Keeper Karon

Karon is the ultimate in r&r, beach side. It is on the island of Phuket, Thailand. Our hotel, Baan Karonburi, is situated along with many other resorts across the road from the beauty of Karon Beach with white sand beaches and the shimmering waters of the Andaman Sea. This resort lended to the kicking back, soaking up the sun this blogger is always seeking. We were greeted on check in with chilled fresh pressed fruit juice. We were led to our room by the bellman who showed us the main pool with swim up bar, surrounded by tropical plants with an abundance of lounge chairs. Our room was spacious with king bed and sliding doors that led to a patio with Adirondack chairs and end table which was adjacent to a lap pool. Across the width of the pool, the decking was lined with lounge chairs. This style of “private pools” we discovered by chance last year in the region. I had no idea we were going to have this luxury here. It was a surprise from my honey! This style of roomside pools really adds to the feeling of luxury.  The room was well appointed with a divan next to a picture window looking out to the pool. There was hot pot and refrigerator, large closet, desk and tv. The bathroom was large with separate shower stall and oval soaking tub. We were very comfortable. Most days you could find me at some point right outside the doors of the room enjoying the time to read and write and the warmth of the tropical sun. 

Much of our time in Karon was spent lazing by the waters of the pool or at the beach. This is serenity to me. Give me some good reading material and glorious sunshine with a regional beer thrown in between my bottled water and fresh brewed coffee and I am happy as a clam 😉 The Secret and The Four Agreements I like to review annually “to keep my head on straight”. Throw in anything fiction and as long as it grabs me in the first chapter I enjoy it. Right now, I’m focused on my writing program from Great Escape Publishing and a program called How To Blog For Profit. Positive use of this time to travel…education in lieu of work makes me feel like I’m not just a bum 😉 We regularly start the day nice and slow with pressed coffee of the region and fruit from the vendors we grab the night before. My honey has his own research project he works on daily as well as a consulting project or two that are on the back burner as well. I’d like to get him a page of his own on this blog site but I’m not sure I will convince him of that. I think you’d enjoy it though. If it were up to me, it would be called: What Is It Leading Us To? Discussions of the Mandela Effect and Other Noteworthy Phenomenon Finds. There are days I believe he may drive me crazy with these insights. I have to say it’s because I like my world copacetic, everything “coming up roses” style. I admire my man’s intelligence and can tell you his daily rants get my mind churning and sometimes even flustered. Again, I must say, I feel strongly you would enjoy it and learn a thing or two here and there as well. You should take the time to chime in with a comment! Maybe we could egg him on together.

