The Luguna Phuket International Marathon was held on 17th July 2007, right in the heart of one of Thailand’s natural treasure, the beautiful island of Phuket. Phuket is home to some of the world’s most famous beaches and is a popular tourist destination for tourists from all over the world. As we all can remember, Phuket was one of the many areas to be badly hit by the terrible tsunami in 2004. The people have come a long way ever since to rebuild their lives, and hence the Phuket Marathon was started in 2006 with the main intention of celebrating how the island and its inhabitants are quickly springing back to life and looking ahead to a fresh new beginning!
Lu Feng, Shihan, Angela and I were the four super privileged NUS cross country runners to be part of this meaningful experience. Being very poor students as we are, the school has very kindly sponsored us 50% of the trip. Hooray!
** 15th July **
As we were supposed to be at the airport at some super early timing, Angela and I stayed over at Shihan’s place. We played with Shihan’s obese cat for a while and tried to catch a little nap before the setting off. We called for a cab and met Lu Feng at the airport. As we were taking the budget airline, we had to wait for our flight at the new budget terminal. The new terminal is really small and simple, but I think thats what we get for dirt cheap air tickets! While in the plane, Lu Feng commented that the clouds looked like cotton wool or something really strange of that sort. (He insisted that I put it here so dont ask me why he thinks this is worthy of mention). Anyways, the flight was only one and a half hours and before we knew it, we had already arrived at Phuket!
The 1st thing that greeted us once we exited the airport was a horde of taxi touts who advertised their services for 500 Baht. We decided that it was a rip off and went to the metered taxi stand to get a cab. And it so happened that the name of our driver was Mr Suryia, lolz.
We took a metered cab to our accomodation, the Amora Beach Resort, which was located 3km from the race site. The total fare was only 390 Baht, a far cry from the price of the touts. When we reached Amora Beach Resort, we had some issues to settle with the hotel stuff due to some poor correspondence between Lu Feng and the hotel booking agent prior to the trip. Thankfully, we still managed to get our room, minus the extra bed that we intended to have. And kudoes to the front desk stuff who were very patient and understanding, despite the difficulties we had in communication.
As I wasn’t planning to be in the same bed as Lu Feng, we settled the problem by bringing down the top mattress of the bed. We then went through the ceremony of splitting pillows and blankets until we were both satisfied. We went to check out our surroundings. There was a good view of the swimming pool from our balcony. Overall, the resort was pretty empty as it was the off-peak season. Our hotel was also just next to Bang Tao Beach, the largest and one of the quietest beaches of Phuket .
We took a short nap and headed off to find Laguna Beach Resort to collect our race pack. Lufeng, who holds the self belief that he is an excellent navigator, took the lead to bring us to Laguna. We walked along Bang Tao beach which looked really amazing. The sand was powdery white and stretched for almost 9km. As it was the monsoon season, the tides were big and a sight to behold. The beach was practically undisturbed. There were only a handfull of tourists lazing around, soaking in the morning sun and sea breeze. Lu Feng’s keen sense of direction led us through some uneven, rocky terrain. After 20mins and many small obstacles, we finally reached Laguna Beach Resort.
Laguna was much larger and grander than our small, humble Amora. There was also alot more tourists there and also way more facilities than at our resort. At the race pack collection hall, we started to check out our competition on the board of participants. Didn’t recognise anyone. The staff, like everyone else in Thailand, were really friendly and accommodating. Our race pack consisted of the haversackish bag, a sleeveless running shirt, time chip, race tag, some rub-on cream and a 500 baht new balance voucher.
We met Steph Cox, who introduced us to her new magazine, Asiarunner. Angela bought a copy of it and I thought it was pretty interesting. The magazine is all about the running scene in Asia, with highlights of the major running events taking place in major cities including Singapore, Hong Kong and China. There are also healthy asian recipes you can whip up and the usual daily digest of running tips. As the magazine is still in its initial stages, there are only 4 issues a year and I think you can find out more about the magazine at http://www.asiarunner.com. Anyways Steph welcome us to send in articles and photos of running events that we take part in. So whether you are a media whore or just a really nice person, start sending in those pictures and essays! I think it will be pretty cool if anyone of us appear in an international magazine.
After collecting our race pack, we had our lunch in this small restaurant right next to the sea. Its built above the sand with wooden stilts so it brings us really close to the waters. We had our authentic Thai meal beside the panoramic view of the Andaman Sea and its crashing waves. There were 7-8 waiters standing around, gyrating to the groove of the Thai music from the local radio channel. We thought it was silly but went ahead to stuff our hungry faces with pineapple rice.
After the meal, we went back to our hotel to rest and freshen up before beginning our leisurely exploration of Phuket. We decided to head to Patong Beach. WE got a private taxi to send us to Patong for 500 Baht. Our driver was this Indian Gentlemen called Mr T. His English was not too bad and he did tell us the various interesting things we can do at Patong. We dropped at Jungceylon, Phuket’s newest shopping mall, to shop, have dinner and to redeem our new balance voucher. (To be continued)