Exploring Phuket

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One week after my first post about travelling to Thailand, I finally managed to upload the second part…exploring Phuket!

Bangkok was a big, fantastic city, with its majestic temples, hundreds of state-of-the-art shopping centres and the numerous, colourful food-markets. But it was also crazy busy and extremely hot. So after 4 nights of Bangkok, we were more than ready to get some fresh coconut water and plunge into the crystal clear waters of Phuket’s famous beaches.

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The flight from Bangkok to Phuket via Thai Airways only takes about an hour, and to kill the time you get a nice little snack (learn from that, Easy Jet). After landing, we took a shared van to our hotel; it takes longer compared to a taxi, but it is considerably cheaper.

We chose to stay in a part of Phuket called Karon, which is about 20 minutes from the main town Patong. Patong is a popular tourist destination, specially for backpackers because of the cheap hostels, bars and party places. Karon, on the other hand, was much calmer, but had a nicer beach and tidier seashore.

Our hotel was called Horizon Beach Resort and was located on the top of a hill, offering a lovely view of the beach in front of it. Along the seashore, there were plenty of different restaurants, shops and massage parlours to chose from. It turned out that Karon beach was rather stormy most of the times, so instead we chose to go to Kata beach, which is only a short walk away.

At Kata, it didn’t took very long until we got approached by some people asking if we would like to try some parasailing, and because it’s something I’d never done before, I gave it a go! Thankfully, they didn’t let me up in the air all by myself. One of the guys would basically jump on the parasail just before it takes off and just hangs above your head with nothing but his hand and feet keeping him there. The flight took about 10 minutes, which I enjoyed admiring the deep blue sea and praying that all the straps I was attached to were working fine.

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Me taking off fairy-style… ;D

Kata beach was pretty nice, but with an island as big as Phuket, there is much more to see. A lot of shops or even salons have small booths full of catalogues promoting different tours, and the staff will gladly show you different tours and options for a fun day out. The prices vary a lot, but as always, you can get a good deal with a bit of friendly haggling. We booked an island-hopping tour visiting four islands that would take around half a day. You can see up to 6 islands at once, but we thought it would just be too rushed and exhausting. The highlights of our tour included visiting James Bond Island and canoeing in the so called the Bat Cave. Lunch would be offered on the ship and vans would be send to pick us up from and back to the hotel. A pretty nifty deal for a total of £30!

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The famous rock at James Bond Island
Canoeing into Bat Cave!

The tour is great fun; we got to explore tiny islands hidden in the middle of the sea, canoeing inside dark caves and even swimming in the middle of the deep sea. Even the lunch was pretty good, and we enjoyed watching our tour guide telling other tourists to try the fried monkey (which in reality was just normal chicken) and observing how their eyes widened in shock.

All in all, we spent a lovely 4 nights in Phuket, going around Patong, Kata and Karon, enjoying the delicious food, taking dips in the warm, blue water and laying in the fine, ivory sand. Oh, I also had my first authentic Thai massage there, which honestly, I don’t know how I survived! It’s odd how something so painful can feel so good… 😛

Next on our schedule was a 5 nights stay at Phi Phi Island, probably one of the most famous islands in Thailand. We decided to spend 3 nights at a private beach on the more hidden side of Phi Phi island, and then go back to the central part of it for another 2 nights. To get to Phi Phi Island, it takes a 1.30 hour long ferry drive, which was probably the most dreadful experience we had on our whole trip! The ferry would bounce from one side to the other, appearing to be on the point of tipping over, or go up one second just to crash down onto the waves the next, making all the water splash on the windows loudly. The constant moves soon made us get a horrible feeling in our stomachs, and looking around us, our fellow travellers didn’t seem to be doing much better. By the end of the trip, around half the population of the ship seemed to have thrown up either into the plastic bags we were given at the beginning or, if there was no time, on the floor. Miraculously, neither me or my boyfriend had to throw up, but we sure felt pretty poorly when we finally arrived at Phi Phi Island.

From the main island, it was another short trip by long tail boat to reach our little private beach, were we would be staying at a rustic bungalow just a few meters from the beach. During all our trip, this was probably the most beautiful place we stayed at. It was secluded, surrounded by jungle, had a beautiful crystal beach with clear blue waters like you would see on brochures and it was so quiet you could even hear the monkeys roaring. No cars, no stress, just the soothing sounds of the waves and the wind gently brushing on the plants and trees. The beach is pretty much limited to one restaurant with adjacent bar and a a tiny shop that sells only the most essential items. During the day, you can go snorkelling or get comfy on a chair with your new book and your feet in the salty water, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, take the 40 minutes climb through the jungle to reach the viewpoint on top of the hill, which is totally worth the exercise.

