The past few weeks have a bit hectic: I had colleagues from India visit Hong Kong, then I had work travel to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Two days after getting back, my two college roommates, Kate & Chelsey flew in to Hong Kong for a very rainy 5 days. They are currently en route to begin Part 2 of their Asia journey, traveling down to Phuket, Thailand (southern Thailand) where they will spend a few days until Sean and I meet them in Chiang Mai (northern Thailand) for another weekend getaway. Pending our upcoming travel back to Thailand, I wanted to give you a glimpse into our Phuket experience back in February.
Sean and I spent a nice relaxing Chinese New Year in Phuket this past February. It was a much needed break after the Christmas holidays, which we had spent back in the US. Although we loved seeing everyone, since there is so much going on around the holidays in general, it was a bit hectic. Plus Thailand is such a great place for a weekend getaway: no need for visas, only a 2 hour flight, and it’s overall quite budget friendly.. ehh maybe not so budget friendly during Chinese New Year when it seems like 1.3 billion people are traveling – “Procrastination Kristyne” strikes again.
Day 1: Welcome to Thailand
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island located in the south of the country, known for white sand beaches and clear blue waters. We chose to stay in Kata, which is a great mix between relaxing vacation while still being close enough to great nightlife. We did an Airbnb and stayed at the best tree house bungalow nestled in a hill. There were exactly 203 steps up to our bungalow, but we felt well conditioned from Hong Kong & our Big Bertha slope.
Due to my procrastination, our flights were not exactly ideal. We took a 2am flight out of Hong Kong with a 2 hour layover in Bangkok. We landed in Phuket around 8 AM and were on the beach by 10. Kata beach was only a 3 minutes walk away from where we were staying. That night we had dinner at Old Siam Restaurant for traditional Thai food and after dinner, we walked around to see the different street vendors. Phuket has so many interesting street foods – everything from fried icecream to BBQ meats and fish (and other unidentified items). By the way, the Nutella pancakes are to die for.
Day 2: Phi Phi islands
You can’t go to Phuket without visiting the Phi Phi islands. Sean and I booked a day trip out to Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Lei, Monkey island and Maya beach for some snorkeling. Maya beach is the breathtaking and famous setting of the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Our tour guide for the day was fantastic – really funny and a lot of personality – and just so happened to be a “lady boy”. On our return back to Phuket (about 40 minute speed boat ride) the weather turned bad and the seas were a bit rougher. The result was a not so pleasant ride with salt water continuously misting our faces. I couldn’t stand it so I ended up wearing the snorkel mask to protect my eyes. No pictures are being posted of that experience.
That night we decided to take in a show: Thailand style. We went to Simon Cabaret, which is one of the most respectable lady boy shows in Phuket. We took a tuk tuk to get to the show. What I’ve come to learn is tuk tuks vary in every country. All seem to be a small and inexpensive (and sometimes a bit dangerous) form of transportation but Phuket seems to enhance your experience by adding disco neon lights and sub woofers that blare music for passengers to enjoy.
Day 3: Thai Market & Wat Chalong
What better way to start out a day than with a massage – when in Rome, right?? We had been in Thailand for two days and had not booked a massage, which should be a crime. There was a spa practically in the parking lot of our Airbnb, so we figured we would try it out. We booked a couples Thai massage and it was hands down the best massage I’ve ever had. Granted, there was a little chiropractics and acrobatics thrown in the massage (the masseuse was literally on top of the massage table with us), but you left feeling amazing so maybe that is the secret after all. For a 1 hour couples massage including tip, it was just over $30 US total. What a steal!
After the massage, we decided to try to make our way to Old Phuket. As the wifi in the Airbnb wasn’t great, we didn’t do much research on an exact itinerary. We decided to just wing it, and really see Thailand like a local by taking a Songtaew, which is essentially a converted pick up truck which has three makeshift benches in the back. After piling in (and some people hanging out the back holding on for the ride), we started the journey.
After the initial “I’m really getting local experience” excitement of the Songtaew wore off, we realized two things: 1.) We had no idea how to get off: both in terms of how we would pay (or even how much it was) and how do we tell the driver to stop 2.) Where to get off – we didn’t have data enabled on my phone or a map. We just figured we would go along for the ride and hope to see local street signs that would say “Old Phuket” eventually. Before we had to do this though, we actually saw on the side an interesting looking street market that seemed to have a pretty large crowd. There were a few people from our truck getting off, so we decided to disembark. We just so happened to stumble across a street market right outside of Wat Chalong, the largest Buddhest temple in Phuket.
Outside of the temple, Sean and I continued our very adventurous “be like a local” mentality. The result was a dabble into a new cuisine (including a taste of crickets and grubs).
Day 4: Cooking Class
Since our flight was not leaving until later that night, we basically still had most of the day to enjoy. After a hours at the beach, we decided to stroll some local shops to do some souvenir shopping. We happened upon this amazing gallery and fell in love with a painting of an elephant. Although we haven’t experienced going to an elephant sanctuary yet (this is happening during our Chiang Mai trip!!), we still felt connected with the art and found it to be the perfect way to capture our Thailand travels.
The afternoon before our flight we took a cooking class. This was one of the things I was most excited for all trip! We booked a 4 hour class with Sally at Kata Thai Cooking school, which included a trip to the local market. We had been to a Thai market the previous day, but it was so much more interesting to experience it with a local. This was our second day in a row that we indulged in eating bugs. We learned how to cook green curry chicken, cashew chick and Thai fried rice with shrimp.
We headed off to the airport from our cooking class and then back on to Hong Kong. After a few mishaps on the journey home: realizing once we landed in Bangkok that we forgot our beloved painting at the cooking studio, a bit of an issue with immigration, we made it back to Hong Kong after an awesome 4 day vacation.
For all of our pictures from our trip: https://www.facebook.com/kristyne.hall/media_set?set=a.10156592864300473.1073741843.503215472&type=3
Til next time.