I needed a holiday, that’s all I knew. With our company going through a restructure and investment deals taking time to be concluded, taking off a couple weeks seemed like a logical idea — but the question was, where should we go?
My colleague and friend, Michele (Mick) Marrai, suggested we go to Bali. I was all excited but after a little bit of research I decided the beaches in Bali weren’t as brilliant looking as those in Thailand.
With just under two weeks before our proposed departure date, we had to move quickly.
Booking a trip overseas seems like an easy thing to do, right? Wrong! It couldn’t have been more stressful — so if you’re thinking of taking a quick break to Thailand then the next five minutes of reading should put you in good stead for a bloody awesome trip!
FRIENDS AND THEIR ADVICE
The first little bit of advice I can give you; don’t ask your friends on social media for advice!
So after asking our friends where we should go, analyzing the results and sending to KPMG for an official audit, we probably would have landed up on some tiny little island in the middle of the Pacific that no-one had ever heard of but of course one person had a great time there.
Once we were inundated with opinions of experiences our friends had all over the world we decided to just do this ourselves. One thing wasn’t debatable. We wanted a blue beach and white sand.
In our minds —Mauritius was too boring, Bali didn’t have the turquoise ocean at our doorstep, Europe in general was too expensive considering the Rand>Euro exchange rate, London would have been cold and definitely not affordable, a Med cruise would have been the end of us and Croatia’s Sail Week was just too far away — so Thailand it was!
Check out our official “after-video” below or view it directly on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nt_M8pPnN_Q
We asked our contacts at Flight Centre to put together a quote — because every travel agent tells you not to book online so of course we had to do this properly!
A few hours after our request we were presented with quotes from Flight Centre — but something just didn’t feel right. It may have had something to do with the hotel reviews we picked up on TripAdvisor and the long flight with Qatar Airlines.
Again, it seemed simpler to do this all ourselves and so we did.
Singapore Air offered the quickest and cheapest option for us to make our way to Phuket, Thailand’s go-to destination for tourists without a clue, so we booked and within no time we were landing in Singapore.
For those traveling either to, or through, Singapore you’ll realise coffee back home isn’t as expensive as you think if you suddenly have to fork out R160 ($13) for a cuppa.
After a short stay in Changi Airport we finally made our way to the SilkAir transporter that would take us to our destination. Now for those who have never been on an aircraft that lands in Phuket, do yourself a favour and watch the video below because it really is something special.
Finding our taxi wasn’t an issue. Mr Chon (I think that’s his real name?) was there smack on time. If you want him to pick you up his number is +66 84 058 5337 — don’t try him on WhatsApp or WeChat, rather give him a call. He was super efficient and we used him to get back to the airport again ten days later.
After about 90-minutes in the air conditioned van we arrived at our Hotel along Phuket’s famous Patong Beach.
Situated about a 7-minute walk (speed dependant on levels of alcohol intoxication) away from Bangla Road, Jungceylon Shopping Mall and Patong Beach lays a hidden gem — the Baumanburi Phuket Hotel. Don’t bother staying anywhere else if this is your first trip to Patong Beach. It’s central enough, right next to all the markets you need to buy your favourite branded clothing, opposite Hooters and Hard Rock Cafe if you’re keen for a bit of Western Culture and close enough to the ocean.
We arrived at reception and check-in didn’t take much longer than 15-minutes.
Now it’s important to know that TripAdvisor’s reviews didn’t make this hotel very attractive but, as I said earlier, we just decided to go with instinct and we never looked back.
Our room was pretty big, everything we needed was there and our first mission was a drink at the bar submerged in the pool.
It seemed like a good reason to book this hotel — because of the pool bar — but to be quite honest, we barely ever used it. In fact it was better to laze around on our lounger poolside and drink our beer buckets — taking a swim to the bar just didn’t seem logical.
Bangla Road is Patong’s infamous strip of night-time shenanigans. During the day, it’s pretty peaceful, but at night it comes to life with everything from strip shows to free beer on offer.
If you’re there for the party then there are enough options for the young ones — an 800BHT ticket gains you access to one of the nightclubs on the strip and includes all you can drink from 10PM until 1AM; but be warned, the glasses are small and the alcohol tastes purer than the green juice you had with breakfast.
There are plenty of spots in Bangla Road which don’t require an entry fee — in fact almost all don’t with the exception of course the super clubs who charge for the drink specials. Try out the Aussie Bar somewhere in the middle and GG’s Nightclub tucked away in a side-street offers bucket specials and good music! I’d speak a little more about it, but as far as I remember — my night ended here!
If taking it easy is your thing then stay away from the crazy antics of Bangla and head toward the end of Patong Beach where you’ll find the expats sipping away at cocktails on the beach whilst enjoying a chicken and rice dish from the inside of a pineapple.
After a couple of nights in Patong we made our way to Koh Phi Phi. Now if you’re looking for a tranquil island away from the madness then Phi Phi probably isn’t for you — try Koh Lanta which we’ll get into soon.
If Koh Phi Phi is your thing, and partying on the beach sounds like something you can’t wait to try, best you give Nicole Smith a call (a lady based in Phuket — see details at bottom) and she’ll arrange everything from your hotel transfer to the ferry transfer.
