Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Presents!

Michael and I exchanged Christmas presents on Christmas day and I was nearly bursting with anticipation.  I do love presents and exchanges and I'm pretty bad at keeping a secret.
 Only thing missing this year is that we didn't have a Christmas tree in the villa.

Michael got me beautiful diamond earrings in the shapes of four-petaled flowers.  Love!  They are dainty and very, very sparkly.  I conveniently came on this trip without earrings (it was meant to be!) so without any further ado I popped them into my ears.
My Christmas presents for Michael were quite myriad.  I got him a pair of Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, an overnight renewal serum from the LAB Series for men, an iPad cover in light blue and a t-shirt in the same color blue that he already owns (pretty easy to see that his favorite color is blue, right?).

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Food at the SALA Phuket Resort and Spa (A Dire Situation)

Our room at the SALA on a rare sunny and bright morning:
But it didn't matter that the sun didn't always come out and shine steadily because our room was just so lovely.  In the evening, our tub and pool seemed just magical.
Isn't that romantic?  That chandelier over the bathtub and the lights in the pool are strokes of genius.   However, the major problem with the resort is that their food was not very good.  At all.  And that is actually a pretty difficult feat in Thailand, I think.  We ordered room service on the first night and I was pretty appalled.

On the second night we headed to the small night market adjacent to the SALA to try some more "local" fare.  We ended up going to Krua Pru Jeh Son seafood three times during our stay.

The owner of the restaurant, who called Michael "boss," had an unhealthy obsession with firecrackers, wore a hot pink shirt and a cowboy hat and had a delightful grin and kind demeanor.  After lunch at his restaurant the second day, he let us borrow his scooter to go to Turtle Village (the nearby shopping mall) to pick up some fruit and groceries.  When we returned, he refused payment.  We were shocked that he just handed the keys to his motorbike to us, no questions asked!

On the first night I tried their shrimp with lime sauce, which was fantastic.
Michael had their red curry with chicken.
I also had their glass noodle salad (as I have been on a glass noodle salad kick this entire trip) but it was not as good as the one I had at Pasai Seafood in Koh Yao Noi.  But it was still good.
The owner brought over a plate of fried dough as a complimentary dessert.  It was very tasty.
I went to the same restaurant for lunch the next day.  I got a spicy and sour lemongrass and galangal seafood soup with glass noodles (see, the glass noodle obsession continues).  It consisted of mushrooms, squid, shrimp, tomatoes and my requested glass noodles.
This is a shot of the local market during the day.  The property of the SALA resort abuts the public beach and these vendors likely have some permit or ability to set up shop here.  Thank goodness they were there, because without them I think the SALA would have been too remote and it would have felt too sanitized and stifling without some of the local flavor and food.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas in Phuket - Our Relaxing Thailand Vacation Continues

So, we came to Phuket knowing that it would be all kinds of touristy and crowded, but I think we did right in picking the SALA Phuket Resort and Spa in Mai Khao beach, on the northern end of the island (north of the airport), near the JW Marriott, Renaissance and Anantara resorts.  Of all of these, I most like the one we chose.  The Anantara does not seem to have its own beach access and the Marriott and Renaissance both look more crowded and were more expensive.

Plus, check out our individual pool villa!  Frankly I have never seen such a big personal pool and I love it.  It blows my mind that nearly every villa here has their own pool this size.  Woot woot.

Our check in at the resort was very nice.  I had just purchased a yum khao lam (sticky rice stick) and two green mangoes (but I couldn't help myself and immediately ate those on the car ride so have no photographic proof) at the pier when we landed from Koh Yao Noi.  The hotel greeted us with welcome drinks and two beautiful fresh fragrant flower wristlets (and if you know me at all, you know I'm a complete sucker for that).  The only bad thing was that they had me down as Mr. Allison.  Oy.
 I could see how the decor may not be for everyone - it is a very modern aesthetic, with beige walls, gray dividers, stone pathways and flinty concrete.
 But I like it.

 The resort tried to get into the holiday spirit, with a massive Christmas tree made out of coconuts.  During the day:
At night:
On Christmas Eve they threw a complimentary party for all resort guests with beer, champagne, wine and cocktails and some canapes.  There was also a caroling performance by some local school children, which was very sweet.

