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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

The Long Arm of the Law | The Island of Phuket | Thailand

Updated: Feb 12

Trying to outrun the long arm of the law... while exploring the beautiful island of Phuket!


You have NO idea how thrilled I was to be back in Thailand... 


Seriously. Words can NOT possibly express my delight. I was euphoric. I would have knelt and kissed the ground had I had good knees, a clean airport floor, and the inclination.


Now, don't get me wrong… Laos was nice... and very friendly… bless them… but I think I'm just more of a Thailand girl. I love Thailand.


My friend, Sammy, whom I'd met while on tour in Egypt, had arranged to come over to Southeast Asia, and I was planning on meeting her at the Bangkok airport. We were on the same flight to Phuket and were going to meet up at the departure gate. She'd just finished an excruciatingly long flight from the UK and had spent the entire day sightseeing Bangkok in the sweltering heat… jet-lagged… and sporting new shoes.  


Not a good combination. 

Not great at all.


Once back at the airport, she had found herself a corner at the departure gate and crashed out until I landed. To me, though, I was on cloud nine being back in Thailand, even if it was only the airport... and something was screaming for me to 'celebrate' before I continued through security and ended up confined to another departure area… 


So, I made the call to treat myself to some wine and airport sushi before I ventured through.


I deserved it. Right?

After too much Tea, I definitely deserved it.

With a big glass of red wine, I did some self-cheers to congratulate myself for making it back in one piece… with my sanity.


Not shortly after my international airport sushi & wine festivities, I found Sammy, a shadow of her former self. After hours of travelling, she was a crumpled and exhausted mess. But... the travelling wasn't over yet though. Our flight was slightly delayed for boarding and once we were all on, it took forever to take off.


We sat on the runway for well over an hour.


Just when I was beginning to think that Thailand had corned the market on Southeast Asian organizations, they stumped me upon arrival. We landed in Phuket quite late due to our departure delay, and as we were disembarking, they split us into two groups. The customs officer had put a sticker on my shirt when I'd landed in Bangkok, indicating that I'd already passed through immigration. Or at least that is what I thought. Come to think of it, I have no idea what the sticker was for.


My sticker and I were directed to go right, while Sammy and everyone else (it seemed) went left. Alone, I was led down a never-ending maze of hallways, pack in tow, until I was finally booted out of the airport at the opposite end of everyone else.


Seriously... WHAT was this sticker for?


Tea probably phoned ahead and told them I needed to do physical activity.

Regardless... it ended up being a challenge to reconnect.



Thank goodness for Google Maps and shared location. I have no idea what would have happened had cell phones not been invented. That would have been a nightmare trying to find Sammy. Exhausted and absolutely done with the day, we caught an airport taxi into downtown Phuket. It was pricey, but there was nothing we could really do about it. The airport taxi pretty much has you cornered at the airport. It was very late; we were both drained, and the chance to be dropped off right in front of our hotel was sublime. An airport taxi eliminated the stress, and we were all over that.


Our hotel was quite good. Not bad for the price at all. We checked in without any trouble, and the ladies at the front desk were lovely. As they were telling us our room number and the wifi passwords, one of them ensured we knew that the mini bar was NOT free.


Mini bar?

What?


Now they were talkin' my language!


After a very long day, perhaps this mini bar would be my saving grace. Damn straight, I was going to drain the minibar. Free or not!


I sprinted up to my room to check it out.


Would there be little bottles of wine?

Ooooh... I hoped so…


Into the room… lights on… pack down… fridge open…


Uh…


I was disappointed to find a Fanta, a Sprite, and a Coke. That was it.


So much for a minibar.

Fanta just didn't seem to cut it.


Oh well.. at least it was a mini bar I could finally probably afford.


The next day, I was eager to explore Historic Old Town Phuket. I'd seen so many pictures of this place and it looked like going back in time... like a dream. I'm a true sucker for anything colourful, historic, and charming. Absolute sucker. The entire district was made up of Sino-Portuguese architecture, narrow laneways, and traditional shophouses. So many wee cafés and restaurants lined the streets… and of course, the bright, magnetic souvenir shops lured me in.


As much as I deny being a tourist, in the real, common sense of the word... I often find myself snagged by most tourist traps. I have a serious spending problem, and I'm addicted to buying all the souvenirs, trying all the foods, sipping on all the drinks and taking all the pictures. Anything shiny, bright, colourful, vibrant, antique, and retro... you name it, I'm easy prey.  I was in my element.


