Phuket, Thailand: Ratchet Florida

A friend of ours once called Phuket “ratchet Florida,” and the nickname couldn’t be more accurate – the “spring breakers” of Australia and the backpacker trail all gather here.  The result is crowded beaches, over-the-top bars & clubs, and somewhat seedy local businesses.  We only spent 2 days here, and I wouldn’t really recommend spending longer.  We had fun checking out the crazy atmosphere – which was worlds apart from the laid-back, paradisaical Ko Lanta – but didn’t feel like we were missing out on much when we left.  I’ve heard that the further out you go on in the city there are more historic areas and slightly more secluded beaches, but if that’s what you’re after you can definitely get better results on a different island.

Two big things on my list were to get a Thai massage and a fish pedicure treatment!  The massage was super cheap and it was interesting to see how it differed from Western massages.  First, they wash your feet in the front reception area.  Then, you go to a curtained section with a mat on the floor and change into some loose linen garments.  Rather than focusing on your back and using oils, they address the whole body using rhythmic pressure and guided deep stretches.  It felt great, but the whole time I was so curious about what was going to happen next that I never got super relaxed.

I got Tommy to accompany me for the fish pedicure treatment, which was also quite the experience.  The light nibbling sensation of the fish was excruciatingly ticklish for him, and he had a really hard time keeping his feet in the water!  I thought it was kind of a pleasant feeling, but my feet weren’t that much softer afterwards so I can’t say I’d do it again.

We also checked out a crazy “shopping & leisure destination” (aka ginormous mall with tons of shops, restaurants, a movie theater, and a spa) called Jungceylon.  We took a break from the heat to watch “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” at the movie theater and experienced a dramatic ode to the king video before the previews started.  Everyone in the theater stood up out of respect.  We had heard the monarchy is pretty serious business in Thailand, but it was weird seeing it in action – even in China, where Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping are treated very reverently and there are a lot of Communist messages in posters and public text messages, you don’t come across this type of regular, active expression of power/submission. Very interesting!  We also visited Beyond Night Market, a hipster-looking food hub where we had some tasty barbecue and ice cream.

We decided to check out Phuket’s nightlife on a bar crawl with Slumber Party Hostel.  Our group hung out at Slumber Party’s bar for a while playing games before heading out to Bangla Road and checking out a few of their mid-sized bars and clubs.  Thankfully, none of the infamous ping-pong shows, although there were plenty of people advertising for them on the streets!  We met a lot of really interesting people from around the world, and it was fun to swap travel stories and compare routes with others who have also been around Asia.  For some reason, we’d talked to a fair number of middle-age people on this trip but until Phuket never really talked to people our own age.  Not sure what that means… but it was good to branch out!  

That finally concludes posts for the month-long trip we took all the way back in FEBRUARY – yeah, apparently there was a lot to talk about!  We’re still deciding what our plans for next year are, but as soon as we know we’ll be posting an update on that.  Keep an eye out for it, and in the meantime lots of love to everyone back home!  

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