Yo, Kid. You Got Beat.

Location:  Phuket April 25th – 30th

The title of today’s post is a favorite line of mine, uttered regularly by my friend, Ian.  He uses it to refer to anyone who has had the great misfortune to lose - be that someone who couldn’t handle their liquor or who bet wrong at the track, on a game or just in life.

And this… this is the statement that I want to say to Phuket.

Yo!!  Hey you, Phuket!  Kid, you got BEAT.

So I’m here as we know because (deep breath) I missed the boat in Myanmar. 

After I got the dream crushing call I flew here and like any classy dame, sat next to the luggage carousel and a stranger’s feet, prayed for wifi and launched my Jet Setter app to locate lodging.  In these moments, all of my gratitude in life goes to the creators of the world wide web, the iPhone and apps. Before them I what… would have had to talk to someone at a tourist counter? 

A Review of Phuket

1)   The Andaman Sea is beautiful.  The fact that like a decade ago people were talking about Phuket as being the world’s most beautiful island, I believe it.  But today, the beaches here are not created equal.  In large, they are public and you need to pick wisely.  When in doubt, do as the rich do and  #goprivate.   

2)  A lot of hotels aren’t on the beach.  They are a walk or a crossed road away.  This means that the beach may be bordered by questionable store fronts and it is unclear whose responsibility it is to keep the beach clean.  I’ve seen a lot of trash, half smoked cigs and a ton of leaves begging to be swept up.  It brought back acute memories of Barceloneta beach in Barcelona, where in 2013 I stepped over underwear, a razor and a raggedy tampon.  When does a city get so over its skis it cannot pick these things up?  When does a person?

3)  Charm has been traded for tourism.  The name of the game is tourism and that game has been played quickly.  Now, next to a luxury resort could be another hotel, a field of tall grass OR there could be a shanty “town”  - holding a collection of one room homes made of corrugated metal, built on stilts above dirt with laundry out back, a rooster out front and no modern amenities. 

An Endorsement For The Surin 

I ended up moving hotels during my stay because even with its modern design and sweeping views, I began felt sort of cheesy – the crowd was hulked out and had a penchant for anklets.  I was starting to judge Phuket fiercely, so I promptly set out in search of beauty and bliss.

Where I ended up was The Surin.  No, I didn’t turn my back on a big hotel.  You really can’t here.   And, I wasn't sure if I was part of the development problem, trying to block out the the unfavorable parts of the island.  So American.  This hotel felt more isolated and away from it all, which I liked.  Located on a private stretch of Surin beach in a cove, I would tell anyone to stay here.  Service is good, food is excellent and the rooms are all bungalows on a hillside that make you feel that you are a member of Swiss Family Robinson.  If you were really going to do it right – you could have a beachfront cabana with multiple bedrooms for your friends or even your kids and peer out at the ocean through the walls of glass.

The beach is pristine and during the day, someone even circles with melon, pineapple and water as you hide under an umbrella from the 95 degree heat.  Jet Setter, your hotel selection and discount wins again.  So hard, this life I am living.  So hard!  (in my defense, this was my way of hugging myself post Myanmar mess up)

A Must Do

The other day, I also got on a boat.  A speed boat, no less.  I did wonder how much it would cost to speed from Phuket to Myanmar, but then I just left that alone.  I went with a small group to Phang Nga Bay, a collection of many limestone islands northeast of Phuket that are blessed with beautiful beaches, caves, fish and mangrove forests that honestly, are the stuff that postcards are made of.   I held a mini-shark, canoed through the mangroves and got stung by a jellyfish... on my face.  (More pictures on the image tab)

That roof covers a selection of floating nets, that catch and hold fish.

Thank you.  This is what I was looking for.  This beach and that fast boat.

Limestone cliffs

The boat actually belongs to a Sea Gypsy - someone who has no real residence, no official, personal documentation, and lives on the water.   Thailand apparently is a bit of a haven for Sea Gypsies, as other countries are trying to organize those living this way and track them, in a manner that is totally foreign to them.

A Muslim city in the middle of the Andaman that served us lunch.  Panyee Island.

In Conclusion

It was good to relax but feels even better to be moving on.

If you’re heading to Phuket, know what I’m not sure Phuket knows… that this kid has gotten beat at its own tourism game.  Cleanliness and charm are hard to find.  The disparity of wealth is seen right outside your air-conditioned door.  It will likely make you feel bad, as if caught in a 60 Minutes special on the consequences of overdevelopment.

That said, it is possible to find lovely exceptions to call home while you are here but really, I’d recommend hopping that ferry to go climb the cliffs of Railay or to find a beach bungalow in Koh Lanta.  I saw the massive boats of Chinese tourists heading to Koh Phi Phi (where The Beach was filmed, staring Leonardo DiCaprio) the other morning and that is all I need to know, I won’t like it there.

What will I like? A peaceful place with cold drinks, interesting history, hints of modernization (read:  AC and plumbing).  I’ll take that over a tourist trap, no matter how glistening the water, white the sands and speedy the room service, any day.  See you on the flip side.  I'm heading North.