I have to apologize for slacking on the blog lately. Last week I was pretty stuck on what to write about. It’s easy to write out a 2,000 word post after visiting a new city. It’s more challenging to come up with anything to say now that I am adapting, and what was once extraordinary is now becoming normal.
It’s actually hilarious to look at what I consider normal these days. Rats the size of kittens. Geckos larger than rats. Rats, geckos, and kittens existing in a restaurant that received an A+ on their “health inspection.” The fact that McDonald’s delivers. Watching a family of five fit on a single motorbike. Advertisements for skin bleach. Driving clockwise around a traffic circle. Squid flavored potato chips. It’s the small things that I’ve started to accept as my reality, but I often forget that all of it was completely mind-blowing two months ago.
My birthday was on Friday, and I had decided to go to the neighboring beach town of Patong to celebrate. Patong is considered the “Las Vegas of Thailand.” Even though it is only 15 minutes to the west of me, I decided to spring for a nice hotel room and stay there (“spring” for a hotel room meaning I spent $30 on a four star hotel). Although the drive is only 15 minutes, it is over a hill that is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Phuket. Instead of driving my bike there, I decided to take a taxi. I felt silly taking a taxi to go stay in a hotel that is 15 minutes from me, but I guess I had just decided it was what I wanted to do for my birthday.
It was a strange feeling to spend the day completely alone. I actually felt very homesick. I tried to make the best of my day though.
I started by going to the beach. It was about a 2 minute walk from my hotel room, which was great. Since I’ve gotten here, the haze from the Indonesian fires has been looming over us. On Friday, the haze cleared for the day and it was the bluest sky I’ve seen since I’ve been in Thailand. A man walked by me with a drink menu, and I bought a cracked open coconut with a straw.I spent a while going back and forth between my beach towel and the water, when I realized I was getting a bit sunburned and wanted to sit in the shade. Because we’re at about 7 degrees above the equator, the sun is crazy strong here. I had applied SPF 50 twice in the hour that I’d been out, and I was still getting pink. I looked for a place to sit in the shade, and as soon as I sat down, I had a man tell me that it was 100 baht to lay my towel where I did. Good ol’ Thailand. Nothing is free for the Westerner.
I ended up leaving and going to a restaurant with a street view. I read somewhere that Patong has the highest tourist traffic of anywhere in Thailand. I decided to drink a beer and people watch, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were people from all over the world. Even though I was sitting inside of a restaurant, I still had people come up and try to sell me food, bracelets, custom suits, etc. It makes me appreciate living on the other side of the hill, where nobody is trying to sell me anything. I did end up buying a lottery ticket. An old woman convinced me that it was good luck to buy one on your birthday. The drawing for the winning numbers is today, so we’ll see if I won anything!
One of the main reasons I decided to head to the beach town for my birthday was to watch the sunset over the ocean. I googled the best place to watch a sunset in Phuket, and I found a restaurant that was only about a 10 minute drive from where I was staying. It was #1 on a “Top 10 Best Sunsets in Phuket” list, so I was expecting an expensive and fancy restaurant that would be jam packed full on a Friday. I decided to leave about an hour before the sunset to make sure I had a good seat.
I had asked around to the taxi drivers how much it would cost to take me up there, but none of them had heard of the place or knew what it was. They basically told me “sorry, good luck finding your way up there.” I went onto my GrabTaxi app and booked from there. When the taxi driver showed up, he called me to ask where I was. I looked around and didn’t see the traditional metered taxi, and he said, “over here in the black car!” It was the first time I had used the app and not gotten a standard taxi, and I was confused. He was in a brand new shiny black SUV without a meter. When I asked him about the meter, he said, “This isn’t a metered taxi. This is a private car. Did you realize you booked a private car?” Nope. I didn’t.
I had previously been playing around with the app’s “private car” button to see what the price difference would be, and I guess I didn’t switch it off before booking the taxi. The price for the private ride was going to be about $10, so I just shrugged and got in. He said he had no idea where the place was, so I was his navigator on the way up. I guess it was good that I ended up taking an SUV, because the road turned into a steep dirt road, and the place was pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
After getting out of the car, I was amazed to see that there were only about 5 people in the whole place. I went to pay the driver, and he said, “I want to come check this place out. I’ve never been, and it looks really cool. Don’t worry about paying me.” He parked and we walked up and sat at a table overlooking the bay. The view was absolutely incredible. It was quite the romantic setting, and I was dying laughing on the inside that I was sitting with an old Thai dude enjoying dinner and the sunset. He said that he is a tour guide by day, and enjoys practicing his English. He pulled up a TripAdivsor page with his name and picture, regarding him as “one of the best private tourguides in the south of Thailand.” He told me of some places to go explore while I’m here.
The restaurant itself was very simple. There was a bamboo awning over a bar, and a kitchen in the back. All of the tables were strewn about the edge of the hill, with a 180 degree view of the ocean. It was far enough away from the city that the only noises outside of a few faint conversations were jungle critters and some relaxing music. The bathroom was a bamboo shack on stilts, about a 5 minute walk through the jungle. It had a toilet in the middle of the room that faces a large (open) window with a view out into the jungle. I think it’s save to say that it’s the most peaceful bathroom experience I’ve ever had! I hadn’t gone in until after the sun had set, so I wasn’t able to get a picture.
I ended up talking to the owner, who was a really cool guy. He asked how I’d heard about the place, and he said he had no idea it was online as the #1 sunset spot. He told me that he doesn’t want the place to get too busy and crazy, because he likes the peaceful lifestyle. He, his wife, and son live in a house right behind the restaurant. His wife cooks the food, he tends bar, and his son helps out when he needs to. He plays in a pool league in his spare time, so sometimes he closes the restaurant so he can go to tournaments. He said they have hosted a few weddings, but the total capacity of the place is about 200 people. It was the coolest restaurant I’ve been to in Thailand hands down. The price of the food is on par with a “locals” restaurant, with the most expensive entree priced around $5.
When I decided it was time to leave, the private driver picked up the tab for my drinks and dinner, and offered me a ride back home. I was very taken back by his generosity, but perhaps a little too naive at the same time. He dropped me off back at my place, and asked for my number and wanted to know when he could see me again. Yikes. My 25th birthday is the day I accidentally went on a date with an old Thai man.
Overall, it was a great birthday. It wasn’t anything like I had expected, but that’s pretty much the theme of this experience in Thailand. Everything is unexpected.
Tomorrow is the first day of school for me, and I’m so nervous. Even though the kids are five and six years old, I feel intimidated for my first day. The school was closed over most of the vacation, so I didn’t get a chance to decorate the classroom. I’m also not sure which resources are available to me as far as printing, colored paper, etc. I had two days at the school to see the layout, receive my roster, and look over my lesson plan. I ended up making a sticker chart so I can immediately start with positive reinforcement for good behavior. The decorations will come soon enough. I feel pretty unprepared, but I’m going in armed with stickers, pencils, and chocolate, so nothing can go wrong, right?
Anyhow, that’s about all I have. Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes!!! I miss you all!!!