My experience of Phuket, Thailand.
Day 1 – Arrival in Phuket
We flew from Singapore to Phuket via Tiger Air and arrived early in the morning which gave us a full day to explore our gorgeous hotel and surrounds.
Tiger Air is a local airline just like our local Mango/Kulula Airline. They offer the BEST hazelnut coffee for about S$5. I enjoyed the coffee so much that I hunted it down back in Singapore and brought some home to SA.
The flight to Phuket from Singapore is about 1,5 hours and the view along the way is beautiful. Whether you have been flying for 10 hours or 1 hour, the excitement when flying into Phuket over all of the turquoise islands dotted across the ocean is the same. The reality of your holiday sets in and no matter how tired you are, you feel fresh and excited when you land at the small, friendly Phuket Airport.
Our hotel cab service collected us at the Air Port and offered us some water and refreshing hand towels as a welcoming to their city. On arrival at the Le Meridien we were gifted a beautiful flower garland to wish us good luck and happiness as well as the most amazing welcome drink. We were given a tour of the hotel (which I already knew from back to front after so many weeks of research and travel blogs). We arrived at our hotel room and went straight back out to explore the hotel followed by a tuk tuk ride to Patong.
The Le Meridien is absolutely beautiful, we spent most of our days exploring in the morning and enjoying the hotels activities in the afternoon. There is so much to do from yoga to mini golf, a driving range, archery, jet skiing, table tennis, swimming, the beauty spa, the kids room, the play station room, shopping, restaurants – the opportunities are endless.
Off to Patong we went, we were extremely excited to fill our suitcases with shopping from the market and live out all of the exciting stories we had heard from friends and online blogs.
Patong is vibrant, colorful and any travelers paradise as it is filled with interesting people from all over the world. The stall owners are very enthusiastic and are the worlds best salesmen. I found it very overwhelming visiting the stalls as one gets harassed by a stall owner and their calculator at every stall. The stores try and make as much money as they can from tourists so, thanks to some tips I read on trip advisor, I knew to negotiate an amount that was 70% less than the original offer – yes 70%!! In some cases, shopping in Singapore was cheaper than at Phuket markets! I walked away with 2 items and minimal clothing to wear for the rest of my trip. I am happy that I experienced the famous “must-do” tourist attraction but I would never go back. I found it stressful and disliked the fact that you have to negotiate at every stall. It is a bit time consuming and tiring, for those who enjoy a good negotiation, this is going to be one of your favourite activities! Nonetheless one has to experience it and I am happy I did it. I managed to buy a much needed beach outfit and t shirt which I wore as my staple outfit for the rest of the trip.
We left the market shortly after buying our items and enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel. I lived on these coconut waters which are presented in a young coconut. They are refreshing and hydrating and are served with a spoon so that you can scoop out the coconut flesh after drinking the water. In the afternoon I would opt for the same coconut but filled with pina colada – delicious! Cocktails inside the hotel were about 300Baht as opposed to the local restaurants and pubs which were about 190Baht. Beers at the hotel were 170Baht but cost about 90Baht at local pubs and restaurants. We enjoyed our favourite local drinks while planning activities for the following day. These flyers are found everywhere – in your cab, at your hotel, along the streets of Patong – be sure to grab a few and begin planning some exciting adventures!
What I learnt on day 1:
- Set aside a daily budget for food, shopping and activities. That way, you can enjoy the day of site seeing and not worry about over spending. Spend all that you can on the day’s budget and start fresh the following day
- Add in about 600 Baht per day for transport – we did not consider transport which dipped into most of our budget and sometimes stopped us from doing certain activities as it was not part of our budget to begin with (first time travelers error)
- Carry water on you at all times to stay hydrated
- Find your local seven11 store – that will be your go-to store for alcohol. We would buy a few sun downers each day for 70 Baht – their local beers and wine coolers are delicious!
- Make friends with your hotel staff, they will eagerly provide you with any information you need and help you with your activity planning etc.
Day 1 in Phuket was a success and we were excited to begin day 2 which would take us to the famous Bangla Road – boy, do I have stories to tell from there!?!
Day 2 – Big Buddha
Our second day started off with a trip to Big Buddha. I have a strong interest in this belief so I was excited to visit this attraction and see it for myself. We took a cab from our hotel which stopped half way up the Nakkerd Hills for us to look at the elephants. If you are an animal lover, carry on straight up the mountain (I ended up looking at the view, rather than at the baby elephant). As you arrive at the entrance there are little shops lined with refreshments and mementos. There is also a free scarf/sarong stall that asks you to pick a sarong and cover up your knees and shoulders if they are showing. This is out of respect for the religious area you are about to enter. At the end of your site seeing you hang the scarves back up and donate a few Baht.
