Some times if you have a little bit of extra cash it's nice to break from your routine and have a vacation from your vacation. You know, just like in the movie Inception. Okay I just like Inception and loosely bundled together some threads to make a rather poor connection, but at the time the idea of a vacation inside of a vacation was a good one.
My wife and I had been in the pleasure capital of Pattaya for about three weeks and all the craziness of Songkran was coming. We needed to get out, or end up like one of those miserable old men with their firm pregnant guts clinging sweatily to their polo shirts and tattooed scowls who say, “fuck off” to anyone who so even thought of squirting you with a water pistol.
So we decided on a five day splurge to Phuket to live the life of the resort goers we truly never are in reality. We considered Patong Beach, but due to its striking resemblance to Pattaya it seemed like a wasted trip to go there. Besides, when being sexually harassed by ladyboys, I choose the familiar. Instead, we decided on one of the more quieter beaches on Phuket Island, Surin Beach.
Taking a little known Bangkok Airways flight from the military Airport in Utapao, we flew over the Gulf of Thailand and landed an hour and a half later in Phuket.
The private taxi companies somehow found out that we had been calling this our Inception holiday. Because they too decided to bend reality and raise the marked price of the taxi fare by 500baht, asking for 1000baht. Fortunately we had seen the movie so my wife moulded reality as we moved out of the airport until we got to the last taxi company who offered a fare for 50baht less than the poster marked rate, a more satisfying 500baht. Hey, that's 6 extra beers.
On the way to Surin Beach we noticed subtle changes to the landscape and architecture of the region. The farmlands were more lush and a deeper green than we had noticed elsewhere in the country. Forests of young rubber trees were tapped for their sap, water buffalo roamed soggy pastures and wild tangling vegetation overtook anything that wasn't tended for a few months. The Muslim influence was also present in the area appearing in the design of buildings.
Arriving at out little resort the Manathai, we were greeted by friendly staff who escorted us into the their high ceilinged foyers and offered a refreshing mocktail. It was clear that we were no resort goers by our distinct lack of luggage.
The resort was beautiful but clearly showed signs of age. Cracks in the ceiling of the foyer, black tarps attempting to blend into the dark roof tiles and a chipped tiles in the pool suggested that a renovation would be due soon. Or perhaps this was our imagination creating a reality more suited to our personality.
Our suite – yes suite. This is our Inception holiday remember – was vast with a bed that could be traversed in perhaps a day with suitable supplies and equipment. The room also had a separate shower and bath tub that also had a shower fitting which hinted at the size of previous expeditions parties.
For dinner we decided to cross the road and walk the hundred or so meters to the beach front. The late afternoon sun was just starting to orange as it made its journey towards the Andaman Sea. Not quite hungry, we decided on cocktails at one of the many beach-side bars, Salt, that was empty all except for us and the staff. Over a Sea Breeze and a Martini (If you ever drink girly-drinks you must always finish with something to put hairs back on your chest or Sean Connery will appear and slap you in the face with a mullet) I unwound from my trip, read a little and enjoyed the sounds of the waves caressing the shore.
As night approached, we moved to another restaurant on the beach called, Taste, and dined on the most exquisite Thai fusion cuisine that we have had in the country to date.
After our meal we strolled along the beach road enjoying the smells from the restaurants mingling with the salt air. A bored Indian or Sri Lankan man fulfilling his cliché by sitting in front of his suit shop called out, “Hello. Do you want to buy a cat?” as he lifted up the cat he was patting in mock offering. This unexpected break from the usual sales pitch had us laughing, sharing in his joke and reminding me of his human side. Encouraged by our laughter the tailor continued, “I give it to you for free,” as we wandered further along the path until we reached the end of the beach.
The next day was dedicated to the beach. Being the pasty white man that I am, my wife had ensured that we had brought along the 50 plus sunscreen all the way from Japan. I lathered myself in the oily cream sound in the knowledge that I would be burn free for the next few hours until the next application.
