November 26, 2010

Indo-Pacific Tour 2010 - Phuket (Day 3)

We woke up early to take advantage of our only day in Phuket. After a quick complimentary breakfast, I was going to ask the front desk to arrange a taxi for us. Stepping toward me was a taxi driver who was sitting in the lounge area waiting for customer. After a bit of bargaining, my sister and I secured a private, full day tour with this taxi driver who would take us around the island in a comfortable, air-conditioned minivan. How much, you asked? It cost a whopping $50 Canadian dollars for the day!!! Things are relatively super cheap everywhere you go in Southeast Asia.

We were to spend the morning at Rawai Pier where I could get a couple hours of fishing. Fishing is not really the highlight of this trip, but my sister was very nice to let me have some fishing time scheduled.

Before we went to the pier, we found this little pastry shop and couldn't resist having a second breakfast.

Rawai Pier was quite a beautiful pier. Along the way, my sister looked into the water to point out all the little reef fish.

At the end of the pier, there were a few French expats fishing. I started talking to one guy and we had a mutual respect for catching new species. He shared a new kind of plastic lure with me and I shared some of mine with him. He also gave me a couple pieces of shrimps so I could catch some reef species.

Using a float rig with #16 hook, I quickly caught my first new Asian species. It was a 5” Scissortail Damselfish (Chromis atrilobata).

There was another kind of fish that was swarming the pier piling with the scissortail. It took a little work and patience of weed through the damselfish before I caught the beautiful 5” Redbelly Yellowfin Fusilier (Caesio cuning)!

There really wasn’t any other kind of reef fish in this area. I was very surprised there was no wrasse species or small snappers here. However, the large houndfish caught my eye.

Small groups of houndfish patrol the area. I had the most luck with a twister tail, however, getting the hooks to stick was very difficult. I had a couple of fish shook off the hook when they jumped and shook like a mad marlin.

Soon, the 2-hour of fishing came to an end. However, just before we left the pier, I spotted a small aggregation of fish nearshore now that the tide was coming in. I managed to catch a juvenile Bluefin Trevally. There was a small conger eel that was hunting, however, I had already ran out of shrimp bait. If I only had some shrimp, it would be too easy to catch that conger!

Next, our driver took us to a lookout point were we could see the west coast of Phuket.

After the short photo stop, we reached Kata Beach. My sister and I picked a seaside bar where we ordered lunch for only $5 and we had the best dish of squid cooked with fresh basil and chili. The dessert was simple crepe with grilled bananas and pineapples...but it was very delicious!

My sister wanted to get a Thai message, so I had another couple of hours on my own. I took the rods and went to look for a spot that was not busy with swimmers. Unfortunately, I reached an impasse where I couldn’t go further without getting wet. I had to settle on an outcrop of rock where only shallow water was available.

There were some smaller fish coming in and out of this area. Since I had no fresh bait, I had to resort to some Gulp! Sandworm. I cut smaller portions off and hoped that the scented plastic will suffice. The fish let me know quickly that I was on the right track. They quickly bit the little chunk of plastic off the hook.

I persisted, even at the cost of losing precious lures. Finally, I was rewarded! Here was a 6” White-Spotted Spinefoot (Siganus canaliculatus). Their fin spine were very sharp. It was best not to handle them too much.

A few more casts later, I hooked into a 6” bubblefin wrasse (Halichoeres nigrescens).

I also had a small needlefish hooked, but just like always, the fish came off the hook a couple of seconds later.

Soon, it was time to go. I met with my sister and we were off to the next location of our tour.

As our driver took us up to the high point of Phuket, I fell asleep. I soon woke to a bump road on the way to the Big Buddha. My sister was wearing shorts and she had to put on a long skirt before she could enter the complex.

Shooting into the sun just doesn't work...

As it was getting later in the day, we moved on to visit Wat Chalong. This temple complex was on of the more beautiful in Phuket. The artistry of the temple was stunning.

Wat Chalong was the last stop for us. On the way back, our taxi driver tried to convince us to dine at this overpriced seafood restaurant. We held our ground and insisted that he took us back to the hotel.

Once we were back, my sister and I went to the night market to find some street eats. Care must be taken to select where and what to eat, since it is rather easy for foreigners to succumb to stomach illness. My sister and I were prepared prior to our trip with a couple doses of vaccines against traveller’s diarrhea. We’re proud to say we didn’t get sick once through our entire trip. Food in Thailand was just great everywhere!

Best Tong Yum sup we've had!!! It was so spicy our lips and tongue were burning (my sister and I can eat pretty spicy as is)...but it was so good we just kept eating and eating!

We were having a great affordable dinner until we heard distance rumbles and saw some flashes of lightning. We quickly asked to have everything packed so we could return to the hotel. We couldn’t have got back sooner as it started pouring once we stepped into the lobby.

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