It’s about a 2-hour sail along the fairly large and somewhat luxurious ferry to Koh Phi Phi — interestingly enough the ride there isn’t as glamorous as it may seem — it’s pretty boring in fact but once you arrive you’re greeted by blue water and green hill tops.
We stayed in Hotel Ibiza — it’s right on the beach and has a hostel attached to it in the form of dorms, but we stayed in what they refer to as the Private Villas; you really cannot go wrong here so if you’re looking for accommodation in Phi Phi then I strongly recommend this as Option A; if you’re looking for something away from all the crazy action then look no further than the far side of the harbor where the ferry and boats dock — The Phi Phi Sand Sea View Resort or the Phi Phi Cliff Beach Resort looked like they could be quite fun... if you’re boring.
Apart from the obvious sites, Koh Phi Phi is home to Maya Bay. Although I haven’t seen the movie, “The Beach”, I still enjoyed this excursion and the turquoise water surrounding the beach. We took a private long-boat out for the afternoon and our guide took us snorkeling, site seeing and made sure we got to visit the caves.
Koh Phi Phi offers excellent value for money — you could quite literally spend two weeks on the island and save a few pennies; but make sure you look for a deal wherever you go. Some spots are a bit more pricy than others but on average a lunch/dinner will set you back about 80BHT. Drinks can be a bit pricy in some bars, but do what the experienced folks do and purchase your beers/ciders from the 7/11 stores and just drag it along with you into a club — you may have to funnel it if they catch you, but what’s so wrong with that?
If you’re looking for something different, the island doesn’t disappoint. Check out the famous Reggae Bar which offers live boxing matches and if you’re feeling the vibe you’re welcome to put on the kit and get in the ring with a mate — but beware, the crowd encourage a winner! Kongsiam is the live music pub with a capacity of just under 100 self-believing pop stars; we had a pretty good time there singing along to our favourite tunes!
Koh Phi Phi has a habit of keeping you up late, even if you don’t want to be. The beach parties start anywhere from sunset and go on till about 2AM — well structured stages are built using sand and water with the locals hard at work with a shovel and hose-pipe to get it ready for the night’s festivities. It doesn’t matter what night you happen to walk by, the beach clubs all host the local talent displaying their incredible fire-dancing skills before opening up the dance floor to the tourists with traditional Limbo dancing.
After a few days of partying we again board a ferry — this time we were off to Koh Lanta; now this is where you go to unwind, relax and pretend there’s nothing wrong with the world.
Although the trip was pretty tedious (next time we’ll take the ferry direct instead of hopping off at Phuket and catching a second one) the island itself was paradise in paradise.
Now we didn’t really know what we were doing, where we were going or where we were staying. We went onto booking.com the night before and found the Andaman Lanta Resort which looked really peaceful and pleasant — though the reviews weren’t fantastic we still decided to give it a go and sure didn’t regret it.
The room was fairly peaceful although right on the road. At first we thought it would be terrible but once we were comfortable we realised we couldn’t hear a thing from the road alongside us.
There’s a little owner-run Irish pub in the centre of town along the Long Beach stretch — it’s called The Irish Embassy and offers both traditional cuisine and Irish favourites.
If you’re looking for something more authentic, take a trip along the dark parts of Long Beach Road and find a local hangout which will probably be full of tourists in any case!
After two nights of doing absolutely nothing we headed back to Patong. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have gone back to Patong and rather we should have headed somewhere along the stretch at Kata Beach.
We managed to book into the Baumanburi Hotel once more. We felt there was no need to try something different so we went straight back onto booking.com the night before and booked again.
Upon arrival we introduced ourselves to the reception desk as the two Kings returning — we requested they upgrade our room and offer us something suitable for two Kings who had been visiting the hotel for a second time in the space of a week. We were so friendly about it that they literally agreed and gave us keys to an incredible room with enough space to entertain the Thai army and still have space for our friends. Not really, but you get the idea — it was large with three couches, two queen size beds, a large bathroom and enough cupboard space for a six week vacation.
Our last couple of nights was spent exploring Patong Beach and enjoying the parts not filled with ping-pong show promoters and Russian dancers. Although we did manage to visit Seduction and a couple of the other super clubs in Bangla Road again — and if you ever get there make sure you don’t come home before visiting “Tiger” — the decor alone is something to experience!
We spent our last day with our friends Nicole and Devon at Kata Beach. Why we didn’t stay here in the first place is simply beyond me! If there’s one thing you’re going to take out of this post, make sure you spend a couple of nights in Kata.
Kata Beach is filled with one awesome attraction after another. The beach is pretty well looked after, although don’t expect crystal clear water given the amount of pollution all over — in fact, crystal clear water is hard to come by and the pictures you see are very different to the real life experience.
So besides jet-skiing in Kata, make sure you give yourself a go on the man-made surfing setup just opposite the beach — it’s the Kata Surf House and it’s probably one of the best experiences you can find — if you’re not into that maybe a bit of stand-up-paddle-boarding is your thing; and there’s no better time to do it than during the incredible sunset.
