Friday, March 16, 2012

Casa Blanca and Michael Bublee in Phuket City

Amazingly, our iffy transportation plans (handshake and a receipt) worked out perfectly. That is, we were picked up on time and taken to the ferry dock. Our driver did purchase our tickets and we did arrive safely in Satun. There was someone waiting for us at a desk just outside of customs (as promised) and she did direct us to transportation (an open van) that would take us to the bus station and she did give us a voucher for the bus. When we arrived at the bus stop (We had expected a bus station, but it was just a bus stop.) our bus was there, waiting for us. As soon as we boarded, off it went.

Our top rate transport!

Like clockwork really. We were very proud of ourselves and took our seats.

Only one problem. Our seats were just behind the WC.
Our smelly bus!

It was a very long six hours to Phuket and the smell seemed to get more unbearable with each minute. The bus was full after a couple more pick-ups, so we had nowhere to go. At some point (when I was sure I would surely faint) I dug into my daypack and found my tiger balm. “Ah” I thought, “if I just put a bit of this under my nose, I will survive”. So I did and it was great for two seconds until my nose started burning (like hell!) from the tiger balm! OK, I needed a better solution. I took out a tissue and smeared some tiger balm on it and inhaled slowly. This did the trick with reapplications every five minutes or so. I prepared a tissue for Marc as well and we somehow managed to get through the trip.

Lesson learned: Always ask for a seat in the front of the bus!

Hotel Exterior

I had booked us into the Casa Blanca Boutique hotel in Phuket City. From my calculations, the bus station was walking distance from our hotel, which was located in the old part of town, perfect for touring the next morning. After a few cab drivers tried to convince us to take a cab, a nice young man in front of a tour outlet showed us a short cut to the main street and perfect instructions to the hotel. He reviewed his instructions with us one more time before he set us off in the right direction. We were there in about five minutes (with a stop at an ATM on the way)!

The Casa Blanca hotel is an absolute gem — a beautifully updated Colonial building in the heart of the historical old town. Two young men at reception greeted us warmly. One helped us with the old style elevator and showed us to our room. Shortly afterwards, he delivered two tall glasses of iced tea and cookies to our room — nice touch! True to its name, the decor is all white; every wall is white, as well as the bedding and furniture in the guest rooms. The floors in the hallways are beautifully tiled. Each room has original artwork on the walls. There is a small pool, garden area and restaurant onsite. The official walking tour of the Old Town begins almost at the door of the hotel. Perfect indeed!

After several days of early wake up calls for touring or ferry pick-ups, we decided to luxuriate in our white linens, have coffee in bed and relax. We started our self-guided walking tour about 10:00 am before it got too hot. We walked down quaint streets, visited temples, ate ice cream to cool down and visited information spots to figure out our next move. We stopped for Italian food just down the street from our hotel, which was fab! More walking/visiting temples etc and before we knew it, it was dinnertime. We found a small Thai eatery in the old town and sat down for cocktails and scrumptious food. Just to make us feel at home, an interview with Michael Bublee was being broadcast in the restaurant (We think on a local radio station, since we could not see a TV anywhere.), and we listened to his beautiful voice as we eat our delicious dinner (which was both tasty and beautifully presented).

Our plan for the next morning was to check out, walk back to the bus station and get a bus to Khao Lak, a town 2.5 hours north of Phuket where it would be possible to book diving/snorkeling liveaboards (boat trips for several days) to the Similan Islands. After a less than amazing snorkeling day in Langkawi, we had done our research and the best spot for real live corals and fish were the Similan Islands and we were not going to miss it.

So we left Phuket without getting near a beach! But we did have a great visit to the historical Old Town of Phuket City, a wonderful stay at a very quaint boutique hotel and ate some amazing Italian and Thai food. We also made sure to ask for seats at the front of the bus and our ride to Khao Lak was without incident!

It was in Khao Lak that life got quite a bit more exciting … and we learned how amazingly warm and helpful people living in this small resort town can be.

Don’t worry; I won’t keep you in suspense for too long. I will begin the next post as soon as I upload this one!

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