After leaving the lush beaches of Ko Tao, our next stop on our southern journey through Thailand was Phuket. Although the west coast is visited far less frequently during the summer months, we decided to brave the rain and head cross-country to more sparkling white beaches. To do this efficiently and affordable, we boarded an overnight ferry that transported us from Ko Tao to the mainland, and then hopped on a day bus to get us across the country.
Overcrowded Night Ferry – Our overnight ferry to the mainland was quite similar to sharing a sardine can with a bunch of wiggly, smelly strangers. There were only 40 mattresses, but apparently the ticket lady had been a little too eager and had sold over twice the allotted amount. No worries though. Liz and I just doubled up on the mats and I pretended not to notice the five pairs of feet sticking in face for the duration of the evening. The snoring kept me awake, as did the constant thumping of surf against the ferry’s hulls. Usually, lull of the water helps me sleep; however, in this particular instance, the uneven swells made a few passengers quite seasick.
We caught the day bus with no problems, nearly 24 hours after leaving the dock at Ko Tao, we arrived across the coast in Patong Beach. This particular beach is one of the more popular beaches in Phuket, if not in all of Thailand. After leaving the quiet beaches of Ko Tao where most things shut down at 8 p.m. and the night sky’s were a brilliant dance of twinkles, Phuket was almost an assault to our senses. The town was a dizzying maze of criss-crossed streets, neon lights, pulsating music, and, upon a quick observation…way too many western men with young, Thai girlfriends.
Phuket arrival…and departure – I was surprised how quickly the town had recovered following the tsunami. The beaches were clean, businesses were thriving, and the Phuket was absolutely packed with vacationers. We had arrived hoping that we would be able to lend a hand somewhere around the area, whether by building a school or clearing rubble. However, we quickly realized that our services were not needed in Phuket and were told that we were several months too late.
On a positive note, we ran into many backpackers who mentioned that places such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and Khao Lak were still desperately in need of volunteers. These were some of the hardest hit areas and they were still struggling to recover and rebuild. Our decision was finalized quit quickly. We didn’t want to stay in Phuket any longer than necessary as it was way too touristy for us, so we made plans to take a morning ferry to Koh Phi Phi in the effort of finding some volunteering.