Karon Beach (Phuket), Thailand
…Beach, that is.
I bailed on Phuket Town this morning, jumping on the back of a pickup truck with benched seats full of locals. 40-Minutes and 25 baht later, I arrived in Karon Beach, on the southwest coast of Phuket.
Hunting for and obtaining inexpensive accommodations in a Phuket beach town isn't easy. It helps substantially that it's the low season (prices are nearly halved), but works against you at the same time, as many establishments are closed for repairs, or the season entirely.
Walking around with a pack in the mid-day heat isn't particularly enjoyable, but I'm too stubborn to concede and pay the B$300/night rate that seemed to be the bottom of the barrel. The pleasant owner of the Pineapple Guesthouse offered me discounted rates in my price range, but only for extended stays. The idea of spending a month in this place is quite laughable—paradise this is not.
Somewhere in a mess of gift stores and tailor shops I found a solid suggestion at a guesthouse closed for panting, who pointed me in the direction of J.T. House, along Patak Road (the main drag in town), next to one of the thousands of 7-11's found in this country. I soon discovered that J.T. House was also closed for remodeling, but after some friendly banter with the Thai owner I managed to talk him into showing me a room.
It turned out the hotel had just been sold, and the fellow I was talking to had only owned it for 20 days. There was still water and power, but the rooms we passed were all torn up or gutted, waiting to be painted and refurbished. The room I was shown was messy, but looked like it would straighten up quick enough, and sported a wide window looking onto the street below (one of few rooms with windows).
Negotiating—you've really got to get use to it when you live this lifestyle. Most of the time it's a rather entertaining part of life, but it can be quite the opposite when you're not in the mood. I wanted this room, was in a place to position the price, and once he tried to show me the A/C unit that ended up not working, it was only a matter of wearing him down with time, talk, and a smile.
The respectable room, a block away from the beach, with private bathroom, hot water, soap/towel/toilet paper, fan, and all the privacy I wanted, was had for the B$200/night that I was looking to spend. Now I was free to go play on the beach.
I wasn't particularly surprised to see a deserted beach, but wished it wasn't the case. A few bikini's made me smile, but for the most part the two-kilometer stretch of beach I walked was empty.
I discovered later in the afternoon that there was a big annual rugby tournament being held in Karon's stadium—perhaps that's what was keeping people off the beach on such a sunny day in rainy season. I checked it out (free admission), and found the field and concrete risers full of Brits, Aussies, and Kiwis. It was an older crowd, both on field and off—vacationing corporate looking folk. Perhaps that's what the "Rugby 10's" division is? I know nothing of the sport, other than it's interesting or a but and that women swoon over the players.
Karon's water is probably representative of greater Phuket, and is a nice translucent-jade close to shore, rapidly diffusing into a deep, royal blue some 20-meters away from the beach. The sand may not be white, but it's fine enough to squeak under your feet as you're walking on it.
There's also a lot more washed in trash/debris than I'd like to see. The city could easily pay a small team of people a handful of baht to remove the garbage (bottles, florescent light bulbs, broken sandals, etc) from it daily. Perhaps it's done in the high season.
That's seems to be my excuse for Phuket when things aren't right—maybe it's just because of the low season.
Living Inside The Bubble
One of the problems with living in Karon Beach (without an independent means of transportation) is the of variety and affordability of two important services: Food and Internet.
Locals just don't live here in southern Karon, and those that do are either living in the hotels they operate or in corrugated steel squalors. It's amazing to see people living in such conditions, right next to homes of comfort and luxury. It reminds me of some type of medieval nobleman/pleasant relationship.
So, no locals means few local prices or services. There is no food market with serving dishes filled with unknown delights, although there are a handful of vendors on motorbikes serving simple meals.
It also means that Internet prices are back at that insanely stupid level seen in Khao Lak, B$60/hour, compared to the B$20/hour I used in Phuket Town this morning. At these prices I won't be posting anything on Travelvice until I get back to Phuket Town to bus out of here; it's a waste of money.
I had a particularly interesting meal today for dinner. Dished up by a husband and wife team working out of a motorbike, I ordered one of whatever it was that they were serving. At first blush I thought it was some type of veggie-fried rice, but upon closer inspection (later, watching the setting sun at the beach) I discovered lots of unidentified uncooked meat. Maybe it was fish—I'll probably never know. Yum…
The vendor showed me how to eat it before I left his company. Along with the food, he handed me a bag with a huge clump of green plant. Eating protocol is to rip a leaf off its stem, spoon some of the rice/meat/onion/lime/etc onto it, and garnish it with half of a broken chili pepper. Fold left, put in mouth, chew, swallow, smile—repeat.
It was very tasty, and quite filling. I wonder if it's the Thai version of ceviche?