Thailand – either you’ll fall in love fiercely or hate it for good!
At first, Thailand and I had love/hate relationship – I just couldn’t stand the smell, all the rubbish and especially the crowds. Couple of days later, I got used to all of this and I started noticing the good stuff – the people are kind and friendly, there are palm trees everywhere, the weather was amazing and the food – delicious!
The chosen destination is Phuket island – a bit of a touristic place, but there is a lot to do and see! Also this is a good starting point for many boat trips to some of the most popular destinations in Thailand. The hotel we stayed in was Holiday inn Express in the famous Patong beach, because we tought it would be good to be close to all the bars and restaurants there. Luckily the hotel was like an oasis in the middle of the crowds and noises of Patong beach. There was a beautiful garden and our room overlooked the pool area, so it was quiet, the only disadvantage were the small ants in the room but since I’ve heard terrifying things about the hotels in Thailand, this was no problem at all.
I have to mention – Patong beach is exactly the type of beach that I hate – huge beach, too much people, noisy and dirty. We avoided it, no matter that it was 2 minutes away from our hotel – it was impossible to relax there!
The streets around the beach were full of small shops, bars and restaurants. At first I tried not to buy any food from the streets but it’s just impossible to resist to all the delicious stuff there. It’s a must to try coconut ice cream, passion fruit smoothie or fresh fruits or fish from the markets.
You should definitely try mango sticky rice, ice cream rolls (fried ice cream) or if you are brave enough – the local fruit – durian – extremely smelly, but they said it’s tasty if you can handle the smell. I just couldn’t do it. It’s so smelly, it’s forbidden to eat it on public places and even in the hotel rooms!
Another must do is eating fresh sea food from some local market. We went to Baan Saan (or Zaan) near to Jungceylon shopping center. There I tried the best passion fruit smoothie! The experience is very primitive – there are plastic chairs and tables, it’s a bit dirty and crowded of course but it’s worth it! The sea food is amazing!
You can’t go to Thailand and skip the tuk-tuk taxi ride, of course you should bargain the price! Don’t miss this – it’s a traditional experience!
One more thing Thailand is famous for – massages. It’s pretty cheap and you can find decent spa studios almost everywhere.
Similan islands – small islands looking like postcards! The water is crystal clear and the sand is like powder! They are located pretty far away from the mainland – 1h 40 min ride with speed boat! To go there, we left the hotel at 5 am, then it was 1h 30 min car ride to the harbor, so approximately 3 hours travelling until you finally get there but it’s worth every second! Actually we got there pretty early so we were able to enjoy the place before the crowds arrived.
The Similan islands used to be 9 but couple of years ago 2 more joined the archipelago, but we visited only some of them. The islands are among the top 10 diving areas in the world! So, we had 4 stops during our trip – two beaches and two diving spots. Frist stop was island number 8 – the biggest of all. There we had some beach time. I think that it’s not necessary to mention that the beach was fabulous! Then we did some diving. I was so proud of myself that I went swimming straight from the boat because I actually am afraid to swim in deep water but it was extremely clear, warm and blue that I just couldn’t resist! Some of the islands are forbidden for visitors so we enjoyed them by watching from the boat. The last stop was island number 4 in the central part of the archipelago. It was already afternoon so there were way too many people. Our guide who by the way was super cool and fun, told us that there are two beaches on this island so we went straight ahead to the smaller one to avoid the crowds. The beach was called Honeymoon beach and to get there you need to walk through the forest barefoot because in the beginning of the trip they collected the flip flops of all the passengers, I’m not sure why.
Phi Phi islands – one of the most popular destinations in the world. So popular that they had to close to visitors the most famous beach – Maya bay! The spot that became superstar thanks to the Leonardo Di Caprio’s movie – The Beach, which was filmed there. Because of the large number of tourist visiting the place every day, the beach is almost destroyed, the Thai government decided to close it indefinitely so the fragile ecosystem can recover. On one hand I was so disappointed that I couldn’t see the beach I’ve dreamed of for so long, on the other this piece of heaven deserves to be preserved for the generations! We took some pictures of it from the boat, hoping I could visit it some day!
The Phi Phi archipelago consists of 6 small islands – Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Leh, Koh Bida Nok, Koh Bida Nai, Koh Phai (Bamboo Island), and Koh Young (Mosquito Island). Koh Phi Phi Don is the only one inhabited – many exquisite beaches and hotels, but there are no roads. Bamboo island definitely was one of the most magnificent beaches I’ve ever been to. Pure perfection! It was so huge that you can easily find peaceful spot under some palm tree. Before we go to the island itself, we had some snorkeling time in the waters near the shore. The color of the water was so unreal and the fishes are so many that even me who never dive under water could see them swimming around me. It was magical! There were two more stops along the way – all on Phi Phi Leh island – the Monkey beach – unfortunately they didn’t allow us to leave the boat to see the monkeys because they were quite evil – they attack you and steal everything they can put their hands on; the Viking cave and Pi Leh Bay – lagoon surrounded by tall cliffs offering great snorkeling opportunities.
