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Friday, January 18, 2013

January 2013 – An amazing and busy month in Phuket and Chiang Mai, Thailand Part 1 (Phuket)


Sawadee ka! “Hello”!
For the most part, January was spent taking care of business, but we made time for some fun while Destiny was stuck in the marina. Our other friends came and went, cruising the islands of Phang Nga Bay (pronounced Fang – nah), and the Andaman Sea around Phuket, returning to report the best places for us to go when we broke free from the dock. We were wrought with disappointment over the constant delays getting our canvas work done and waiting for the other repairs to be completed. So we lived vicariously through Lady Kay, Scallywag, Storyteller and Sabbatical III, waiting our turn to go play. January and February are two of the very best cruising months here, but what can you do when the sails are off, the generator is not running and the watermaker is in pieces? Sit and melt in the brutal and humid heat!
We spent a fair bit of time going from chandlery to hardware store to dentist to doctor to hospital appointments, risking life and limb navigating the absolutely insane traffic of Phuket’s, very busy thoroughfares, where apparently motorcycles and mopeds have the freedom to drive the opposite direction on all roads and highways as long as they use the shoulder. This really is maddening because they literally zip past and zoom by not concerned in the least about whether or not YOU will hit THEM, and yet they make these insane maneuvers with three and four family members hanging on. Most of them have small children aboard.  There are helmet laws that I suppose are just considered guidelines because about 70% of the people ride sans helmet. This is their standard and their culture and yet it is very upsetting for us to watch. Whenever we read the Phuket Gazette, the death rate from motor way accidents is unbelievable. We were an absolute nervous wreck driving around here the first month. Eventually Frank got into a sort of rhythm but I just won’t drive here unless I need to be a “designated driver”.

We headed down to Phuket’s famous area called Patong one day, hoping for a nice lunch and to enjoy some time at the beach with Paul and Glor (Scallywag). Everyone said it is a “must-do” in Phuket. When we got there we were shocked at how incredibly crowded it was. We drove around and around just to find parking, then walked several blocks to the cafĂ©-lined beach front where the music was so loud you could feel your belly resonating, “Boom! Boom!” Frank and Paul shot to the beach ahead of Glor and I, and we soon found out why. There were lots of topless ladies running around, but most of them were not fodder for eye candy. The majority were large, very white, lumpy women of about our age or older with large, flapping asymmetrical breasts. To top it off, a fair number of them were wearing thongs – and I’m not talking about the ones on their feet. Glor and I laughed as we realized why Frank and Paul had headed, eyes-forward straight to the water. We found out later that this is the big hangout for Russian tourists who want to get a suntan on every possible part of their bodies. They show no modesty and have no shame. We didn’t stay long, in fact only long enough for the gang to have one beer and then we high-tailed it out of there to find quieter and less graphic scenery. We did manage to find a beautiful spot at Bliss Beach Club on Bang Tao Beach. It was perfect, and is now one of our favorites in Phuket.

A few days later we joined Mark and Laura (Sabbatical III) for brunch and a day at the JW Marriott Resort not far from Yacht Haven. This place is fabulous. We absolutely feasted on the massive buffet and then donned our swimsuits to spend the rest of the day at the pool.  Frank was having some problem with his knee that was causing him considerable pain, and the cool soak was a relief for him. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the water because I’d had some minor surgery at the skin clinic to remove some barnacles, but we loved it there. This became our #2 favorite spot to relax.

It is a darn good thing we had these little getaways because within two days, Frank was immobilized with knee pain. It upset me to watch him try to stand when he got out of bed. We went to Phuket’s Bangkok Hospital where he was immediately met with a wheelchair, quickly registered and then wheeled over to the orthopedic department. Within 45 minutes of our arrival, Frank had been x-rayed and seen by an orthopedic surgeon. Nothing broken showed on the x-ray. The Dr. suspected a torn meniscus, but before performing an MRI, he had Frank fitted for a knee brace and gave him some pills for inflammation and pain. Frank was to return for an MRI if he was not better in two weeks. He limped out of there still in tremendous pain. While I was waiting for Frank to be taken care of I noticed a lot of “Barbie Dolls” walking around and was feeling rather homely in this sea of perfect beauties, then I remembered that a friend had told us the hospital specializes in “plastic surgery vacations”. They are apparently world renowned for their very well done and affordable plastic surgery success rate. I guess since Destiny is getting her own face-lift, we will forego the urge to beautify ourselves, even if it is cheaper than home.

A highlight for us was a visit with our friends Jeff and Jeri Lyn Martin, due in from Denver the next day. They had scheduled a quick stopover in Phuket en route to Myanmar (Burma), and were booked into a hotel called Mom Tri’s Villa Royale at Kata Noi Beach, down at the other end of Phuket Island. We also stayed there so we wouldn’t have to drive 3 hours back and forth to see them. Frank was still relatively infirm, but we decided to go anyway, thinking the R&R away from stepping up and down, on and off the boat would be better for him. Two things happened that caused our little holiday not to be as carefree and enjoyable as we had hoped. First of all, neither the brace nor the medication did anything to ease his pain, and at check-in we found that the hotel was terraced along the side of a cliff. Other than the pool area all of the walkways were stepped. Poor Frank! Secondly, Jeff and Jeri Lyn’s flight encountered problems cutting short their stay, giving us only one day and a night with them. We enjoyed our time at the resort, and the restaurant at Mom Tri’s is out of this world. The day of our friends’ departure, however, we joined them for breakfast and then left immediately for the hospital. Frank’s knee was so swollen and painful he was in misery.

We spent that entire morning waiting to see the doctor who was booked with surgeries for the day. Finally Frank got scheduled to have an MRI at 4 PM. We had several hours to kill so we drove over to the Central Festival Shopping Center where we had lunch and went to a movie – we saw the new James Bond film: Skyfall. Returning to the hospital we were told that Frank’s MRI had been pushed back another 2 hours. We still weren’t complaining because there is no way we would have gotten treatment and service this fast in America. By 6 PM, he had undergone the MRI. The doctor showed us with the results within 30 minutes. Sure enough Frank has a large tear in the meniscus of his right knee – the options were either a cortisone injection that could be done immediately and may or may not help at all, or schedule surgery for the following week.  We had travel plans to Chiang Mai on the day that surgery was available. Frank opted for the injection. So by 8 PM, he had gotten the injection and we were out of there with crutches and more pills. The relief Frank felt from the injection was almost immediate, so we figure there was also some pain medication in with it. Over the next few days it was touch and go but he followed the doctor’s orders to a “T”, resting the leg and letting the cortisone continue to work its magic.  Thankfully, by the time we were to leave for Chiang Mai, he could hobble around without the crutches.