We stayed in Phuket for the rest of our trip, in a nice area called Niaharn.
We were right down the road from Naiharn Beach, which is really beautiful. It’s not too trashed from tourists or overly crowded.
There’s plenty to do on Phuket, so you don’t have to look too far to stay busy. We went to an elephant sanctuary, hit up a local Muay Thai/MMA gym, and spent a day on a boat excursion. The rest of our time was spent at the beach.
So, around Thailand there’s a shitload of little islands. The most popular ones are Koh Phi Phi (yes, pronounced Pee Pee) where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach was filmed, and Koh Phing Kan, otherwise known as James Bond island (guess why).
There’s an endless amount of tour companies who will take you out to these islands, plus whatever others they think will make them stand out.
It sounded like a blast. The brochures showed people suntanning in ideal settings, feeding monkeys, snorkeling with sea turtles, and generally having the time of their lives. It’s supposed to be relaxing and fun and unique.
It’s not really any of those things.
There’s a million people who want to see the same shit, so you’re crammed on a boat with a metric fuck ton of strangers. You race around to each scenic spot, stay for a few seconds to get your perfect instagram post, crammed in with 30 other boats from 30 other tour companies, also full of 30 other people trying to get their perfect Instagram post, then race to the next spot.
The island stops are brief- as soon as you get slathered in sunscreen and laid out in your towel, it’s time to leave to go to the next one. The idyllic beaches and snorkeling points are chock full of bodies, which means they’re also chock full of litter, noise, whiny children, and obnoxious adults. They also stink badly, around the toilets. Aggressive vendors looking to make some Baht off of tourists with money come out in full force and will follow you around trying to sell you stuff.
It’s madness, really. The guides are loud so you won’t lose them, and they try to stay entertaining, but the schtick gets obnoxious after a few hours. And, if you aren’t in the boat when it leaves one island to go to the next, that’s just too bad. We lost about half the people on our boat over the course of the tour. I suppose they could have lost themselves intentionally.
All in all, yes, it was pretty cool to see the sights, but it was also exhausting, and we felt a little annoyed to be caught in such a blatant tourist trap.
There happened to be a black belt (another black belt) on the tour with us. We could tell as soon as we saw him because his ears looked like a couple deflated balloons, and he looked really, really strong. He was Brazilian, the head coach of a team somewhere. He and Joe talked shop for a minute before the tour started, then he wandered off with his lady. We saw him at the end of the tour again. “You, ehhh, having a good tayme?” He asked us.
“Yeah, it’s been nice”, Joe said politely. “You?”
He gave us a long look and a small shrug.
We both burst out laughing. Clearly he wasn’t impressed.
If we go again, or if you’re reading this and YOU go to Phuket, DON’T DO IT.
Instead, look into sea kayaking or canoeing excursions. Small boats like that are way more worth it. For one thing, half the tourist population won’t even be interested, since it involves a bit of exercise. Secondly, the smaller boats like kayaks and canoes can go places the bigger tour boats can’t- through caves and low tides to far more deserted beaches. If we could do it again, we would do one of those excursions. We just didn’t know they existed until we had already gone on the one we went on!
Speaking of exercise, we went to Phuket Top Team for a jiu jitsu class (Joe brought his gi on our trip, no surprise there) and rolled around a little. Joe was immediately enlisted to help teach the class (no surprise there either) and at the end gave a few Barataplata tips to some of the students (also no surprise).
A couple people recognized me from TUF, and said hi. I found myself cringing a little when they would bring it up, still, but no one was mean about it, at least not to my face. I hope that I can just be a kind enough person that they can all realize that TUF is a bunch of bullshit. My hope is that when people meet me, maybe they’ll realize the way I was portrayed on the show was only a shadow of who I am.
The rest of the time was spent napping, eating, reading, writing, at the beach, or generally being lazy.
It’s been a long time since I’ve travelled internationally. About ten years ago, I went around Central America with some friends and we stayed in hostels, met other travelers, went to clubs, hiked, and generally had a pretty wild adventure. A few years later I went to Costa Rica by myself and did the same.
This trip was quite different. Much more relaxed and conservative. Younger Me would be mortified by Older Me, but fortunately, Older Me doesn’t give a shit. Older Me is also extremely grateful for Younger Me’s adventures, but is totally satisfied with this trip.
I’m also looking forward to more and want to take a few more trips to Southeast Asia in the future. Another trip to Thailand’s islands, or to Bali, or Japan, would be nice. We want to go to Brazil, and Australia, too, and I’d like to see Argentina. I, personally, want to go to Europe (like, all over Europe), and to Africa as well. You can actually travel to Antarctica as tourist, so while I’m spouting all the travel I want to do in my life, let’s add that to the list, and Easter Island as well. Special shout out to Greece and Italy, too.
Anyway, the rest of the time on Phuket was spent at the beach, and hanging out with pachyderms. I’m going to cover the elephants in my next blog, and for that one, please please please, read and share it. It’s a important message that means a lot to me and I would really appreciate it!!