VOYAGE to Phuket, Thailand!

18/03/2015 § 7 Comments

Travel date: 14 to 16 September 2014

Sawadee ka!

Yep, The Street Cat went to the land of the free – Thailand!

I have been wanting to go to the beach and feel the heat of the sun, with sand underneath my feet, while hearing the sound of the waves and feeling the cool, salty breeze. And finally, I was able to do so…at least for a little while. From Singapore, I flew all the way to Phuket, Thailand to see its wonderful beaches and to eat Thai food and, um, well, just to see something different. Had it not been for my ignorance of the monsoon season, I would have enjoyed my trip better while basking under the warmth of the sun. Anyhow, I was able to enjoy my three day-two night trip to the land of the free.

Day 1

I flew to Phuket via Jetstar, and arrived in the island at 0910hrs (Phuket time.) It has been cloudy since my arrival in the island and eventually, on the way to the hotel, it has been pouring nonstop, varying from normal showers to heavy rains. Well, unfortunately for the weather, my trip must go on whether it rain or shine.

I did several researches about Phuket, from good restaurants, places to see, things to do, and even means of going around the island. But guess what? I stepped on the island and my itinerary, that I spent several browser -lagging time to conjure, was not even used. All is still good though. Spontaneity is always a back-up plan.

After I cleared the immigration and before I finally exited the airport building, I booked my island tour for the next day, still not knowing what kind of weather was awaiting me outside. Booking through the tourist information counter in the airport got me a free transfer to the hotel, which would otherwise cost me 900 to 1000 Baht if I took a taxi by myself, or 200 Baht for the minibus service. I forgot to ask for the name of the person I talked to but he was very accommodating, helpful, and friendly. Well, I guess Thais have always been friendly, as from my experience of visiting Bangkok and Chiang Mai a few years back.

The transfer ride to the hotel was a minibus that I took together with about ten or eleven other people. I was the last one to ride the minibus so I was given a seat in the middle front. I was actually glad that I did because it was like a VIP seat for sightseeing. The ride from the hotel to the airport also serves as my city tour, only without actually visiting the popular tourist sights, which I am not very interested in.

I get to see how Patong, Karon and Kata areas and beaches looked like, and I am glad that I did not stay in Patong area as it was a very busy place. I was looking for a laid-back overseas trip with me, myself and I, and Patong is the exact opposite of what I wanted. I was also the last person to alight the minibus because my chosen hotel was at the far end of Kata beach, closer to Kata Noi beach. That only made me gladder because I get to see everything that the first couple who alighted missed. Besides, Tum, the minibus driver was also a good company, trying to open conversations with the strangers of a tourist with the three of us left.

And guess what? He offered to give me a ride from the hotel to the airport in the same cost that I would have gotten the minibus transfer which is 200 Baht. Well, I think that would be a better option because minibuses leaving from the airport to the hotels are quiet many with full passengers, but going back from the beaches, they either have a few passengers to pick-up or reach the airport empty. It was just too bad because when I tried to inform him if I could take his ride back to the airport on my departure date, the time that he gave me is so early that I decided to take other options – which is to book for a transfer service costing me  1000 Baht.

Oh, just for the note. Apparently there were minibus transfer from hotels to airport but the rides were limited. I would suggest to check with your hotel on your arrival so you can book for a transfer which would be a lot cheaper than taking a cab.

I reached my hotel, Kata Hi View Resort at around 1130hrs, and rested in my room. Had it been my expected summery day, I would have wasted no time staying in my room and immediately get a tuktuk or motorcycle to send me to one of my planned destinations. But it wasn’t my summery, sunshiny expected day, and there was a light rain outside, so I spent around two hours in the my room and tried to visit the pool that, as I read from reviews, has an amazing view. Besides, I am kind of feeling tired because I have not slept properly the past few days – not because I was excited, but because of my sleeping problems. I was just glad that the people who welcomed me immediately gave me the room upon arrival even though the actual check-in time was at 1400hrs. The same people and all other people in the front desk of the resort were all very friendly and accommodating and helpful. I feel kind of sorry for always bothering them and asking them questions.