I just wanted to explore.



In regards to the touristy souvenir shops, the one thing I cannot wrap my head around is the abundance of elephant attire. I just do not understand why people want to don this ridiculous clothing. Ok… yes… I get it that it's a Southeast Asia thing... but really. Come on.


I did buy ONE summer dress with some elephants on it, but in all honesty, I didn't even realize there were elephants on it until I got it back to the hotel room. Elephant clothing here has almost become a rite of passage for anyone passing through. Like some kind of compulsory practice. A required purchase.


"Must get elephant pants!"


If you ask me, wearing elephant clothes opens you up for more discussions than I think most people are prepared for. It's like the elephant in the room, draped in elephant attire. The same applies to outfits splattered with hippos, whales, pigs, cows…


That's just my silly opinion, though. But man… try to find something to buy something here that doesn't have an elephant on it. You'd think that if they admired elephants so much, they'd work harder to care for them instead of exploiting them.


I'll shut up now...


Sammy was suffering from her blisters, so it wasn't long before we began to seek out a place to sit down and have a drink. We weren't long exploring when we came across this... really... pink... place. Genuinely pink. It looked interesting enough from the outside, but we had no idea what was waiting for us on the inside.



Kor Ra Kang embodies the saying, "Go Big or Go Home."

They forgot about going home and just went big.


Really, really big.


They went SO big that they have used over 10 MILLION pink roses in their decor. Pink roses cover the walls and pink roses cover the ceilings. Pink roses are all over the tables, the balcony, the stairways and more. The entire place looks like a bottle of Pepto Bismal exploded in a botanical garden. Pink roses everywhere... and a lot of white roses too... and even the occasional purple... or lilac. Kor Ra Kang is a photographer's nightmare, but a selfie star's dream come true. I would imagine most influencers would lose their minds walking into this blush garden. It was like a canvas of captures... fairy tale balconies, ceiling mirrors, floral archways, pink oyster shells with cushions, bicycle murals, spiral staircases… almost to the point of pure nausea.


Speaking of selfies…


A bizarre thing I have noticed about Old Town Phuket was the number of selfie locations. It's definitely become the way of the future... or should I say, the way of today?? .… Seriously - there must be a million places to take selfies. I found an article online of places in Phuket to take selfies that will make your friends jealous.


Is that what the world has come to?


What is it with the human race that desperately needs that picture of our own ugly mug in front of something? And adding to that, usually a selfie without much concentration on the significance of the location, but rather on ourselves in the shot?


Vanity at its extreme.


I do it too. Believe you me.


The next day, we decided to rent a moped. Sammy still couldn't walk very well, so I suggested we only rent one and she ride on the back of mine. To think of it, it wouldn't have been much of a difference had she had her own, as there isn't much walking done on a moped. It seemed like a good idea at the time but was a pretty shitty one. I'm no moped pro at all. If you add up all the random hours of experience I have on a moped; it would appear that I should never be responsible for anyone on the back of one that I am driving. Factor in a foreign country, heavy traffic, the left side of the road, and no one in particular paying any attention to road rules, and it most certainly wasn't one of my most brilliant ideas.


Anyway - we made it work.

Even if it was the more affordable option, it ended up differently anyway.

Very differently.


We had hardly driven 5 minutes from the rental location when we hit a police trafficked roadblock. They pulled all of us over.


All of us.

All the foreigners and tourists. Pulled over!


The officer immediately asked me for my international driver's license, and I diligently handed it over. I hoped they wouldn't notice that my expired Canadian license was merely a piece of paper stapled on. I had a photo of my new one on my phone, but thankfully they didn't notice it was essentially terminated. They leafed through my international license and finally stopped on one of the back pages to tell me that I needed two stamps, and I only had one.


Why did I only have one stamp??? What was WRONG with me?


I didn't understand what they were on about... despite the obvious one-sided conversation... and I wasn't really in any position to argue. I took my scolding for only having one stamp and stood there awaiting my punishment.


It could've been because I didn't have a motorcycle license. Was that it?


Did I need a motorcycle license to drive a moped?


No. I couldn't imagine it! They are two very separate styles of transportation. Moped ~ I'm semi-comfortable with. Motorcycle ~ no way. The strange thing was that Sammy had two stamps in her international license, but she didn't have a motorcycle license. I was beginning to feel ripped off.


Targeted.


I think we were all targeted. Targeted as tourists and an easy cash grab.


