Photos from India

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Riding Scooters to the beaches of Phuket

Motor scooters are by far the most popular way to travel throughout most places in Southeast Asia. Having met a Vietnamese couple named Lamb and Mimi at the guest house the night before, we all decided to set out early the next morning and take our chances of navigating the busy roads of Phuket by motor scooter. After paying 150 baht (about five U.S. Dollars) for a couple of beat up little motor scooters, we eased out into the traffic of the main town on the island with hopes that the streets would be a bit quieter and safer once we arrived at all of the world renowned beaches that Phuket is so famous for.

Even though I have been riding motorcycles for the past sixteen years, I was terrified about riding this tiny little scooter on the busy roads filled with motor scooters, cars and trucks all ignoring the stripes on the highway and the other vehicles surrounding them. Hugging the side of the road as cars passed by, I gradually got the feel of the scooter and realized that the brakes weren't much better than just dragging my feet along the asphalt in an attempt to stop. After finally making it out of town, the traffic died down and we began winding our way around the steep coastline of the island. We stopped at a couple of decent but dirty beaches on the south end of the island,snapped a few pictures and made our way up the coast to the first of a series of beaches that are supposed to be absolutely amazing.

In a crowded little beach town, Lamb, Mimi and I parked our scooters amongst about five hundred others and ventured down to the sand for a little time in the sun as well as a swim in the clear waters. As we penetrated the barrier of beach umbrellas and found one of the few bits of remaining sand that we could see, we found a place to set our towels and bags down and attempted to relax on the beach for a couple of hours. While Lamb went into the water, I grabbed my camera and took a walk down the coast to photograph a few of the traditional Thai long tail boats that were sitting along the shore. Navigating my way through the crowded beach, I realized that most everyone there was not only old, but extremely overweight as well. Most of them appeared to be European couples but mixed in with the vacationing retired couples were a series of white men toting one or two young Thai girls. I had seen this plenty of times in Bangkok, but I just figured they were with them for the night or whatever. Here, it is apparently pretty popular for men to come over and pay a couple of girls to spend the week with them and fulfill their every desire.

After taking a couple of photos and becoming more and more disgusted with the crowded beach, Lamb, Mimi and I grabbed some lunch and headed to the next beach in hopes of finding something a little more peaceful. As we approached the next beach up the coast, the brightly colored umbrellas were seemingly endless. Thousands of sunburned faces walked the streets while I couldn't even see the water through the endless sea of people who were swarming in every dircection on the beach. Without even slowing down, we passed the beach by and kept on moving North.

We went over a couple of more hills and made our way further North to the last of the beaches that had not been taken over by massive private beach resorts. Hoping to find something a little quieter and less crowded, we were again disappointed to find the same thing. I couldn't imagine all of these European tourists coming this far to packed into a small beach with thousands of other people all burning in the tropical heat. There has to be closer places that are even more beautiful than the beaches I have found on this island. When I had set out in the morning, my original plan had been to explore the different beaches for the day and decide which one to stay at for a few more. With our beach circuit complete, the plan had now changed. I was going to return my scooter and by a ticket for a boat the next morning to take me as far away from this island as I could!

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