Thursday the 16th marked our 21st Wedding Anniversary. We both had to agree with the old adage, “Time fly’s when you’re having fun”. The day brought what just may have been the onset of the rainy season. The most serious storm these islanders had seen since the end of last season. We decided this called for spa treatment. Haircut, shave and Foot scrub/pedicure were my hubby’s choice and I did my simple favorite of fresh manicure and pedicure. After, the skies were clearing and we dressed for our evening. Reservations my honey had made when we were still watching the snow fall in Idaho back in January. The spot was a surprise for me, we had found it on our last visit here. Rated as the #1 steakhouse in Thailand we grabbed a tuk tuk to Sam’s in Patong. The beauty of Karon is it’s solitude, yet easy access to nightlife off the deep end, a 20 minute ride away, in Patong.  Sam’s sits aside the courtyard at the Holiday Inn. It’s motif is simply stated elegance in creams and tans with dim lighting and glass wine rack lined walls. The greetings from staff were warm and welcoming. A wooden plaque with our name on it sat at a table mid dining room. We were seated and presented with drink, wine and food menus. In celebration mode, we started with aged (15 year) scotch rocks and seabreeze for me. Our appetizers consisted of shrimp and scallop duet,tastefully seasoned and prepared and served sizzling side by side on heated stone. The bread basket was a delightful mix of lavash, wheat and rye breads. We enjoyed a crisp saugvignon blanc with this course and followed it with Caesar salad prepared tableside, mine was garnished with grilled prawns and the hubby’s by sliced duck breast. A palate cleansing fresh lemongrass sorbet came next. Our entree was Chateaubriand, wonderfully prepared and seasoned with Rosemary, presented and sliced tableside accompanied by baked potato, steak fries, onion rings and sauteed mushrooms. This course we paired with a dirty red Spanish wine we had never had before, perfect. After dinner this hotel does a steamy (dry ice) chocolates presentation and the staff presented us with a complimentary pastry with painted plate in honor of our day, these we paired with Gran Marnier and my honey had espresso. (Later at 3am when he was still charged to go and I was nodding, I realized this caffeine would have come in handy.) The hostess pinned a heady aroma petite orchid to my dress and thanked us for our return to this top notch room. We highly recommend a trip to Sam’s when you check out Patong! Of course when in Patong, cruising Bangla Road and taking in its raunchy adult fun is a must. Fun with a rock cover band who were anxious to show us their skills when my honey requested some Rage Against The Machine, is how we started this part of the evening. The female lead singer draped in blonde dreads belted out the words like an english speaking champ. Thai women, russian women and lady boys provided some serious eye candy fun the rest of this evening. Pole dancing is some of the most skilled we’ve ever seen. In the curtained bars down the alley ways behind the bikini clad main stages the girls are topless and sometimes fully nude so be prepared if you decide to check it out. You can also find cabaret shows and ping pong shows if you are up to the adventure…be prepared, the main road is thick with barkers! The bar girls are super friendly and fun and hardly anyone tips so throwing out 20 baht makes you a “high roller”. Significantly more can most likely get you whatever you want. Bar fines, fees and scams :beware! It really is a super fun night out, just taking it all in, try it at least once when you visit this island!

Over the weekend we stuck close to the hotel, our beach and the great Thai food/Seafood in the village of Karon. The weekend is the weekend in any tourist area, in any country, so we steer clear of the bigger attractions on these days. (Unless that’s the only time they are available.) Walking the beach by entering directly across from our hotel, strolling south to where the beach becomes rocky shoreline at Kata and pausing to swim a bit or soak up the sun was my favorite part of these days. Returning by sidewalk, passing the resorts and shops or by beach as the mood struck made for great people watching and offered a couple miles of exercise. One day I saw the cutest little boys digging up and down the waters edge with buckets in hand. They started jabbering away to one of the Thai jet ski vendors and I saw him wrinkling his face, shaking his head and indicating to them he couldn’t understand a word they were saying. The boys of 4 or 5 paid him no heed, they were too excited. Finally, the one boy pulls at the vendor’s hand and gives him the bucket indicating he should look inside. I saw the Thai 20 something start chuckling and give the boys a big thumbs up. They both beamed with smiles of pride of their “catch”, tiny little albino crabs I have seen in my walks, I presume. A couple of key “philosophies” are my purpose in this story. One, if we all could just hang on to a little of our childhood innocence and enthusiasm we would be in such greater wonder of this awesomee world, appreciation is key. Secondly, we are all human and no matter our country of origin or what language we speak, we can communicate and relate and for the most part we are innately “good”. On to other observations…Two food items to make note of that I haven’t mentioned are pizza and fried ice cream. Yes, I know pizza is not foreign to us as Americans but Thais certainly have a knack for super tasty thin crust. Can’t beat the Margherita, and Vegetarian is delightful with items like zucchini, cabbage and carrot included. The Fried Ice Cream is not Mexican style. Thai preparation is by hand with the use of two drywall mud style spatulas and a street vendor cart with a stainless cold plate on the top. The vendor takes your order from the menu of fruits, nuts, chocolate, Kit Kat, M&M, Oreo etc, you can combine two if you choose. (Our fav was coconut cashew.) The vendor measure a milk product into a cup then adds your flavors and a powder, stirs and pours onto the cold plate. Chopping of the add ins begins the process followed by spreading and folding and spreading again of the mixture as it freezes. Once completely frozen and frosted thin across the entire cold plate the ice cream is cut into 1/5’s and rolled using the flat side of the spatula into what resembles large “shavings”. 80 baht worth of delightful creamy goodness placed in a cup. Offerings of sprinkles, chocolate or butterscotch syrups and chopped nuts is offered to top it off. So tasty!! Tempura Shrimp and Veggies admittedly is also one of my downfalls on this trip that will add to the weight loss need when I am back in the land of reality! Every time the batter is perfect and the clean frying in coconut oil does not allow for burn.

