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Me Voy Por Ahi Que cooomo?!

The Islands in the South of Thailand

THAILAND | Monday, 27 December 2010 | Views [282]

These islands are so beautiful, it's hard to describe them.  I'm enjoying my time on the beach and snorkling around the islands.  But, like every over developed place, I have to contend with jerks with loud boom boxes playing hip hop in French!, sales people coming around with all kinds of merchandise, from bags to aloe massages, and other hustlers eyeing wallets and cameras left behind. 

So far, I have found that this area is not a great place for female solo travellers. I am glad that I decided to stick around areas with a lot of people, which are generally safer for women travelling alone. As much as I would love to go to a quiet, deserted island and hear the sound of the waves, I suspect that I would be a great big target for hustlers.  It's not that it's dangerous, and I certainly don't feel unsafe.  It's just that it's not as relaxing or as enjoyable as other cities that I've visited by myself, where I even forget that I'm by myself, I'm so busy otherwise.

I've taken a few tours, where a shuttle picks me up at the hotel and a speedboat takes a group to an island, where they take us snorkling, swimming, lunch, etc. And I really enjoy them, but the tour guides don't know what to do with me -even seating is arranged by family, and the others are always asking where is my husband and is it true that I'm travelling alone. If I'm sitting at the beach, a man will come by and stare. And the toothless canoe guy at the sea caves visit tried to get frisky.

Still, the views are spectacular and I've taken lots of pics. And as this is my first visit to this part of Asia, I'm still surprised by many things.  There is a huge culture of street vendors. Whereas in the U.S. we are used to big stores, with a food cart every now and then in the large cities, here, it's like the whole world lives on the sidewalks.  You can buy anything off a vendor without ever entering a real store. All kinds of food, from fried fish or fresh fruit, to soup or rice, purses, jewelry, tours, and even massages. A woman will come around on a bicycle with a make-shift stand attached to the side of it, stop at a corner, ring a bell, and people will come over for cheap hot soup.

Tourists come to Phuket from all parts of the world and speaking every language imaginable.  I have not seen hardly anybody from the United States, but have met a lot of Australians, Japanese, and Russians.  Most communication is done in writing, exchanging numbers.  The few words locals understand are 'how much' 'too much' 'ok'. They carry around a pocket calculator and when you ask 'how much', they type '200' (bhats). Then you say 'too much' and they hand you the calculator. And you type '100' and they say 'too much for me'. And type '150' and so on. Until you get your hat, or bandana, or coconut. I have always found it fun to barter. But there is a certain certainty about set prices that I miss. I have bargained for almost everything, from the hotel price to the tours, to the food, except that sometimes I remind myself that the diff is only 2 buks for me, while it's a whole day wages for them, so I don't. I also continue in the American tradition of tipping, even while the rest of the world doesn't.

Well, I'm off to the beach. I have only a couple of days left of my adventure. Yesterday I went to Raya Bay -locally known as Lasha Bay- and I think I may go again tomorrow for my farewell tour. It is one of the most beautiful places I've seen, with white sand, mountains around, and really amazing snorkling. Phi Phi Island, where they filmed The Beach, was also very beautiful, but more crowded. Today I decided to stay around in Phuket, because I have sea legs and need to make the world stop rocking for a day before I get back on a boat. Thank God for dramamine. Yesterday, three people got sick on the boat, and luckily, I wasn't one of them.  Cheers, and I'll see you all soon. 

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