GoldCoast TMA Member
Frontline at Travel Health Doctors, Southport, Senior Receptionist Ilana Capan, recently embarked on a 7 day girls shopping, relaxing and more shopping trip to Phuket and Koh Samui in Thailand.
Travelling with her sister and friend, Ilana was keen to soak up some culture and also visit Maya Island – backdrop to movie, The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio.
Her first trip to Thailand, Ilana stepped off the plane in Phuket and immersed herself in the hive of activity which is synonymous with the tourist hotspot.
Struck by the friendliness of the Thai people Ilana and the girls laughed as each Thai greeted them with a welcoming “Oh I remember you!!”
Being a short trip, the girls were keen to hunt out some bargains. They didn’t have to look far. Patong is a tapestry of multi dimensional modes of shopping including high end shopping malls and boutiques, selling the highest quality Thai silks, furniture etc. However the hub remains the Beach Road Markets – a vibrant and eclectic mix of local stalls stretching along the entire beachfront and through the numerous lanes and alleyways cris-crossing the area. The area particularly comes alive at night where the sense of chaos and festive atmosphere is pumping. Enthralled by the range and choice, Ilana said many of the items are counterfeit ranging from fake Cartia watches through to Jimmy Choo shoes and Samsonite luggage.
“It’s a unique shopping experience as you walk up to a small roadside stall front and then the owners persuade you to walk behind this into air conditioned rooms stocked floor to ceiling with merchandise…quite a surprise” she said.
Despite the revenue generated for the local Thais from these stores, officially, selling counterfeit items is against the law in the area and at any time the police and/or military can move in, shut the stores and fine the owners.
A storeowner with heart
This situation was witnessed by Ilana and the girls. After happily purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of Samsonite bags, their storeowner offered to mind them while the girls went for a bite to eat. By the time they returned, it was raining solidly and the entire lanes and roadways of stalls were completely shut up as the police had arrived. Thinking there was no hope of finding the Thai storeowner again, frustrated; the girls gave up their search and left for their hotel. On their way back however they were incredulous to see their Thai storeowner by the side of the road, standing on his own in the downpour, with the Samonsite bags beside him. He was so happy to see them… and they him!
With shopping behind her and despite stormy weather, Ilana was keen to see Maya Bay. With the large boats taking three hours to take tourists to the island, Ilana instead found a man with a smaller boat willing to take ten passengers. Half an hour into the trip though lost in the sea’s crashing waves, all ten on board were seriously sea sick and there was no choice but to turn the boat back to shore. Maya Bay will have to wait till Ilana’s next trip. “I can see why people take the slow boats – the sea is so choppy – don’t risk a dinghy!” she said.
After elephant trekking, the girls concluded their trip with a night out at Fanta Sea – an entertainment experience which included a performance similar to Circ De Solae. It left a lasting impression from their trip as it reflected the simplicity and beauty which is so intrinsically central to the fabric of Thai culture.
In Thailand they sell gasoline on the street everywhere and a tuk tuk has no seat belts!