They would have found any reason to have fined me. One man on the side of the road was getting very angry. Apparently, his fine was for not wearing a helmet. He was leafing through his license, his rental contract, and some rule book, quarrelling that nowhere in his literature did it mention that he had to have a helmet on. In all fairness, I could clearly see both sides of the story.


1 - He knew better and should have had a helmet on.

2. No one wears a helmet here…but he got a fine.


As I mentioned before... a cash grab.


We were fined 1000 baht, which is about $40 Canadian. Ok.. I can deal with that. And we did. We waited in line with our written-out fine form until it was our turn to have our fine stamped and validated... and then we got to queue in another line to hand over the money.


So... here lies my confusion...


Without explaining what I was being fined for, I was permitted just to pay and drive away? If I didn't have a stamp for not having a proper motorcycle license, should they not have confiscated the bike and sent me walking down the road?


It seemed absurd that they took my money and then allowed me back on a rented bike... wobbling into heavy traffic... with a PASSENGER on the back....


Doesn't seem safe to me.


Maybe I'm the crazy one.

Probably.



After my encounter with the long arm of the law, we drove all over the island of Phuket. We covered it all. Pretty much.


We headed from the core of downtown Phuket down to Rawai Beach on the southern tip, and strolled along the beachfront, through the local seafood market. We hit all the hot spots along the west coast; Nai Han Beach, Kata Noi Beach, Kata Beach and Karon Beach. Most of the time, we would just do a quick drive-by, sometimes stopping for a photo... but not much more. It was a nicer day, but a bit overcast. 


It was when we finally reached Patong Beach that I was really tempted to stop.

Talk about sensory overload. The entire area was crazy... but Bangla Road, the main tourist road in Patong, was WILD, like nothing I had ever seen before. WILD. As the main walking road, I have heard that Bangla Road comes to life after sunset and it's a road festival of neon lights, loud music and cheap beer.


I was so mesmerized by this loud and boisterous area, that I did three loops just to try and take the anarchy all in and get a decent photo.


There is a little part of me… that young backpacker in my 20s... who is just dying to turn back the clocks and be a part of this scene, in my youthful prime. Of course, I'm too old now. It's not the same. I much prefer calm to chaos, so it would never work. Sure, I'm more than willing to walk around, take a few photos and have a couple of drinks... but by doing that, Bangla Road will never take a place in my heart, nor will I ever belong to its story.


Does that even make sense?


Sometimes I just wish I could turn back time and experience more out of life. Knowing what I know now, and being where I am now, I just wish I'd taken more advantage of the world when I was younger and didn't have a care in the world. All those years I didn't travel... I wish I had. Even though I did travel a lot, it's still one of my biggest regrets.


☹️


We kept driving.


One of the things I hate most about renting mopeds is getting gas. I hate getting gas all the time, but as I'm not really familiar with the functionality of a moped, it just makes it all the more troublesome. But... the time came when gas was needed and I couldn't put it off much longer.


The trouble was... where were the gas stations?


On the side of the road! Of all places... There were little roadside stands selling plastic bottles of gas. They were on display, on a shelving unit... with a big sign, saying "GAS." It stumped me at first, as the concept just seemed too unreal to believe. Do you just drop money into a little tin and then pick which bottle you want? I wish I had pulled over at one of them, for the experience alone! We did happen across an actual gas pump, which also stood alone on the side of the road. Upon further investigation, we discovered it was a self-service station, and obviously too difficult for the two of us to figure out, because some kind man appeared out of nowhere and helped us tremendously.


The day was coming to an end... and I just had one more stop I wanted to make.


About twenty years ago, my friend, Nicole, and I had the incredible opportunity to work with a restoration crew, in the Canadian Rockies backcountry, at Skoki Lodge. It was hard work, it never seemed to quit raining, and I think we were fairly useless to the project, but all of our days were filled with so many laughs.


The man who oversaw the entire restoration project was a man named Joe Burgess. Joe was wonderful and Nicole and I adored him. He poked at us all day long, but it was all in good fun. Joe always had a twinkle in his eye.


After the devastating tsunami in 2004, Joe headed south to Phuket to help rebuild. I guess he fell in love with Thailand because he ended up settling here, and he & his partner, little Nok, opened up a restaurant near the beach.


I was devastated to recently discover that Joe passed away a couple years ago… but regardless… I stopped by to see him today and pay my respects.


Way to go, Joe.

Your legend lives on…



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