And the pool that I mentioned really has a very nice view of the Kata beach and the Andaman sea with its sea green color. Of course, the sunset would be very nice to see from there as well, while having a nice glass of cocktail. I did not really see it for myself though because I was mostly out of the hotel by the time of the sunset, but the pool was facing the west side so there was no doubt about it. Enjoying the view from there comes with a twist though: there were several steps to venture with, passing by several bungalows on the way, before getting up there. But believe me, the climb was definitely worth it. I actually booked the resort because of the stunning view that I get to see there. If only I am not travelling on a tight budget, I would have booked a bungalow so I could see the view during my entire stay.

I tried to stroll in the neighborhood of my hotel when I finally decided to step foot outside. It was still raining though so I need to find a folding umbrella first. Then I found an open store for a sweet roti, or Banana Pancake as it is mostly known or labeled, and I just had to buy it. It was one of the reasons I went to Thailand. It wasn’t the same taste I remembered from Chiang Mai, but it tasted good just the same. And after my nice little snack under the roof of an establishment, I decided to ride the Songthaew which is like a jeep in the Philippines but only bigger. It took me another hour before reaching Phuket Town, thirty minutes spent slowly driving through the streets while trying to get more passengers, and the other half for actually driving from Karon to the town. Since it was raining the plastic covering for the windows were down so I was not able to enjoy the sights for the short trip.

I reached Phuket Town at about 1500hrs, and started by aimlessly walking on the streets, with map in my bag and umbrella in one hand. As I am not exactly directionally challenged, I was able to locate the street that I wanted to go to – Thalang Road – because the coffee shop that I wanted to try was there if my memory is right. I know, why the hell did I fly all the way to Thailand to visit a coffee shop, right? What can I say though? I am aberrant just like that. Unfortunately for me, I was not able to find the shop that I am looking for although there were some very nice looking cafes in the same street. But since I cannot find it even after walking from one end of the street to the other, I just tried to eat in the eatery that I passed by.

It wasn’t a fancy restaurant with a proper building establishment, but more like a covered space set-up with tables and chairs, and a small area to cook. It fits the idea of a local Thai food concept in my head though, so I tried to eat there. The food, beside being cheap, was also good. I ordered a plate of chicken fried rice and a fresh coconut juice. The fried rice came with a slice of lime on the side so I decided to squeeze it over the rice thinking that it should be done so, and I never regretted it. It actually made the food taste even better. What’s more? The good, tummy-satisfied serving, for both the fried rice and coconut, only costs me 110Baht. Happy tummy and happy pocket! The catch: you might find the food store a little bit unhygienic. Though a chef I knew said that if you want to try authentic local dishes, you should go to the street food stores.

I tried to take another stroll in the streets trying my luck to see the store I was looking for, but it was still in vain. When I finally returned to Thalang Road, some stalls have started their operation for the night market, and I also started buying what snacks they have to offer. As picky as I am with what I eat, I tried as much as possible to eat the foods that I think were interesting. A skewered and grilled pork that taste like longanisa, ice cream filled colorful mochi, Thai crepe with meringue and shredded egg (oddly tasted sweet), grilled coconut pancake, iced chocolate drink, salted egg yolk sushi, and sweet dim sum/siew mai. I wanted to try more of what they offer but I am already full from eating everything I mentioned. I even have to order in half the dim sum and coconut pancakes. The only thing I regretted is not being able to taste the floss, noodles, and soup dessert with egg. I need to come back again for those, and next time, I wouldn’t eat anything before the night market starts. And I’ll definitely make sure that it will be a summery, sunshiny day.

According to one of the sources I read, the night market in Thalang Road is only open on Sundays, from 1600-2200hrs. But most night markets are open on both Saturday and Sunday, around the same time, at some parts of Phuket.

