Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Phuket

Vacation Highlights

Dave and I enjoyed an amazing and relaxing vacation in Thailand. We stayed at the Apsara Beachfront Resort & Villas. The resort was on Khao Lak Beach. Here is a picture of the resort from the beach.

It was a very quiet and secluded area of Phuket. We were about an 1.5 hour drive from the airport. The closest hotel/resort was a little over a mile away. Between the two resorts we could walk the beach and often not see anyone. We would usually walk about 2 miles down the beach in one direction and pass three resorts and maybe a dozen people. It was so quiet and peaceful.

About a half mile in the other direction was a little cove with several Thai longboats. We would walk that direction daily so I could take pictures.

Besides enjoying long walks on the beach, we enjoyed lounging by the pool at our villa.

Fabric in Thailand is excellent quality and low price. Therefore, it is very reasonable to have clothing made to order. We decided to have a few custom items of clothing made for each of us. It was a whole new experience for both of us. We selected pieces we liked from style magazines and then picked our fabrics. We were measured and the clothes were made to order! We returned a couple times to have the clothes fitted perfectly. The fabrics were “Armani” brand and the manufacturers (seamstress) were budget prices. My skirts and dresses look like Banana Republic or J.Crew and I paid Target prices. Dave’s suits were the same. I’ll be sure to mention when I/we where them and snap a picture.

The food at the resort was delicious. We decided last minute to upgrade to the all inclusive option. For less than $50/day per person we had all we could eat and drink. I should mention most drinks started at $5.00. We had everything from fresh fruit, Thai staples, pizza, seafood, etc. Plus, wine, beer and cocktails.

The customer service at the resort was beyond superb. We were always greeted with a happy hello. At our favorite restaurant on the resort, they would reserve our dinner table each evening at 19:00. Our favorite bartender quickly learned our drink order. We truly felt like we were living the life of luxury.

The resort grounds were immaculate. Beautiful gardens, lush palm trees and sparkling pools were everywhere.

Evening sunsets were also a highlight. With such seclusion, it was hard to always find a person to take our picture. Fortunately, I bought a ¥100 selfie stick before we left. I was able to turn it into a makeshift tripod and with the use of my Apple Watch, I could snap our photo! A few of my favorites.

We celebrated Christmas, Dave’s birthday, and New Year’s Eve. All were fun. My favorite was definitely Dave’s birthday. We had a private dinner under a cabana on the beach. While we ate dinner, a live band was playing in the background. After dinner, we danced on the beach and before too long, the band sang happy birthday to Dave and brought out a cake. To top off the evening, they brought Dave a wish balloon to light. It was a perfect evening. I was so happy and had so much fun, I felt like it was my birthday!

One last little thing I want to mention. Blame the science teacher in me. On the beach were these tiny crabs called sand bubbler crabs. They come out of their burrows at low tide and create tiny sand bubbles as they search for food. It was so interesting how they made perfect little circles around their burrows.

The beach was covered with them during low tide. They would get to work and put bubbles everywhere. It was pretty cool. I took a short video. When I zoomed in at the end, you can see the crabs running around.


This vacation was truly a trip of a lifetime. We enjoyed the opportunity to relax, take long walks on the beach, talk and laugh. We had no schedule or agenda. We just enjoyed time together.

Now that we are back in Japan and have returned to our routine, I will have more adventures to share. Thanks for waiting patiently while we took a couple weeks to relax.

Out of the Office

Dave and I are flying to Phuket, Thailand today to enjoy a little R&R on the beach. I will be out of the office during our vacation.

Thank you for all of your love and support in 2017. I appreciate you following our adventures and look forward to sharing more with you in 2018. Please enjoy a happy holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sea Canoe Excursion

The second excursion of our trip was to visit the sea caves of Phang Nga Bay. For this trip we booked with John Gray’s Sea Canoe. John Gray first discovered the sea caves of Phang Nga Bay in 1989. Phang Nga Bay is located north east of Phuket. Again, a round trip transfer was included in our tour. We were picked up from our hotel around 11:30 and arrived at the marina about an hour later. Once we boarded the boat and got underway, we enjoyed a Thai style lunch. It was delicious. The views from the boat to our first kayak spot were amazing. It was a nice change to be on a larger boat. More of a peaceful transit. 

