Hooray! I finally got my Blogger to work! It all of a sudden started displaying in Thai and I couldn't even figure out how to log-in. Whew. It's amazing that I survive in this country. =)
I just got back from Phuket a couple of days ago. Phuket was the area of Thailand most affected by the tsunami in 2004 but you would hardly know that anything happened there except for the fact that there are tsunami hazard zone signs and evacuation procedures posted everywhere. The area is filled with tourists, mainly German, Dutch, Australian and French. We stayed in Patong Beach just so we would be close to everything and I don't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. There were lots of bars filled with ugly old white guys looking for young Thai girls and some of them unknowingly hitting on katoeys (ladyboys). Everything was very expensive in Phuket which was one of it's major drawbacks. We had ordered a bottle of water in a restaurant and only later found out that it cost 50 baht, more than 7 times the price that it would cost at a convenience store. We learned to be very careful of asking how much things were before committing to anything.
My favorite part about Phuket was going to the rainforest and visiting the Gibbon Rehabilitation Center there. Being an anthropology major in college and having done some research on gibbons I was very excited to see the gibbons in their somewhat natural habitat. They were very active and fun to watch. Unfortunately, the night before we had seen a guy on the street who had a gibbon and was charging tourists to take pictures with the animal. I wanted to call the police on him but my friend convinced me that I was being unreasonable. While we were at the center I mentioned this to the staff and they said that yes that was illegal in Thailand and I was able to report it to them. The next night we went back and I tried to get a picture of the guy. I felt so bad for that poor little cute gibbon. I hope that they are able to catch them. Anyways, while we were there we also went hiking to a nearby waterfall and it was very beautiful.
The next day we signed up for a day tour of the Phi Phi islands. We visited the beach where they filmed the movie "The Beach" and I could only imagine that before they filmed the movie there it was very peaceful. Now it is full of tourists (including myself) and I felt like I was at Raging Waters or some water park than on a tropical island. I didn't even want to swim in the water because there were so many speed boats (think stinky gasoline) and people (think bathroom). We also went snorkeling but unfortunately all of the coral was dead and there was a lot of trash in the water. Very sad. I don't know if the coral died as a result of tourism or if it died after the tsunami but it was very unhealthy.
Overall my advice to you would be to skip Phuket and visit some of Thailand's other beaches like Koh Tao or Koh Samet. They have everything that Phuket had, minus the vast hoards of tourists, trash, and high prices.
Tomorrow I'm off on a teachers trip to Kanchanaburi. The school is putting us up so hopefully it will be nice and relaxing.
Pictures slowly being posted on Flickr!