- Published: Monday, 20 August 2012 16:10
- Written by Mary Anne Been
By Mary Anne Been
South of Bangkok is the small island destination of Phuket. Phuket is full of lush jungles and kind smiling people, all surrounded by gorgeous beaches. We were excited about the four days we had to explore this island destination. If you’re thinking of taking a vacation in the near future, I would highly recommend watching the airlines for cheap plane tickets to Thailand. We were met with magic from the moment we arrived.
The warm tropical air was thick with humidity and fragrant with floral aromas. Jason and I jumped onto our bus and headed to the first of two hotels we were staying at in Phuket.
The first was the Paresa luxury resort in Kamala. Meaning "heaven of all heavens," Paresa is nestled in the forest on a cliff overlooking the Andaman Sea. When we arrived at Paresa the resort staff offered us traditional tea and a cool cloth while we checked in.
The entrance to the property is magical. It felt like walking through a portal to another world. We walked down a flight of stairs and through a small corridor with a gong in front of a doorway. Then the door was opened and the sunlight was let in, and in that split second it took for our eyes to adjust and refocus, a whole new world was introduced. We saw gorgeous blue skies, the sound of waves crashing into the cliff side, bright-green grass, and a warm fresh ocean breeze hitting our skin. We were in heaven.
Jason and I felt like we were staying in a jungle tree house for grownups. Our room was in the Cielo Residences, regarded as "the ultimate in luxury living." We had an outdoor bathroom with a tub full of flower petals sitting in the middle of our private swimming pool. It was romantic and beautiful. On the property there are two restaurants, Diavolo and Talung Thai. We had an exceptional dinner at Diavolo that night, with offerings that included Portuguese spiced Black Angus beef and chu chee pla salmon (Thai red curry with holy basil).
After a heavenly dinner and a great night’s rest, we were off the next day to experience some adventure. Sea kayaking and exploring caves and lagoons with Sea Canoe in Phang Nga Bay was our agenda. We met up with Sea Canoe at Ao Por Pier and loaded onto the boat, where we were motored out to a group of islands in Phang Nga Bay.
We were given our safety briefing and sent on our way with the kayak guide, who paddled our kayak through the first of two caves. It seemed pretty simple and straightforward. When our guide told us to, we bobbed and weaved through the stalactites in our way and came out the other side of the cave into a beautiful lagoon full of mangrove trees. Supposedly, on occasion there are monkeys who are out eating the mangrove fruit, but we didn’t see any that day. After some time, we headed back through the cave and around the islands to see the coastline, then back to our boat. It was fun and reminded me a bit of a canoeing trip Jason and I took when we were younger and he did all the work.
We headed to lunch at Panyee Island. This community seems to float upon the water next to an island of vertical limestone cliffs, but actually it stands on hundreds of wooden and concrete stilts above the sea. The community of 1,500 is mostly Muslim and has its own school, a mosque, a health center, lots of small souvenir shops, and a handful of restaurants. We learned that their primary industry used to be fishing, but is now second to tourism.
We had a lovely lunch of seafood curry, and then headed back to our boat for more kayaking. Here is where the trip got interesting. Before arriving at our second cave, we were told that this cave was a bit more "advanced" and would require us to lie flat in our kayaks to make it through to the other side. Usually, Jason and I are pretty fearless and have no issue with doing things that have an element of danger or high adventure. Frankly, it makes it much more fun for us.
We loaded up in the kayak with our guide again and started toward the island cave. As we approached the cave, our guide pointed to where we would be entering. I started to laugh as I noticed that the entrance was completely submerged in water. We waited and watched as the tide went down and revealed the entrance to the cave. I still felt uneasy, but in we went. Our guide began to explain how we would be letting air out of the kayak to get through the tight spots. I thought, "okay, no problem," and we moved forward. Suddenly I hear Jason, who is lying in front of me, yelling to stop because the ceiling of the cave is scraping against his legs.
Up until that point I had been just soothing myself by breathing deep and telling myself that it we would be through soon and to look and to try and enjoy the experience. But, Jason disrupted all of that and my thoughts turned to how I was going to die in this kayak coffin and someone would have to explain to our kids that we are in a cave somewhere in Thailand.
I started to pull our kayak backward to where we had more space by gripping the ceiling. Then suddenly Jason and I realized our guide was standing. So, out of the kayak we went and we finished our journey swimming through the cave to the other side where the mangrove trees grow. The payoff was worth it, and boy did it give us a great story for when we arrived home. Of course we laughed at ourselves and how quickly our moods went from fearlessness to panic to hysterical laughter once we realized we were being ridiculous.
This was a great trip to Phuket. We thoroughly enjoyed our crazy experiences, and the memories that were made will last forever!
Special thanks to the Tourism Authority Thailand for organizing such a fun experience.