After celebrating our wedding with amazing friends and family, Kelly and I boarded a plane on Sunday, April 20th headed for a relaxing beach in Phuket, Thailand. We flew from Orlando to New York and after a two hour layover, we boarded our first Air China flight headed to Beijing. This flight was supposed to be a 14 hours, but we landed in Beijing an hour behind schedule and missed our connecting flight to Phuket. With lack of sleep, being disoriented and a language barrier, we had a really tough time finding our way around Beijing's International Airport. It took us two hours and about twenty different airport employees to book a hotel room and shuttle service for the night. Exhausted, our shuttle dropped us off at the Golden Phoenix Hotel around 9pm and we quickly put our stuff in the room and went down to grab some dinner. After having a mediocre dinner, we headed back to the room to get some rest for the night.
We woke up after fourteen hours of sleep and had about five hours to kill before heading back to the airport. After grabbing lunch and hopping on a shuttle, we arrived at the Beijing airport ready for the next flight to Phuket, Thailand. The six hour flight landed in Phuket around 12:30 am on Wednesday, April 23rd. Our feelings of excitement and relief quickly turned to dread as we walked through the Customs doors. Inside, there were five lines, of tired, weary travelers each waiting to get their passports stamped. The line we decided to stand in suddenly got more complicated as another line merged with ours. Two hours after of pushing and shoving, Kelly and I finally made it through Customs, grabbed our luggage and headed out of Phuket International Airport looking for our private car.
Our private car drove us to The Renaissance Resort and Spa around three in the morning and we were greeted with the warm, traditional Wai greeting, which consists of a slight bow, with palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. We checked in and were escorted to our room. We unpacked and quickly climbed into bed. We awoke four hours later ready to explore the resort and relax poolside. The day was spent organizing our excursions, drinking tasty green guava juice by the pool, taking a dip in the Andaman Sea and having dinner at one of the resorts dining establishments. The resort was located in Mai Khao Beach, which is on the northwest side of Phuket Island. It's a very secluded and a less touristy part of Phuket, which has it's advantages and disadvantages. The advantage being that the beaches are beautiful and empty, the disadvantage being that any sightseeing that we wanted to do was going to cost us about 1,000 Thai Baht ($30) in shuttle fees.
On the second day we did our first excursion: a boat tour of Phang Nga Bay, by Phuket Sail Tours. Phuket Sail Tours is owned by an Aussie named Captain Mark, who looked like the Skipper from Gilligan's Island. The shuttle picked us up at 7:00am and drove us to the bay where we boarded a speedboat and started out on our tour. Our first stop on the boat tour was to visit the Island of Ko Hong and see a large mangrove lagoon.
After visiting the Island of Ko Hong, we raced over to another one of the beautiful limestone islands for some snorkeling and sunbathing. Before arriving at that next location, we stopped by an island to see a cave that housed hundreds of sparrows. Apparently these sparrows' nests are made from their own saliva and are highly sought after by beauty companies to be added to their age-defying facial creams. They are valued so much that they actually pay good money for Thai people to live in these caves for months on end and collect these nests. The cave dweller warmly greeted us as we passed by and reached our next location: a white sand beach in Krabi, around 10:30. This was a beautiful, relaxing spot where we spent most of the time snorkeling in the bay, feeding some tropical fish and sunbathing on the beach.
After about an hour, we boarded the boat and headed for our next two locations. The first stop was to see a bodhi tree that was over 1,000 years old and very sacred to the people of Thailand. The tree was several hundred feet high and I tried to test my strength by climbing it —but didn't get nearly as high as our tour guide. Next, we were off to see the most famous island in Phang Nga Bay, Khao Phing Kan, or better known as James Bond Island. Khao Phing Kan was chosen to be the secret layer of the James Bond villain, Francisco Scaramanga, from the movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. Before 1974 this was a rarely visited isle, but after the movie, this island has become the most visited island in Phang Nga Bay. Our tour guide took photos of everyone with this unique looking island and then we were off to have lunch and see our next couple of sights.
The next thing we saw were the cave paintings on Kao Kee-un that were over 1,500 years old and believed to be from the original sea gypsies that roamed these waters. The paintings were amazing depictions of the marine life that could be found in these waters: fish, dolphin, a dancing lady, merman, monkeys and other really bizarre shapes and images. We continued on from the paintings to our lunch destination, Ko Panyi, a village built on stilts. Ko Panyi is a fishing village that has been around since the late 18th century and was founded by an Indonesian fisherman. Besides being known for being built atop stilts, Ko Panyi is most famous for it's floating soccer pitch, which can be seen on YouTube.
After a wonderful lunch of rice, chicken curry, coconut soup, seafood and french fries, we boarded the boat and headed to Hong Island. This is where Kelly and I boarded a canoe with our own private Paddleman to take us on a 45 minute tour of the hanging rocks, mangrove lagoon and caverns of this amazing limestone island. The last stop of the tour was a secluded island that allowed us time to relax on a sandy white beach and relive the fun and excitement of our tour.
The boat arrived back at the dock around 4:30pm and we boarded our shuttle headed back to our resort. Full and exhausted from our day trip we retired, we ate dinner at the resort and then retired to bed. The next day we spent relaxing on the beach, paddle boarding and visiting a small shopping area called Turtle Village. The village was located within walking distance of the J.W. Marriott which neighbored the resort where we were staying. We had a nice lunch and window shopped for a couple of hours. Our evening was spent relaxing poolside and having dinner at the resort.