What is the cost of a typical hotel on the beach in Phuket…Why bother to travel? Astounding pricing!

Prior to entering the grounds of the Friendship Beach Waterfronof esort we asked permission to tour the property to take photos.

In light of the recent bombings in Phuket, it may seem ironic that we’re writing about how reasonable it is to stay in Phuket for a holiday/vacation for the cost conscience traveler.

The entrance to the spa on the opposite side of the parking lot at Friendship Beach Waterfront Resort.

It only takes watching a bit of news to see that murder, terrorism and other heinous crimes are occurring everywhere in the world, not just in Phuket, which statistically has had less murders than many major cities throughout the US.

With this knowledge one can easily say, “Why bother to travel?” 

The resort has a good sized pool and Jacuzzi facing the ocean.

The answer for those with the “travel bug” is clear, no where in the world is free of risk. If one is to fulfill their dreams of world travel, we can only anticipate that now may be better than later.

Alternate view of the pool.  It was a cloudy day, but plenty of guests lounged by the pool.

With soaring prices, airline rate and luggage hikes and failing economies worldwide, waiting for some magical period sometime in the future may leave those hungry for the adventure sorry they didn’t push themselves to do it now. Who knows what the future holds in this uncertainty surrounding us? 

When we traveled to certain parts of the world in 2013, 2014, we sensed an element of heightened risk at the time. We’d never have chosen to visit many of those countries at this time when so much has transpired over these past few years.

An outdoor Thai massage area.

And yet, looking back, we’re grateful for the experiences, many we discovered as life changing and enriching in ways we can hardly describe, having added an element to our world travels like none other that we’ll ever experience in the future.

A waterfall and pond on the grounds of the resort, next to the spa area.

Sure, at the time we were on alert and highly sensitive to the risks we faced, with such situations as a security guard on our bus in Egypt wearing a black Hugo Boss suit with a collapsible Uzi in a holster underneath his jacket. Now, we’d hardly consider such a trip.

We were excited to see a Koi pond.

Then again, here we are in Phuket, Thailand and the risks may be as many as where we’ve traveled in the past. Do these facts impact our future travels? Only in regard to specific areas in countries we’ll visit. We all know from the media, no place is safe. 

Even the most secluded of country villages fall prey to horrific crime and devastation. Sure, we felt safer living on an alpaca farm in New Zealand as opposed to riding on a bus in Egypt or Turkey. 

As we approached the pond, the fish swam close , mouths open, hoping for food.

As we’ve mentioned on many occasions, we prefer remote areas away from most big cities with a more  quiet life, reduced traffic and with less outrageous commotion in the streets. And yet, next March we’ll spend 40 days in Sydney, certainly a big city with little fear. Although even that seemingly safe city has also fallen prey to terrorism over these past years. We can’t live in a bubble.

Soon, as is the case for this resort guest, we’ll be lounging in a chaise by a pool and the ocean.

As for Phuket, we decided to do a little research about the area for anyone who may consider this location at some point in the future. The best way to do this was to select a popular resort in the area and check it out which we did a few days ago.

The spa lounge.

We chose what we thought was a mid-range resort located directly on the ocean, Friendship Beach Waterfront Resort when most of the more upscale resorts require a reservation and passports to get beyond the guarded gates, neither of which we had at the time.

We easily gained access to the property after we showed our business card and explained to the reception staff we were preparing a story about the property and would be taking photos. They happily obliged. Security was at a minimum as we perused the property. (Had the 11 bombings in Thailand not occurred recently, most likely, we’d never have noticed a lack of security).

Another decorative pool on the property.

The resort was packed when we later learned it was promoted as “Phuket’s lowest waterfront room rates” which after a little online research we discovered starts as low as US $25, THB 868 per night!

An exercise and lounge area by the spa.

Moments ago, I checked the link for Hotels.com on our website to find a rate for
Friendship Beach Waterfront Resort for only US $19, THB 659! That’s less than the cost of a low priced hostel!  (These rates may be seasonal and higher priced during peak holidays, etc.).

