Our adventures in Phuket, Thailand – Part I

I am back from vacationing with Jordan in Thailand for two and a half weeks. Already I wish I was back there! During our stay I kept a journal of the things we did each day. I’m going to recreate that journal here.

We chose to go to the island of Phuket in southern Thailand. This island is in the Andaman Sea and is a very touristy area even in the off-season, which is when we visited. The off-season is also the rainy or “monsoon” season, but it’s still very hot and extremely humid even when the sun is hidden by clouds. We had some really bright, sunny days and of course many grey, windy, rainy days (still hot). The good thing about the rain is that it would usually start in the morning for a little while and then stop for a few hours; sometimes the rain came down so heavily it looked like someone was pouring buckets from the sky! Another great thing about the off-season is the hotel rates; they simply plummet and one pays cheaply for a very nice resort!

Before I get into the journal section, just a quick bit of information: I booked the two of us into 2 different hotel resorts so that we could experience different areas of the island. First we stayed in Kamala, one of the worst-hit areas of the 2004 Tsunami; it’s a small village but still bustling with activity, not as many tourists, very relaxing and quiet. The Kamala Beach Resort & Hotel is a great place to stay; the surroundings are very lush and green, and the hotel is situated right on the beach. It’s also small enough that one cannot get lost but big enough to boast two pools, one with a swim-up bar. We stayed in Kamala for 7 days, and then moved south to Karon.

Karon is bigger than Kamala and is definitely more touristy. I think the most popular place for people to stay is in Patong, but I found that city to be much too busy for my liking, even in off-season. We discovered Karon to be quiet as well, but there are also more areas for good shopping, more tourists, and more restaurants. From our hotel, the Best Western Ocean Resort, it was only a thirty minute walk into Kata, depending on how fast we were moving and how many stops we made along the way. The hotel we stayed at is pretty big, it hugs the hills as it rises up the slope; there are lots of stairs and connecting passageways, and luckily a set of elevators! This place has 3 pools, and we soon discovered our favourite.

Upon arrival in Thailand, I had $300 CAD in cash (exchanged at the hotel), 2500 Baht, and my debit card for further withdrawals. The in-room safe at the first hotel was not free, so I kept some money in my purse and the rest in Jordan’s backpack that he carried around. At the second hotel, the in-room safe was free and we kept our passports and extra cash in there. We had no problems with theft.

July 10 – 4:30 pm – Beijing, China
The plane left Toronto airport fifteen minutes late. Three meals on board. Had a headache since take-off and no Tylenol to hand. The headache made it difficult to read; I had to keep my eyes closed for relief. Window seat, so I had to climb over two passengers every time I needed to pee on a thirteen hour flight. Landed at Beijing Capital Airport on time. The skies grey and overcast, probably from pollution. Once off the plane an agent was waiting with my boarding pass for next flight to Bangkok. Found my way to International Transfers. Waiting at my gate number, boiling; there doesn’t seem to be air-conditioning. Beijing is 12 hours ahead of Ontario.

9:45 pm – Bangkok, Thailand
Thai Airways flight much roomier; had three seats to myself for first hour (a passenger moved into the aisle seat). Very tired, dozed most of the four hour journey. Meal served but since my body was running on 7:00 a.m EST I couldn’t eat heavy food that early. Quick process at Suvarnabhumi Airport to get boarding pass to Phuket. First in line at Passport Control. Made my way to my gate number for yet another security screening.

July 11 – 8:40 pm – Kamala, Phuket
Flight from Bangkok to Phuket International Airport took no time at all. Took off on time and we were served a snack. Landed at midnight (July 11). Found my way to Baggage Claim then to Passenger Arrival meeting hall at the exit to wait for Jordan (he arrived a couple days earlier). After waiting an hour I tried to call hotel but payphone wouldn’t accept my credit card. A security personnel helped me with payphone, called hotel, and after about 4 phone calls trying to explain that I wanted to know if Jordan had checked in and if he had left for the airport, I was finally able to talk to him. He was not able to get a taxi to pick me up. By then the airport practically deserted, the mass of taxi drivers were gone, this was about 2:00 a.m. Another security personnel had a vehicle he used as taxi and we negotiated the price to 600 Baht ($18 CAD) to Kamala (half hour drive). I knew Jordan had paid 500B for his taxi but the guy wouldn’t go any lower and I just wanted to get out of there. Scary ride to the hotel, these people drive way too fast around hairpin corners, even passing vehicles on a bend. Jordan met us outside hotel and I paid the driver. He showed me to our room on the top floor (3 floors). Stairs only, no elevator. Hallways and walkways are outside but with a roof, a cool feature.

In the morning woke up around 10 a.m (eleven hours ahead of Ontario). Pouring rain but cleared by the time we finished lunch, transformed into a beautiful day. Went down to the hotel’s restaurant “Sea Breeze Cafe” for lunch. For future reference, I almost always tipped 20B after paying for a meal, unless the food or service was really bad. Me: iced tea, club sandwich, fries; Jordan: grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a young coconut juice served in a green coconut. **Cost 480B ($14 CAD) plus tip. A trifle expensive, we soon learned.

After lunch went for a walk. Bought some drinks at a 7/11 (these are everywhere). Returned to hotel very hot and sweaty. Went for a dip in the pool with the swim-up bar. Water was very warm. Went out to look for dinner, walked by Phuket Fantasea, found “Chongdee’s” and ate there. Me: sweet n’ sour chicken with steamed rice, a beverage; Jordan: Hawaiian pizza, a beverage. **Cost 300B ($9 CAD) plus tip. Delicious food!

