When the maggot crawled out of the rice and onto the side of the plate, he smiled.
He raised his face to the sun and smiled at me.
At least that is what I said to myself.
The 5 am breakfast that we have started has come to a crashing halt. We are in Phuket.
At a five star resort.
And the maggot has just winked at me.
Pushing aside the breakfast plate we talk about the day ahead… it is a big one.
Bangkok and Chaing Mai have been way too intense for holiday time, we need to take the foot off the accelerator and chill out…. So we are staying at a resort in Nakalay Bay on a private beach.
Our hut is amazing, surrounded by gnarled and twisted trees, right on the edge of the water.
And we are far away from the infamous trouble of Patong.
Putting breakfast in the back of our minds we get into a car and head to the boat on the other side of Puket so we can tour the famous Phi Phi Islands….
The weather in Phuket for the past 9 days has been cyclonic. Tropical storms bursting from nowhere, vicious high tides and wind that has whipped the island like an angry S&M Mistress.
But, we have been assured by our tour rep that things will be fine today… a great day to go out on the ocean.
Arriving at the boat we sign in, get our photo taken for insurance purposes and realize that while this is the most popular tourist destination in Phuket that we are the only boat going out today….
As they hand out free seasickness tablets from a bowl, I watch a group of Australians decide that with their hangovers they wont be able to handle the seas.
My first warning has happened but I pay no heed….
I eat the tablets like they are M&M’s, each fueled with the stopping power to chill an angry Rhino and I am ready to go.
We board the boat, packed at 30, the capacity, and as we pull out from the dock I hear the theme from Gilligan’s Island running through my head…. The Captain says, should be a three-hour tour…
We head off across the Andaman Sea…. The Phi Phi Islands are about 20 kms off Phuket… but I forgot to tell you this one thing…. This one little thing.
I have not been in the ocean in 26 years.
I have a morbid fear of sharks, so strong that it has prevented me from even dipping one toe into the water… and now I sit in the middle of the ocean, every shark film I have ever seen running through my head…
But for some reason I am calm… well only one reason…. I have taken 3 seasickness tablets and am pretty positive that if they asked me to spend a night with Jeffrey Dahmer I would rock up with a bottle of Baileys and a smile.
We finally reach the North Island, Phi Phi Don. We drift past Viking Cave, one of the most amazing caves you will ever see, covered in bamboo scaffolds and lapped by clear aquamarine water. It is like something out of a movie, that movie being The Beach… you can only look and pray that your eyes have the capacity to take in everything they are presented with.
Viking Cave is one of the places that they harvest swallow nests for soup. This simple and unassuming product garners over $3000 a gram on the Chinese market and is the only meal I have ever seen Anthony Bourdain eat and become violently ill.
As we drift slowly we spend the next ten minutes snapping shots at almost every cave, alcove and inlet that cross our view… if heaven had the time to sign its name on earth, its John Hancock would have been right here.
Our boat anchors in a massive cove surrounded by sheer cliffs, in the trees that surround Monkeys hang precariously catching fruit thrown to them by the crew. We are told that normally you would not be able to move in this place but we are very lucky that nobody else is here…
Without a thought I jump off the boat and experience the splendor that Phi Phi Don has to offer…
It is the first time I have been in the water in 26 years so as I surface I instantly swim towards the others… my thinking is that if I position myself in the middle of them I will be less vulnerable to shark attacks….
As they float and move, so do I, and as my fear subsides I take in the incredible gift I have been given swimming here. The water, so high in salt content forces you to float, and I lay on the surface like a Jewish Dugong, basking in the morning sun.
We move on… and land at the next island for lunch. After the meal we sit on the beach and enjoy the surroundings.
The water laps gently against the shore. Kids run around and laugh happily.
A woman sits lonely under a tree and gazes out over the sea.
Storm clouds, as black as pitch, gather and loom ominously in the distance.
And then it happens. The storm hits…. well storm is an understatement….
Hell opens up above Phi Phi and the Andaman Sea…. this is why no other tour boats are here… and we have chosen the one lunatic, irresponsible asshole of a captain who decided to ignore all weather warnings.