The way up to Big Buddha is via a long set of stairs filled with butterflies and a great view. It was interesting to get to the top and see what it really is – close up. From far, Big Buddha is a beautiful white structure that can be seen from most places in Phuket. Close up it is a building site with unfinished stairs, entrances and inside there is still scaffolding amongst the shrines and prayer matts. At the entrance to the area there are little white tiles on sale. One can buy a tile and write a message on it with your name or well wishes and the money goes towards continuing the building. I liked how they are getting everyone involved in building the attraction – we donated a small amount of Baht and once the area is complete it will be due to all of the donations from the public. It felt good to play a tiny part in the completion of the building. This building has taken many years to construct as they solely rely on public donations.
Arriving at the landmark you can see exactly how big it really is – 25 meters across and 45meters tall to be exact. It is a peaceful area, the only sounds coming from the chimes of the brass bells and hearts that line the base of the structure. People can purchase a heart and write a message on it. Lining the base of Big Buddha are smaller golden Buddhas which are extremely beautiful, one can put a donation into a small box at each Buddha for well wishes. Each Buddha symbolizes an ailment or emotion and one can put a donation into the one that connects with their concern. The actual Big Buddha is made from thousands of reinforced concrete, layered with beautiful Burmese white jade marble that shines in the sun, making it a natural symbol of hope.
The view from Big Buddha is quite beautiful, one can see 360 degrees of the island. I thoroughly enjoyed this site, so much so that I would name it a highlight of my holiday.
Make sure you ask your Tuk Tuk or cab to wait for you at Big Buddha, there are no Tuk Tuks at the top for you to take back home, all cabs are waiting for their clients. We did not know this and were stranded until we convinced a kind Tuk Tuk driver to take us to the bottom of the mountain while he waited for his clients. We then had to walk along the main road in search for another Tuk Tuk to take us back to the hotel. This made for a funny holiday story but one that could have been avoided.
What I learnt on day 2:
- Entry to Big Buddha is free
- Most hotels supply your room with complimentary water bottles in the morning , make sure you take one with you on your activities
- Before being dropped at a venue, ask if the driver needs to stay and wait or if there are sufficient transport options
- Keep a sarong in your bag for shrine/temple visits- I had to wear scarves and cover up twice during my stay (I wondered how many other sweaty tourists had used the scarves before me haha)
- Be open minded, learn about other cultures and beliefs, take the time to read the info and embrace it
- Take snacks with you such as peanuts or dried fruit, this will keep you energized in the heat
Day 3 : Patong Stalls and Bangla Road
On our third day in Phuket it rained heavily for most of the day. Luckily, Le Meridien offers entertainment for rainy days such as the driving range and archery which are both set under a roof for shelter. They also offer table tennis, stores and the restaurant for drinks and snacks. Due to the humidity we ended up playing Putt Putt in the pouring rain and swimming. Late afternoon the clouds cleared and we decided to do some shopping in Patong, have a bite to eat and explore the highly recommended, Bangla Road. Mango Sticky Rice – my new favourite dish that I loved so much I have begun making it back in SA.
After enjoying one of the best meals during our Thai adventure, we explored Bangla Road and had a drink at one of the bars. Our visit was short lived as we felt very overwhelmed by the sales people and decided to enjoy a few quiet cocktails back at the hotel. This is why…
The are lots of specials at the different clubs to lure you in to spend a few Baht at their club. Club girls stand outside and encourage you to come in holding up boards with the night’s specials.
We visited one club that had two-for-one beers – only 90 Baht for two beers. Unfortunately most of the specials are aimed at the men, ladies you will pay the same price for a cider where ever you go – I did’t see any specials on cocktails or ciders.
Apart from each club inviting you in with specials, there are actually mini bars within those clubs where brands rent the space and serve their own specials within the club. It’s like a bar within a bar. While sitting at the bar you will have the club girls try and play shooter games with you – all in aid of getting more money out of you. Other than the frustration I felt of permanently being sold something, I enjoyed the feel of sitting on the streets, watching people pass by, enjoying the good vibe that the street has.
We decided to leave after our second drink and made our way to the bathrooms before leaving the club. The use of bathrooms cost 10 Baht per person each time you visit. While my fiancé used the bathrooms he had a Thai man come up to him to help him soap and dry his hands. After saying “thank you” to the man (thinking that this was the service we had paid 10 Baht for), the man began to massage his shoulders, and suddenly— click his neck, back, arms, fingers and finally – his EARS! Yes, he had his ears clicked – all while I was watching and laughing through the bathroom passage. After the shock of what had just happened, my fiancé kindly thanked him and began to walk away until the Thai man shouted “100 BAHT!!”
This experience was funny and frightening all at the same time, we decided to catch a tuk tuk back to the hotel and enjoy a pizza and a cocktail looking over the gorgeous mirror-like pool.
What I learnt on day 3:
- Be sure to have a plan B for rainy days. Many activities rely on good weather and we found ourselves wasting a whole morning searching for indoor activities to do when the rain cancelled our outdoor activities. Don’t waste that time, have a plan B ready!
- Consider extra Baht for the use of toilets while visiting Bangla Road. It costs 10 Baht each time you need to use the facilities.
I put together a short video of what we did on this day. You will see us taste Durian, enjoy sticky rice, walk Bangla Road, catch a Tuk Tuk and arrive at the hotel for a midnight swim…