I had written this post back in September already when I started my blog and vowed then that before 2016 closed its eyes and bid us farewell, I was going to publish it. So here it is, finally 🙂 .
Thailand was amazing. We spent 7 nights at a beautiful 4-star resort – Centara Karon Beach Resort on the quieter side of Phuket. Not being in our 20’s anymore, we really didn’t want the hustle and bustle of the night life that Patong had to offer, but still wanted to be close to the beautiful turquoise ocean and the nearby town for some shopping and excursions, which Phuket was perfect for. The hotel didn’t disappoint – our suite was pool facing and we could step out of our room and literally into the pool with all of 10 steps! Everything was top notch and we couldn’t complain about anything. I liked that they had daily activities for kiddies – allowing the parents to enjoy some downtime at the pool all while having complete visibility of their kids. One day, God willing, I would like to go back with our little one.
Our trip started out with quite a bang as our connecting flight from Doha to Phuket only had 45 minutes between our landing time and boarding time cut off! Needless to say, we were a little stressed out because no-one really speaks English that well in Doha and we found the airport personnel to be a little “militant” in their engagement with us. Nevertheless, we followed the crowd and caught our flight on time!
After being a total of 16 hours in the air, we finally arrived at Phuket airport the Saturday afternoon, all sweaty and tired. The airport is quite small and all you see are people everywhere! It’s quite overwhelming when you are used to the space our airports boast back home. En-route to our hotel, we drove through the town and we were both in shock and awe of what we saw. With motorbikes and scooters being their primary mode of transport, very few cars and busses can be seen. However, they take “living on the edge” to another level, as families of 4 people are sometimes sighted on one small motorbike – none of them wearing a helmet! What did stand out for me was that although the people drive quite fast there, there seems to be a respect on their roads and so everyone is allowed their turn. Make-shift circles are approached quite decently, people there seem not to mind giving the other person a “show” and we didn’t witness any malicious or spiteful driving – very different to what we have come to know in South Africa! The houses are very plain and simple and somewhat dilapidated, but it seems to work for them. Life seems a little simpler there and the people are not very wealthy from what we gathered. The hotels and resorts however, are beautiful and those situated on the beach front offers the true island holiday experience. The ones we see in the magazines!
The Sunday morning, we were met in the hotel lobby by Marco, a local travel agent who helped us plan the next few days in terms of excursions and sightseeing. He arranged for a tour after lunch that day, that included the famous Chalong Temples, the Big Buddha, Karon Viewpoint, a Cashew Factory, a Honey Farm, and the famous Weekend Market. What an amazing experience! Thailand is filled with rich history, culture and simplicity that is both refreshing and overwhelming. Yes, they capitalise off the tourism, but take that away and it’s such a humble place where their traditions are still respected even in modern day times. The Chalong Temples was my favourite for the day – both locals and tourists alike frequent these beautiful buildings daily, praying and paying their respects to the monks who built them so many years ago. Before you can enter a temple, your shoulders must be covered and you leave your shoes at the steps outside. I loved this, and was pleasantly surprised that no-one from those that I could see, gave the officials a hard time about it even in 35 degree heat and your feet burning from the scorching hot ground. After the tour of the enchanting temples, our shoes were exactly where we had left them. This says a lot about the kind of people living there.
Although we wanted to make the most of this trip abroad and experience as much as we could of this beautiful country, we were also on holiday and wanted to strike a good balance between sightseeing and relaxation. Monday saw us lounging for most of the day at the pool, sipping on cocktails and then enjoying the crystal clear 30 degree waters of Karon Beach, 2 minutes’ walk from our hotel. White sandy beaches, palm trees and coconuts in 38-degree heat – this was the island holiday I had dreamed of! That evening we visited the local pub, Angus O’ Tool Irish Pub just outside the gates of the resort for some more thirst quenchers : ) . It was St Patricks Day, so we were at the perfect place to celebrate in true Irish style.
Tuesday morning, we had to be up super early because our island tour was arranged and would see us out at sea for most of the day. It was a tad bit difficult after the night at the pub, but we managed 🙂 . We were taken to a pier in Phang Nga Bay about an hour and half away from the hotel and boarded an open top ferry that would be our “taxi” for the day. This was a huge fear that I had to face because I can’t swim and the thought of being an entire day out at sea was a little unsettling for me. But I had to conquer it if I was to enjoy the magic that this place had to offer, and so I did and I have no regrets!
We visited 4 islands in total – Panak Island famous for its mangrove forests, Hong Island where we canoed through mysterious caves, explored the infamous James Bond Island where The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed and finally Naka Island where we spent our time enjoying the turquoise blue waters. After an entire day, out at sea, experiencing adventures I had only once dreamed of, we were bushed when we got back to the hotel. But the exhaustion was nothing compared to the experience we had – no amount of words could ever describe it to do it justice. It was truly unforgettable. When we were on the ferry boat looking out at the ocean, it really looked like we were staring at a picture in a magazine and I constantly needed to remind myself that the beauty in front of me was real. A little piece of heaven on earth.
Wednesday was spent touring Karon Beach streets, trying out some local cuisine and bargaining with the street vendors. We found that most of the vendors sold the same items, but the prices varied quite a bit. This made bargaining for the best price a little easier. However, don’t be fooled by the fact that we have the stronger currency here in SA. A steak costs us 600 Baht which is equivalent to R300. So, although we got almost 3 Baht to R1 at the time, you may end up spending more there on the same item than back home, just because of the prices of certain things. The evening we had a beach picnic and witnessed the most magnificent sunset. It could have been after 8pm and the sun was still showing off in all its glory. And we were not the only ones enjoying a night at the beach, foreigners and locals alike sat on the beach witnessing a splendid island sunset. Thursday, we took a tuktuk (local mini taxi) to Patong, where we enjoyed most of the day on Patong Beach before heading to Jungceylon Shopping Mall for some retail therapy and more local cuisine – yes, we love food 🙂 . Patong is quite different to Karon where we stayed – definitely the tourist hub, so after spending the entire day there, we were glad to retreat to our quieter side of town, but enjoyed our adventures there 🙂
Friday evening, we had a date night at Simons Cabaret in Patong – an extravaganza show consisting of ballet, songs and acts by trans-gender performers. This is a must -see if in Phuket – the local talent is amazing. We got a few photos with some of the performers…the men are seriously beautiful there and it was very difficult for me to distinguish which ones were not female – scary when your husband is posing with them 🙂 . When we got back, we celebrated our last night in this heavenly place with a romantic dinner.
Sadly, Saturday arrived and it was time to head on home, but we couldn’t leave Thailand without experiencing a Thai Massage from the masters themselves and some cocktails to remember Phuket by. I had a leg and reflexology massage, while Noel had a full body massage. It was awesome! Just what the doctor ordered in preparation for the 16 hr flight that lie ahead of us.
Thailand was truly unbelievable and definitely unforgettable. Our trip was everything we had hoped for and more. We met wonderful and friendly people, learnt about a different culture and a different way of life. We had the adventure of a life time and made memories that will last forever. (Well with more than 1000 photos, it will be hard to forget anyway.) The challenges that come with being in a foreign country allowed Noel and I to bond on another level and it brought us closer together as a couple. I conquered so many of my fears on this trip and will forever be grateful for the experience. We needed this trip, we needed a change of scenery and an escape from our reality even if it was just for a week :).
It was extremely difficult for me to choose which pictures to share with you because there were so many amazing memories, but I hope that the ones I chose will give you a little glimpse of what an adventure we had.
We hope to return to this heavenly island one day soon! Bucket list item ticked off!
” Say yes to new adventures!” – Author unknown