These rates include free WiFi free parking, air con, daily maid service and more. Had we not visited the property in person, we’d have thought the online photos were deceiving. But, after our visit, before we knew the prices, we both admitted we’d happily have stayed at such a property. It was a surprising experience, one we’re glad we took the time to investigate.

Walkway back to the reception area.

Today, Monday, we’re staying put as I continue in my recovery, some days up, some days down, each day providing us with enjoyment as we live our lives in appreciation for the present and ultimately, for the future.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, August 22, 2015:

The sign outside the huge permanent farmer’s market in downtown Cairns, Rusty’s Markets, a popular tourist attraction as well as a favorite shopping site for locals. For more photos, please click here.

Sorrow in Paris reverberates throughout the world…No place in the world is safe…

This modern sailboat has been anchored in the bay in front of us since yesterday afternoon. We suspected the crew decided to stay put for a few days in the inclement weather.

With no TV in Fiji, we’ve been watching and listening to the news online at a variety of outlets. The sorrowful loss of life as a result of the horrific terrorist attacks in France has brought the world to its knees in anguish and pain over the pointless deaths of innocent people.

This sorrow, as continually experienced by citizens throughout the world and in the US in 2001 and other periods in time, is only exacerbated by the reality that preventing future attacks seems to be an insurmountable undertaking as the toxicity of this faction escalates.

Although we choose not to use our site as a political or religious medium to express certain views, we can’t avoid expressing our heartfelt condolences and prayers for those who lost their lives, for healing those who were injured, and for the loved ones who bear the agony of such losses and sorrow.

What a beautiful sea as seen from our area!

Having been in Paris only 15 months ago, while there, past horrifying events in the city came to mind as we took the train to Versailles, dined in cafes,]popoo and lived for two weeks in a boutique hotel. No matter how mindful a local citizen or tourist maybe there’s no specific location safe from these attacks.

These types of risks are prevalent in most parts of the world as we easily witness from news reports from many countries. No country is exempt from the wrath of these groups and their indoctrinated often young people, who fall prey to the cult-like belief that death for themselves and others is better for this world than precious life.

How any God would espouse such destruction is beyond the comprehension of any of the majority of the world’s citizens. The promises made to these “destroyers of life and liberty” must be within a realm none of us can clearly understand.

Passing boats always catches our attention, as in this case of a private yacht.

Oh, we could philosophize on why this is possible but, we won’t go there today. Instead, per the intent of our ongoing journey, we think in terms of where we’ll travel in the future and in continuing with our intent to stay away from big cities when possible. 

As Tom always says, “The closer you get to tall buildings, the greater risk lies therein.” As travelers, we find it important as much as possible to live in more remote areas which in essence fulfills our personal goals in any case…stay clear of traffic, noise, and congestion.

But, for many, this is impossible when their lives dictate they work and live in vulnerable locations. Then again, no suburb or remote location is entirely safe. When we lived in Kenya for three months in the “suburb” of Diani Beach, our house was guarded 24 hours a day as well as being in a gated community of 18 homes, as well as being behind 8 foot, 2.4 meter, high iron gates and fences surrounding the property.

The clouds seldom disappear entirely. Over the past several days it’s been very hot, humid, and rainy although today, it’s a little cooler, although cloud-covered.

Entering the strip mall to grocery shop, armed guards inspected the vehicle, using a mirror on a pole with wheels to check underneath the car looking for bombs. We were frisked and our bags inspected as we entered the market and the Vodafone store.

While we lived in Kenya, the attack on a mall in Nairobi occurred. Although we were far from that location, we realized how vulnerable locals and travelers may be in any location. A month after we left Diani Beach, a restaurant where dined regularly was bombed. 

No place is safe. Even when we cruised through the Middle East, our ship was guarded by military vessels as we entered dangerous waters. Looking back, we’re happy to have had these experiences and are glad they are behind us now. That’s not to say, we’d never return to some of those areas but for now, we tread carefully in our future planning. 

Beautiful tree hanging over the inlet, we spotted when we visited the village of Vuodomo.

One could make themselves crazy with angst and worry about such risks. Instead, we think in terms of those who’ve suffered at the hands of these factions and can only attempt to do our best to be safe as we continue on.