Shortly after lunch, we were introduced to our professional guide who paddled us through Phang Nga Bay’s “Tidal Nape Sea Caves” in a custom designed sea kayak. The “Tidal Nape Sea Caves or Hongs” are literally inside Phang Nga Bay’s marine limestone karstic islands. (Hong is the Thai word for room) Our guide’s name was Friend. He spoke very good English, was an excellent paddler and shared with us so much information about the area we were exploring. Here are a few pictures from our first kayak excursion. The cave was small with only one way to enter and exit.

After the first cave and hong, we went back to the main boat where we were given a snack and a little free time before preparing to go back onto the kayak for our second trip. The second trip was even more breathtaking. The hong was very large and the tide was low. This gave us the opportunity to get out of the kayak and walk around.

Friend took us out the other side of the hong and we were able to have more beautiful views and up close shots of “bowling pin” island and “elephant rock.”

We returned to the boat and enjoyed dinner and more free time. 


After dinner, Friend helped us make a “Krathong.” A Krathong is loosely translated to mean “to float a basket.” Our Krathong was made of a banana plant stem as the base and folded banana leaves as decorative accents. We also added orchids and a chrysanthemum. While Dave and I folded the banana leaves, Friend made two birds out of unopened orchid flowers. The Krathong is also decorated with candles and incense. The Krathong represents so many meanings, to keep it short, I’m going with prosperity, happiness and luck.

As the sun was setting, we returned to our kayaks and went into the “bat cave.” Appropriately named because there were many bats hanging from the ceiling. The tide was already rising when we entered the cave and we had to duck at the entrance. We made our way into the hong where we had a just a small bit of light left in the sky. We brought with us our Krathong to float in the water.

Friend lit the candles then Dave and I made a wish as we placed it floating on the water. We watched the Krathong float and eventually the candles extinguished. It was beautiful and a very spiritual moment.

On our way out, Friend took us to one of the darkest spots in the cave. Here he instructed us to move our hands through the water. We were able to see dinoflagellates (bio-luminescent plankton). It was beyond cool. To make the experience even better, Friend hopped out of the kayak and filled his shirt with water making it even easier to see the bio-luminescent plankton. It was another science teacher’s dream come true. I have taught about dinoflagellates for years. It was pretty cool to actually be able to see and experience them myself and with Dave.

The tide was coming in while were were inside the cave. Leaving the cave, Dave and I had to lay all the way down to make it through the exit. At this point we were so glad to have Friend paddling for us. He was definitely an expert. The caves were dark and only his headlamp lit the way. We saw two other people in kayaks (not part of our group) who were struggling to paddle against the current. Other members of our group provided a towline and helped the out of the cave. It would be scary to be stuck in the dark bat cave for six hours until the tide receded!

We returned to the boat and then to the marina. This tour was significantly different than the first one. Leaving later in the day meant there were a lot less crowds. Also, using a larger and slower boat to go to the islands was more peaceful. Exploring around on the kayak was definitely more peaceful than the speedboat. Both tours were unforgettable and a highlight to our vacation.


Phi Phi Island Excursion

Phi Phi (pronounced PP) Island is a group of islands (Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley) off the south east coast of Phuket. They became a very popular tourist destination after the filming of “The Beach” in 2000 with Leonardo DiCaprio. We went on a tour of the islands that included a round trip transfer from our hotel, snacks, snorkeling and lunch. We rode on a speedboat enabling us to get close to many viewpoints and docking off the coast of the islands. I took a picture of the brochure to show you our route.

The trip from the hotel to the Marina took about an hour. During this trip, we went up and over the mountain and were able to see some of the inland parts of the island. After getting underway, the first part of the trip was very bumpy and rough. We were excited for our first stop! Our first stop on the tour was off the coast of Phi Phi Don where we were able to snorkel of the coast for about 45 minutes. The water was very clear and refreshing! Here are few pictures I captured using our underwater camera.

