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Lindsay

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Entries in Travel (42)

Thursday
Jan102013

(Asia 2012) Fourth - and final - stop: Hong Kong!

11/27:  My sister and I awoke early for our mid-morning flight to Hong Kong, out of Bangkok's other airport.  And, yes, thanks for asking, I was finally beginning to feel a bit better, though I noticed a couple of, what appeared to be, bites on my fingers and forearms.  I just brushed them off as heat rash...

Prior to leaving our hotel room, I was able to snap a few photos of the view from our 47th floor abode.  And, whether that's smog or just plain ol' fog hugging the tips of those skyscrapers in the distance, I thought that these were some pretty sweet shots.

Luckily, my sister and I arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport with plenty of time to spare.  Aside from loading up on silk goods at Jim Thompson, we window-shopped at Chanel (we all know what a 'Chanel whore' I am) and indulged in a final Thai massage.  #heavenly 

Yet another AWESOME Asian airport!After a two-hour flight, we arrived in a rainy Hong Kong around 1pm. 

If you've never been to Asia, let me just say that many of their airports make ours look like dog shit, especially in terms of technology and logic.  I could spend hours on end at HKG, BKK, or SIN just shopping, eating, and people-watching.      

Now there's a concept: Let passengers know *when* bags are and have finished arriving.After we got our bags and went through immigration, my sister and I hopped on the Airport Express.  From Kowloon Station, we caught the free shuttle bus that transported us to our hotel, the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers.

This ain't your typical, shitty 'NYC Transit' train, baby. Airport Express has comfy seats, huge windows, and television.

I chose this hotel property because:

  • The location:  It is on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong Island, which I did not get to explore very much during my previous visit. 
    • The hotel is *on* Nathan Road (aka Kowloon's "Gold Mile"), situated next door to The Peninsula Hong Kong and right across the street from Victoria Harbour. 
  • I wanted a room with a harbour view, namely for the nightly "Symphony of Lights" show.
  • I did not want to spend an arm and a leg at the neighboring Peninsula or Intercontinental (hotels).

Although smaller, our room had a fantastic view of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong Island.  My sister and I could *not* have been happier...

Pretty damn good, no?

We took our time unpacking before heading outside to walk around.  Just before 8pm, we returned to our hotel room to watch the light show from our front-and-center window.

For dinner, we decided to stay within the hotel and eat at Celestial Court, an upscale Chinese restaurant.

Crispy, golden spring rollsBeef filetsPrawns with mushroomsFried rice with pork and scallions...

11/28:  This morning, we chose to sleep in.  Thank god.  But, don't you worry, I made it to the breakfast buffet prior to its 10:30am closing-time.  Hey, the meal was included with our room!  Though not as delicious as the spread at the Le Meridien Phuket or Shangri-La Chiang Mai, I still managed to fill myself up on an array of a.m. goodies.

Since my sis had never been to Hong Kong, I thought it would be a great idea to take her to the Tian Tan Buddha (aka Big Buddha).  After all, Ceci and I loved visiting this site during our trip here 2010.  From the cable car ride to the exhilarating climb up to the statue, this is a *must see* for any tourist.

Half of the excitement of visiting the "Big Buddha" is the 45-ish minute scenic cable car ride to the site.  On a super clear day, you can see planes landing and departing from the airport!  Here are a few pics from my previous visit:

Top: Cable car view. Middle: Strolling through village to reach statue. Bottom: Big Buddha/Tian Tan "I'm just a bit concerned about the weather, dude," I remarked, while standing under my umbrella.  "It's looking pretty foggy out there."

 And here are some pictures from this *very* wet, rainy visit.  As you can see (or not), visibility was a fcuking joke.

Best, most clear view from our cable car ride. And, yes, that black dot is a cable car.Strolling through the village to reach the statue.A very blurry shot of Big Buddha/Tian TanThe weather was really pissing me off.  Luckily, by the time we climbed all the way up to the top of the statue, I was able to snap *one* decent shot. 

We paid for an inside tour of the statue and a snack, but I was in such a sour mood that I barely remember anything of substance besides the vegetarian "Singapore noodles" that I ate at the monastery.

