Today we decided to venture out on our own, which is always an adventure. As we were walking into the small town next to us, a man standing on the side of the street was asking if we wanted a taxi. Bill did the customary negotiating and we hired him to drive us around all day. His name was Joseph, as the decal stated on his driver side window, and his car was small. We got into the taxi, with Mia on my lap, and we were off. What we quickly learned was 1) this was not a taxi. 2) Joseph would be fined 2000 baht ($60) which is more than we were paying him, and 3) because of 1 & 2 we had to take a few detours to evade police. Like I said, always an adventure.
We started off in Old Town Phuket which was about a thirty minute drive. It was interesting. Very run down although you could see the architecture was really beautiful and I'm sure in its prime, amazing. We had a fabulous traditional Thai lunch, where we tried some new things including mango sticky rice with coconut ice cream. Everyone attacked it, although Mia now says she didn't really like it. I have photos that prove otherwise. Everywhere we walked tuk tuks would approach us asking is we needed a ride. It was incredible hot and humid since we were exploring at the hottest time of the day and my clothes just stuck to me. We went in two buddhist temples, where shoes are not allowed, but bird poo is. You had to watch where you stepped, I learned this the hard way. Ugh!
We were a little late meeting back up with Joseph who was worried we had left him there and found a cheaper ride. After reassuring him we would not do that, we were off to Monkey Hill, supposedly a great lookout point of the city. The other big draw is that, as the name implies, there are monkeys roaming freely all over, including baby ones. They sell fruit to feed the monkeys so of course that's what we did. They will literally come up to you and take it out of your hands. My kids were a bit freaked out so they instead tossed them the food. It quickly became apparent which monkey was in charge. We walked a little further to the lookout point which was blocked off because it was under construction so the view was not great, but still well worth the drive.
Next stop, Wat Chalong, a famous Buddhist temple. On the property there are many temples and pagodas. Very different from anything we had ever seen. This one was three stories tall and although no shoes were allowed, it was enclosed so there was also no bird feces to worry about. Inside there were many golden statues, staircase handles carved into snakes and painted brightly, and shrines.
Patong Beach was next. It is a vibrant touristy town with many shopping opportunities. We headed to the beach and let the kids play for an hour. The beach was beautiful, warm turquoise water, smooth white sand, and plenty of people watching available. The craziest part was that the para sailing speed boats and the jet skies all drove RIGHT next to shore and seemed to literally weave around the people swimming. It was crazy! Dinner was gyros, we needed a little break from Thai, from a street vendor and we cruised and shopped Bangla Road as dusk set in. If you think Vegas is wild, it has nothing on Bangla Road. Not a place for families when the sun goes down. That would be a very different type of vacation.
Once again Joseph quickly ushered us into our waiting "taxi" and drove us back to our hotel. We just spent 10 hours with Joseph as our own personal driver. Very fun and very different. I should mention that although we had fun there was a bit of bickering in the car, whining, crying, elbows, pushing. Close cramped quarters with three exhausted children is not that much fun. Thank goodness we didn't spend too long on our car rides.