seats. I watched Die Hard 4, or whatever it's called, and Surf's Up this time.
Also, I think both flights on the way back were shorter, for some reason. Weird.
And then back to Australia (Huzzah for Duty Free, where I ended up getting two litres of Vodka dirt cheap from!), and through customs and quarantine.
And naturally, after a week in hot and humid Thailand, I arrive back in Melbourne when it is pouring rain.
And that would be my holiday in Thailand. I hope you enjoyed my pictures.