Thursday, July 15
Phuket Town, Thailand
Shaped exactly like an elephantâ€™s head, Thailand is a vast, sweltering hot tropical kingdom whose landscape ranges from powder white beaches with turquoise water to ultra-green, lush jungles and mountains full of traditional hill tribes. Insanely ornate, gold-splashed Buddhist temples dot the villages and cities, where ramshackle shantytowns nestle up to glitzy shopping malls. Ladyboys, tuk-tuks and picturesque floating markets also await the foreign visitorâ€™s dollars. Welcome to Thailand, one of the worldâ€™s top tourist destinations.
I know this is going to be a shocker, but since yesterday was a travel day, I took it easy and relaxed all afternoon in the Phuket Backpackers Hostel. This hostel might be the best I've stayed in yet. A nice coat of paint adorns the walls with cheerful colors, and all of the rooms, halls, stairs and--gasp!--the bathrooms are clean, even around the edges. Plus, there's free internet, TV, DVDs, comfortable couches (which is an extreme rarity in Southeast Asia), a kitchen and a bar down front. I started the day off right with a big, beautiful breakfast, including eggs, toast, two bananas and fresh-squeezed orange juice, at the hostel for only $2.00.
One of the first things I noticed when I started walking around Thailand is that almost every street sign, store sign and major product logo are written in the Thai alphabet. The Roman alphabet is only used in a secondary manner, if at all. Luckily, streets signs append the Thai alphabet with a smaller Roman version right underneath, or I would have a much harder time finding my way aroound. For a late lunch, I dined on a scrumpdillyicious bowl of veggies, tofu and rice at a really classy place called the China Inn that is disguised as a high-end antique shop out front. At night, I followed that up with a wander around the dark streets of Phuket Town, where I photographed a food cart bearing the carcass of a large animal, and a shrine to the King of Thailand. For dinner, I stumbled upon a crowded little eatery with no English in its title, where I savored a big bowl of curry noodles and leafy greens soup.