Phuket, My first experience of Thailand

When I started doing research on Thailand I knew it was a place I could fall in love with, All those pictures of the white sanded beaches, Islands famous for their location thanks to a few box office hits, the beautiful history and culture… I knew I needed to see it for myself. Thailand for me was stepping out of my comfort zone, after years of holidaying in the US and Spanish islands I didn’t know what to expect and was a little nervous/excited of the unknown.

Choosing a resort was my hardest part but I eventually chose Kata Beach, A small resort, There was enough on our doorstep we didn’t have to go far for dinner each evening and with access to two beaches Kata & Kata Noi it was ideal for us. Karon beach further north is a little more built up than Kata with a wide choice of restaurants, bars and shops, and plays host to the night markets a short walk from the centre of town. The final beach resort was Patong beach, I already knew I didn’t want to stay here as this is where you find the main drag of bars and nightclubs… Which I did want to visit but I’d heard the beach wasn’t as nice and now as I’m a little older I don’t mind travelling out to the bars when I want them rather than them being on my doorstep.

Never having been before I went with what I knew from work and decided to book a trip to Phuket, and I can honestly say it met my expectations massively. Upon arrival we were greeted by the beautiful smiles of the locals all wanting to say hello and help us get to our hotel. I love to get out and explore where ever I am, and have a rule with my sun worshipper friends for everyday of sunbathing we have to have a full day trip out and we can’t spend a full day on any one beach to try to get to explore a little more… Some of my friends are more concerned about the tan they are returning home with and not memories of seeing other parts of the world. That said though I got to see as much as I could of the Island while I was there and I’ll share my recommendations of what to see and do while in Phuket…

Phi Phi Islands…

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Personally I think anyone visiting Phuket should make the trip out to Ko Phi Phi Le, the famous setting of the movie adaptation of Alex Garlands ‘The Beach.’ Maya Bay is a stunningly beautiful bay sheltered by towering cliffs on three sides making the bay perfect conditions for swimming and snorkelling. There is a downside to its beauty as its so well-known many boats are needed to bring the visitors in, meaning there can up be up to 30 speedboats moored at the beach at one time. Don’t let this put you off though as the lucky souls staying in Phi Phi Don can rent a longtail for approx 1,000 Baht for a few hours and visit after the tour hours, and enjoy a less crowed beach.

Ko Phi Phi Don is the larger of the two islands and the only island permitted for overnight stays, They have a huge varied choice of hotel and hostel accommodation for those wanting to stay somewhere a little different from the westernised Phuket.

A hike to big Buddha, Kata Beach…

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The huge statue sits on the top of Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and offers 360o views of the island and on a clear day you’ll be able to see out past Phuket town. Easily accessible by tuk tuk, taxi, or bike there is the option to hike to the top. The road up to the statue is approx 6 km long and can be very steep in parts. I met a friend who had walked and it took her about an hour, and caught a taxi back. Entry is free but there are donation boxes everywhere should you wish to donate something to the project. (Ladies please remember to take something to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting as a sign of respect.)

Go and see a ping pong/ Lady Boy show…

I know this might not be everyone’s choice of evening entertainment, But after hearing about them for so many years I knew it was something I wanted to see for myself. When in Patong they’ll be tons of men approaching you male or female inviting you to a show with free entry… And one night we took one up on the offer! After having a few drinks and discussing how it comes about one day you realise you can do these ‘tricks’ we accepted the free entry. It was pretty interesting to watch in fairness and some of the things they can do is in the strangest sense incredible?

Have a Thai massage….

Where else in the world are you going to be able to have an authentic Thai massage with a Thai masseuse? There are heaps of spas and salons in the resorts to choose from each offering different deals. There was a spa across the road from our hotel in Kata who we visited every other night for a massage and would always get talked into having a madi/pedi done and at the prices they offered you couldn’t refuse. It was pretty strange not knowing what to expect and when she started to stand on me and start pulling my limbs into these weird positions, I did panic a little! It’s definitely not for the easily bruised or those wanting something a little more relaxing… Better to stick to the aromatherapy  😉

Sea canoeing in Phang nga Bay…

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I chose this trip as I’d never canoed before, and I’d read about Tum Talu where we would visit for sea caving into the hidden lagoons. On our day trip we sailed to ‘James Bond Island’ to see the famous free-standing rock formation famous from the movie ‘Man with the golden gun’  and for pictures, before being taken to Koh Panyee a nearby Muslim fishing village remarkably build out over the water on stilts. Here we ate lunch and were given the opportunity to have a wander through the village, and make any purchases from the stalls set up for our arrival. Then we arrived in Tum Talu where we met our very own paddler, who was taking us out for our canoeing… Not what I was expecting but he was a great guide and really knowledgeable of the area and we had a great time caving,squeezing under tiny gaps into beautiful open lagoons hidden behind the cliff fronts… Was an amazing end to our great day.

Spend a day in Old Phuket town…

We chose to get a bus into the town one morning after bad weather put us off a day out at sea, we caught a local bus from Kata which travelled up the north coast before heading east to Phuket town. We weren’t sure what we wanted to see but fancied a wander around the town and wanted to try some of the street food a group of friends we’d made told us about. We ended hiring a taxi for a day who drove us to some of the famous temples within driving distance of the old town and took us to the markets where we went shopping for a few hours buying fake merchandise and souvenirs.

A night out in Patong…

Bangla road might be a name you’ve heard before in relation to Phuket and here is where you will find the bustling night-life Phuket has to offer the clubbers of the world. I didn’t know to expect our first night out and in the tuk tuk was feeling a little nervous, any unease I felt dispersed when we pulled onto Bangla road, it was in a million ways the same as any other resort and entirely different at the same time! There is over 100 bars, pubs and clubs to choose from and its entertaining in itself just walking the stretch of road looking into each of the bars! My favourite place turned out to be the tiger complex featuring a bar downstairs with a more laid back feel then once a few drinks had been drunk heading upstairs to the nightclub for dancing until the early hours of the morning!