On our way back we discovered a night market near the attraction Phuket Fantasea. Crossed very busy road and wandered through. Bought pair of comfy pink flip-flops priced at 59B ($1.80) from one vendor and two summery dresses for 500B total ($15 CAD). Probably could have negotiated cheaper but this was my first time haggling. I simply love the dresses! Left market, stopped at 7/11 for snacks and water and headed back to hotel at full-dark to watch a movie on Jordan’s laptop.

July 12 – 10:30 am – Kamala, Phuket
Getting ready to go find breakfast. Happy birthday to me. I turned 26 today. Very hot, bright morning with blue skies. No rain yet. Jordan purchased wireless internet from the hotel when he had arrived; it wasn’t working yesterday but today we were able to check our emails, etc.

5:20 pm – Kamala, Phuket
Went for a walk and found a restaurant called “Jan Thai” which serves European and Thai food. The owner is from France, very friendly, chatted with us a lot. His wife Ana had been to Canada before and was very excited to meet us. Me: ham, cheese, and tomato omelet, a beverage; Jordan: fried eggs, bacon, and toast, a beverage. **Cost 220B ($6.80 CAD) plus tip. Food very good, staff friendly.

Another long walk around town in blazing heat. Walked along beach and found Kamala Temple. A toothless old man saw us wandering around the outskirts and told us to follow him into the temple. Inside he showed us photos of tsunami damage, talked a lot but hard to understand him, smelled of alcohol. Gave us “luck” bracelets and took our picture in front of Buddha. Afterward he begged for money.

Found a pharmacy and bought an oral gel. Jordan’s wisdom teeth are cutting in and he’s in pain; the gel helped to soothe. Back to hotel for a swim to cool off. Ordered chocolate milkshakes from the pool bar. Ridiculously over-priced but it was the only time we got anything from there. **Cost 204B ($6 CAD). I guess that is about equivalent to what we would pay for two in Canada. Bought round-trip shuttle bus tickets to Patong from the hotel. Shuttle takes us to shopping centre Jungceylon at 6:45 pm, leaves us for a few hours, then returns. **Cost 300B ($9.50 CAD) for both of us.

11:20 pm – Kamala, Phuket
After a harrowing drive into Patong, we were dropped off at Jungceylon. Traipsed around the huge mall and open-air shopping centre. Quite busy. Some places one could barter but the indoor shops had set prices. The salespeople constantly follow you around and ask if you need this, want that, which is a little annoying. Bought a bracelet for Keesje at “Spice” for 159B ($5 CAD). Didn’t buy anything else, just browsed. Feeling hungry, looked at a bunch of menus, and finally sat down in an air-conditioned restaurant “Caffe Nero”. Me: probably a sandwich and fries, Sprite, chocolate oreo cake; Jordan: probably a sandwich and fries, water, banana fritters. **Cost 521B ($17 CAD) plus tip. Expensive and I can’t remember the food but the desserts were yummy. While we ate watched a Thai music video that was so long it was like an episode. We got right into it, wanted to know what happened next! Before we left to meet the shuttle bus, Jordan stepped into a gun store that smelled really bad so I waited outside. An interesting trip into the bustling city of Patong, although we only discovered one aspect of it.

July 13 – 10:30 pm – Kamala, Phuket
Woke up late. Very hot and humid. Went in search of lunch and found “Sportman’s Bar”, a pub-style restaurant on the main street. Sort of busy; two Australian guys being quite loud. Kind of funny listening to their conversation about girls. Me: can’t remember the food; Jordan: can’t remember the food, probably had eggs. **Cost 300B ($9.50 CAD) plus tip.

Boiling hot and sweaty after our foray into town. Went for a swim in the pool once we returned to hotel. Checked emails, banking, watched some television. Went down to the beach during sunset, sky looked very pretty, streaked with colours. Put my feet in the water. Jordan decided to go for a swim and jumped in the waves. Afterward we went to the pool again, then showered and got ready to go out for dinner. Stopped and looked into some shops on the way. Decided to eat at “AEW Seafood”. Me: cheeseburger and fries, Sprite; Jordan: cheeseburger and fries, water. **Cost 310B ($10 CAD) plus tip. Delicious burgers! Don’t get much in the way of French fries though. A meal like that would cost about $8 – $11 plus tax in Canada, per person.

July 14 – 12:05 pm – Kamala, Phuket
Woke up at a decent hour, showered, ready to go out for breakfast. As soon as we are ready to leave it starts pouring. On go the raincoats and off we go. Ended up at “Jan Thai” again for food. Less than halfway there, the rain stopped and sun came out. Me: ham, cheese, tomato omelet, toast, orange juice, and coffee; Jordan: same. **Cost 180B ($5.50 CAD) plus tip. The restaurant owner cooked our meal himself since the cook hadn’t arrived yet. He actually served us larger portions than last time.

Took a walk to check out laundry prices down a street we hadn’t seen yet. Ended up walking quite a ways into a quiet rural area with brightly painted homes. Saw some roosters and lots of flowers. On our way back we stopped for ice cream and water. Started raining lightly while we sat and ate the ice cream. Another dip in the pool once back to hotel.

8:10 pm – Kamala, Phuket
A bit of light rain throughout rest of day; overcast. Went out for dinner; after searching around we settled on a place closer to the hotel called “Oh La La”. Me: fried noodles with chicken, Sprite; Jordan: spicy coconut sauce with duck served in fresh coconut, herbed flatbread, banana shake. **Cost 440B ($13.50) plus tip. Food was delicious! Used fifteen minutes of free internet that is available with meal purchase. After dinner stopped at a pharmacy to pick up Tylenol. Jordan’s wisdom teeth are really hurting him; toothache and headache combined. **Cost 130B ($4 CAD). Back at the hotel I fell asleep for an hour. Very tired from the heat and lots of walking around. We watched a few episodes of “Sex & the City” on the laptop. Thinking of going into Patong tomorrow.

***Continued in next post.