“It’s bad manners to keep a Vacation waiting”
Whoever said the above was damn right! Travel is one of the best stress-busters and to keep a vacation waiting would be nothing short of a sin. We had been holding off on planning a vacation for months – even a domestic trip seemed ages ago.
Finally as penance for our sin, we decided to plan a foreign trip – Asia seemed to be the easiest and best options as it was in February; not many options – not Europe, Australia and New Zealand would have been awesome but too expensive.
After reviewing multiple options, we finally decided to go for Thailand – a paradise for tourists in South East Asia.
Thailand or the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly known as Siam) is in the centre of the Indochinese peninsula in South East Asia. It is one of the most sought after destination for tourists in Asia and outside.
At the outset, we didn’t want to plan a short 4N/5D or 3N/4D trip to Thailand. The philosophy is that when you travel to a place, try to have an optimum number of days for sight-seeing and relaxation. There are lots of places to see in Thailand –
Business/Leisure – Bangkok
Beaches, Pubs, Nightlife – Pattaya, Phuket, Krabi
Beaches, Resorts, Honeymoon – Ko Phi Phi Don, Koh Samui and many more.
So choose as per your needs/preferences
How to reach Thailand
There are direct flights from India and other asian countries to Thailand. One of the most convenient part of travel to Thailand is the provision of Visa on Arrival (List of countries with VoA option). The flights from outside Thailand would land in one of the 2 airports at Bangkok (Swarnabhumi and Don Mueang Airport).
For those who are looking to avail the Visa on Arrival option, do ensure that if you have a connecting flight from Bangkok to any other airport in Thailand, you better have enough time on your hands. During peak season, the queues at the Swarnabhumi airport would be insane. To avoid the queue at Swarnabhumi, we took the Air Asia flight which usually lands in Don Mueang (smaller of the two airports). We had a connecting flight to Phuket so we requested the Air Asia attendant to help us expedite the process – and he helped us out 🙂 . You will need to have the following documents for VoA:
- Passport should be valid for at least 30 days.
- Keep a couple of passport size photos ready just in case
- Confirmed returned ticket and details of the accommodation in Thailand
- Proof of funds for your stay in Thailand – 10,000 THB for a person or 20,0000 THB for a family
- Apart from that a fee of 2,000 THB per person
After getting the passport stamped, we officially entered the Kingdom of Thailand. Then proceeded to our First pitstop: PHUKET
How to reach Phuket
Phuket is one of most commercialized islands in Thailand. If you have landed at Bangkok, you can get a direct flight to Phuket. You can also get direct flights from other cities in Thailand like Krabi as well.
From the Phuket airport, to reach the hotel you can either take your own cab or a minibus. Though the minibus ticket is cheaper, however, they will not start until they are full (usually 8 or more).
It would take you about an hour to reach Patong beach from the airport.
Accommodation and Transportation in Phuket
It houses many popular beaches – Patong Beach, Karon, Rawai, etc and attracts a lot of tourists from across the world. The night life in Phuket – pubs, bars, discotheques, etc is amazing and you can roam around the streets till the wee hours of the morning.
You can check out hotels near Patong beach as it is one of the most liveliest places in Phuket. Many hotels have breakfast option only and no in-room dining options. And it works better that way as you stop being in the room and venture out to explore the awesomeness that Phuket is.
We booked Holiday Inn Express which is just 2 mins away from the Patong Beach. The rooms are spacious and clean. They have 2 swimming pools – one for kids and one for adults. There are a couple of 7-eleven outlets just outside the hotel.
You can walk around Patong beach or even hire a tuk-tuk to roam around
Where to eat in Phuket
This hotel has breakfast only and no in-room dining option. There are a lot of options for eating out in and around the hotel. We used tripadvisor app every time we wanted to search for a restaurant where we could go to based on the cuisine that we preferred.
For people looking out for Indian food, there are a lot of options in Phuket like Naan-Dost just on Patong beach or Baadshah which about 2 kms from the hotel. Apart from that there are many vegetarian options.
Being a beach destination, one can have a lot of sea-food options. Vegans – please ignore!