At around 1900hrs, I decided to leave Phuket Town and head back to my hotel. I was full and the rain is so erratic. But by the time that I wanted to find a tuktuk to send me back to Kata Beach, for some odd reason, I couldn’t find one, nor see one anywhere. So here comes the thrilling part that I did not even expected. I had to ride a motorbike taxi to get back to my hotel in Kata. It was only a good thirty minutes ride on the wet roads that tend to lead up and downhills. I actually have decided not to try riding a motorbike taxi beacuse of the rain while staying in Phuket, but I was left with no choice. Luckily, there were not even drizzles during my travel time. I managed to reach the hotel safe and sound, and thought to myself, ‘it wasn’t so bad riding a motorbike taxi’.  At least that would be cheaper than getting myself a tuktuk. And the experience was also part of the fun.

I ended my long day by taking a dip in the cold pool on a cold rainy night. It felt kind of private because it was late in the evening and no guests seem to be occupying the higher bungalows either. So I had a full hour in the dimly lighted pool with the strong winds. I was even happier because the entire pool was of the same level and no deeper parts. I really couldn’t swim very well so it was a good point for me. I definitely need to get a massage before I leave Thailand though.

Day 2

It was the day I allocated for the tours: Phang Nga Bay Island Tour and Phuket Fantasea Show.

I had a pick up service for the Phang Nga Bay Island Tour by 0730hrs, so I got up at 0600hrs, took a quick shower and went off to the streets to get myself some breakfast which basically is comprised of a couple of cupcakes, a bacon wrapped sausage , and a small melon flavored milk from the convenience store. The neighborhood of the hotel I was staying at is pretty much dead around this time. So I had to choose a convenience store bought breakfast because it was the closest and cheapest one. I just need to mention this because I really find it very interesting. The small carton of Meiji melon flavored milk costs 1.50 Singapore dollar (or 37.50 Thai Baht) in a 7-Eleven convenience store, while in Thailand, the same size only costs 12 Thai Baht in a 7-Eleven convenience store. Oh, the costs of living in different countries really shows here.

My pick-up came on time and as I expected, I was the first one on the list. And I get the front seat again too. Another special sightseeing for me, so I don’t really mind waking up early. The travel from my hotel to Ao Por Pier took about one hour, and the drive was pretty fast, so it’s really far. When everyone that is part of the tour have gathered in the meeting point, we walked to the transfer stop and took a small songthaew to transfer to the actual port. It was raining and we would have walked if it is not.

The weather was bad but the islands that we visited were still very beautiful. We first stopped by Panak Island, being the nearest one. We rode a canoe for two person and a driver for each. As I was travelling alone, I need to pair up with another tourist that doesn’t have a pair. We passed by an underwater cave and saw limestone formations on the ceiling. Then we reached the lagoon at the end of the cave and the inside was really beautiful too. I think it was more beautiful because it was raining, adding an effect to the natural beauty.

We returned to the cruise and took off to Hong Island. We still have to ride the canoes with the same pairings as earlier making the transfer from the cruise to the canoe faster. We took longer time in this island, maybe because the others have to finish preparing the food for our lunch. Unlike Panak Island, Hong Island doesn’t have longer underwater caves. Just a short cave to transfer from the outer part of the island going to the inner lagoon which this time is bigger than the first island. This island also have more beautiful rock formations in the exterior, and more separate rocks. This is the island that need the effect of the sun and the clear blue sky.

We had lunch when we returned to the cruise. They served us teriyaki flavored noodles, fried pineapples and onions, fried rice, fried chicken drumlets, fish and tom yum soup, which of course I did not take. The  fried rice was very delicious that I had to take another round,  because I only took a little at first, afraid that I might not like it at all.

The travel from Hong Island to the next island, James Bond Island, which apparently has been the venue to shoot an old James Bond movie titled, Man with the Golden Gun, was thirty minutes away and was the farthest. So having a lunch was just timed nicely for it. We have to transfer to a long tail boat to reach the island, and we were given thirty minutes to spend there. The island, despite it’s small size was pretty. I felt like I was stranded in an island as I took the steep steps to reach the other side of the island, which is basically a brown beach, due to the shells that have gathered by the shore. I did not take too long to take a whole round of the island and was back by the meeting point in no time.

