My first few hours in Phuket were unexpectedly filled with a lot of adventure. My taxi driver had no clue where my AirBNB was, so I guided him street-by-street with my GPS. I don’t blame him though; I have yet to see one street with a clearly marked street name. Then again, it’s all in Thai, so maybe my Western-language mind hasn’t even recognized what a street sign might look like.
He drops me off, reluctantly at a crossroads of what looks like a few streets all leading to absolutely nowhere. I only packed two bags for this trip to Thailand, but even so, these two bags were h-e-a-v-y. Especially after carrying them for the next 25 minutes as I get lost going from one dirt road to the next. I end up lapping the same house with three Thai men sitting outside with their dog, and I finally give up and blurt out, “I need your help!”
I show them a video on how to arrive at my AirBNB. Hey, that’s what the host sent me. They look clueless (as do I, since all the streets looked similar), until the very last ten seconds when they excitedly say, “That way! 100 meters!” I thanked them, and did a victory walk in the direction while yelling back at them, “Thank you!” to which they yelled back in their thick accents, “Nice day!”
It’s humid AF outside; the feeling when the sky is unsure if it wants to downpour or sunshine. I find the keys to my AirBNB, not hidden under the mat, or on top of the door, or inside the first plant, but blatantly right in front of the door. Ok, I guess Thailand is pretty safe place for the keys to this 2 bedroom house to be out for anyone to walk on in (which, even that, I feel like Thai people wouldn’t get terribly upset about). Once inside, I rip off my sopping shirt, drop off my bags, and look for any source of water. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a man walking up the stairs.
I greet the man – it’s our AirBNB host. How did he know I literally arrived five minutes ago? He comes inside and tells me about the property, and then tries to show me his map of Top 100 Things to Do in Phuket. I find out he’s Ukrainian, but has lived here for three years to manage properties like this one. After multiple attempts to switch the map from Russian to English, he says he’ll just come back in a few hours and we’ll go get dinner. Fine by me.
I wake up from my nap, and walk to the Bang Tao Beach strip of Thai restaurants, where he greets me on his motorbike. He tells me to hop on, which I’m fine with, since all I saw there were floral-shirted families from the West. We go here:
A strip with nothing but Thai street food. Yes, now this is what I wanted my Thailand experience to be. He orders chicken with rice for $1, and when I ask them what I could eat as a vegetarian, they tell me the rice is cooked with chicken, so they put something in a box from the refrigerator and hand it to me. Oooh, the element of surprise. They also hand me a lemon iced tea that I didn’t order, but sure!
My AirBNB host drives us from dim-lit alleyway to dim-lit alleyway – each filled with Thai families dining and kids running around in the streets. The families start getting further away and I notice we’re making our way into what looks like a jungle on a mountain. Uhhh, where are we going?
I think about every kidnapping movie and what my next step is. Wait, are people up there waiting for me? Hold up, was this all just a set-up? Did we just go through the nice neighborhood to psyche me out? Either I’m being kidnapped or we’re about to hit a really cool spot. It’s always that way.
We go further up the mountain, where there are definitely more animals than humans, so you know we’re getting deep into the unknown. We arrive at someone’s house at the top of the hill – one of those tiny cottages that are in the middle of nowhere – no lights, barely a road. Who’s house is this? What are we doing here? What’s going to happen…to me? I’ve watched way too many Lifetime movies in my mom’s kitchen; I know what could happen here. He says, “c’mon” and I follow – cuz the only other option would be to run off into the middle of the jungle with 14% of my phone battery for the flashlight – and that probably would have been scarier. He sits at the table, opens up his chicken and rice, and…ok, wait, that’s it? Am I a horrible person for thinking all of this?
Oh wow, oh wowwwww…
First for this view over Phuket’s Bang Tao Beach, and second for…my “vegetarian” meal?
Mmm, my vegetarian salad. I literally got plain leaves of lettuce.
We spend the next hour chatting about our life stores – me, from Indiana, New York, LA – and him, from Ukraine and Thailand. He speaks with his strong Ukrainian-Russian accent, cutely emphasizing the wrong syllables in words like comfortable. Not comfortable, but comfortable. He tells me about
winter Vinter in Ukraine, and winter Vinter in Thailand. He’d ask me alarming questions like, “Health insurance, you have?” I’d say “no, do I need it?” And he’d respond, “Yes, well, here, cobras.” And I’d quickly shuffle my feet.
There were moments of silence due to the language barrier, but it gave me time to appreciate the view of Phuket from this hidden viewpoint that I’m sure not many tourists get the opportunity to see. I’m lucky to have him as my AirBNB host in Phuket. I mean, I just got off the airplane a few hours ago – what more could I ask for?