MonasteryCold and wet, we headed back towards the cable car station and returned to the city.  I wanted to visit Milan Station and my sister was looking forward to checking out the Central-Mid-levels escalators and area boutiques.

Central-Mid-levels escalatorsOutdoor produce marketUm, ok."I need a drink," I exclaimed, before my sister and I bumped in to this age-appropriate Australian business man.  He introduced himself as "Clancy," and asked if he could join us.  We grabbed seats at La Piola, an Italian restaurant/wine bar and were surprised to receive a free platter of Italian tapas with our wine.  "Now this," I said, "is my kinda' place!"  When Clancy excused himself to the restroom, I told my sister that I did NOT want to get stuck with his red-headed ass all night.  "One more drink," I said, "and then we peace the fcuk out."

Well, one drink turned in to two, as it so often does, and we got talked in to grabbing another at some dumpy hookah lounge.  After announcing that I was "over drinking beer," we found a fantabulous tiki lounge, Honi Honi, where we knocked back a couple of tropical drinks served in coconuts. 

Pina Colada at Honi HoniFor a late-night dinner, we grabbed dim sum at Loyal Dining.

...

11/29:  We slept in.  Again.  But, just like any other occasion where there's a *free* meal, I made it downstairs in time for the breakfast buffet.  Despite the shiteous, wet forecast, my sister and I decided to pound the pavement and figure out our day as we went.  Not having an agenda is sometimes the best plan.

Instead of the subway, we took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island and, while snapping some scenic photos, thought that it could be fun/funny/cool to pay my local colleagues at the bank a visit.

The fellas were pleasantly surprised to see me and my sister and suggested that we go to Victoria Peak.  "But, if the visibility is anything like how it was at Big Buddha," I said, "it could just be a huge waste of our time."  My sister wanted to go, regardless.  So, we went.

Unfortunately, we were met with similar weather and visibility conditions from the top of the Peak.  "Well, we can always eat," I suggested.  We grabbed a table (that would have been a fabulous on a lovely day) at The Peak Lookout, a restaurant overlooking the island.

Gorgeous, almost medieval, space

SamosasAfter a leisurely lunch, my sis and I headed back down the mountain and returned to the Mid-Levels area.  We chose to split up so that she could continue browsing local boutiques, and my snobby ass could price Birkin bags at Milan Station

Alas, I found myself back in Kowloon, licking a ridiculously delicious XTC Gelato cone - topped with a scoop each of salted caramel and black sesame - all while gazing at the harbour.

Just before I returned to the room to meet my sister at 8pm, I walked over to Van Cleef & Arpels to price and try on the necklace that I have dreamt about since 2006:  Lucky Alhambra Butterfly Pendant.  

While beginning to pack our bags for our long journey home, and reminiscing about our incredible journey, my sister and I ordered room service for our final dinner in Hong Kong.  #fail

...

11/30:  After we completely finished packing, my sis and I went downstairs to enjoy our last breakfast buffet, then headed back to Van Cleef & Arpels.  I bought my necklace!!

Ain't she a beauty?Did you know that, if you take the Airport Express to the airport, you can *check in to your flight* and *check your luggage* from Kowloon or Central Station 90-minutes to one day in advance?  How fcuking cool is that?  

After we cleared security, my sis and I shopped for a bit before having our final meal of the trip together:  Lunch at Cafe Deco where, believe it or not, I had an awesome version of Malaysian Nasi Goreng.

Since she was headed back to LA and I was NYC-bound, we were on different flights.  Saying goodbye to each other was hard, but I felt better once I realized that I'd see her again in less than 4-weeks in California. 

...

To conclude:  Whenever I travel, especially somewhere so distant, I always return home a different person.  I mean, how can I not?  For two-weeks, I immersed myself in various cultures, three different countries, two different time zones, and at least three different languages.  Dialects?  Well, that's a whole other story.  Travel makes you realize that there is a world beyond what you call your own.  And a very big one, at that. 