Note: If you are a vegetarian, please check twice whether the food served is without meat (or in other words – vegetarian). Vegans – be aware that oyster sauce is also considered Vegetarian in Thailand.
There are 7-Eleven outlets on almost every corner of the city (actually in every major city in Thailand). You can stock up items to munch/water bottles in your room in case you are hungry in the middle of the night.
Note: Phuket (most of Thailand) in summers can be very hot and proximity to the beaches can make it very humid. Drink loads of chilled coconut water from road-side shops. They cost anywhere between 25 THB – 50THB. As my grandfather used to say “Coconut water is the elixir of life” – so true..it’s right up there next to water!
Places to see in and around Phuket
Patong beach is brimming with people all day long – sun-bathing and water sports during the day & Partying and drinking at the bon-fire at night.
Bangla Street is another night attraction – it would seem you have entered a different place altogether. It starts off at 6 pm and goes on throughout the night. You can see and get pictures clicked with showgirls. There are a lot of clubs on the street some of them with very kinky/objectionable shows which you can go for if you have taste for it :). Guys better hold on to your girls while walking through the streets…as you never know when you get hit on by lady-boys 😀
Tiger Kingdom was one of the first places that we went to. The thrill of sitting amongst the tigers and playing around with them is unparalleled. You can buy tickets at the counter (pay extra for professional pictures) and choose the type of tigers that you want to interact with – Small (cubs), Medium & the Large.
Small tigers may appear cute but if they get too playful, you might end up getting scratches and bruises.
Medium sized tigers can also get a bit cranky at times so we gave it a pass.
Large tigers were our choice. They looked majestic and went around without any care about the people around them. You get the best pictures with them.
One can Go-Karting in Phuket – there is one track right next to the Tiger Kingdom. But you can skip it if it doesn’t excite you.
There are malls in Phuket which one can check out – Jungceylon, Limelight Avenue and Central Festival Phuket. If you traveling with kids, try these out. Apart from this, try shopping on the streets, you will get wonderful artifacts and souvenirs.
Island Hopping – There are loads of islands which you can go to from Phuket. There are Full-day trips and Half-Day trips (morning 8 AM or afternoon 2PM) to many islands. You can avail any of the packages and club multiple islands in a day. All the road-side shops have pamphlets and you can bargain for the best price.
James Bond Island: Who can forget the epic hideout of the villain – Fransisco Scaramanga in the James Bond movie – “The Man with the Golden Gun“. One should definitely have James Bond Island on their bucket list in Thailand.
Bat caves: While Island Hopping you can check out the bat caves, the rock formation looks amazing.
Ice Cream caves: The ice cream caves are not far away from bat caves. The ceiling of the caves look like ice cream melting – it looks so yummy. On the way from Bat caves to Ice cream caves, we saw eagles following us – responding to the whistles of our guide. It was a treat to watch.
The above 3 places can be combined in a single full-day trip. You will be picked up from your hotel in the morning and taken to a pier. From there, you will be transported via a ferry for the entire day.
The food is not that great on the ferry specially for vegetarians. But we did make sure we drank lots of water, coconut water and gorged on watermelon & pineapples.
Coral Island is beautiful with a huge coastline. You can indulge in snorkeling or just swim around. There are shacks/shops on the shore for eating stuff. From the pier, it takes around 30 mins by Speedboat
Raya Island is equally beautiful. We wanted to do snorkeling at Raya, so the speedboat dropped the other guests at the island and then took us to a nearby place…the water was bleuish-green and very deep. It was an ideal place for snorkeling – the best experience in snorkeling we ever had.
After snorkeling and lazing around, we had a few ice-creams before we boarded the speedboat back to the hotel.
Note: If the guide on the speedboat hands over a wrist band – don’t lose it. It is done so that they can identify their guests. If you lose, you will have to pay up 200 THB.
How many days should you plan for Phuket
Well, we had planned 4 nights in Phuket and at the end we felt it was not enough. The day trips are very hectic and it is always better to keep a rest day to just relax on the beach with some sun-sunscreen and of course a beer…or maybe just coconut water!
Do join us for the next pit-stop: KO PHI PHI DON