My Second Haiku Attempt

People, Places, and Perspectives.

sweating buckets
honking like crazy
‘Korb khun kha’ I hop down, inhale

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Why I Love the Swissotel Phuket Resort and Spa

I had to swim.

I had to swim.

At 10, 470 baht for three nights, this place was a steal. Especially when what we got was a minimalist, but tastefully furnished two-bedroom studio apartment, with a kitchen, dining area, living room, and balcony. Not to mention the lovely swimming pool, restaurant, free shuttle to Patong area, polite and helpful staff, and numerous massage parlours and shops right at its doorstep!

One of the seating areas at the lobby.

One of the seating areas at the lobby.

Needless to say, I loved the Swissotel Phuket Resort and Spa from the moment I stepped into its lobby. It was spacious, with three seating areas, including one with a bookshelf offering books and novels in various languages. The whole place smelled of lemon grass, befitting its status as a resort cum spa. The wooden furnishing, with colourful cushions and potted plants gave the whole place a warm, welcoming aura with an unassuming elegance.

We were given welcome drinks of strawberry cordial, and then had our luggage sent up to our fourth-floor unit, for which I was grateful because there was no lift since this resort consisted of low-rise blocks.

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Can’t complain! Disclaimer: this wasn’t all I ate.

The restaurant was right next to the pool so we decided we would have breakfast there for one least one of the days we would be in Phuket. After checking in, we set out to look for an early lunch to appease our hungry stomachs–but hunger did not dampen the fun I had walking out of the resort on that sunny morning. Being a lazy holidaymaker, I always love it when I discover shops within a few steps away from the place I am staying. But since it was still early and the eating places would only open at 11 am, we decided to go for a foot massage at one of the parlours. I did not bother taking down its name because later that evening we discovered a far, far better place with much better massages – Kamala Massage 2 – just a few more steps down the road from the first parlour we went to. I would wind up ending my first day in Phuket by walking back to the resort slightly dazed from two hours of post-dinner massage.

The shops at the resort's doorstep, literally.

The shops at the resort’s doorstep, literally.

Alas, we did not find the nearby eateries interesting, so we simply hopped into one of the cabs waiting at the area near the resort. 200 baht and 5 minutes later, we found ourselves at the Kamala beachside town – a reasonably pleasant place for dining, some shopping, and a relaxing stroll along the beach. It was away from the hive of activities of the prime Patong area, so it would be perfect for those who would just like a leisurely getaway without the crowd and congestion.

On our last day in Phuket, we had our breakfast at the resort’s poolside restaurant after our swim. I enjoyed the generous spread with Western and Thai offerings–bacon and pork sausages always make my day. The night before, our last night in Phuket, we went for another massage at Kamala Massage 2 again – and this time I tried the oil massage, having had Thai traditional massage and foot reflexology on my first day. It did not disappoint – and felt so blissful I wished it would just go on and on. Ahhh.

Every unit comes with its own balcony.

Every unit comes with its own balcony.

As we prepared to leave for the airport I remarked to my friend and sister that I would not mind staying at this place again, especially if I were to make one of my solo, introverted trips again. With the massage place, convenience store, restaurants just a few steps away from the resort, I might even not go anywhere else in Phuket!

The Pain in Phuket: An Unpretty Perspective

Who could tell the pain that exists alongside such beauty?

Who could tell the pain that exists alongside such beauty?

Three months ago, inspired by my first solo travel to New Zealand, I wrote this post, The Paradox of Travel, about how I travel looking forward to enhancing my perspective. After New Zealand, I had another vacation to Phuket Island, Thailand, albeit not alone this time.

It’s been 3 days since I bid the beautiful island goodbye–a good time to reflect on the trip. Flashing through my mind as I write is the image of a male beggar I saw at the local night market we went to, wanting to experience a slice of daily life there. I noticed the ugly stumps on his right hand–he had lost all his fingers except for the thumb, with which he was holding the cup he used to beg for money. He was sitting on the dirt floor with a crutch next to him, so I guess he couldn’t walk unaided. But what I really cannot forget was the look on his face–his eyes were red and moist though I did not see any tears, and he was just glaring into space. I thought I sensed a mixture of grief and anger, and helplessness and defiance. All that aside, he looked physically healthy, a man in mid to late thirties of medium build.

I didn’t quite know what to do, and I felt uncomfortable giving him money so I just walked away. Beggars can be a common sight, and some may be bogus…but this one…maybe with the look on his face, I sensed he might have been there by force and whatever money given to him might just go to some cruel human trafficking syndicate.What could I have done now, I wonder. Make a report to local police that there was a beggar sitting at the corner of the Kamala town night market?

