Monday 16 October 2006 – Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand
A long day of waiting.
Although my flight to Singapore did not depart Melbourne until nearly 1am (2am Hobart summer time) I booked a 4pm (summertime) flight to Melbourne. I don’t trust Jetstar and wanted options of other flights and time to take them if it was delayed or cancelled. This meant an eight-hour wait at Tullamarine. I’d considered taking the bus to the city for dinner, but decided that was a bit indulgent. There didn’t appear to be any luggage lockers available at the airport and the SIA check in would not open until three hours ahead of the flight’s departure. Still, I found a comfy spot in the loung bar, read the age, my book, an e-book and passed the time.
Once finally onboard the 747, after a light snack of rice and catching the tail end of the Meryl Streep movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, I managed to sleep for about four hours. An exit row seat in frond of the midships bulkhead made it more comfortable than usual. Caught the rest of the movie over breakfast and landed in a smog-covered Singapore. Indonesian forest fires are again causing severe smoke and air pollution across the region.
Had to hours to explore Changi’s transit lounge, including the outdoor garden over Terminal Two full of ferns, including the tallest Dicksonia antarcticas I’ve ever seen! The same garden has a pond full of koi (overgrown goldfish). I hiked (with the aid of a travelator) across to Terminal One (there is also a ‘sky train’ making the run). It boasted a rooftop cactus garden that also served as the smoker’s corner & bar. There would have to be more shops in these two transit terminals than in the entire Hobart CBD.
The Silkair flight to Phuket was pleasant – another exit row seat (well done Colleen, my travel agent!) Immigration was swift and efficient (faster by several factors than at Bali) and the minibus to my hotel took about 45 minutes, driving through plantations of rubber trees. The Baan Sukhothai Hotel is in the middle of the tourist madness of Patong on Bangla Road; however it is set in tranquil gardens well back from the street, so apart from some ‘thump thump’ from the nightclub over the road, it is quite peaceful.
Just how tired I was was revealed when I managed to lock my few valuables in the electronic safe in my room without first entering a PIN; however the staff were helpful and soon had it open again. Not sure what that says about its security, through.
Not sure that I’m very keen on Patong. Very sleazy, tired, low rent, high traffic tourist area. Went for a walk along the beach then back to the hotel to relax by the pool in the heat of the day. In the late afternoon I watched the sun set over the Andaman Sea before seeking out my first Thai massage of the trip. The young fellow was a little light on, but most helpful. Will aim to get some massage or reflexology each day.
Dinner at (what turns out to be) the Hotel’s restaurant. Tom ka gai (chicken and coconut soup), some noodles fried with pork. Food ok, but a very noisy spot. Muay Thai (boxing) stadium on the corner blasting raucous exhortations to attend its bouts.