This was by far one of the best days I've had on the trip. I started out with another early morning jog on the beach, barefoot this time. I really only saw a few people on the beach until I reached the end of it and I saw a bunch of tiny hermit crabs scuttling around in the sand. I was watching them when an old Thai fisherman beckoned me over and showed me two that were fighting and crawling all over each other. We watched them together then I said thank you in Thai and kept running. It was very humid and a bit of mist came off the ocean with each wave that broke in the pre-sunrise light.
After jogging about half way down the beach, I saw the same Thai women I've seen each morning. Lots of smiling and waving and this time one of them just hugged me full on around my stomach! I hugged her right back, it was so wonderful! Then at the end of my run I saw one of the women I had stretched with before. She called me over and explained how to make the flabby parts of my arms and shoulders strong: 300 air punches each day. So we began to do that and stretched and talked about how she was a massage therapist and watched the sea. Her name is Sorn.
Needless to say I was just so happy from the interactions with the happy people on the beach. From there my day just got better!
Somehow I've had the good fortune to have spent a lot of time on motorbikes this trip; Jaime and Luis' in Spain, Niraj's in Nepal. But I've always been on the back, usually holding on for dear life and grinning like a maniac. So when I found out I could rent a motorbike for 150 baht (about $4.50) for the entire day, I was hooked.
The woman just handed me the keys to the moto, showed me how to put in gas, showed me that coincidentally the tank was almost empty and helped me turn it on. I paid, she didn't even ask to see my license, and with a wavering look to Julia I took it for a test ride around the quiet street our hostel is on before she hopped on back. The ride was a bit...jolting at first but I quickly got the hang of it and thankfully it was an automatic.
Julia got on the back and we were off! I immediately turned the opposite direction of the gas station for some reason, so giggling, we pulled off the road and I turned it around after almost hitting the curb going 2 km/hr...But after that it was smooth sailing! We accelerated into the flow of traffic (did I mention they drive on the opposite side of the road here too?) and found the gas station no problem. Then it was on the open road cruising up the coast of Phuket overlooking beaches and jungles (both concrete resort jungles and green forest ones).
It was SO MUCH FUN! What an exhilarating feeling to be flying down the road with the wind tickling your face and being able to see everything. The motorbike was totally agile, very quick and even kept accelerating up the many hills we encountered. So fun. Julia and I were just giggling the whole time.
It took us about an hour and a half to get to the national park and Gibbon Rehabilitation Center that was our first destination. It was such a cool organization! Gibbons are the primates with really long arms that are super-fast at swinging through the jungle from branch to branch, or as it's technically called: "brachiating". They are poached to be pets or tourist attractions which entails killing the adult gibbons and collecting the baby after the mother falls from the tree. Most times the babies don't even survive the fall. So to counteract these horrific crimes, people who see captive gibbons can report it to the Gibbon Center who takes them, nurses them back to heath if need be, and gradually teach them to forage, help them find a mate if possible, and prepare them to be released back into the wild. It's so so so cool and the volunteers were awesome. If you're interested, they require a minimum of 3 weeks but it looks SO SO COOL. Check out their website: http://www.gibbonproject.org/
There was a waterfall about 300m up the trail past the Gibbon Project so we walked up there and jumped in the cool pools surrounding the base of the waterfall. We swam until Julia saw an enormous spider running across the water, then we jumped out screaming and laughing and dried off on a rock in the sun watching the colorful butterflies flutter around.
We hopped back on the motorbike with a mission of shopping. We drove down to Phuket Town which was full of traffic. Luckily I had been on a motorbike in Nepal before this so it seemed fairly mild and I was able to dodge the cars and honk my little horn at them. We parked and prepared ourselves to be attacked by shopowners selling their t-shirts and wooden elephants. I got a fantastic floppy beach hat that makes me feel very 50's glam and Julia got a beautiful sarong and wooden elephants.
By this time we were really hungry so we kept our eyes peeled for a good-looking food cart on the side of the road. When Julia shouted "I think those were fried bananas!" I immediately pulled over and we feasted on them as well as fried sweet potatoes and spring rolls and of course Thai iced tea! YUM!
It was pretty hot and late in the afternoon so we jumped back on the bike one last time and cruised back to Karon Beach and the Pineapple Guesthouse, reveling in the fact that we survived the roads of Thailand and me definitely wanting a motorbike. I won't be that bad in the winter, right? We found Lisa and headed to the beach to swim and watch the sunset, then went to our new favorite restaurant for noodles and curry dishes for 40 baht and ended with a delectable banana pancake with chocolate. Rough day.