Saturday, January 22, 2011

Phuket, Thailand - January 22, 2011

We will be based here in Phuket for several months while the boat is having a make-over. Rasa Manis should be very beautiful after the interior is varnished and the exterior is painted by the squads of Thai workers who are laboring six days a week on her.
In case you were wondering, Phuket is pronounced sort of like “poo-get”. The Thai language has an alphabet that resembles Greek, Sanskit or Russian, so there’s no sounding it out or visual word recognition. Shopping for food is a whole different experience when you can’t read the signs, the labels, or the receipts. Ditto for driving, though they try to make it easy in this tourist center with English language menus and important directions like “exit” and “to airport” duplicated in English.
Phuket’s an island on the southwest coast of Thailand, the biggest of many in a long chain in the Andaman Sea, which is the right armpit of the Indian Ocean as you look north towards India. Phuket’s about 120 miles south of the Myanmar (Burma) border, and about the same distance north of the border of Peninsular Malaysia. It’s about 450 miles up a long skinny peninsula to Bangkok, a 14 hour bus ride according to the guidebook. Fortunately there’s an excellent international airport.
Phuket has a huge tourism industry that has spread like the plague across the archipelago. At 8:00 am every morning, noisy longboats and speedboats start fanning out across the inland waters of Phang-Na Bay with daytrippers to see the striking limestone formations, explore the caves, cavort on the white sand beaches, snorkel and dive. What was wiped out in the 2004 tsunami has not only been rebuilt, but expanded, with the addition of tsunami sirens and evacuation routes.
Tourism is down this year due to the financial crisis in Europe. However, Russians, Chinese and Koreans are picking up the slack and the price of real estate is sky high even by US and Australian standards. There is a large expatriate community – mostly white men who have settled here with their Thai partners. Shopping malls, big box stores, fine Western restaurants, all the comforts of home. It’s hard to figure out where the locals who serve this tourism machine live.
It’s hot and sunny and we are staying in a two bedroom apartment here through the middle of March. Looking for a great place for an escape from the Northern Hemisphere winter, friends?


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