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It is a little after 8:00 on Christmas morning as I write this and already the temperature is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit and I'm sweating from the humidity. I awoke to the sound of motorbikes and tuk-tuks racing by my hotel on the main road connecting Kamala Bay with Patong. Shortly, I will go down to eat breakfast with the owners of the family-run L&S Kamala Bay Village, a place where I truly feel welcomed into the family.

Last night's Christmas Eve celebration dispelled any misgivings I may have had over whether I'd be lonely spending the holiday in a Buddhist country. The hotel (run by Silvio from Italy and his Thai wife) hosted a barbeque for it's guests (currently only myself and a large Swedish family - there are only ten rooms). We feasted under the stars, eating all sorts of grilled beef, chicken, fish, octopus, etc. along with Thai noodles, rice, curries, plus a huge variety of fruits ranging from papaya and mangos to the best-tasting pineapple I've ever enjoyed. In addition to eating as much food as I possibly could (hard to resist Silvio's wife's demands that we take seconds, thirds, and even fourths), I tried a variety of Thai beer (my favorites are Singha and Tiger) and spent much time talking to many of the other people there. Silvio's brother and I played pool and we soon divided into teams with two others for a long tournament (never a very good pool player, I was getting q!
uite good by the last couple of games). The conversations and good cheer lasted far into the night and I made my way up to bed around 1:00. It was a perfect capper to a very busy first two days on Phuket.

My plane on Friday from Bangkok to Phuket had been delayed over three hours because of a "bad motor", but my driver was still waiting for me when I arrived at the airport. The final landing approach was very spectacular with the plane coming in low over the Andaman Sea and then over a beach at the very end of the runway. Lush vegetation, including huge palm trees covered the hills on either side of the runway as we landed and taxiied to the terminal.

It was a long drive from the airport to the hotel and I spent every minute of it gazing at the sights along the roads. I call the traffic here a "beautiful chaos" and there is no simple way to describe it. One has to experience it firsthand to truly appreciate it. I must say that there is a tremendous amount of construction everywhere I've been on Phuket, much of it as a result of last year's tsunami and most of it paid for by the king. Everyone helps everyone else in these building projects.

After settling in at the hotel (and eating the first of many home-cooked meals in the open-air bungalow that serves as the restaurant and main gathering place), I rode on the back of a motorbike into the bustling town of Patong. I spent several hours that night just walking among the shops lining the beach road taking it all in without buying anything (and there's a HUGE variety of things to spend your baht on). I eventually made my way to Bangla Road and had a few beers (Chang, which reminds me of Corona) in the Let's Go Bar on Soi Eric. I caught another motorbike ride back to the hotel from a girl I met at the bar. Pui was to be my personal guide for much of the day on Saturday. She took me first to Kamala Beach where we walked around taking photos and looking at the scenery. A lot of construction was here as well, with grandstands being built for Monday's tsunami memorials.

Our next stop was tiny Laem Son beach. This is a very well-hidden and beautiful strip of sand north of Kamala, reached only from the sea or after descending a very steep trail through the jungle. As a result, very few tourists make it there. After finally getting to the beach, Pui and I climbed atop some rocks at its southern end and sat there drinking our water, asking more questions about each other's lives, and enjoying the spectacular views.

After a lunch consisting of a pineapple and prawn salad covered in a creamy dressing and served in a hollowed-out pineapple, we spent the rest of the day at Patong. We walked along much of the beach looking at the multitudes of tourists. I was surprised at how many women were topless because every single guidebook I saw stressed how offensive and disrespectful this is to the Thai people. There was all sorts of activities going on in addition to the sunbathers such as jet-skiing, parasailing, and riding those long inflatable tubes. Again, there were preparations for the tsunami memorials underway. We spent many hours once again browsing the shops and I bought several t-shirts, a beach towel, and had the images from one of my memory cards burned to CD. In the late afternoon, Pui had to return home so I took my first tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel.

I plan to spend today at the beach, trying to put a tan over the sunburn I've already developed (I forgot to put sunscreen on yesterday when we were walking around). I'll probably go to Kamala as it will be less crowded. It will be nice to do a bit of reading and relaxing as I feel like I've been on the go since I got here.

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