Thailand, part 3 – Phuket

I haven’t posted in a long while and I blame it partially on laziness but most recently on the worst internet service ever. That said…can you really complain while on #permanentvacation? Here’s to catching up…eventually.

Day 106 – Day 113: Eat, tan, read, sleep, repeat

After wrapping up our short time in Cambodia, it was time to head back to Thailand for a little relaxation—yes, I know, this entire trip is a giant vacation but touristing is hard work! We were so excited to be staying in the same hotel room for 11 whole nights and just enoying the sun and being useless. So that’s what we did for about 8 days straight. It was glorious. Our hotel (Aqua Resort – Phuket) had a really nice pool (it was a pretty new property) and that’s where we spent all of our tanning time, since getting to the beaches around Phuket required a vehicle (or taxis, but those were harder to come by and more expensive than in other places in Thailand).

View from our hotel room window 😍

There were 4 restaurants near our hotel that were walking distance, just a short cab ride away, or offered delivery, so we took full advantage of staying near the hotel. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorite meals:

Rossovivo: Turns out Phuket is an Italian ex-pat hot spot and this was one of several delicious (authentic) Italian restaurants around the island–and it was delish, so we ate here a LOT.

Finally, perfect bolognese! We had this with gnocchi and spaghetti too for good measure.

Pumpkin ravioli with a walnut cream sauce that was to DIE for 😋

This bananas flambe tasted like pure butterscotch 😍
A truly delicious tiramisu

Baan Noy: This place is run by a German ex-pat and his Thai wife, so the menu is a lovely European/Thai mix. Given all the Italian food from Rossovivo, we stuck to Thai dishes here.

Green curry w/chicken – medium spicy = feel your lips tingle

PERFECT chocolate fondant
We don’t remember the name of this drink but OMG. Heaven.

Sala Mexicali: The food served here wasn’t very authentic but it was still pretty damn good. At the very least, they made a mean margarita. (We sort of sucked at taking pictures here but I also had the tacos–once with chicken and once with pork–and they were quite good.)

Ben’s pork fajitas
I had a bacon cheeseburger one night for good measure
Of course, we made a cat friend.

Sameros Gelato Cafe: We only went there once but holy moly…just look:

Cosa Nostra Pizza: As if we hadn’t had enough Italian from Rossovivo, we decided to also try this place given the stellar pizza reviews. They did not disappoint.

PERFECTLY cooked pepperoni pizza…YUM 😛

Just so you guys don’t think that this lazy life of ours is all fun and games (though it is most of the time), you should know that one of these gloriously uneventful days ended horribly (relatively speaking). Picture it, I’m sitting at a lovely restaurant (Baan Noy, to be specific), trying to enjoy a way-too-spicy Thai curry, and all of a sudden my entire body feels really hot and I start to itch everywhere–my chest, my arms, my back, my neck. Ben says he doesn’t see anything on my skin, but I know something isn’t right because eventually even my face feels a little swollen and itchy, and now I’m worried I’m going to go into anaphylactic shock and die right here in the middle of a random restaurant in Phuket (yes, these are the thoughts that go through my anxious mind).

We finished gulping down our food, had the restaurant manager call a taxi, and rushed back to the hotel where I had Benadryl and hydrocortisone cream waiting for me. First step is a cold shower to see if I can stop the burning sensation all over my body, and of course it’s when I undress that I realize that most of my torso (front and back) and neck and some of my face are covered in what I like to call hives from hell. I’ve had strange skin reactions to random things before, but never like this–I don’t even know if you can call it hives. Anyway, I took two Benadryl, slathered my body in hydrocortisone cream, and laid in bed focusing on resisting the urge to rip my skin off and simultaneously trying not to panic about the possibility of having to go to a hospital in a foreign country where I’d have to communicate via Google Translate (which, I’m sorry, is not that reliable yet).

I still have no idea what gave me the rash, but out best guess was that it was my shirt (since my legs were spared), which I’d had laundered at our last hotel in Cambodia–perhaps I was having a reaction to the laundry detergent, who knows. Thank god for Ben and his loving patience…he took all of the laundry I’d had done in Cambodia and re-did it in his little self-laundry contraption just in case. I have a good husband, no?

Day 114: Finally, out of the hotel we go!

For our last 3 days in Phuket, we decided to rent a car that we could use to get around to all of the beaches and other touristy destinations. Of course our first day was thwarted by crap weather, so no beaches that day. We did however find a little restaurant called Rustic Eatery & Bar by Patong Beach while we waited out the worst of the rain. There I found my first burrata salad since we left the US and so clearly I had to get it, and mmm mmm yum!

I had almost forgotten how glorious burrata is
Patong Beach after the thunderstorm had mostly cleared out

When it became clear that the weather wasn’t going to improve enough for beach visits, we decided to head to the mall for a movie instead. Just like the malls in Bangkok, the Jungceylon Mall in Phuket is huge, with all kinds of stores and other craziness. We took some time before our movie to walk around a bit and do some shopping, like my sweet new phone case:

Next up, I decided to head to a department store to see if I could find a new bra (ladies will understand–one of my bras had the underwire THISCLOSE to punching through the fabric and that stabbing sensation was getting real old). Can I just say that this was the most complicated bra shopping experience of my life? If you’ve never bought a bra in Asia, let me clue you into a little secret: your American (or European) size will not match your Asian size. So, you’ll need to try on god knows how many before you find the right one, and soon you’ll realize that somehow you’ve had to go up two sizes and a cup size to get something that fits. This may sound fun–people seem to have an obsession with big boobs–but it’s a bit disheartening when the sales lady looks at you like she doesn’t know what to offer you because your boobs are (AND I QUOTE) “too big”. Lady, we have like 50 bra sizes bigger than what I wear in America. SURELY, I am not your largest-chested customer. In the end it was another saleslady who helped me out and I couldn’t have been happier to leave that store. [I made a stop at another store to buy some new undies too and, having learned my lesson, bought pairs that were two sizes larger than normal. 🤦🏽‍♀️) I learned a valuable lesson: no more clothes shopping in Asia if I could avoid it.