For those of you who think that you cannot afford to travel out of the country, I challenge you.  Did you know that you can buy a round trip ticket to Hong Kong or Thailand for under $1000?  Or that, once you're in Asia, you can country-hop on "cheapo" airlines for less than $100/ticket?  Four Seasons out of your league?  There are hotels, motels, rental apartments, villas, and hostels for every budget under the rainbow.  All you have to do is a little bit of research.  Besides yourself, all you need is a passport and an open mind.

From this trip, I took away the following:

  • I would move to Hong Kong in a New York minute.
  • *If* I ever get married, I'd like to do it on a beach in Thailand.
  • It's a nice break not to be surrounded by a bunch of fellow American tourists.  The other countries are right:  We are loud, obnoxious, fat, and rude.
  • I've caught the travel bug and want to plan my next far-away excursion ASAP.
  • I revel in "me" time while traveling with others.
  • The people who think I'm some kind of baller because I travel to kick ass places are, typically, the ones who are married with kids.  If y'all didn't have responsibilities other than yourselves, you'd be traveling, too!  So shut the fcuk up.
  • The economy "accordion" seats on Cathay Pacific SUCK ASS.  Horrible.  Uncomfortable.  Ridiculous.
  • Asian hospitality is second to none.  Period.
  • US-based airlines SUCK.  Many Asian airlines *still serve* free snacks/drinks.
  • More cocktails should be served in coconuts.
  • Gangnam Style unites all and has the power to end world wars.

Oh, and more thing:  Curious as to what illness I came down with with traveling?  Well, to be honest, I didn't think twice of it until my sister called me about a week after we returned home and said that she had contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease.  "What the fcuk is that?"  I asked.   

"Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being unwell (malaise), and sore throat. One or 2 days after fever starts, painful sores usually develop in the mouth (herpangina). They begin as small red spots that blister and that often become ulcers. The sores are often in the back of the mouth. A skin rash develops over 1 to 2 days. The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters."

"Oh, sweet Jesus!" I gasped, "That's what I had, too!!"  While my "flu like" symptoms were worse than my sister's, her rash was worse than mine.  She had blisters all over the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet.  We can only conclude that I contracted this illness from the "fish spa" in Thailand, before passing it on to her.  ***Blech*** 

On that note...

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Jan082013

(Asia 2012) Fourth stop: One night in Bangkok!t

For those of you who have followed my previous posts from this vacation, you many recall that my last night in Chiang-Mai was less than ideal...

"And then, the weirdest thing, I suddenly started to feel really exhausted and weak.  My throat began to tickle, and I had no choice but to excuse myself and go back up to the room.  I took a hot shower, in the hopes that the warm water would alleviate my aching muscles.  Alas, it was no resolve.  I laid in bed and fell asleep for a bit, only to wake to my cousin and sister asking if I was ready for dinner.  "Guys, I hate to stay behind, but I just feel too awful to move.  And you know something's wrong when I decline a meal."  

After they headed out for the evening, I phoned room service and ordered two glasses of orange juice before passing out around 8pm.  What the hell was happening to me?"

...

11/26:  Luckily, since I was living out of my suitcase, there wasn't a whole lot of packing to be done.  So, I crawled in to bed at 8pm and, after a solid 9-hours of sleep, I awoke to my obnoxious alarm "ding" at 5am.  Hey, I was feeling a bit better and wasn't about to miss the breakfast buffet before our 9:30am flight to Bangkok.  Especially after learning that service began on weekdays at 6am!  I figured, with a 5am wakeup call, I could finish packing *and* get ready for the day before the breakfast bell rang

My sister and cousin took turns sighing when my alarm went off.  "Listen up," I blurted in a loud whisper.  "I may be sick, but I'm not about to miss another great meal.  Did you know that I drank orange juice for dinner last night?  Y'all are just gonna have to deal with me rummaging around the room until 6am."

After stuffing myself like a goddamn sausage, my sister and I grabbed our bags and bid Cousin Eric adieu.  "Mr. P," our adorable/awesome driver from the previous day, picked us up in front of the hotel and drove us to the airport.  We were capital-bound and quite eager to spend "one night in Bangkok."  And to annoy the crap out of everyone whilst singing that one verse over.  And over.  And over again.

Go ahead and watch the video.  Sing along, why don't you?  You know you want to...

After a quick Air Asia flight (think 45-minutes), we landed in the capital city...

