This was not my first time in Thailand. In fact, this was not even my first time in Phuket. However, it has been quite a while between visits. Having been brought up in Malaysia, I am used to pollution and I would not even blink twice at the thought of eating at hawker stores (even next to drains sometimes! I know, yuk right?) because I grew up eating hawker food. I pride myself on having a polluted and hence “strong” stomach. I am also used to seeing a family of four with 2 children under the age of 5 sandwiched between their parents on a tiny motorbike travelling with no helmets in Malaysia’s crazy traffic. Back then, I always thought that that was the norm. Poverty was just a part of everyday life and scenes like that never really made a strong impact on me because it was everywhere. This probably explains why my previous memory of Phuket is quite an ordinary one. However this time around, Phuket definitely made an impact on me.
Phuket was not a destination on my holiday radar. Since moving to Australia, I don’t remember the last time I made an effort to travel to a third world or even a developing country like Thailand. The only reason why I visited Phuket was because it was free – literally. During our stay at the Hilton Arcadia resort, we decided to go to Patong (one of the biggest townships in Phuket) for dinner one night. We went on a tuk tuk ride and cruised through the crazy night life of Patong. What I saw during the ride was probably nothing that is unimaginable – in fact, it is EVERYTHING that you would imagine of a typical tourist hotspot in tropical climate thriving on western tourism. No less. However, actually ‘seeing’ it made an impact. We drove through heaps of dingy massage parlours and I saw girls that were probably in their teens massaging everyone’s dirty feet for maybe AUD$2, if that. Then there were the prostitutes and the beggars and people selling food by the roadside for measly amounts of money. It definitely puts things into perspective. What I have living in Australia is NOT the norm. Just like what I used to see in Malaysia was also NOT the norm. But that is the problem isn’t it? When you are constantly surrounded by the same things, it starts to become the norm even when it isn’t. This trip to Phuket will always serve as a healthy reminder as to how lucky I am to be in Australia.
Contrast that with the paradise that is Trisara. Before arriving in Phuket, J and I already planned to stay an extra 3 nights in Phuket and we were deciding between Amanpuri and Trisara (luxury resorts in Phuket). In the end we decided on Trisara mainly because it was newer. It cost us a bomb and remains one of the most expensive resorts we have ever stayed in. I must say I felt a little guilty staying in such a luxurious resort after witnessing so much poverty on the island. Arriving at Trisara was like stepping into a TOTALLY different world. It was luscious, it was luxurious, it quite literally felt like paradise on earth.
But perhaps Trisara is not really paradise, but yet another desire that I just sought to fulfill. Reflecting on that makes me realise that its all relative. I think I am already living in paradise. Australia is truly one of the luckiest countries in the world, and I count myself very lucky to be living here.
I’m wearing seafolly bathers and a beautiful robe my bestie bought me to wear during my wedding day.