Anyway! We caught our movie (Thor Ragnarok, which by the way was FANTASTIC, so you should see it ASAP) and headed back to the hotel afterwards. That was enough action for one day.

Day 115: A one-day Phuket tour

The weather looked like it was going to hold up a bit, so we started our day early, with the goal of making a quick visit to Phuket’s best beaches and view points as well as a little Big Buddha action. We visited Rawai Beach, Promthep Cape, Ya Nui Beach, a windmill view point, Nai Harn Beach, Karon View Point, and Kata Beach.

Rawai Beach – not the nicest honestly, too many boats in the way to enjoy it.
Promthep Cape – there’s a walkway (in theory) to the edge of the cape but it looked to complicated to get there and didn’t seem worth it with the weather given the various other stops we wanted to make. Nice views though!
Ya Nui Beach – cute little beach sort of hidden from view
Gorgeous views from the windmill view point

Nai Harn Beach – really nice beach, big, water looked great too. We decided to enjoy the sun a bit while we were there but had to pack up after 15 mins because we started to bake 😂
Views from Karon View Point – gorgeous!
Kata Beach – seemed pretty nice too though we spent just a few minutes here–the weather was starting to look a little crappy and we had more stops to make.

Towards the end of the beach tour, we stopped for lunch at Red Duck Restaurant and both had dishes that left our mouths feeling like they were on fire—I’m telling you, Thai medium spicy is no joke.

Yellow curry fried rice w/chicken – yummy but spicy as hell
Red curry w/chicken

The last major stop for the day was Big Buddha. Honestly, after a few weeks of visiting every kind of religious building you can think of, we weren’t super excited about another buddha statue, but thank god the tourist in me couldn’t help herself. This statue is freaking impressive. It’s 45 meters tall and is made of concrete layered with Burmese white jade marble, making it sparkle a bit in the sun. The size alone makes it a sight to behold. To top it off, since it was built at the top of a giant hill, the views of Phuket from up there are spectacular and add the cherry on top of the Buddha sundae. This place is most definitely worth a visit.

Big Buddha and Little Buddha from behind

Coolest Buddha statue after Bangkok’s gigantic golden Buddha
Views from Big Buddha 😍

As the afternoon came to a close, we headed back to our hotel to relax a bit before dinner. I decided to venture out for another cheap Thai massage and found a great place in Rawai called Kim’s Massage & Spa–the place was clean, the massage was great, and all at a good price. Highly recommend it! Afterwards I picked Ben up so we could grab dinner at Flip Side, also in Rawai. After nearly 10 days of Thai food, Italian food, and “Mexican” food, I needed something different. This place specializes in burgers but I actually went with the BLT and I’m so glad I did. That thing had like a pound of bacon in it and so I’m pretty sure I shaved a couple of years off my life, but really…it was worth it.

MMMMMM BACONNNNN
Ben’s “Philly cheesesteak”

Day 116: The best day ever.

We saved the best for last: a visit to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, the only true elephant sanctuary in Phuket and one of only two in all of Thailand (the other is Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, which we didn’t go to while we were there because it was all booked up). As the only two organizations in the country that do this, the founders of both sanctuaries collaborate to provide the best life possible for these beautiful creatures. Both places take in retired elephants, who have either been working in logging (which is now illegal in Thailand but some still do it) or in tourism, and rehabilitate them by providing any necessary medical care and giving them the freedom to roam throughout the properties as they wish. Both sanctuaries do allow tourists to visit and see the elephants, but no riding is allowed.

Elephant Nature Park, which has been around for much longer and therefore has elephants that are much further along in their recovery process, also allows bathing with the elephants, but the Phuket sanctuary doesn’t allow that as this time–and I can see why after visiting myself. As this sanctuary is much newer, this means that the elephants were only recently bought from their previous owners and are still suffering from quite a bit of PTSD. I kid you not…these animals are struggling to overcome decades of abuse at the hands of their previous owners. In fact, one of the elephants that we met while we were there is so traumatized (she used to work in logging) that she bangs her trunk against the floor repeatedly and makes loud noises that very clearly sound like cries or grunts of fear and pain whenever she hears a car come near. Seeing and hearing this will break even the manliest of men.

I’m so so so glad to have had the opportunity to visit this sanctuary and hear the stories of each of the elephants they are taking care of, and I hope that more places like this one start cropping up around Thailand. If people truly knew how these animals are treated during the ‘domestication’ process, they’d never ride an elephant again. I know for certain that I certainly won’t.

Time for a little dip!
These three are BFFs 😍
Look at those cute elephant butts!

Part head scratch, part butt wiggle 😂

And so ended our time in Phuket (and Thailand). There are so many other islands to visit and things to see in Thailand; we’re looking forward to our next visit! Next up: our 2 week visit to Vietnam.

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