Every year in Jan we have our company paid incentive trip abroad... last year it was Australia and this year to Thailand- Phuket and Bangkok. Sales, HR, operations, marketing, supply chain- all functions are a part of this trip.
Before I begin... I have to introduce my friends- Dhruv and Abhinav 'coz of who the trip was so much fun. We joined the company together as Management Trainees.
Dhruv and I became friends in August'07 while working on factory project together... I appreciate that he is straight forward... what you see is what you get. The friendship deepened over time and has withstood the distance (he is North- Delhi and Himachal).
Abhinav was in my B-School but we never went beyond "Hi... hello". I don't know when we became friends... it was slowly and steadily.. once he was sure I was harmless he started opening up... he is in the South (B'glore and AP) while I am in West (Mumbai and Gujarat).
We have few things in common- honesty, straight forwardness, loyatly (towards each other), a mean and evil streak, do not believe in ass licking (PR).
We took the flight from Mumbai to Bangkok at 11.30 pm (it did not even have a TV)... at Bangkok I waited eagerly for South and North branch to arrive. Dhruv was arriving late so Abhinav and I headed together for Phuket from Bangkok. We were staying at Hilton Acardia Resort in Phuket which is excellent... across the road is a beach... the resort is huge with many swimming pools, restaurants and pubs.
The tour guide from Cox and Kings had arranged for 2 shows in the evening- Cabaret by ladyboys or transexuals and Fantasea.
Abhinav, Dhruv and I had no intention of attending any shows... we were going bungee jumping. Yes!!! I have always wanted to do it. Once the North branch and corporate guys arrived- Boss, 2 North ASMs and 3 of us headed to the site.Boss decided to go first... we all had to sign a declaration which states we are physically fit... Boss' legs were tied together so he could only hop. A lift took him 50m high... there was a man there to direct him on the jump. He had to hop till edge of the lift, spread out his hands and jump down facing towards the ground (in this case the water below). He did so... and plunged into the water till his waist. Dhruv went next... he had refused to come on the Bat Wing ride in Movie World, Australia last year. I was confident that if he can do it... so can I. Next was my turn.... when I was standing on the edge the guy counted till 3 and asked me to jump. I refused... how could I? I was at 50 m... so he pushed me lightly from behind and off I went. I closed my eyes and mouth to keep from screaming. It was a dizzying sensation and I wanted it to end asap. After less than a minute (it seemed like hours) I came to the ground... I was afraid I would puke... but a few sips of beer and some water and some rest made me feel better. I vowed never to go bungee jumping again. Once was enough.
After the unsettling experience we headed to the resort and changed into beach wear... the beach was deserted at night... the bars and food joints were also closed... we went to the pool but that was also closed. We headed to Bangla street for dinner and some night life. Thailand is known for cheap sex... it is teeming with prostitutes. Bangla street in Phuket is full of shady bars... strip clubs... prostitutes... ladyboys (women with penises/surgically created women). The night life begins at 11 pm and we headed to KFC for a bite. The nightclubs open at 11 and we headed to the bar near them. The street had clubs where there were women pole dancing at the entrance to attract tourists... men and women thrust photos of almost nude women in your face whether you were a man or a woman. The guys were taken aback.
Me: Why do you look so shocked? Wasn't Australia also like this? (I had not explored night life there)
Them: There were few clubs like this... but it was not so in-your-face. This is too much actually.
We took our seats at a bar where there were lot of women dressed in white. (Later I found out female prostitutes dress in white and ladyboys dress in black). We were served our drinks and one female started dancing on our table. It was un-nerving 'coz she had not waxed her legs and if I looked up I could see what was under her skirt... and she was a lady boy. I finished my drink asap (actually gave it away to the guys) and left for the hotel... I was tired... and disgusted...
We were to leave for James Bond Island... it is an island where a James Bond movie was shot... we were to go rafting also. Abhinav and Dhruv had arrived at 4 am and were still sleeping when I was leaving for b'fast. I convinced them to skip bath since we would get wet there... It took us 2 hours by bus to get to the ferry... from there 1 hour on boat... and it was rafting not canoeing (2 people sit on a rubber boat and a 3rd person uses the oars to guide it)... quite boring... we skipped it and poked fun at others instead.
James Bond Island is very sad... the only attraction is a rock... the water is dirty... the journey is too long... we stopped at another island for a traditional Thai lunch. Hungry, exhausted and miserable we headed back to the resort for the conference (the reason we had taken the trip). The conference was ok kinds but snacks provided were good. We changed into party wear for the DJ night. At midnight I headed to my room while the guys hit the Bangla street again.
We headed to Coral Island in the morning carrying our beach wear. This time I had asked the other tour guide for details on the activities there. Convinced that it would not be a disaster like the previous day we went ahead. It took 1 hour to reach the ferry... we boarded a motor boat... grabbed the front seats and reached Coral Island in 15 mins after a choppy ride. The sea is beautiful there... calm, shallow, blue, green... we headed for the Under Sea walk... you are taken under the sea and get to walk among the fish, feed them, touch the flora there. It was an amazing experience. The rest of the time was spent in the water or sun bathing. We headed to the airport for our flight to Bangkok in the evening. Dhruv was on a separate flight. Abhinav looked very tired... he had not slept in days and was in no mood to party at night. I was dissappointed. I wanted to explore Bangkok and so he agreed to come out with me. My roomie Jolly also joined us... we headed to a pub on Sukhumvit street. The pub was good with weird music... pretty waitresses... lots of couples... good lighting... After dinner at an Indian restaurant (we were craving for butter chicken) we hit the bed and snored soundly. Later I realized that there were only white men in the pub... they were with Thai women. It was actually a pick up joint.
The day started so late that we missed b'fast. The plan was to skip sight-seeing and head straight for shopping. We headed for Siam Square which has the biggest malls. For unbranded stuff MBK mall is the best. It is spread over 4 floors and you can get good and cheap stuff after bargaining. All the malls are connected through a bridge which is connected to the Metro station. The malls in India are nothing compared to this. Another place recommended for shopping is Indira Nagar. Abhinav and Dhruv would not let me stop or rest after my comment; "I miss girls... shopping is different with them". Indira Nagar is like Palika Bazar in Delhi... maybe even worse. It makes Linking Road look classy. We bought tee shirts for our team (sales executives) and left asap. Bangkok is teeming with fake stuff... we were looking for branded shoes (Nike, Reebok, Adidas)... there was a shop which offered 20-30% discount. We were surprised and had every intention of buying them. On surveying closely we noticed that "Nike" logo had a slight angle... which means that it was fake. We decided to shop as little as possible.
At night we were supposed to be on a cruise but decided to skip it (like most people). I received a message from Boss saying the cruise was compulsory since Head of South Asia and more important people were going to be there. I convinced the guys to join me... They gave in... the cruise was ok... there was booze, dinner, a Thai lady singing Hindi songs with an accent, the ASMs dancing around her. After the cruise I headed to my room... got an in room Thai massage and snored soundly (Artee had warned me that I should not return without a massage).
We were to leave for respective branches in the evening... morning was free for shopping. We headed to MBK Mall to buy souveniers.We got a little senti while saying Good-Bye... it had been a good trip... and we don't know when we will meet again. I doubt they will turn up for my wedding (They just confirmed that they will attend... Yippie!!!) Either way... I miss them...
The trip left us depressed... we were low after the high.