Sunday we wound up at the Kata end of the beach with some rewarding snorkeling. A grand daddy starfish we could see on the ocean floor was one of my favorite but we saw puffer and lion fish as well as Nemos, Ghar, Angelfish and a variety of small tropicals I do not know the names of. On this evening, we did a seafood basket dinner from a place called Khan Baba. it included clams (thai style), prawns (with garlic and pepper), squid (battered and fried) and Snapper (grilled on the BBQ). For 750 baht it was a deal and the hubster’s preparation choices were slot on. After, he partook of an aloe vera massage and I did a body scrub followed by a facial and made a new friend with my spa tech. We agreed to stay in touch via Facebook which is always fun.

Dive refresher course and fun dive with Tom at  Phuket Scuba Club was on Monday’s agenda. It was starting out as a beautiful day and we enjoyed the walk to the south end of Karon beach stopping for a club sandwich at a little hole in the wall in an alley. (By the way club’s are a great “American” food fix in this country, served with fries. They are chicken breast, bacon, egg, cheese, lettuce and tomato on toasted Wonder bread style white bread, tasty and satisfying.) After checking in with Chantelle, an expat Brit living on this island for 23 years, we sat outside at the picnic table at the beach side shop doing our skills review with Tom. We were both pleasantly surprised with our retention. The winds began to kick up as we went to work on our written test. The clouds began to darken as Tom reviewed our answers. He felt the necessity for only 5 in water review on skills which meant we would have significant time for simply exploring. The rain started as we selected our gear. By the time we were setting up our SCBA’S the downpour began. Well, we were committed and whether rain or ocean water, we all agreed we were going to be wet! Geared up, we made our way to the shoreline and began our backwards descent into the sea. The storm was mean and the waves were big. The beach was deserted. Tom cheered us on while reassuring us and letting us know that if we could manage these conditions we would know we could be confident to continue to dive anywhere. We took deep breaths to reduce our anxiety and started to paddle out. Tom gave the signal for descent. I was terrified (remember that scared of the dark thing; not to mention I knew I hadn’t achieved full confidence in diving skills yet…). The visibility was terrible, the sea waters were churning up a hazy mix. We made it to the bottom without incident and began our skills tests. With a little correction we both passed with flying colors. Now, it was time to explore. Tom brought us to the surface and as the waves lashed at us he lectured us to stay close and that no matter what he would keep us in his sights but to remember we were only going to 10 meters (about 30 feet) so if needed coming up on our own was the answer. We descended again and gained our buoyancy and began to explore. The turbulent waters occasionally took away any chance for true, steady buoyancy. The visibility was rough but we did see a starfish,  ghar and several other specimen I could not name. We ended up surfacing because we couldn’t see well enough and had lost sight of Dean. Shortly after we were at the surface we spotted him. We agreed it was best to call it quits and made our way back to shore. 6’swells pounded at us and rain driven sideways by the wind poured down. On shore, Tom commended us and back at the shop Chantelle confided she thought sure Tom would call it off much sooner. I commented about the heavy rain and she replied “Rain, we consider this monsoon conditions.” I have to say, the experience was incredible and my confidence truly grew. Not ideal but a perfect day nonetheless!