We are told to put on lifejackets and board the boat. They are going to make a mad dash for Phuket.
For the next hour we bounce through hurricane whipped swells, the entire tour party is crying, vomiting or cursing… but I am calm…. So calm… only cause I am drugged to the hilt from the extra 2 seasickness tablets I managed to take before Gilligan and Skipper decided to finish their three-hour tour early. As monstrous waves crash over the bow and our tiny, minnow of a ship is tossed…
After an hour or so of pure terror the waves and rain suddenly clear…. The Captain, knowing he has a mutiny on his hands decides to stop at one of the two Kai Islands…
the one we land at is a sandy spit in the middle of the sea with huts, deckchairs and one tree at the far end… the water is like a bath, the setting is almost dreamlike.
Time to drink cocktails and many of them….
No hard liquor on the rocks or beer here, just island drinks in coconuts and pineapples… and they go down way too well…
The Pina Colada in young coconut is amazing and I am soon scooping the sweet flesh out and dashing to the bar for one more before the boat takes us back to terra firma.
When we make it back to Phuket we decide we need a drink and to explore some of the towns.
We drive around and see the sights and then decide to stop in the little village of Kamala….
After some searching we find a little place to eat that has just opened its doors for business. We ask for some soup and noodles… both fantastic and hot which was exactly what was needed after our ordeal…
After Kamala we head back to the beach for Happy hour, sun baking and preparation to head into Patong for dinner.
We drive for about 15 minutes and arrive in Patong at sunset… the beach is beautiful, the red sun hangs swollen, full and lazy on the edge of the horizon.
We decide to split a soup on the beach to warm up our stomachs for the night of eating ahead; kind of like athletes warming up before the big race.
After passing through some markets we make one wrong turn and instead of finding a side street filled with local cuisine we hit the main strip.
It is like being hit in the face by a neon baseball bat, like going on spring break for sex tourists… this place is totally out of control… we are confronted from every side. We stop for a brief photo out front of Suzie Wong’s Ass Slapping Fun Place….
We duck and weave through a million offers of Ping Pong and Catfish shows and take shelter from the fluorescent storm in the first bar we find.
Almost instantly we make new friends with a couple from South Africa, who are fans of MasterChef. We all drink together and start bar hoping up the strip, ending up at Tai Pan Nightclub.
I love this place… and I am pretty positive I see the one of the guys from Evanescence lip syncing on stage to one of his own songs…
Time to find some food, and we don’t have to look too far… the following happens, though not necessarily in this order….
Eat prawns that weigh 750 grams each.
Meet a lady boy that gives me a kiss on the cheek.
Buy a dried squid lit pink from a fluorescent light
Watch a Sex Tourist try and pick up a girl at a bar
Buy flowers from a cute old lady
See Tsunami Evacuation signs and shudder inside to think what happened here not that long ago
See a Thai Elvis Impersonator perform “Hound Dog”
We find this great place to eat that is set up on the street each afternoon and torn down at night… staff are super cool and after chatting for a while they take me back into the makeshift kitchen to watch the food getting cooked… I feel very lucky….
We order Noodles, Rice, Crab in Yellow Curry
Deep fried Red Snapper with Chilli and Garlic, the owner smiling when he hears we want the fish packed with chilli
All of this is of course washed down by many Singa Beers and another soup for the road…
After saying our goodbyes we hit the street looking again for that ever adventurous meat on a stick… we eat flattened chicken legs, more dried squid, Pigs Intestine and something that I think are testicles…
After a bit we decide we have had enough guts and nuts for one evening and hail a Tuk Tuk to take us to our serine little bay and away from the neon flashing corruption of Patong…
As is always the way the Tuk Tuk we hail turns out to be a mobile disco, with a disco ball, strobing party lights and blasting a cover of Aqua’s Barbie Girl so loud our eardrums rupture and bleed as soon as we get in.
We pull up to the front of our resort, waking everyone in a 3 km radius.
I exit the Tuk Tuk and smile.
I really like this place.