So we are obviously back from Thailand, and I have to tell you, the trip was fantastic. We had the time of our lives, except that hopefully we will get to do many more things like this in the future. Anyway, the third week of the trip, spent mostly in Phuket, was just as great as the first two. We spent our time on, in and under the water, with breaks mostly for eating and sleeping.
On Sunday, after the spectacular meal in the pool on Friday night and a similarly wonderful and romantic meal at Azur, the fabulous Mediterranean place at the hotel (amazing giant seafood platter), on Saturday, we were picked up at the hotel, and along with the 4 generations of a Malaysian family we picked up on the way, headed up Phang-Nga Bay (pronounced Pang-Ga) for a tour. We rode in a longtail boat out to Koh Tabu (on the right), the island from the James Bond film Man with the Golden Gun, then sea kayaked through a series of Karst caves in another part of the bay before stopping for lunch at Koh Panyee, a muslim fishing village built on stilts over the water in the shadow a large, karst cliff. Lunch was great, and the place was really interesting, and we lingered for a while before heading back to land to visit the monkey cave before heading back to the hotel. The whole tour was a bit touristy, but the bay and the national park it contained were truly beautiful, with islands of giant limestone karst looming over the water, scattered throughout the bay like they had been sprayed there by a giant blunderbus. Back at the hotel, we had time for a quick dip in the sea side pool before dinner, which was a surprisingly mediocre chinese new years banquet at the hotel, highlighted by the made to order duck rolls. The food was okay, but I think we are spoiled by the incredible chinese food in New York and had hoped it would be better.
Monday was both good and bad, as we tried to go scuba diving around Raya Island, but on the 1 and 1/2 hour boat ride out there, Aviva got so seasick that she was unable to dive. I had two fabulous dives of about 10 and 20 meters, and saw a number of remarkable sea slugs, beautiful schools of fish, a really cool black lionfish and a fairly large (maybe 4 feet long) grouper. Aviva did recover while we were out there and she got in some good snorkeling. For dinner we ate at a little resturant down by the Panwa Bay promenade, I had yellow seafood curry and Aviva had an amazing whole fish (we think it was sea bass) spiced with peppers, plums and lemongrass. Mine was okay but hers was fantastic and we demolished it.
Since Monday was kind of rough on the water, Tuesday we took it easy, spending the morning at the hotel, in and out of the pool, before catching a speedboat over to coral island in the afternoon for some snorkeling, lounging and general relaxation. The beach was beautiful and not so crowded (no small thing in Phuket), and although the snorkeling was not fantastic, because most of the corals we fairly badly damaged, it was still nice to be snorkeling and looking at fish together. After returning to our hotel, Aviva took a dip in the pool and we headed out for the night, renting a car and driver to take us over to a wonderful seafood place on Karon beach, one of the more lively parts of the island. The resturant, Mali seafood, did not disappoint, as we had a variety of excellent ocean fare, and seeing the crowded, Englishized, ridiculous party that was Karon beach made us incredibly happy that we had ended up staying in the remote, quiet, romantic corner of Phuket that was Panwa Bay.
Wednesday, we woke up late and flew back to Bangkok, getting to our hotel in the early afternoon. I was exhausted and crashed while Aviva toured the neighborhood, which was far outside the city center and a much more authentic (we were guessing) slice of bangkok life than we had seen the first time we were in the city. The evening was occupied by a self-guided tour of the local markets, an internet cafe where we arranged spa treatments for the next day, followed by pad thai from a street cart, fantastic as always. On thursday we awoke and took a cab to the spa, where we were pampered and rubbed for several hours. My body and head massage for shorter than Avivas seaweed wrap, body massage and facial, so I also got my hair cut (what little there is of it) and wandered about. We ate lunch and elaborate, ridiculous ice cream cones in the office tower where the spa was before wandering around a bit and then heading over to the Erawan museum and sculpture garden for our last taste of Thailand. After some small confusion getting back in a taxi, we again had dinner at a nearby street cart restaurant, this time dumplings and soup, which was also delicious. Then to bed and when we awoke too early at 5 am, we headed over the the airport and began the long, long, long (15 hours in the air) flight home ... stopping briefly in Tokyo, to eat udon and buy some whiskey.
And now we are back, have been here a few days and are finally beginning to realize that this is not just another hotel (the bed is way too nice). Over a fantastic trip ... can't wait for our next one.