And so I thought I should start writing about my little adventures, no matter how short or long they are.
I’ve visited many places in the last couple of years which I haven’t kept track of, and I’m starting to forget what we did. Might as well put down a few thoughts on them before I can’t recall them completely.
The trip to Phuket was a bit of a spontaneous one - an invitation and 4 weeks later I was on a plane heading north to the island Southwest of Thailand.
Phuket was as I had remembered it to be since my last visit about 6 years ago - busy, a little dusty, humid, lots of ‘farangs’ (foreigners) including myself, and mopeds, mopeds and more mopeds everywhere. Food was abundant in almost every street corner, as were souvenirs and ladies calling out, “Welcome! Massage?”
It was amusing how the locals couldn’t guess where I’d come from. “Philippino? Indonesian? Thai?” My darker-than-average skin didn’t let on that I was none of the above; explaining how I was a Chinese born in Malaysia and living in Australia seemed to confuse them even more. Eventually I answered, “a little bit Australian” and they’ll disbelievingly say, “Australia? No-o-o! You Asian!”
Instead of taking tuk-tuks, bikes were the way to go around town and the island. Renting one is THB200 per day, which came up to less than AUD8. There were bigger bikes to choose from but having just passed my MOST test for an auto, I thought it better to stick to what I was familiar with. The Honda Scoopy was a pretty light and fast one, the pickup was quick and at times I wondered if my own Sachs Amici was too heavy to ride around.
Riding on the roads could be unnerving at times, with big trucks zooming past, and other times with mopeds crowding around the traffic lights trying to be the first one to break away. Somehow or other, everyone finds their rhythm and expertly navigates through traffic without skipping a beat.
What I found amusing was that fuel was sold by the bottles - similar to the size of a tall beer bottle - by roadsides for THB40 a pop. I suppose with the thousands of mopeds cruising around town with really small tanks, anyone could run out of gas at any time so a pitstop in the middle of nowhere is quite handy.
I must make a special mention of Mr. Udi and his wife who cooked a delicious lunch on afternoon, along one of the beaches. Yum!
Two days in Phuket and it was time to take the boat to Tonsai, what enthusiasts would call the “climbing capital of Thailand”. Again, it’s been a good few years since I’ve done my pilgrimage to scale the many beautiful limestone walls, and as the boat took us past Tonsai, West Railay and finally resting at East Railay, memories started trickling back to mind.
The fantastic thing about this trip was the people - eager climbers and adventurers, young and old, gathered around the walls for a hard day’s climb, and came together on beaches and a the pubs for a merry time. They made a real difference to the trip in injecting fun and laughter, and a sense of belonging even though each person came from different corners of the world. It was the best “campfire” of all time, sitting in a circle singing “it’s a good, good day”.
It wasn’t all just climbing; the sea kayaking was just as fun, paddling out to islands of rocks where one could do deep water soloing. Stalactites, overhangs and smooth, coloured limestone faces beckon to climbers, luring them with hidden pockets of positive holds and the hope to get as high as possible before jumping into the warm, inviting waters.
We even took time to do yoga every morning before hitting the walls. It started out with a guy offering to do a class for free to a couple of newly-met friends, and from 2 people it grew to a crowd of 7. Funnily enough, there were paid classes being offered in one of the lodgings but stretching out on the deck with a few good mates seemed like a better idea!
All too soon in was time to say goodbye, and it was one of those holidays where you wished it would go on for just a few more days… or weeks. Riding on the back of a tuk-tuk and later in a taxi van, speeding as fast as it could towards the airport via Thalang province, was a bit of a nervous experience (I thought I was getting kidnapped when we took a detour through villages instead of the main road). Thanks to the skilled taxi driver I made it just in time for the flight home.
Many thanks to all of you whom I’ve met on this trip - Oliver, Luca, Lisa, Elan, Al, Ryan, Anna, Wibke, Victor, and those whom I’ve spoken to briefly but didn’t get a chance to know you better - it was unforgettable, and you have made it so much more memorable with your smiles, laughter and friendship.
And thank you Mat, for letting me share a part of your holiday. Happy birthday.