There were two bad news for me in this trip, besides the bad weather. We were supposed to go to the last island where we can relax and enjoy the beach, but because of the weather, everyone agreed not to proceed with the itinerary, and just go straight back to the pier. Of course, ‘everyone’ does not include the small minority of about two or a couple more people who were not active enough to voice out their opinions. I was kind of glad about that because I can at least head back to the hotel earlier and go for my another tour. I felt kind of bad not being able to follow suit what I paid for though. The second bad news is that my camera broke even before we reach the first island and my phone broke in the second island. I just realized that devices and gadgets without the waterproof feature were really not meant to withstand even heavy rains or long exposure to waters.

My camera, Canon 60D, and my phone, Samsung Galaxy Note II, finally worked on the way back to the hotel, fortunately. Otherwise, I would have been in a very bad mood that I would hate Phuket for the rest of my life. It was kind of bad that I wasn’t able to take any pictures of James Bond Island though.

Because of the rain and the rush hour, which I have forgotten about because I was on holiday, I missed my transfer service by about fifteen minutes. So, I had to fork out another 600 Baht to pay for a transfer service provided by the same travel agent who booked my ticket for the Phuket Fantasea. I had not minded it because I took my time for a quick shower and changed my wet clothes into fresh, dry ones. I also fixed myself to look more alive as compared to my dead-looking self during the day. It was a quiet and quick travel to Kamala, the location of the Phuket Fantasea, which is three beaches away from the one I am staying at.

I was lucky to have enough time to take a quick look at the place before the show actually began. I even had the time to play in the arcade before the show starts. And am I not lucky enough to win small prizes for three out of five games. And for all these games, I am just one point short of getting the bigger prizes. Too bad! And because I felt bad that I was not able to get a prize for the basketball shooting game, I took another round of games after the show. I was not as lucky as the first time though. I only won one game and it was a three of sixteen shots I was given. It was like a free play. During my first try, I was only one point short of getting a small plushy though.

And the theater show. The plot was composed of legend, magic, and culture. It was pretty amazing and the animals are cute. I like the trapeze performance the best. I find it very breathtaking and exhilarating and just plain fantastic, amazing, and awesome. Yes, I was so moved by the performance and I really like it a lot. BUT, if I were to compare the theater show in Phuket Fantasea with the one in Siam Niramit, which I have seen back in 2009, I would say that I like the latter a lot better. Siam Niramit’s show has more colors, and actions and music to it, although it is only about the legend and history of Thailand. Some parts of the show is roughly similar though. But for the place in general, the Phuket Fantasea ranks higher for me, with it’s arcade games and stuff.

The show ended around 2200hrs and we left the place at about 2300hrs. Luckily I found the minibus service so I don’t have to worry about not getting a ride back to the hotel again.

I arrived at the hotel just before midnight, and so most of the restaurants are already closed by then. I still tried my luck and it worked. A nearby restaurant was still open so I just decided to eat a good dinner there. I have not eaten since lunch time so I was starving. I ordered a pineapple fried rice, grilled squid and fresh coconut. And boy, was I full and the food was satisfying enough for me. I wasn’t very happy about the fried rice though because I was expecting it to have more of the pineapple flavor. I still finished it though, because I was hungry and because I paid for it.

Part of my plans for the day was to have a cocktail while sitting in a restaurant overlooking the sea, which of course did not happen as it was already very late. And I am too tired for another long day in which half was spent under the rain. It luckily cleared up a little while I was at Phuket Fantasea. And so, I needed to get back to Phuket to get my cocktail time while over-looking the sea.

