Phuket, Thailand

Like eager science teachers that tried to convinced us that the seventh planet is correctly pronounced Yer-ains, there are those who will try to convinced you that Phuket shouldn’t be pronounced in a way that makes it even more fun that it already is. Unlike the questionable astronomical update, linguists are right when they argue for Poo-get.

Although the beaches in Phuket were spectacular, the tourist economy was in pretty rough shape. Due to earlier protests in Thailand, the airport in Phuket was closed down for a short time. Although there never appeared to be any danger to travellers (or anyone, really), many who wanted to avoid a holiday spoiled by political turmoil canceled their travel plans to the area. That left many hotels and restaurants pretty empty. Although that’s a boon for those of us undeterred by political stirrings, it makes life pretty tough for the people who work in the industry. So, if you’re looking for an inexpensive place to visit with some great beaches and superb weather, go to Phuket today.

In spite of having my fun spoiled by the linguists, I was thrilled by the gorgeous beaches of Phuket. Although I visited a few other beaches, Surin Beach, located next to the Marriott Courtyard at Surin Beach, was splendid enough to captivate me for most of my stay. Apart from the powdery sand and collection of inexpensive restaurants that dot the beach, the Courtyard was one of the nicest such properties I’ve visited – and I’ve visited many of them. Most Courtyards are pretty aseptic affairs, lacking much to distinguish them from their siblings. Indeed, cloned hostels seem to be a hallmark of Marriott – wherever you go, you should feel like you’re at home – so things change little from one place to the next. When you’re travelling for business, such predicable consistency can be welcome. Nonetheless, when travelling for pleasure, it’s better to have something new, and in that regard, this hotel didn’t disappoint. There was a sprawling pool, a water slide, hundreds of lounge chairs and exterior opening doors. The airy lobby was always filled with welcoming employees who greeted me by name, which was unusual for the Courtyard. One other thing I really enjoyed about the hotel was the gym. After so many days sweating in the tropical weather, it was nice to be able to run a good distance indoors (the only time I really love treadmills!).

At Peter’s wedding last year, I met a couple of people from Malaysia. One of them (Esther) took a short break from work and came up to play in the ocean for a few days. It was fun to catch up and to have some company for a weekend. Sadly, like so many others who I’ve tried to cajole into continued travel, Esther has a job and couldn’t accompany me further. So, as she made her way back to Kuala Lumpur, I headed into Phuket City and checked in to the Phuket Backpacker hostel for a night. With free Internet access, a sprawling movie collection (all legal, I’m sure cough, cough), and spotless rooms and toilets, this was easily one of the best hostels in recent memory. It made a good base for sorting out bus and boat tickets to Koh Phi Phi, Krabi and Bangkok.

So, after a night in Phuket City (easily enough to see the few interesting sights), with tickets in hand, I made my way to the pier and boarded a ferry to Koh Phi Phi, filming location of The Beach.