As it turned out, I did nothing about the beggar, and just went on shopping for dinner, which we took back to our suite to eat before showering and then heading out for more massages. On my first day in Phuket, I had three massageas – a foot reflexology in the morning almost right after we arrived, and then a full-body traditional Thai massage after dinner, followed by another foot reflexology, just because the masseuse was so good I became reluctant to leave after the full-body massage ended!

The next day, we took the free hotel shuttle to the  central Patong area, where all the action was supposed to be. Shopping at nearby local stalls while waiting for the Jungceylon Shopping Mall to open its doors at 11 am, once again I encountered the harsh reality of life on this touristy island.

“Tell me what price you want, miss. Give me some good luck, you’re my first customer today.”

“What do you want? Do you want this bikini? No? Then you go away.”

I looked at the quiet lane where these stalls were situated, and concluded that these traders were really hard pressed for business. There had been crackdowns recently by the Thai authorities on stalls selling imitation branded goods, which had driven many tourists away.

I ended up buying a floral dress and a pair of shorts from the first trader for 400 baht after some haggling–partly because I liked the dress, and my sister liked the shorts, and partly because I felt a bit intimidated by the gangster-looking seller! “400 baht, only for you, miss, because you are my first customer today.”

This is almost good enough for me to want to go to Phuket again. This, and the massages.

We quickly left the stalls and we happily joined the crowd that had gathered in front of the mall and went in the moment the doors opened. Lunch at the mall’s food court, Food Haven, was good (I miss the Patong coconut ice cream already!)… and after that we encountered a few more frustrated stall owners inside the mall, but at least within the confines of the air-conditioned complex, we did not feel so threatened.

Back at Kamala Beach, where we stayed, the shop owners seemed to be facing a similar quandary. Only the massage parlours enjoyed reasonably good business.

“You from Malaysia? Apa khabar?” (“How are you?”)

I joked back: “Khabar baik.” (“Good.”) “Sabai dee mai?” (Thai for “how are you?”)

And they answered: “Mai sabai. Business no good.” (“Not good. Business not good”.)

We smiled and walked on. We were on holiday, but once it ended, it would be back to work too for us, and back to the daily reality, harsh or not.

All over, we are all just humans, trying to working out our own levels of survival. Some are more fortunate, some are less…but dare we complain and insist on carrying another person’s cross? I choose to be thankful for my lot, and make the best out of it.

Phuket, surprisingly, has turned out to be quite a humbling experience.

 

One-Liner Wednesday–On a Vacation, Not a Tour

Day 1 in Phuket Island, Thailand: didn’t concern myself with taking countless snapshots, or going to ‘must-visit’ places because to me a vacation is about relaxing and enjoying a different place and culture, and of course, when you are in Thailand – indulging in cheap and yet good massages!

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Thailand Here I Come!

I swear the Thais make about the best music in the world–but of course, there  is some bias because I am 12.5% Thai. This is the song I am currently listening to over and over again. This video has English subtitles but with Thai love songs, one does not have to understand the meaning to feel the romance of it all. I find Thai pop songs to boast crisp melodies that make them easy singalongs (or hum alongs for those who do not know the language) without sounding trashy. Thai pop is art!

I need to brush up on my Thai, and of course, continue plotting and strategizing to make my one-month Thai language school sabbatical happen. Time to continue My Thai Lessons. Sawadeekhaaaaa.

 

Month-Long Thai Language Course…by the Sea

I am no Martin Luther King, but oh boy do I have a dream!

In fact I have many dreams but my current obsession is the dream of going off to an exotic island in Thailand for at least a month to learn the Thai language. Just imagine attending a language school by the sea with fellow learners from all over the world while making a rustic resort my home for one whole month! I get the whole studio unit to myself for one month–the beach is at my doorstep and I have my own hammock! And speak, eat, and breathe Thai! Senook mak!! (A lot of fun!!)

So now the question is how to make that happen. I have enquired the dates and fees with the school, and I have even booked the studio for 28 nights, checked out the flights and found out how to get to the gorgeous Ko Lanta by plane and ferry. The only thing now is to figure out how to take that long a leave from work–in an Asian country where month-long sabbaticals are hardly the norm. Ahhhh. And I am a one-woman show in charge of internal communications at my workplace…so getting away this long I can imagine may not be that practical…

But where there’s a will, there is a way. Somehow. Thanks to the Internet I can probably assure my boss that though I am learning an exotic language on an exotic island, all it takes is just a text, or phone call, or an email and I will still be able to switch back to business mode and churn out slides and articles on stuff like employee engagement, the latest business direction, and industry updates–in perfect corporate lingo. And who knows, writing from an island, surrounded by all things Thai — I can even make a management directive moving and hypnotic.

Wish me luck.