After snorkeling, we made a quick sightseeing stop at Monkey Beach. We were not permitted to leave the boat to see the monkeys. Instead we could capture a few photos of them from the boat.

A short trip on the boat took us to Phi Phi Don where we enjoyed a buffet lunch. After lunch we had a little time to walk along the beach and through the town. It was a quiet island community.

After lunch we were back on the boat and rode past viking cave. It is located on the eastern side of Phi Phi Ley. The cave is not open to tourist in order to protect the wall paintings of elephants and various boats. The paintings are suspected to have been painted by sea gypsies or pirates seeking shelter in the cave from passing storms. Also, inside the caves are swift nests. Swifts are a bird similar to a swallow. The bamboo scaffolding outside the cave is used to access the nests. Simultaneously, there are a lot of platforms and alters used for meditation prior to entering the caves. The birds and caves are protected and formal permission must be obtained prior to entering.

Our next stop was Pileh Lagoon. Here we were able to enter a narrow and very shallow lagoon. It was breathtaking.

As we rode toward Maya Baya, we passed huge islands /rocks. Our guide told us this was “ground zero” of the 2004 tsunami. This was one of the first islands hit by the wave. You can see the erosion from the wave.

Next we anchored in Maya Bay. When you see pictures of Thailand beaches, it is highly probable you are seeing a picture taken in Maya Bay. It is majestic. There were as I have mentioned, lots of tourist. We still enjoyed walking the beach, taking pictures and swimming in the water.

Our final stop was Khai Nok Island. Here we were able to have a snack on the beach and a delicious adult beverage. I opted for a piña colada in a freshly opened coconut. Dave enjoyed a chilled Chang. (Chang became our favorite Thai beer during our visit.)

I do have to share one sad observation from our trip. Ecotourism has a price. Khai Nok Island was covered in freshly crushed coral. This picture captures the number of boats and tourists. I count at least 10 boats in this picture and it was only one area where they were docking. That represents a 250-300 people in one day stopping at the same. This island receives boats all day long.

And this picture shows the broken coral.

The experience was amazing. It was also a good reminder to keep our eyes open to everything and make kinder decisions. It was because of this, we decided not to do an elephant trekking tour or even the elephant bathing. We couldn’t bring ourselves to support an ecotourism company that exploits animals.

After our stop on Khai Nok Island, we were back on the boat and heading back to the marina. We went up and over the mountain and back to Patong Beach. What an amazing day!

Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Phuket island has many beaches each with a different vibe. Some are better suited for families, others offer more seclusion and then there is the party central option of Patong. During our vacation, we stayed at the Baan Laimai Beach Resort in Patong. It was located directly across the street from Patong Beach. In less than three minutes we could walk from our hotel room to the beach. The hotel was listed as a 5-star hotel. Dave and I agreed it was lovely and probably a 3.5-4 star hotel by non-Thailand standards. Our room was a pool access room, meaning we could step into the pool from our balcony. The hotel was a little dated and lacked amenities one might expect at a 5-star hotel. The customer service was definitely 5-star. The staff was friendly, helpful and attentive throughout our stay. The food at the hotel restaurant was also very good. I will describe our food experiences in a future post. The pool also had a swim-up pool bar. Between the bar in our room and the pool bar, we enjoyed quiet time by the pool when the craziness of the town became too much. Here are a few pictures of the hotel. It was decorated in a “Beyond the Sea” theme for the new year celebration. 

Sitting on our pool side patio

Dave took a picture of me from the top floor.

Jellies & lanterns – they were illuminated at night

Afternoon pool time

Jellies & lanterns at night – view from our room


Us. From our room.

Patong Beach is one of the main public tourist beaches in Phuket. There plenty of water sport activities for rent. These included: jet skis, parasailing, Thai long tail boats as a water taxi, sail boats and tubing. We found the beach the most pleasant early in the morning when we would walk the break line searching for sand dollars. The beach was a decent length, it would take us over an hour to walk the entire beach. When we would walk later in the day, there was plenty of room for swimming, soaking in the sun and all the water activities. Here are a few pictures from our daily walks.

