Phuket: sand, sea, strip and sunburn. Thailand’s largest island caters for those in search of a boozy break in the sun – the Magaluf of the region. This just screams us… not. We were just using Phuket as a stop off before visiting the nearby islands off its south east coast, but it also happened to be Tom’s birthday around the time we visited, so we ended up spending a few days there to chill out.
We left Chiang Rai after a good breakfast at Connect Hostel and flew into Phuket International Airport and like clockwork, the rain started shortly after we touched down. We took a shuttle bus to Patong, a beach resort town on the west coast of the Island and were dropped off right outside our hotel. As it was Tom’s birthday the next morning, we splashed out a bit and checked into a Best Western with a rooftop pool and we had a lovely big room with all the home comforts you’d expect. It wasn’t quite the luxury I’d been treated to for my birthday in Phu Quoc, but it was generally more expensive in Thailand so we agreed to book somewhere super nice later in our trip where we could get more bang for our buck.
Our hotel was located a 2 minute walk from the infamous Bangla Road with its neon-lit go-go bars and extravagantly decorated nightclubs (think buildings with huge 3-dimensional tigers and elephants covering the exterior). We popped out for a little explore of the area and wandered down to the beach where we watched tourists get harnessed into parachutes for a 5 minute parasailing thrill. This was nothing out of the ordinary in itself, but we watched in amazement as young Thai boys jumped on top of the harness straps moments before being hoisted into the air, only holding on with their hands. Another fine example of Asian health and safety. As indicated by the parasailing, it was quite a windy beach so not ideal for lazing around unless you’re a fan of the occasional sand blast.
We went in search of a cold beer and to our confusion there were signs on many of the bars stating they weren’t selling alcohol. Spotting a trusty Irish bar in the distance (you can always rely on an Irish bar) we joined the other Brits abroad and had a pint of beer in the shade. We chilled at the hotel for the remainder of the day and in the evening dined at a local food market and shared garlic chicken, ginger chicken, rice, water spinach and a freshly made strawberry ice cream, all totalling £7.
On the morning of Tom’s birthday we headed down for breakfast, excited to indulge in their all you can eat buffet. The excitement didn’t last long however when we realised we wouldn’t be getting the full English essentials we’d been imagining. Choices instead included anaemic chicken sausages, vegetable noodles and pasta… not the usual breakfast staples. Thankfully they had cereal, fruit and an omelette station so we didn’t go hungry. I could tell Tom was gutted though.
Tom opened some birthday cards and we headed up to the rooftop infinity pool for a day of relaxation. It was quite a cloudy day so wasn’t the warmest but it was nice to do a few laps, read a good book and sip a cold beer. Obviously being the optimistic idiot that I am I decided I didn’t need sun cream and after a few hours was looking a little bit pink. Retreating to a bed in the shade, we set up camp there and Tom Face Timed his parents.
Back in our room my burn had developed and I resembled a rosy red tomato – a look I was now quite familiar with. I covered it the best I could with my limited make up collection and we made our way to dinner at an Indian restaurant Tom had picked out. The restaurant was deserted and we wondered whether to go elsewhere, but the online reviews were promising so we went with it. We had butter chicken, lamb curry, rice and a garlic naan which were all tasty but the prices were way above what it was worth – so annoying!
We wandered back towards the main strip which was surprisingly quiet and returned to the old faithful Irish pub for a couple of gin and tonics where we laughed at their rather tone deaf singer. As drinks prices were quite high we went to a shop to buy beer and that’s when we found their alcohol fridges sealed closed with a sign stating no alcohol sales for a Buddhist holiday that weekend. That explained it! Thankfully we managed to find a corner shop that was ignoring the holiday and bought a few beers to take back to the hotel.
Once in our room there was a knock at the door… room service had brought a huge birthday cake plus candles! I’d emailed asking if they could do anything special but hadn’t had a response so assumed it was a no, so this was a nice surprise. We downloaded Hidden Figures (such a brilliant movie) and drank beer and ate cake in bed.
After another strange breakfast we dedicated our day to adding some meat to the bones of our relatively vague plan for the following 3 months of travelling. We set up a little base on the rooftop (in the shade as my burn was ridiculous) and booked a boat to Ko Phi Phi as well as figuring out how to make our way down to Malaysia via various ferries. We pencilled out how we’d spend our time in Australia and Indonesia and hit a bit of a stumbling block. We’d originally wanted to visit Sumatra, mainly just to see wild orangutans, but Sumatra is such a huge island and we weren’t too bothered in visiting much else, so it seemed a bit of a waste of two weeks. With that, we chopped it from our itinerary and were left with a gap so started exploring other options including Borneo, Sri Lanka, Fiji and New Zealand. With so much to consider and our brains now frazzled, we left it at that for the day.
We grabbed a cheap dinner at an average roadside restaurant and walked down Bangla Road which was much busier now that the Buddhist festival was over. There were dancers, ladyboys and ping pong promoters aplenty and we again chickened out of seeing a show.
Phuket was an ok stop off as a means to get to the rest of the Thai islands, but I personally didn’t think much of it, unless you’re an 18 year old having your first boozy holiday of course.
Next stop… Ko Phi Phi!
See ya later, Sophie x