Many friends, and friends of friends, ask us about our experience so instead of answering each one as they come, we’ll just direct them to this post and to make things a little simpler; we’ve made a summary of our main ‘findings’ below.
Where To Stay
Don’t spend money on hotels, it’s really not necessary. That’s what they told us before we left and I must be honest — I totally disagree. Patong Beach is a great place to visit but it’s incredible smelly too! If you want to stay there then make sure you find yourself decent accommodation if the Baumanburi is full. The islands of Koh Lanta and Phi Phi are relatively cheap as it is… I would suggest you make sure the place you staying at is in the position you want it to be in — i.e on the road, or on the beach.
Do your own research. Don’t listen to opinions and don’t read reviews. Forget everything that’s written here and make your own decisions. You won’t regret it! Don’t believe the reviews you read — most of them are made up robots trashing each other.
If you’re wanting a suit made up, follow the road to Jimmy over at The Best Tailor. Don’t go anywhere else, you’re wasting your time! There are guys at almost every corner screaming “Eh, my friend! Want a suit?!”. If you find Jimmy, tell him Justin and Mick say “hello!” and ask him for the South African special! If you’re lost, call or send him a WhatsApp — +66 86 945 2811
Nearly everyone offers a foot massage. We never got one so I don’t think your trip is dependent on it but if you’re really up for a male-looking Thai female to scrub your feet, go for it!
Going Out in Patong
Don’t stress about where to go. Don’t plan every night out. Just go with the flow. There are so many things to do, places to see and people to meet. Just go have a bash! Look out for a deal and enjoy — and if you make out with a stripper you’re doing well!
Jetski / Watersports
This wasn’t going to be the holiday we wanted until we hit the jetskis. Patong is pretty dirty so don’t do it there — also the guys out that side take a chance and charge you tripple — take a trip out to Kata Beach and hop on a jetski. It will cost you about 1500BHT (R750) but will be far worth it.
Buckets & Booze
Alcohol is not cheap. So if someone told you it’s cheap and that’s why you’re going…CANCEL! A beer will set you back at least 90BHT (R45) in a pub or restaurant and if you’re in a club don’t expect to pay anything less than 160BHT (R80). Try stick to a bucket if you can stomach the flavour of the vodka — but whatever you do don’t drink the KONG KING whiskey — or whatever it is!
The beaches are pretty cool — but don’t be misguided by pictures you see of perfectly blue water. This isn’t Bora Bora! There’s a lot of trash in the ocean — and unfortunately it’s not all it’s hyped up to me. That said, it still makes for good photography and will certainly make your friends back home jealous. Stick to the more secluded beaches (ask Nicole — see below) and make sure you visit Kata Beach when you’re in Phuket.
There’s nothing better than purchasing your designer labels at a fraction of the cost. Be wary of logos misprinted or printed at a strange angle. Always bargain. Never go in asking what it costs — tell them what you’re willing to pay. As a guide, a t-shirt shouldn’t set you back more than 250BHT and a vest should go for no more than 150BHT. One last bit of advice, if you’re a medium — take an XL. Whilst the sizing isn’t too bad when you try something on it will DEFINITELY shrink so give that some thought! Nothing (except our suits) fit us anymore :-(
There’s absolutely no need to take high-heels ladies! Gents, you don’t need your pointy black or brown shoes. Slops, a few tees, a couple pairs of shorts, your underwear and one pair of sneakers should do the trick!
The heat is insane. And so too is the price of sun cream. Someone out there knows it’s a commodity and it’s sixteen times the price of fuel! Make sure you take a backpack full of sun cream and if you’re feeling loving there will be plenty of tourists to share it with.
Departing Thailand’s Airport
Whilst arriving in Thailand over the ocean is spectacular, leaving isn’t! The airport itself makes you go through a security check prior to entering the airport and once you’re in and checked your baggage, you’ve got to do it all over again. Once through immigration you’d think the restaurants there would be ready to cater to the thousands of tourists it sees a day? Well, most of the places don’t take cards and at the one which does; a burger, chips and a Pepsi will set you back a mere 600BHT (R300)— if you can still afford that after your trip you’ve done something wrong.
Help in Thailand
If you’re needing anything — give Nicole a shout. She’s a South African expat living in Phuket and will help you with almost anything. Her number is +66 82 275 6778 — Nicole will help plan your entire trip if you’re lucky!
Many tourists take a package tour to Thailand and don’t necessarily get to experience it the way we did. A couple of nights on each island is definitely the way to do it and asking the expats or locals (if you know ’em) for advice is the best way to explore. Don’t rely on reviews from websites and don’t take a friend’s personal opinion too much to heart — rather do your own research and make your own decisions not influenced by outsiders.
A couple of nights on each island will do the trick — although if you’re hopping between Koh to Koh, make sure you pack light. There’s nothing more annoying than someone on a ferry with a massive bag holding everyone up!
Try different foods wherever you go — if you enjoyed a Phad Phri Mak in Patong, don’t expect it to be the same on Phi Phi — in fact, sometimes they have the same names but they’re totally different!
Kob Khun Krap.