Cool! (No, this was not our plane.)Bangkok has two airports. We landed at the smaller of the two.Like suckers, we paid extra to a) be driven to our hotel in a black Mercedes sedan, sans other passengers, and b) opt for the tollway.  Time is money, honeyApparently, traffic off the tollway is no joke and a total nightmare And I just don't have time for that shit. 

After approximately 30-minutes in the car, my sister and I finally arrived at our hotel, the Banyan Tree Bangkok.  "Dude, I'm starting to feel like crap again," I mumbled whilst checking-in at the front desk.  "I'm sorry, but your room is not yet ready."  From the dramatic gasp I exhaled, the desk agent must have sensed that I was about to burst out crying.  When what I really was about to do was curl up on the floor in the lobby and pass out hobo-style.  Not a minute later, she exclaimed, "My apologies, your room is ready!"  While I was going in for a bear hug, the desk agent quickly backed up and handed me the room keys.  "You're welcome," she said, with an uneasy smile.

"Premier?  This sure seems like a high floor for a 'standard' guest room," my sister quipped.  Sure enough, as we opened the door to our room, we were shocked by what we saw...

"Where's the bed?" I asked.  After walking inside, we quickly realized that we had been upgraded to a suite!  That's right, folks, adjacent to the living area - complete with seating, a bar, a desk, and another television - was our bedroom.  My sister and I jumped in the air - strummed the air guitar - and high-fived each other.      

The bathroom contained a separate shower and tub and, perhaps my favorite detail of all, shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel in pump bottles!  Now there's a green concept, America!  #asiansdoitbetter

While my sister went out to explore Bangkok solo, I stayed behind to nurse my sick ass back to health.  I decided that lounging in the sun could be relaxing and 'just what the doctor ordered.'

Next to each chaise lounge was a "service bell" that guests could ring if they needed anything from the staff.  I so wanted to last longer than the 5-minutes I actually did so that I could have rang the bell and ordered a tropical beverage.  Alas, my sickness got the best of me and I quickly retired to the room.

After a hot shower, I ordered a delicious room service lunch.  Sick or not, a girl has to eat!

Papaya juice and shrimp noodlesFeeling incredibly weak and coming to the realization that I would only experience Bangkok from my hotel room, I cried myself to sleep and awoke at 6pm.  When my sister finally returned at 7pm, we walked down to the lobby to grab a drink (Oh, calm down.  It was a "virgin" lime daiquiri, for god's sake.), snap photos, and take a quick walk outside, since I had not left the room all day. 

My "virgin" lime daiquiriLobby shotsIt was upon seeing this sign that we turned around and walked back to the hotel.For dinner, we decided to stay in and order room service so that we could pack for tomorrow's journey:  Hong Kong!

Sea bass filets prepared Thai-styleSticky rice spring rolls with mango and coconut ice cream...

"One Night in Bangkok" and the world's *not* my oyster...

Well, there you have it, folks.  My "one night in Bangkok" absolutely sucked because I was not healthy enough to enjoy anything beyond my hotel room.  I will say that I hope to return to Bangkok some day and make up for all that I missed.