In our home country, the US, these attacks continue in both larger and smaller cities and again, no place is exempt from these risks. 

We all have our thoughts and opinions as to how this should or could be contained, none of which we chose to share. In this PC world we live in today, many would disagree regardless of the stance we may take. We each have the privilege of our own opinions, sharing them as we see fit. 

Unless collectively, we take a stance to effect a global change, individually our opinions are just that. Change is possible. It always has been but those in control need to take the risks of forfeiting their “popularity” and rethink the world’s greater good. Therein, lies the answer. Who’s willing to do what’s necessary?

Photo from one year ago, November 15, 2014:

As the sun began to wane behind us in the mountains, we had a glimpse of a colorful sky. For more details, as we began planning for the upcoming flight to the Big Island where our family was coming for the holidays, please click here.

An unreal story we never told from our time in South Africa….Newspaper story we posted one year ago today…

Still wanting to post photos after our “staying in” weekend, we walked the steep steps to the rooftop for the following shots. That’s our laundry on the clothesline which Madame washes every few days.

We hope all of our Easter observing readers had a wonderful day.  Staying indoors due to the crowds, we enjoyed another excellent Madame Zahra made Moroccan dinner minus the spices. After dinner we watched another good good movie, “The Railway Man,” worth viewing.

Hopefully today, the spring break and Easter weekend crowds will thin out and we’ll head out to the souk and Big Square for a hearty much-needed walk and dinner at one of our few favorite restaurants. We’ve exhausted all our dining options in the Medina serving non-spicy foods that Tom will eat, although I continue to order an occasional spicy tagine.

The newer model washer is located in a closet on the rooftop which we hadn’t noticed until yesterday.

As for the story we never told of a situation that occurred in South Africa, it’s not an uncommon story in certain parts of the world. Why didn’t we tell the story at that time? I suppose, we didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything negative about a country we love in so many ways while we were living there.

As time has passed, we’ve come to realize that it’s important to share this story for other travelers should they encounter similar circumstances along the way. Please understand, the telling of this story in no way diminishes our views of the wonders of South Africa or its people. 

Of the dozens of countries we’ve visited thus far, South Africa will remain in our hearts forever, which we long to visit again someday in our travels. This story is not a reflection of the people of South Africa in general, only a fraction of its society that angers and frustrates its countrymen as it did us. Here we go!

It was a beautiful day yesterday, although so windy that the plants inside the courtyard two floors below were moving in the wind.

It was January 18, 2014.  We were driving a rental car, returning from our delightful three-day stay at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge in the Blyde River area of Limpopo, South Africa. We’d had a glorious three days, but we were equally excited to return to Marloth Park to see the animals and our friends.  What a fabulous feeling, leaving one amazing place to return to an even more amazing place. We were on Cloud 9 to say the least. 

First, we were on our way to the airport in Nelspruit to return the rental car after one month’s use when the rental car company refused to extend our contract for the same rate they had charged for the first month. 

Look at that blue sky!

As a result, we decided, rather than sign up for a similar deal at another rental car company, we’d to have Okee Dokee drive us around for our remaining time in Marloth Park.  She’d captured our hearts and we decided that we’d rather put money in her pocket than a rental car company with its outrageous fees. 

We’d coordinated the trip to Blyde River to coincide with the date we were required to return the rental car. We began the drive down the mountain to make our way to the airport where Okee Dokee would meet us for the 90 minute drive back to Marloth Park. 

The household staff regularly water to plants on the rooftop as well as in the courtyard.

About an hour out of Blyde River Canyon, Tom was moving along the well-paved roads at a good clip, when suddenly a policeman stepped out onto the road signaling us to stop.

What could possibly be wrong? The first thought that entered my mind was the possibility of a customary passport check. Tom thought otherwise, suspicious that we were being stopped at the foot of a long hill where many lowering speed limit signs were posted in rapid succession.

Tom was hanging out with me on the rooftop as I shot these photos.

Tom immediately handed him our passports, waiting to see what he wanted. The cop kept asking, “When is your flight?” The reason for this question, Tom surmised, was to determine how desperate we were, the shorter the time to our flight, the more it was going to “cost us.”