We headed down to our exclusive little slice of beach, owned by our resort, dropped our towels on our beach chairs and padded on the white sand to the stumpy little waves breaking on the shore. Once past the breakwater, the water quickly turned clear and I donned my goggles and swam around the rocky outcrops enjoying the colourful little reef fish who found a home there. The cool water was a seductive oasis from the oppressively hot day and I swam around the beach exploring more rocky outcrops or just swimming languid laps for over an hour.
I returned to my wife at our beach chairs to rest for a while, reapply some more sunscreen and have a drink. Shortly, I was out again in the water floating around and pleasantly repeating everything I had done earlier. The cool waters refreshing my skin as I soaked in the glorious morning.
Coming out later for lunch, my wife commented on my pink skin. It appears I was getting a little sunburnt. Never mind. Time to come in then, I guess.
Away from the soothing influence of the sea my skin quickly reddened and began to burn. In this Inception world it appears that the Japanese 50 plus sunblock was merely basting oil. We returned to the chilly confines of our vast suite for a nap and some liberal application of moisturiser.
That afternoon as the bite of the sun abated, we headed back to the beach to wander along the sands and then grab a bite to eat at another of the beach-side bars.
Just like the movie, things in this world can change in an instant and dark grey clouds soon loomed as the afternoon neared it's end. We approached the Catch Bar just as the fat raindrop started carelessly falling. No sooner had we sat down with a beer in hand, had the day turned black with cloud and a torrent of rain pounded on the protective sails above our bar. The rain obliterated the view. First the distant rocky outcrop at the end of the beach disappeared, then each bar vanished beneath the rain and finally even the thirty meters to the water's edge was just a blur beneath the pounding drops.
There was nothing to do but to wait out the storm. Fortunately we had situated ourselves at a bar just for that purpose.
As the beers flowed the rain rewrote the landscape and once it had abated it was night time and the neon lights of the bars reflected on the now tranquil beach.
A holiday-within-a-holiday should rarely carry the same semblance as the original one. As such there is no need to follow the same unspoken rules that many a long-term traveler wears like a badge of honour. As such, we felt it quite within our right to choose the local Texas Steakhouse for our dining option over some of the local fare. It turns out that is was a good choice. The young owners were passionate about their food and it came through in their slow cooked rack of barbecue ribs that slid from the bone, like a nubile maiden parts with her gown on her wedding night. Unlike reality, the food was delivered in good time and served with a gracious smile. The staff were attentive without being intrusive. And the overall ambience was ranch-esque without the pretentious whooping and cracking of whips, and customary tumbleweed.
Another day and a new reality. We voyaged to Phuket town for a family friendly Songkran. Songkran itself is more fantasy. More break from the heat and drudgery of May than anything else in Thailand. Great drums of water fill the streets as people are cleansed with ice cold shots from water pistols before being plastered with chalk. People danced to their own tunes on traffic islands and toddlers became crack shots penetrating my nostrils with rounds of high pressure water.
A final day and we found ourselves in search of James Bond, or more accurately Scaramonger's island hide out. I must pay penance for my earlier girly drinks and made a pilgrimage to a scene of one of Roger Moore's finest bond films, The Man with the Golden Gun.
We took a traditional sailing junk that didn't really sail as dark clouds approach our stern until the polluted puff of black exhausts merged with the greying sky. The stony fingers of islands pierce the bay before us. We visited a village that floated upon souvenirs that it must sell to prevent it from sinking. Taoist contradictions seem to run rife in Inceptions vacations.
Our pilgrimage done. Our final sleep in our resort expired, we returned to our real world; our budget vacation in Thailand as it was before. It was an experience, this inception vacation. It was a break from our norm and a good escape from our reality. I have something now to compare against and fond memories in contrast to my other lives on the road.
P.S. I didn't even get a single dime or beer token for linking to any of these places. Buggers...Okay I enjoyed every place I have linked to and recommend them to you too.