Don't worry, I promise that my Hong Kong recap will be way more exciting!

~~~

Until Hong Kong,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Dec212012

(Asia 2012) Third stop: Chiang Mai (Thailand)

11/24:  We hired one of the hotel's cars to take us to the airport.  As crushing as it was to be leaving Phuket, I was pleasantly surprised to find three bottles of water and three chilled hand towels in the back seat of the sedan.  With an orchid on top!  What a pleasant way to depart.

Hospitality in Thailand cannot be beat...

The long ride to the airport was silent.  Yet again.  Just like the one after last night's meal.  The three of us had such a perfect time in Phuket, we just couldn't come to grips with the fact that our time in paradise had come to an end.

However, our spirits were lifted upon arriving at the airport.  For one, we were flying Air Asia to Chiang Mai, which proved to be a much better carrier than Tiger.  Then, we ended up gawking/laughing all of our blues away at some of the crazy signs posted throughout the terminal.  It was too much...But in the best way possible!

(FYI:  Durian, shown in the picture, below, is a fruit whose "...edible flesh emits a distinctive odour that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as pleasantly fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine, and gym socks. The odour has led to the fruit's banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia.")

WWAZD? "What would Andrew Zimmern Do?"

For reals?

...

Flying in to Chiang MaiBy the grace of god, we found ourselves with the coolest cab driver.  Ever.  While en-route from the airport to our hotel, "Mr. Thip" explained that he would chauffer the three of us on a 1/2-day excursion - to as many sites as we wanted - for about $8 (USD) per person.  Sha-wing! 

We told Mr. Thip that we would reach out to him after we were settled in our room.  After all, it wasn't yet noon.  We had 1/2 day to explore Chiang Mai!

Another gracious Thai welcome:  Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai

"I do not want to waste too much time here," Cousin Eric said to me and my sister as we were unpacking.  "We only have 1 1/2 days in Chiang Mai.  Let's make the most of it and get going!"  We called Mr. Thip, who came to fetch us within minutes.

We asked Mr. Thip to take us to "the most authentic Thai restaurant you know.  Somewhere with no white people."  Well, since all he saw in his rear view mirror were three white, American faces speaking English, we ended up at a place accessible through a parking lot filled with tour busses.  Ugh.  I suppose all of the other tourists at the restaurant asked their guides the same thing...

Dining al-fresco. With fellow tourists. #boringKhao soi soup with porkLuckily, the food was solid.  All three of us really enjoyed our hearty bowls of khao soi.

After lunch, we headed to Thai Silk Village, where they manufacture and export pure, hand-woven Thai silk.  Oh, and there's a huge onsite shop, too...

Thai Silk VillageFrom silk worm...

To silk manufacturing on-site!

After doing some "silk retail therapy," we ventured down the road to some random, ginormous jewelry store before heading to the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Buddhist temple, named for the mountain in which it is located.  It also happens to be the oldest temple in the city, founded in - are you ready for this - 1383!

The temple stood 309 steps above the road...!

After what seemed like a never-ending climb, this was the first thing I saw as I approached the holy site...

But she was the second... :)

People removing their shoes prior to entering the templeShoes at the bottom of the temple steps"Proof we were here"

Intricate architecturePaying their respects...

Religious symbolismWatching the sun set over Chiang Mai from the temple's expansive overlook...

After a very productive afternoon, Mr. Thip returned us to our hotel around 7pm.  "I'll see you tomorrow morning at 9," he said while waving us goodbye. 

For dinner, the concierge recommended a restaurant near the hotel called The Whole Earth, specializing in both Indian and Thai cuisine.

Clearly, dining al-fresco at the restaurant was the right option...

Mango lassiAloo paratha: I've had better...A deliciously spicy, creamy shrimp curryAfter dinner, the three of us briefly strolled through the night bazaar before calling "lights out."  Later that evening, the rain began pouring so hard that there was a brief power outage!  Thank goodness we made it inside before the storm.

...