Tom explained we didn’t have to fly anywhere that day and we were staying in South Africa until February 28th. Again, the cop asked, “What time is your flight?” 

Holding the camera over the high wall of the rooftop (over my head) I shot this photo of the sheltered roof of a riad next door.

When again, Tom explained that we had no flight to catch, he cop said we were being “ticketed” for speeding without providing any specifics. He had no ticket book in hand.

He proceed to explain that we’d have to go back to the nearest town to the police station to pay the fine. Still, no ticket was presented. The drive back to that town was 45 minutes each way and there was no way in the world we were going back there. 

A man in his gazebo on the roof of an adjoining house.

Okee Dokee was already on her way from Marloth Park to pick us up at the airport. Even if she hadn’t been, there was still no way we were going to drive an extra 90 minutes, spending what may have proved to been several hours in order to pay an arbitrary fine.

But, we also knew there was no way were we taking the risk of getting into a verbal altercation with the cop which could potentially get us arrested.

The little grill Madame uses when she cooks the grilled chicken on the roof.  We seldom request it since we don’t want her to have to go up there to cook.

Diplomatically, I interjected, “What would it take to avoid us going back to the police station in Hoedspruit?”

The cop paused for only a second, making a feeble attempt to make it appear as if he had no plan in mind, “Four hundred Rand,” he blurts out.

I nudged Tom whispering, “Give him the 400 Rand and let’s get out of here!”

Tom pulled out the bills while I asked facetiously, “Can we have a receipt to prove we’ve paid?”

We also discovered the water storage tanks which are hooked up to the city water supply.  We use bottled water for drinking and brushing our teeth.

The cop grumbled, “No receipt!” 

Tom was furious. It wasn’t the amount of money at US $38.09 that frosted him. It was the fact that it was a bribe. Plain and simple. 

Slowly, he pulled out back onto the road as I watched the cop put the money in his pocket his eye on us  as we drive away, perhaps looking for another “supposed” infraction.

The hot water heater is also located in a closet on the rooftop level.

When we retold this story to our Marloth Park friends, they said we should have negotiated the 400 rand down to 200 rand. But, under the circumstances, being our first “bribery” experience, we’d decided to not push our luck and be done with it. 

With this experience behind us, would we act any differently if this happened again? I don’t think so. The possibility of being arrested in a foreign county is frightening enough. 

We wished we could see over the tall wall.

Was Tom speeding?  Possibly, a small amount over the speed limit as a result of coming down the steep road.  Is that an excuse? Not at all. Were we handed a paper ticket to pay on the spot, we’d have put our tail between our legs and paid, lesson learned. 

None of us know what situations we’ll encounter when traveling outside our home country or at times, in our home country. There are many risks that we both take seriously every time we walk out the door. 

This decorator item is on the wall in the landing of the third floor.

I no longer carry a purse or wallet, keeping only a lipstick in my pocket. Tom secures his wallet with little cash in zipped and hard to reach pockets.  We each have our own credit cards should one of us be ripped off, we’d still have credit cards we can use while others were being replaced.

Each time we head out, we’re on alert for potential situations such as this. We realize and suspect that had Tom not been speeding, we could easily have been stopped anyway when no evidence of speeding was presented to us.

The steps on this brick stairway from the third to the second floor, are uneven with many of them very deep.  It surprises us how Madame Zahra easily navigates them several times each day when I gingerly make my way down.

From that point on we observed similar police “setups” at the foot of every hill, wondering who’d be their next target. Not us. We crawled the rest of the way.

So, there’s our first bribery story. It may not be our last. We carry on with the hope that we can avoid these types of situations in the future. Although, we accept the fact that nothing we can ever do or plan will make us exempt from experiencing situations such as this.

Happy Monday to all. Have a good day!


Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2013:

All these prior photos were taken with the inexpensive Samsung camera resulting in less than ideal photos. This was the view overlooking one of the dining areas on the Norwegian Epic a few days before the storm. For details of the story from that date, please click here.

The story we posted one year ago today: