April 2nd, Karon Beach, Thailand – Phuket looks and feels like a typical beach resort. Other than the tsunami warning our first night here that sent us towards the beach to find a nice viewpoint, you would be hard pressed to find much evidence of the previous disaster. While a few hotels are still closed, mostly on private beaches it seems, and occupancy is down some (though our hotel is completely full and the dive boats seemed close to it), it is business as usual here. Patong is a crowded beach spot for those who want loud discos and cheap whores, Karon beach is much quieter and a very pleasant base for the phenomenal diving.
The diving here has been fantastic, the best we have done yet, particularly at the Similan Islands where 20 meters of visibility is a bad day. Aside from the multitude of colorful hard and soft corals, large schools of reef fish, multiple varieties of shrimp, huge numbers of parrot, clown, butterfly and angel fish as well as several snapper species, highlights have included our first wreck dive, lion fish, puffer fish, moray eels, sea turtles, blue spotted rays, a face to face encounter with a leopard shark (close enough to lick its nose) and many tuna of the non-canned variety.
This afternoon we fly back to Bangkok and then this evening we fly out of Southeast Asia for now (we will definitely be back). We are continuing our post-tsunami tour and heading to our lone stop of this trip on the Indian subcontinent in Sri Lanka.