Ao Phang Nga National Park was our destination Tuesday when we were picked up by the van driver. After just over an hour of driving across and north up the island we reached the pier where the ferry boats were moored in Phang Na Bay. I must comment now that this was one of the most organized group excursions we have ever signed on for from beginning to end. The staff was thorough and friendly and there was never the rushed, herding effect that can be the M.O. of these organized group excursions.  We were offred restrooms, as the marina shop vendor called out her best buys we “needed” for the excursion. I decided to purchase the dry pouch for my phone at 100 baht ($3) and it was very worthwhile as my story will prove out. We were separated by languages and the English speakers followed our guide onto the ferry. There was about 30 of us and the ferry was spacious with plenty of room for us all and our belongings on the top deck. The lower deck housed the canoes we would use to tour the park as well as the crew, galley kitchen and toilets. We were given an overview of our adventure. Two stops to canoe from the anchored ferry through the sea caves, some of which we would need to lie back in the canoe to sneak under the limestone formations to access since it was only the second day of the high tide cycle and then into interior lagoons. As you can imagine, my partner, whose claustrophobia loomed, was not as excited as I. (It did turn out though that he learned this phobia is not as bad when his sight lines can offer the escape to larger space.) As we made our way out of the bay, the rain began to let loose as forecast. The crew let down the side covers and we were dry and comfortable…are least for this part of the voyage. Hot coffee, tea, juices, water, bananas and assortment of cookies were laid out for us to snack on. We arrived at the first island and thankfully I dropped my cell (camera) into its protective cover. We loaded into our canoes, each one equipped with a crew member to do our paddling. I was hoping for the rowing exercise myself but diversely this meant we could kick back and listen to our guides rendition of the virtues of this protected area. It truly was a downpour at this point but thankfully no wind accompanied it. We made our way to the sea cave entrance and ducked to make our entrance past the limestone down croppings. As promised, inside the cave opened up to 30 foot widths and heights. Our guide shone his light into the darkness. As at Batu, there were great stalagtites and stalagmites and “insect” bats hung on the darkest walls. The pathway narrowed and we leaned back and prepared ourselves for the downpour again and we emerged into the beauty of the lagoon. Words cannot do this justice. Truly solitude at the center of an island. We saw a monkey crouched under a rock overhang creating his protection from the falling rain. Frogfish perched themselves on tree branches in the water. This was a piece of nature at its finest.As we paddled back towards the ferry the rain became a drizzle and the sun started to peak back out from behind the dark clouds. Lunch was laid out for us when we returned. From chicken vegetable soup to chicken wings, chow mein, fried rice, shrimp tempura and vegetables, grilled fish and fresh sliced pineapple and watermelon. It was very good. Coke, juice, water and coffee were included, iced cans of Chang beer were available for 100 baht. Enjoying the spread, camaraderie bloomed as we made our way past some of the islands including James Bond Island where The Man With The Golden Gun was filmed.  Other movies such as Good Morning Vietnam and Hangover 2 were also filmed in the area. We made our way to our next island with caves and lagoon, loaded back in our canoes and were paddled to take in the beauty, this time basked in the sunshine. The pristine beauty was breathtaking and the tropical birds and cicadas sang with joy. The entire group was delighted again. Swimming was next on the roster as we made our way through the final islands of this protected area by ferry. We were allowed to jump into the waters from the top deck rail. (No American insurance policy would allow that!) It was exhilarating, another feat I wouldn’t have dreamed of attempting not so long ago. The ticking of the clock towards a time when I physically may not be capable pushes me forward and I am loving every minute! The day ended after this opportunity to frolic in the waters of Phang Na Bay. There was fruit, freshly grilled mini chicken skewers, cookies and drinks laid out for the way back to the marina as the sun floated into its setting position. We were escorted back to our vans and thanked warmly for our patronage.  This was a first rate adventure via Tour East, booked through Expedia, we would highly recommend. On a side note, booking some things via Expedia allows for using US credit card and paying no processing fees, reducing cost and the amount of cash you have to carry or pay to get out of the ATM. Expedia prices comparably are the best of rates you find with tour operators here  so we found it the best way to go.

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