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Traditional Long Tail Boat
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Taking a stroll
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at the view point at Phi Phi Island
Our lovely little bungalow in front of the beach
Our lovely little bungalow in front of the beach

The central part of Phi Phi Island is the complete opposite of what we had on our private beach. It is incredibly busy, with most tourists being young backpackers from western countries mostly, narrow streets crowded with food stalls, shops and beauty/massage salons and so on. During the day, there isn’t really much to do apart from wandering along the little streets or going to the beach, which isn’t nearly as nice as the one in Phuket or the private beach. Of course, there are plenty of tours to fill the day, but on Phi Phi island, they tend to be a lot more expensive, so I really recommend doing those while in Phuket.

Nighttime is a completely different story. The island seems to really come to live after the sun goes down. The beach lightens up in the light coming from the numerous fire artists performing in front of the bars and night clubs, which in turn are busy competing about which one has the most powerful sound system. Music is blasting from everywhere, and instead of iced coffee or coconuts, people are now walking around with drinks served in buckets. For those who don’t know what a bucket means in Thailand, it’s basically a plastic bucket (like the ones children use to build sand castles) filled with a cocktail where usually a whole bottle of spirit is used to prepare the drink, along with ice, fruit or juice. You can imagine how strong the drinks are…

This was probably the craziest party place I have ever visited, with people partying until the early morning, jumping through fire rings or a jumping rope in flames, getting spontaneous tattoos and drinking up to the point of passing out. To be honest, I did quite enjoy it during the first night. The only problem was…it was exactly the same the next day.

Ok, you might say I’m old, or boring, or whatever, but I’m one of those people who don’t go out partying the whole weekend anymore. I’ve learned that a quiet night with a loved person, a bottle of wine and a good movie can just be as enjoyable as dancing through the night. Trouble is, you don’t get that option on Phi Phi Island. Every night, there will be party, and it will be like it was the night before. You can try to avoid in and stay in your hotel room, but you won’t escape the thumping of the music, the yelling , laughing and the sound of your room neighbours making their way back to the hotel at 4am. So, needless to say, I didn’t enjoy the second night as much as I did the first. Since we only had 2 days on that part of the island, it wasn’t much of an issue though. However, if you plan on going to Phi Phi Island, I don’t recommend a long stay on this part of the island, unless your one and only aim is to party every night and rest during the day.

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thai boxing bar
thai boxing bar

As for us, we were happy to go back to Phuket after our 5 nights on Phi Phi Island. Originally, the plan was to spontaneously decide to which island we wanted to go for the next 4 days, but the weather conditions weren’t great, with frequent, strong rains, and therefore ferry cancellations, and since we didn’t want to risk missing our flight, we decided it would be best to head back to Phuket for the last 4 nights.  We used our last days making the most of the delicious food we could get, going out for drinks at night or going down to Patong for some shopping. We also went to see the Big Buddha, which requires a drive up a high hill, visited a Kickboxing Gym and went to see all sizes of tigers at Tiger Kingdom, the latter of which left us with very mixed feelings.

Big Buddha in Phuket
Big Buddha in Phuket

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Well, sadly every holiday has to come to an end and, after almost 3 weeks exploring Thailand, it was time for us to go back home. We had an interesting flight back to England, with one passenger sitting behind us being completely drunk but and feeling particularly chatty and poetic and causing quite a stir, but felt grateful when we landed safely on UK ground.

So, for those who made it through my long holiday posts, well done and congratulations! I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing this, as it made me remember and think back to the amazing time I had in Thailand. We met some incredibly inspiring, humbling people. Locals that, despite not having much, were always friendly and doing their best to help us. We heard stories about their lives, how many of them work more than 10 hours per day, every day, to sustain their families. How the have never been on holiday, and how proud and warm they are when they speak about their children. It was a much needed wake-up call for us, who always complain about our jobs, our financial situation or about how our flat is just too small.

Travelling should not only be about relaxing and having a good time, it should also be about immersing oneself into a different world, experience different cultures, reach out of your comfort zone and – most importantly – learn. Ideally, you should come back a wiser person than before – not only a more tanned one.

Now, would I ever consider going back to Thailand? The answer is definitely yes. Despite spending such a long time there, I feel there is still so much more to be discovered, and so many more places we could go visit. So I’m pretty confident we will be back there one day, but in the meantime, I’ll have to rely solely on the wonderful memories we made during this unforgettable trip to this little peace of paradise!

Thank you again for staying with me and reading this and please don’t forget to comment if you have any questions or thoughts about Thailand. I shall do my best to give you my honest advice and opinion! 🙂

Love,

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