Just a few sand dollars we found

12 year memorial from the 2004 Tsunami

This is the arts & crafts project from all the sand dollars! I used them to accent picture frames. Now I just need to pick two of my favorite pictures! 

The city of Patong was on the upper end of the “anything goes” scale. The main street is called the “Bangla Walking Street.” The street is lined with stores, massage parlors, firing ranges and bars. In the evenings the street was closed to all vehicles. Walking among the tourists are vendors selling and advertising both the tangible and the unimaginable. If you imagine Bourbon Street in New Orleans combined with Duval Street in Key West and Beale Street in Memphis and then amplify it 10 times, you would have a pretty good idea of Bangla Walking Street in Patong. I would not describe this area of Phuket as family friendly. Despite this, we saw many families with young kids and even strollers. Like I said, it was definitely “anything goes.” Here are a few PG-18 pictures. Proceed with caution. 

One of several firing ranges

Massage- “happy end”

Virtual reality platforms

Yep, anything goes

Vendors in every direction

Another shooting range

Toys. For kids? And free drink with a shoot.

Check out the power lines! They were like this everywhere.

No shirt or shoes required

Soap. You wouldn’t believe me if I didn’t take a picture.

As you can imagine from the pictures, there was always a lot going on in Patong. This was part of the reason we enjoyed the quiet oasis of our pool and went on a couple excursions. I will share the details of the excursions in another post. I first had to set the stage and give you a true understanding of Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand. 

Happy New Year! 

Dave and I had a wonderful time in Phuket, Thailand. I will share more details of our adventures over the next couple of days. First, I thought it important to share happy new year wishes and another Japanese new year tradition. 

These funny looking men are called Dharma dolls. They are a hollow, papier-mâché doll depicting a bearded man and modeled after Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma lived during the 5th/6th century and was the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. They can be purchased at Zen Buddhist Temples. 

The Dharma doll is rich in symbolism and has become a talisman of good luck in the Japanese culture. The phrase “Nanakorobi Yaoki” often accompanies the doll. It translates to mean “seven times down, eight times up”. The bottom of the doll is weighted ensuring the doll will always sit up, symbolizing relentlessly pursuing your wish. Most significantly, the Dharma doll is sold with one eye colored in and one eye blank. The new owner of the doll makes a wish. Once the wish is fullfilled, the second eye is filled in and the wish can be shared and celebrated. The symbolism here is the missing eye helps the owner keep sight of their wish and when their wish is fullfilled, they return sight to the Dharma reaching closer to enlightenment. 

The object on the left of the Dharma dolls is a 2017 year of the rooster Sake barrel. 

On New Years Eve, Dave and I made our wish for 2017 on our respective Dharma dolls. Stay tuned over the next 365 days as we patiently wait for our wishes to be granted. In the meantime, we have Sake to enjoy! Kanpie! 

Christmas Vacation 

Christmas Vacation. 

Two of my favorite words. Having the opportunity to live on the other side of the world gives us a chance to vacation on the other side as well. We debated for a couple weeks at the end of September where we would like to visit. After seeking counsel from new friends we have made here and old shipmates (thanks, Audry & Matt), we decided on Phuket, Thailand. 

I have spent the day cleaning the house and packing our suitcases. We leave tomorrow morning and fly non-stop to Bangkok. After a brief layover we continue to Phuket. From the airport, we will have about an hour taxi ride to our hotel. Here is a Google map of the island. We are staying at the red dot. It is a resort right on the beach in the Patong Beach area. 

Here is a bigger perspective we are the blue dot in Japan. 

We have plans to lounge on the beach and by the pool. We have looked at the possibility of taking a sea kayaking adventure and a speed boat to visit neighboring islands. We are planning to do some sightseeing around the island as well. 

Unfortunately, with my Japanese cell phone, I will only have connectivity when we are in our room. I came to the decision that I am not going to stress about updating my blog while I’m on vacation. I will take lots of pictures and share our adventures when we return after the New Year. 

Thank you for reading and following me through our first 5 months in Japan. I’m looking forward to the coming New Year and sharing all the adventures it will contain with you. I miss you all and love you even more. 

Wishing you the happiest of holidays. 


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