Grand Palace, Ao Sane Beach and Ladyboys

Before heading to the airport in Bangkok, Ben and I headed to the Royal Palace since the last time we were here, it was closed for an official ceremony relating to the King’s sister passing away.

I love Bangkok. When we arrived, a guy came up to us and told us that we couldn’t use the gate we approached, that it was only for Thai’s and that we’d have to use the foreigners gate down the road. When we got to that gate, another guy tried to pull the cliche scam in Bangkok; that the palace was closed and that we should come with him and he’d take us to see the big buddha. We said thanks and headed back to the original gate and pushed our way through the phalanx of people telling us it was closed. Ben and I agreed that we wouldn’t stop unless the armed guards told us to. It’s wierd, it would be like people standing outside of Disneyworld telling people that it was closed, but that they could go with them to see Seaworld or Epcot. I get why they do it, I’m just suprised the palace allows it to go on outside the gate.

Anyhoo, after getting in the palace, we saw the coronation room, the throne room and the weapons museum before heading over to the see the Wat Phra Kaew or better known as the Emerald Buddha.

While it’s made of jade, the story goes that about 550 years ago, lightning struck a pagoda in a temple in Chiang Rai, after which something became visible beneath the stucco. The Buddha was dug out and the people believed the figurine to be made of emerald, so the name stuck. It was smaller than I had expected and we couldn’t get very close, as it sits high on an altar, but it was beautiful and quite interesting to be in the King’s personal temple.

After the palace we headed out to the airport. I had booked my flight on AirAsia, which is Asia’s cheap, no frills airline. They have redefined no frills with literally nothing included at all. No drinks, no food and they don’t even have assigned seating. They call it free seating, if you want to get a seat, you can either pay $25 and get preffered transport to the plane, or you take your chances and try to angle yourself to get in line first. It doesn’t nmatter too much as it’s only an hour flight and all that is why it’s only $50.

We got to Phuket pretty easily and a driver from my hotel was waiting for me outside the door. He took me to Patong Beach and showed me a few sights along the way. It’s easy to see why this is such an immensely popular place. Wide open white sandy beaches that stretch on forever.

As soon as I got into town, I rented a motorbike from the shop across the street from my hotel. I hopped on and zoomed into town to find some dinner and explore the town. While there are a number of different beaches, Patong Beach is kind of the epicenter for activity on Phuket island. The beach is lined with bars, restaurants and shops. It seems as if I gotten here at the right time as Patong Carnival is going on this week. There are food stalls set up all along the beach front on the sand selling all types of food and all right cheap. It’s a great way to eat and stroll.

Further down the beach is Bangla Street, the center of the bars, nightclubs and pure trouble.

It’s an interesting mix of families, college age kids and hookers. I don’t think I’ve even seen anything like it. The other big thing in Patong is the Ladyboys. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a high concentration of tranvestites and transexuals. It’s a huge amount and they, like all the hookers, have no qualms about coming up to everyone and propositioning them. Last night I watched a ladyboy walk up to a family with a few kids and the mother pushing a stroller and proposition the father. Like I said, it’s an interesting mix.

Yesterday I took the motorbike and headed south along the beach road looking for one specific beach that I was told was hard to find, largely empty and has the clearest water. While I passed and looked at all the other beaches on the island, they are absolutely gorgeous, I couldn’t find the one I was looking for. I guess it is hard to find. I ended up settling on Nai Harn on the southern tip of the island. I set down my stuff and immediately jump in the water. Totally refreshing and a good respit from the heat and sun. I spent most of the afternoon resting on the beach reading. After a while I headed out and completed the loop around the island stopping in Phuket town to grab a snack and check out old town. I stopped by the pier to buy a ticket for the ferry to Phi Phi and the nice ladyboy working drew me a map to the hidden beach and told me that it’s behind the yacht club. Very nice, very helpful and later that night, s/he called the hotel and asked me out. I politely declined as I didn’t want her/him to cancel my ferry ticket.

This morning I headed out to find Ao Sane beach. The ladyboy was right, the road looks like it ends as it comes into the yacht club. In fact, you have to drive through the parking garage to keep going. I see why people can’t find it and turn back. After a few more minutes along a cliff road, the beach opened up. It isn’t a white sand beach like the rest in the area, but a small pebble and coral beach. It’s almost totally deserted as I can count the people on one hand and the water is indeed crystal clear.

There’s a small restaurant/bungalows operation here right on the beach. I sat down and had some lunch and headed down to the beach and jumped in. The water was really refreshing and as soon as I got in the water, a cover of clouds came allowing me to sit in the water all afternoon without fear of getting burned. While I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t choose this beach, for me it was perfect. I will definitely come back and stay at the bungalows some time.

Tomorrow I head to Ko Phi Phi and start diving. I’m pretty excited…

p.s. i can’t get my photos up here, so i cheated and got some off the web. I saw the same things and have almost identical pics. Wanted to give you an idea.