11/25:  If you're fortunate enough to get to stay at the Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai, then make sure to snag a room package that includes the breakfast buffet.  Or, if you're a real baller, just pay full-price for it each morning.  From assorted tropical and exotic fruits - international cheeses and sliced meats - a massive selection of Asian options - an egg station - freshly-baked breads and pastries - waffles and pancakes - and so on, and so on, this is probably the most outstanding spread that I've ever experienced. 

After breakfast, the three of us went to the front driveway of the hotel in anticipation of Mr. Thip.  So, you can imagine our confusion when a strange man approached and introduced himself as Mr. P.  "Mr. Thip's car was damaged by last night's storm, so he sent me to take you out today."  Alrighty then.

First stopMaetaman Elephant Camp

Located about an hour's drive from Chiang Mai, the three of us could hardly wait to experience a 1/2 day filled with various elephant activities at the Camp

First, there was a show, which featured the Camp's star elephants doing a handful of amazing tricks.  Guests were able to purchase rods of sugarcane and banana clusters to treat/praise the elephants. 

But the coolest stunt, in my opinion/most worthy of the sugarcane and bananas, was when the animals were presented with a canvas and colored paints.  We got to watch as they created lovely paintings with their trunks!  One of which I purchased...

After the show, we got to take pictures with the elephants...

Finally, we got to go for an elephant trek/ride through the jungle!  Leave it up to my sister and I to have the quirkiest "driver" at the Camp.  He was funny as hell and kept yelling, in an American ditzy girl's voice, "Oh my Buddha!"  (Instead of "OMG," since his god is Buddha).  Then, when my sister and I started singing "Gangnam Style," he squealed and started dancing.  It was a shit show, but in the very best way possible!

I'm telling you, if it weren't for "Gangnam Style"...

A view from the top (of an elephant)...

We also got to enjoy an ox-cart ride...

By noon, we were hungry.  And ready to move on.  We asked Mr. P if he would *please* take us to "the most authentic Thai restaurant you know.  Somewhere with no white people."  I had to speak very slowly and point to my pasty-white skin multiple times.  I'd be damned if we were taken to another tourist trap.  He smiled, nodded and, 30-minutes in to our drive back to Chiang Mai, he pulled over on the side of the highway.  "Lunch," he said.

Good to know!"I come here a lot," Mr. P said.  "See, they have a table with all of their offerings.  You pick out what you want, and they bring it to where you're sitting."

Pork offal, fish, and other delights on the grillTableclothPork larbA variety of stewsGrilled whole fishEnjoying the authentic spreadAnd for dessert...the best coconut ice milk that I've ever had.After lunch, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at our hotel's pool.  I, for one, wanted to lounge, swim a bit, and just relax.

Before we bid Mr. P adieu, my sister and I asked if he would be able to fetch us the next morning for our early flight to Bangkok.  "Of course," he said, "enjoy the rest of your day and see you tomorrow."

A cool sculpture I spotted on our way to the pool...Under the cabana lies a massage table!Hahhahha!After toweling off from my swim, I noticed that an outdoor wedding was about to start.  Like, feet away from our chaise lounges!  "Guys, I'm going to grab a drink before the ceremony begins!  This is going to be like watching a movie.  And a cocktail will serve as my 'popcorn!'" 

Thai mojito (lemongrass and sugarcane)A traditional Thai wedding, happening right before our very eyes!And then, the weirdest thing, I suddenly started to feel really exhausted and weak.  My throat began to tickle, and I had no choice but to exuse myself and go back up to the room.  I took a hot shower, in the hopes that the warm water would alleviate my aching muscles.  Alas, it was no resolve.  I laid in bed and fell asleep for a bit, only to wake to my cousin and sister asking if I was ready for dinner.  "Guys, I hate to stay behind, but I just feel too awful to move.  And you know something's wrong when I decline a meal."  

After they headed out for the evening, I phoned room service and ordered two glasses of orange juice before passing out around 8pm.  What the hell was happening to me? 

To be continued from Bangkok.... 

 

...   

 

To conclude:  Chiang Mai is the kind of place where, even if you didn't believe in God/Jesus/Allah/Buddha before, you constantly feel the mysterious, yet comforting, embrace of a higher power.  From its emerald green mountains dotted with lush jungle foliage - golden Buddhist temples - remnants of the wall from the "old city" - affordable lodging, dining, and shopping - clean streets and public areas - friendly people - and opportunites/experiences rarely offered elsewhere, Chiang Mai is a winner all-around.  I fell in love with this magical, spiritual city.

