Christmas morning, 2010.  We’re crossing the Andaman Sea from Krabi to Phuket, a two-hour trip.  It’s a gorgeous day, and we are lucky.  When we entered Thailand a few days ago, we encountered a Frenchman going the opposite direction who said he’d not seen the sun for two weeks.  Monsoon season is not quite over yet.

The pier in Phuket is very disorganized.  (First of all, it’s pronounced poo-get — not, you know… phonetically.)  Most of the ferry passengers pile into different vans, but they’re not clearly marked.  Several of us have to try several vans before discovering the right one, and in a few cases the drivers are confused as well and switch signs with each other.  It took forever to get going.  But that’s ok; we had not expected our $23 ferry ticket to include door-to-door service, which saved us from having to find a taxi.

More than an hour later, after dropping off various other passengers, we arrive at our destination, the Renaissance Phuket on Mai Khao Beach.  What a find!  I had hoped to explore Phuket Town, but the resort was too far away, and happily we weren’t disappointed to just hang out there for the next three days.  Our villa came with a private pool, the beach was just outside, and the brand-new hotel’s service surpassed even our now-very-high standards.  Every night we discovered a turn-down treat like truffles left for us in our room, besides the usual fresh basket of fruit, and one night an invitation to join the General Manager for martinis.  (We did.)  If you’re ever in the area and don’t mind being far from town, seriously, stay here.  One manager even heard we were heading to Chiang Mai in the near future and delivered to our room a list of his favorite places.

The only excursion we took was a little motorbike-taxi ride to a nearby shopping center, where I ordered a custom dress from a local tailor.  We’ve noticed two things about Thailand so far.  First, there are pictures of the king everywhere – every business, every town center.  It must be bad karma to not “bless” your place with a photo of the king.  (Or maybe it’s illegal.)  Second, where English was very common in Singapore and Malaysia, we can’t rely so much on that in Thailand.  Seb calls the local language “klingon.”  We spent the entire 15 days just trying to say “hello” correctly – for men it’s “Sawasdee Krup” and for women “Sawasdee Kaa.”

The hotel had a fabulous spa where I experienced for the first time a Thai massage.  Holy cow.  This is nothing like a massage back home.  It is part massage, part yoga, part contortionist.  You wear loose-fitting clothes, thankfully, because at times the therapist’s foot will be inside your armpit while twisting you around backwards.  At one point I swear she was balancing herself on one knee on top of my spine.  It was intense, exhilarating, a little scary, and mostly wonderful.

Speaking of wonderful, every place we’ve been has had incredible breakfast buffets, but this place was hands-down the best.  You could get anything your heart desired.  The buffet was enormous – there was a section for Western-style palates, another section for Japanese, again for Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, even a Canadian-style buffet (complete with baked beans); a fresh-squeezed juice bar with about 25 fruits to choose from; all kinds of fresh fruits, yogurts, and mueslis; crepes, waffles & pancakes; pastries; desserts and ice cream.  They even had real honeycomb, for goodness’ sake.

For my foodie friends, like Sara & Erik — how about a coconut pancake with palm sugar butterscotch, Thai baby bananas and lime leaves?  Or orange mascarpone waffles?  An omelet with grilled pear, ricotta cheese, roast tomato, rocket & honey mustard dressing?  I tell you, I didn’t want breakfast to be over.

One morning we hiked down the beach and found a cute little local restaurant, where we had coconut juice & beer after breakfast.

But most of the time, we hung out at either our private pool or the beach.  One night some weather came in, and the beach emptied out while we enjoyed some good waves in the rain, and an incredible sunset.

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