James Bond island – another movie celebrity. It became popular after being filmed in one of the James Bond movies – ‘The men with the golden gun’. The most impressive part of the place is the huge cliff that juts out of the water. The island itself is small and there are two beaches – the first is overlooking the famous cliff and the other one was few minutes away by foot on a small path through the cliffs but there were no people beaching there – I guess it was forbidden. The trip to this island was the first and the last using the slow ship because I was told that the speed boat is too bumpy which is bad for my back problems but still the ride with the small ship was endless and so annoying that I took my chances and chose the speed boat for all of the other excursions.
The excursion to James Bond island included also trip to Hong Island and its lagoon which you can visit by kayak.
Of course there are a lot of great beaches on Phuket island too! We managed to visit only few of them – Freedom beach, Paradise beach and Tri Trang beach – wonderful beaches only 15-20 minutes away (by car) from Patong.
Freedom beach – there are two ways to reach it – by boat from Patong beach or by foot through a steep path down the hill. We chose to rent a long tail boat – a traditional thai boat, we just couldn’t miss this experience! You should arrange in advance the exact pick up hour on your way back and of course bargain the price before you take off! There is a small bar offering food and beverages but be aware – it closes around 4 pm! Freedom beach is truly amazing place only 10 minutes away from noisy Patong, don’t skip it!
Paradise beach – another piece of Heaven close to Patong. There is a free shuttle bus from Patong every 30 minutes with few stops – the Police station, Illuzion club, Jungceylon shopping center. The beaches there are two – the first one is bigger and has all the facilities needed – bar, restaurant, massage area, sunbeds and umbrellas. The other beach that we liked more, was smaller – less people of course, also the sand was better. You can reach it by taking the steps on your left from the main beach.
Tri Trang beach – the beach with the elephants! If you want to experience a close meeting with these gorgeous creatures without riding them by heavy saddle which hurts them, this is your chance! There are three mama elephants and three babies and they are more than cute! You can cuddle with them in the water, they hug you with their trunks – what a wonderful adventure it was! The price was 1000 baht but it’s totally worth it! You can reach Tri Trang by taxi from Patong for around 300-400 baht – it depends on your bargain skills!
Spend a day strolling around the city attractions such as Tiger kingdom, Big Budha statue, Wat Chalong temple, the honey factory. There is a guided City tour so we took advantage of it. Usually the tour includes elephant ride but we skipped it – the cuddles with the beach elephants are much more fun. Our guide was local and he spoke English so bad but at the same time he was so funny, we laughed a lot!
Tiger kingdom is a place where you have the opportunity to interact with the tigers face to face. It’s allowed to go in their cages, supervised of course, they are not tied up or drugged, you can touch them and take pictures together. It was pretty dangerous too – one of the tigers wasn’t very friendly – every time I tried to touch him he turned his head against me and gave me this “don’t touch me” look! Tiger kingdom supports an organization which actively restores wild tiger’s natural habitat in western Thailand.
Wat Chalong was an extraordinary place – the most important of the 29 buddhist temples of Phuket. The buildings of the temples are exquisite! Our guide showed us the traditional way the buddhists pray – very different from the way we do.
The end of the tour was the visit of the Big Buddha statue! It was golden hour so imagine what a spectacular scenery it was! This is one of the most significant landmarks on the island – the statue is 45 m tall and is made of white marble. It’s visible from all the way down to Phuket town and Karon beach.
Another good idea to spend a day is to rent a catamaran – we rented a private one for one day but unfortunately this day the weather wasn’t so good – it was very windy so it was a bumpy ride but actually we had a lot of fun! The best part was watching the sunset from the catamaran – I’m telling you – it was beyond this world!
If you have longer vacation, make sure to visit Phuket Fantasea – cultural park, where you can enjoy a spectacular show – Fantasy of a Kingdom, telling the story of the Thai culture and traditions. The show takes place every day in the Elephant’s Palace in the park. Take some time to walk around the park, not like we did – just an hour earlier, because there is so much to see – shops, restaurants, attractions… Before enter the show, in the palace, you can feed baby tiger with milk and take pictures, costs around 700 Baht.
Night life – there’s no need to tell you that the night life in Thailand is epic! This was the moment I realized I’m getting old because the thought of going into one of the most famous clubs in Thailand, actually in the world as well, was not pleasant at all, so I didn’t go, I rather stayed in bed. Eventually we went to another famous beach club – Catch beach which was really nice – good music and ambience, you can go during the day too and there is also a restaurant. The disadvantage is that the bar closes around 3 am and its pretty far away from Patong so you will need a taxi ride which gets much more expensive at night.
You just can’t miss the Ping Pong show – it’s a must see in Thailand at least one time! Since this is not most appropriate place for me to explain what it’s all about, if you don’t know – google it!
Each day in Thailand was incredible, full of emotions and experiences. Wish I could go back one day because there’s a lot more to see and 12 days were not enough for sure!