~~~

Until Bangkok,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Dec182012

(Asia 2012) Second stop:  Phuket!

...continued from (Asia 2012) First Stop:  Singapore!

...

11/21:  My sister and I requested a 5:30am wakeup call in anticipation of our early morning to flight to our next destination, Phuket, Thailand! 

After checking out of the Fairmont Singapore, we met Cousin Eric in the lobby and shared a cab to Changi Airport.  

Because Tiger Airways does not offer curbside, the line at the check-in counter was excruciatingly long.  Luckily, since Eric was familiar with this lengthy process from previous trips, he made sure that we had enough "extra" time prior to departure.  After all, I wanted to check out the incredible airport and, most importantly, eat!

An Indian breakfast...

Mmmmm, my masala dosaA look inside of my 'dosa...and roti prata, of course. Bring on the carbs, baby!When my meal was served, the three of us burst out laughing.  The masala dosa (first picture of the burrito-like item, above) was, no joke, about 15-inches in length, and hung over each side of the plate in which it was served.  But, goddamn, was it good!

The flight was quick (an hour, or so) and smooth, but very bare-bones.  No embarkation papers were distributed!  And there was no beverage or snack service.  I realize that may not sound shocking to Americans, since our carriers have nearly scrapped everything, but Asian airlines *still serve* free snack food/beverages on most flights.

Buzz kill #1:  Upon landing, discovering that it was raining in Phuket.

Buzz kill #2:  Upon deplaning, witnessing a heinous German man pushing folks out of the way with his suitcase and cursing an old lady for not moving out of his way.  I *almost* kicked his ass.   No, really.

Buzz kill #3:  Leaving my lap top on the plane, only to realize this while going through Thai customs.  Luckily, the agents were kind enough to allow me back to the gate so that I could attempt to fetch my computer.  Yes, by the grace of god, it was still there!  

In an effort to save a few baht (Thai currency), the three of us shared a van taxi with others.  We would soon realize how stupid of a move this was, as we were the last hotel drop.  The journey, from door to door, was about 2+ hours.  Sigh.  Plus, our driver was a TOTAL TRIP.  And a lil' senile, to boot.  His crazy ass nearly slammed my left leg in the door.  Moments later, he started cackling like a hyena when we drove past a nasty car wreck on the opposite side of the road.   

It would be safe to say that this cray-cray taxi adventure was "buzz kill #4."

A colorful neighborhood near Phuket AirportPatongAfter the last drop-off in Patong, we made our way to Karon.  And, just like in the movies, the clouds parted and the sun appeared as we approached our resort:  Le Meridien Phuket...

The warm, hospitable Thai greeting...

Flower lei wristlets and a fragrant fruit cocktailThe lobby... 

A welcome cocktail and lunch al-fresco, overlooking the pool and the ocean...

"Tropical drink melting in your hand..."Prawn Pad Thai wrapped in an egg blanketThe pool, the beach, and a baby elephant named "Valentine"...

Sand tag!

The sun sets in paradise...

We made sure to grab one of these handy cards before we left the hotel property for the night.  Brilliant little invention, considering most locals do not speak English and vice versa...

Dinner at The Beach Seafood in Patong...

Whoa. I was talking about the shark on the menu...you were probably focused on my "in need of a manicure" nails. :(Frozen 'Mai Tai' in a hollowed pineappleStir fried local fishWhen in Thailand, get a fabulous - and super cheap - massage!

Hour-long foot massages ROCK my world....

11/22 (Thanksgiving Day in the US):  Since the hotel's bountiful breakfast buffet was included in the price of our particular room, I went a bit overboard every morning.  As if it were my final meal on "Death Row" overboard...

Exotic fruits, a strawberry muffin, and green tea-coconut bread with coconut jamFruit juicesIndian "paratha" or "prata" bread topped with condensed milk and sliced bananas. In Thailalnd, this is known as a "banana pancake."Steamed rice, fried fish with potatoesVegetable "Singapore" noodlesChicken larbThai accompaniments, saucesJams: Note the coconut and pineapple varieties!The world's BEST muesliOne of my many "savory" plates...After breakfast, we waddled over to the pool/beach to park ourselves in the sun.  It was a lovely morning in paradise...

To pool?  Or...

...to beach?  Decisions, decisions.

At around 2pm, clouds began to shield the blue sky.  So, the three of us decided to head in to town (Patong) for lunch in one of the basement stalls at the Jungceylon Mall.

Junceylon (mall), PatongSo. Frickin. True.I made lunch out of fried Indian rice and traditional Thai mango sticky rice.  Keeping it balanced - and healthy - as always...!  

After lunch, the three of us got "doctor fish" pedicures - followed by massages - at the spa/massage joint just across from the food hall.  Appetizing, no?  

It tickled.The verdict?  A once-in-a-life-time experience.  Though I would not recommend a "fish pedicure," because of what happened to me a few days later...stay tuned!

We returned to the hotel around 7pm and, while Eric went in to town to dine with some visiting friends, my sister and I decided to have dinner at our hotel. 