The SALA has its own beach, and it is quite a spot of paradise.  Sure, there are no beach chairs on the beach but I don't mind that one bit.  Come on in, the water's really nice.  Our first day:

 Here is a 360 degree panoramic.  See?  Michael and I were the only ones on the beach.  Amazing.
We ventured down on our second day when the sun came out for a brief spell.  
 The amazing thing about this place which I can't quite get over is how many pine trees there are.  Pine trees on a beach?  Whoever would have thought...I don't know why but the whole thing feels like summer camp to me.  A really luxurious, exotic, beautiful summer camp.
 The sun has been popping out for some bits of our stay, though it was still shy and playing peek a boo most of the time.
 The resort has multiple pools.  I really like how quiet it is.

The breakfasts are included and so far I've been having a blast with the fresh fruit, pancakes and eggs made to order each morning.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas From Thailand! -- Koh Yao Noi

We departed on Monday for Phuket, to start a week of holiday fun and frolic in Thailand!  Unfortunately the weather has not been cooperating.  December is usually the sunniest and brightest time of year in Thailand, and instead it has been cold and gray and rainy.  We saw a little bit of sun yesterday but that was an anomaly.  This has been very disappointing, to say the least.

We landed in Phuket after a three hour direct flight (only way to do it) on Thai Airways, a flight packed full of family members and other Hong Kong vacationgoers excited to start their Christmas vacations.  We were a little bit tired of the multiple announcements on the plane -- they were very zealous and repeated everything in Thai, English, Mandarin and Cantonese.  Too many languages!

From Phuket airport we made our way directly via an airport meter taxi to the Bang Rong pier, on Phuket's east coast.  We were charged a bogus "entrance fee" of 10 baht per person - a "tourist fee" to visit this pier!  It was so ludicrous that only tourists were charged to access this pier but the Muslim woman manning the booth was adamant so what could we do - we paid the fee.
 We took the "Navy Dream" speedboat, which left at 2:30 pm.  The journey took us just over a half hour and cost 200 baht per person.  The boat made two stops, one on the Koh Yao Yai island and then one on the island we were going to, Koh Yao Noi.  We sat at the front of the boat (where the wind whips you hard); this was our view heading out of the harbor:
 Looking back at some of the other boats:
 Koh Yao Noi is billed as a sleepy, still undiscovered, only lightly inhabited small island east of Phuket, with a fabulous view of the limestone karsts that dot the Andaman Sea.  It definitely has good views of the limestone karsts, but other than that I would beg to differ from the other descriptions.  The entire island is still rustic and has a chill, sabai sabai feel to it... except for the absolute nonstop construction everywhere.  Eeesh.

The first night we were so close to the ring road (there is only one main road on the island) that we were practically swallowing tuk tuk fumes.  These are the grounds of the Villaguna residences.  Our villa was in the next section over and built where the hedges in this picture grew.

But the view was pretty great.

 The view from the restaurant.  It was nice to sip on a lime soda or a beer and hear the water in the background.

 We had a lovely barbecued chicken and rice lunch on a nice stretch of beach.  The sky was very cloudy but you could still make out the islands protruding in the distance.

 The chicken and that sauce... so good.
 The mandatory coconut.
 For dinner one night we went to the pirate boat on Pasai Beach to try Pasai Seafood.  The restaurant during the day:

The restaurant at night.  It was very romantic to sit on the beach.
 I got a grilled shrimp with garlic bits.  This one was only okay (the shrimp was tough and not very juicy and the garlic crunchy bits were distracting).
 And a really tasty glass noodle seafood salad.  This one was very good.
 We took a scooter from our hotel and drove around the small island exploring.  They have a very unique kind of gas station here.  What color do you want?
 No frills about pumping gas either - it's truly a clear tube and a metal pipe!
Overall, I think we made the most of two days on a small island in paradise... despite our misgivings about the weather and the construction that plagued us everywhere, let's face it, complainers will complain but this view was still pretty sweet and we were still really lucky to be able to witness it.