Day 3

This is my last day in Phuket and I still have my plans of visiting the Karon/Kata View Point and Promthep Cape. It was still raining in the morning though. So I decided not to proceed with leaving the beach area. I was glad that I decided to do so because at around 1030hrs, the sun decided to show up and the clouds give way for that. As quickly as I can, I immediately made a move to proceed to Kata Noi Beach, which is a fifteen to twenty minute walk from my hotel, taking up and downhill routes. I was just so happy that I did so, because at around 1100hrs, not many people were lounging in the beach. It felt kind of private and the beach was beautiful with its sea green color, white sands and strong waves.

I wasted no time in taking a dip in the clear waters of the Andaman sea. The waves were too strong and seeing that I was alone, I did not dare go farther from the bay. I might be taken away by the receding waves giving way to the bigger ones about to come. And actually, there really is no need to put so much effort into swimming because the waves will bring me back to the bay. I just literally need to go with the flow. I spent about an hour and a half at Kata Noi Beach, enjoying the sun, sound of the waves while lying on the sand. I got what I wanted; my idea of a trip to the beach. I was happy.

I returned to the hotel, taking the same route of up and downhill, and quickly took a shower and packed my things. Then I took another stroll around the area of Kata beach, bought souvenirs and clothes for myself, and spent another hour in the Kata Beach. The sun was hidden behind the clouds in the afternoon but at least it was not raining. Kata Beach was longer than Kata Noi Beach but there were a lot of people there. Maybe it’s because it was already afternoon and it has not rain since noon time. I like Kata Noi Beach better though.

For people wanting to try surfing, you would find some locals trying to make a business by renting out surfboards. I am not too sure whether they also offer a short training for surfing but I could guarantee that the price is very affordable. At least as compared to the one I tried when I was at Bali. There would also be people walking around and selling stuff on the beach, so if you need snacks but was too lazy to leave your spot, just wait for them.

After staying at Kata Beach, I went back to the hotel, and took a proper shower this time, getting rid of all the sand stuck with me. Then I went for a Thai Massage at Tum Rub Thai massage which was closer to my hotel under the same company as Oriental Massage at Ibis Hotel. The massage was really good and the cost was fairly cheap. It was only 300 Baht for an hour of full body massage. Thai massage is one of the things in my list and I was happy to get it done. At least after my eventful three-day, two-night trip to the island I was able to have a short time to give my body a treat of relaxation.

Things to note:
1. Monsoon season in Phuket is from September to October. So if you want to have a sunshiny, and summery kind of holiday trip to the beach, please refrain from visiting the island on these months. Airlines will definitely be having some kind of sale for the airfare during these months though, so it’s up to you and your luck.

2. Night market in Thalang Road, Phuket Town is more of a food market. If you plan to buy souvenirs in the area, I would advise that you just get those souvenirs from the stores near the beach because that would be a lot cheaper than by going to the town area. Go to Phuket Town only for the Sino-Portuguese architectures, museums, and food.

3. If you do not like to be exposed to a crowded beach area, Patong is not the place for you. You might want to change your hotel location to Kata or Karon, or somewhere farther from Patong. That would mean you would be farther from the main attractions though. But the beaches would be definitely worth it.

4. As Phuket is very popular among tourists, you really do not have to worry about food. There were several eateries anywhere you stay and they serve not only Thai food, but also western type of foods as well.

5. If you were thinking of doing some good shopping in Phuket as well, there really is not much need to bring that much of clothes. You can buy dresses, shorts, and swimwears in the stores near your hotel and they come with a cheap price too. You only need to have a good bargaining skills.

6. If you want to to go for the island tours, prepare your waterproof camera and phone case. There will be people in the port selling waterproof phone cases though, but the quality is cheap and I don’t really like how the photos were taken with that.

I created this post after my Phuket Trip back in September 2014, but I kind of left it on pending because I want to upload it together with the photos. But, well, since summer is just around the corner, so I decided to post this. I’m planning to go to Marinduque, Philippines next. When I will post something about the island though is another question.

I just wanna be on the beach… (humming to the tune of Sandwich’s Sunburn)

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