By the time we were seated al-fresco, a rain shower began dancing atop the pool.  "Thank goodness we don't have to deal with that in town," my sister said, as she breathed a sigh of relief.

Amuse bouche: tuna in a crispy rice flower "cup"Pomelo saladThai lobster...

11/23:  We awoke to an overcast sky and a light mist, meaning that we would forego the beach/pool and, instead, check out another nearby town.  After another bountiful breakfast buffet, the three of us reserved tickets to a 7pm "lady boy" performance at Simon Cabaret, then hailed a tuk-tuk.  Destination?  The heart of Karong.

KarongThere were produce stands aplenty, selling exotic local fruits...

DragonfruitAnd, my personal favorite, mangosteensDuring our stroll through town, we came across a tsunami warning/alarm tower, and a tsunami evacuation route sign...

Tsunami warning/alarm towerYikes!When the mist began again, we took cover at Bai Toey, a cute restaurant located in the middle of a shopping cul-de-sac.

I ordered a "lemon ice." While we refer to the fruit as "lime," Thailand calls them lemons.The three of us split an order of spring rolls and a papaya salad, which was accompanied by rice.

Spring rollsPapaya salad, teddy bear-shaped rice :)My plate: A lil' bit of this, and a lil' bit of that...Because the restaurant's walls were already tagged with names and personal taglines from tourists across the world, I decided to leave my mark, as well...

After walking to - and through - Kata, Karong's neighboring town, the three of us decided that we were shopped-out and pooped.  We split a cab back to the hotel and went our separate ways:  Eric and my sister got massages, and I strolled the grounds of the hotel and swam in the ocean once last time.

A massive ceramic flower pot filled with water and lily padsI don't think that I could ever get sick of orchids...especially those that grow in their natural habitat.Oh, how I will miss this...

At about 6:30pm, a van came to fetch us for our 7pm "lady boy" show at Simon Cabaret.

And, trust me, I would have taken pictures of the shenanigans, but...

...I don't have $50K.  

I will say that most of the "lady boys" were sexy as hell and could totally pass for women.  There were a few, however, whose Adam's apples were bigger than their tissue-stuffed chests.

After the show, we had our last dinner in Phuket at Home Dining Cafe & Lounge, a pleasant, off-the-beaten-track restaurant near the Cabaret

Forgoing something alcoholic, I chose to quench my thirst with a lime ("lemon" in Thailand) juice.

Each table received gratis crudite:  Vegetable sticks and garlic dip.  Random, but fresh and delicious.

We split two appetizers:  Spring rolls and shrimp cakes.

For my entree, I chose a spicy shrimp and pepper dish that was served with rice. 

After dinner, the three of us rode back to the hotel in silence.  Not because we were in a fight, but because, I think, we were all upset that this was our last night in Phuket.  On the bright side, we would head to Chiang Mai, Thailand in the morning. 

...

What I took away from Phuket:

  • When you find yourself up against a language barrier in Thailand - and you're looking for a way to connect with the locals - spit out a few verses of "Gangnam Style."  Everyone - and I mean, everyone - knows this song.  And dance.

  • I could not believe - well, actually, I could, since I watch Dateline - the amount of gnarly, grandpa-old British and American men who had gorgeous, young Thai women (or "ladyboys") in their midst at bars in Patong.  Russian "mail order" brides are so yesterday!
  • Oh, and speaking of Russians:  Phuket is infiltrated with sun-seeking Ruskies!  I can say that because I am Russian.  So stop gasping!   
  • While the USD to baht exchange rate is incredibly in our favor, Phuket is still quite pricey.
  • In Thai, the vowels at the end of words are elooooooooooooooooooooongated to dramatic proportions. 
  • Seeing and petting a baby elephant on the beach changed my life.
  • With ingredients such as clear water, a lukewarm temperature, and light waves, the ocean is perfect for swimming laps or lounging atop a raft.  Do yourself a favor and pack your goggles or snorkel mask. 
  • If I ever get married, I'm doing it in this area of Thailand.  And you're invited.

~~~

Until Chiang Mai,

The Lunch Belle

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