‘Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air…’- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Indian music blaring from the speakers of our vehicle marked our arrival in Phuket as we drove from the airport to our resort having taken a connecting flight from Bangkok. It’s funny how having traveled for six hours, we were still so close to home. I peered out of the window and saw the way the bright, tiled roofs glistened as they caught the sunlight and little bits of the sea were visible between the buildings we passed. As the buildings gave way to the beach, I saw the marvelous expanse of water which constituted the sea in its entirety and it was breath-taking, just like every experience in Phuket turned out to be.
The food of Thailand is supposed to be among the best in the world and it certainly lived up to these standards. As I sat in an open mall and bit into a mango and custard crepe, I decided- if there was one dish I had to eat for the rest of my life, it would be this. Despite having been to France, it’s in Thailand that I ate the best crepes. After we’d walked around the mall, tiredness got the better of us and we’d decided to sit. Globalization has struck Thailand too and I went and sat in the most comfortable sofa in the nearest Starbucks I saw, sipping my favourite Java Chip.After this I wandered through the street markets, which differed from the ones in India greatly as in Thailand the shopkeepers won’t run after you begging you to buy like they do in India. On the contrary, they passed rude comments and asked me if I was mentally stable when I inquired if they’d be willing to sell at a lower rate.
Perhaps the best thing about holidays is that they pass at the pace you choose. The mundane morning showers gave way to long evening baths in the tub. The nights I spent there were just as remarkable as the days. The one I shall never forget for times to come is the first evening I spent there. I ate dinner at an amazing restaurant positioned at the roof of the building, with an amazing view of the stars. I spent most of the dinner gazing upwards and refusing to peel my eyes off the mesmerizing night sky. The chef did us the honour of joining us for drinks and his recommendations fit each of our preferences perfectly and the enticing flavours awakened our taste buds. It’s sad how most people spend their evenings in front of TV screens rather than enjoying them and how facebook group chats have so easily replaced actual interactions. One of the things I enjoy most about traveling is connecting with new people.I sat transfixed to my seat as the chef described his journey from a kid aspiring to be a stuntman in Australia to the world-class chef who followed his culinary dream. He spoke of the limited days we all have and of taking chances and living life.
As I peered to my right, I noticed Thai lanterns ascending higher and higher to the abode of the Almighty. It was a sight I’d marveled at in travel brochures but to see it up close was another thing altogether. Just as I thought the evening couldn’t get any grander, fireworks lit the sky up with their glittery colours upon being ignited. It was as if the city itself was welcoming us in the most glorious way possible.
The second day in Phuket was equally magical though my eyes opened with great reluctance that morning, my body having been overcome by fatigue.
We waited at the docks for the commencement of our Phi Phi Island Boat Trip and anticipation built up inside me. We finally started our journey and despite having seen the Andaman Sea before, the beauty I witnessed outweighed everything else. The water was an unrealistic yet enrapturing shade of turquoise, the kind which you think has been edited when you see it in movies, the kind you imagine when you dream of escaping to paradise.
The islands themselves lent great character to it all, being oddly shaped and as we passed many, the hills appeared to be undulating, rugged masses shaped like gigantic icebergs.
As I put on my flippers and got into the water to experience snorkeling for the first time, I was overwhelmed in the most beautiful way known to man. The feeling where you know you’ve never done anything which makes you feel quite at peace with yourself, quite as alive and quite as wonderful and you just want to savour that moment forever. Not being a great swimmer, I was facing my fear of water head-on. As I looked down I got taken aback seeing the sea bed so far below and had to resurface to take it all in. Going back in, I got a chance to admire the exquisite marine life; the coral beds and the school of beautiful fish and as the rainbow fish and butter-cup yellow coloured swam past me, unbelievably close, it felt as though I was dreaming.
We visited Monkey Island and Viking Cave (from where the famous Bird’s Nest Soup comes) before stopping at Maya Bay. Maya Bay is where movies like ‘The Beach’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ have been filmed and I can’t think of a more perfect, pristine and enchanting location.
Swimming in the ocean holds a charm incomparable to any other. As the sun beat down, the salt water wet my hair and I saw an infinite pool of glistening water stretch out behind me, I knew that in that moment there was no place I’d rather be.
Our final stop was Khai Nai Island, a minuscule strip of island mass which had been turned into a tourist spot. I sat on a rock on the beach and sketched before snorkeling some more. The waves weren’t as strong there so it was an easier task and though there was no coral to be seen, the variety of fish amazed me. I took a walk on the cushiony sand and admired the alluring scenery before we had to head back to our hotel.
Among several other things, I will forever remember Phuket as the place where I saw then most glorious sunset. I watched as the hills suddenly grew darker with the spread of shadows but before that, the sky split into bands of magenta, crimson, magenta and orange, the sea caught the reflection and the dancing sunbeams. I stood almost captivated for several minutes till I had to leave as our tuk-tuk to the beach had arrived.
We walked along Patong Beach in the evening, guided by the streetlights which illuminated the crowded alleys. I got a glimpse of the chaotic yet exciting night life of Thailand.
A woman close to the shore offered to help you light a lantern for a small fee and I jumped at the opportunity as lighting one of my own had long been on my bucket list. Wish Lanterns are properly called Khoom Loy or Khoom Fay in Thai and it is considered good luck to release a thai lantern with the belief that misfortune will fly away with the lanterns. The offering of lanterns is also said to symbolise knowledge, their light guiding revellers on the right path to follow in life.
As I was asked to make my wish, I closed my eyes and prayed for more amazing days like the ones I’d just spent.