This opinion was written, prior to the Tsuanmi hitting Phuket and Koh Phi Phi Islands, so l will dedicated to all who suffered. Watching the news reports on Boxing day morning shocked me to the core, when a place l had enjoyed immensely was devasted by mother nature.
Part two of my Thailand adventure took the guise of 7 nights staying at the Phuket Arcadia Beach & Spa Resort, Karon Beach, Phuket Island. Located off the West Coast of the Thai mainland in the Andaman Sea.
This was to be the beach bumming, working on my tan part of the trip. Well it didn't exactly work out like this! We got hit with the start of the rainy season - though l was lead to believe the beginning of June shouldn't be too bad for rain it wasn't the case! From being in Bangkok, where the weather was blistering, Phuket whilst humid and warm rained and rained and rained! I though we were gonna have to call on Noah and his ark! We did get a couple of good days - though it rained at night! At first l was totally pee'd off - but soon started to think hey stuff it lm thousands of miles from home, in a country l may never have the pleasure of visiting again - get over the rain and enjoy yourself girl! So l did!
We flew down from Bangkok to Phuket with Thai Airways - this flight was booked as part of our trip so l don't know how much flight would actually cost. Thai Airways were ok. Nothing special. On the flight down (which took around 1.5hrs) we were served a box with a chicken roll thing and a glass of fruit juice. Not even a cup of tea was offered! On the way back to Bangkok for the return leg of our journey l did get a cuppa!
Our hotel provided a limo service to pick us up (this cost around £10) which was good and dropped us to the reception door. The trip from the airport to the resort was around 1 hour. Our hotel was nice - not on the same level as the Conrad in Bangkok but none the less nice. The staff were totally on par and l even received a bunch of orchids on arrival! The hotel was recently bought over by the Hilton chain and whilst in low season the group were upgrading to Hilton standards. The hotel grounds were huge and in peak season l can imagine the place thriving with people - with plenty to do. There were 3 pools, 4 restaurants, a karaoke bar, gym, spa, tennis courts, grassy areas with volley ball and mini soccer pitches. Though due to renovations we did not get full use of the facilities. The hotel is literally across the road from the beach - again because of the weather this was out of action to us - though we did take a wander along it in between gaps in the rain! Food in the hotel was excellent - great lunches and bar snacks. At night a Barbie was on offer.
In Karon Town (though really it was like a village) there was little to do. There were restaurants serving the usual Thai food. We ate in the village one night the food was ok nothing special. There was a Dino Park mini golf park - again weather did not permit us to visit! A few market stalls were on offer - l bought a lovely hand made photo album, and trinket jewellery. Again the buzz word is to barter. There are also a few supermarkets on the main drag also. We brought back some Thai cooking sauces at a snip price of 15 Baht.
The main town area to where we were was Patong Beach. This where we headed most evenings. To be honest it reminded me of a Spanish tourist resort - touts out trying to get you into bars, shopping stalls, Burger King, McDonalds, KFC all made an appearance. There was the obligatory Irish Bars - playing diddly dee music - Thai style of course! The resort was fine - there were some good seafood restaurants along the main road. We also had a pretty decent Indian - but not good enough that the name of the place sticks out! I would recommend trying out the Red Snapper - delicious!
What made Phuket different was the range of day trips you can take. I would recommend waiting until you get to the island and if you are in either Phuket Town or Patong Beach, visit one of the many many stalls selling the trips and barter them down! You can save a lot that way.
Our first tour was that to James Bond Island - know as Roger Moore filmed for Man with a Golden Gun on one of the islands. The area is known locally as Phang Nga Bay. This was brilliant. Our tour bus picked us up at 8am drove to the docks where we boarded a boat and we sailed out among the islands, and lagoons around Phuket. To be honest James Bond Island was ok - very pretty - with such unusual rock formations - but it was totally over run with tourists and stalls flogging faux pearls, shells and the like. We then went on to Koh Hong and took a sea canoe trip around it - the scenery was spectacular. A further lagoon involved us having to float in through under ground caves to get to the inside of the lagoon which was a surreal blue lake inside this open piece of land. The mangrove trees growing inside were phenomenal also. We were fed on the boat by the crew - sea food and rice - delicious.
The next tour we took was to Koh Phi Phi - here is best known for where The Beach was filmed. The area has become popular for tourists but it is still gorgeous. For the first time in my life l snorkeled - which after l mastered the art l thoroughly enjoyed. Imagine floating in the warm, blue Indian Ocean, gazing down at phenomenal marine life - coral reefs, bright multi coloured fish swimming by. That's exactly how it was! I can't wait to snorkel again amazing. Unfortunately the water was too rough for our speed boat to visit the actual Beach - it is accessible only by boat - so we had to gaze from afar! It still looked pretty spectacular though - smaller than on the film though! We then dropped by monkey beach - monkeys pop out to say hello and grab a banana or two!! I got some fab snots of this! There was then time to bob about it sea water the like of which l have never ever witnessed before - something out of a fairy tale book! Again food was provided inclusive of the trip as were transfers. I would note though for those like me who are sea sick beware - the boat hits high speeds, the water is pretty rough - much to the amusement of my fellow passengers l entertained all by throwing up my lunch!
Possibly my favourite trip whilst on Phuket was the elephant trek. You can choose various tours - we plumpt for a 4 in one trip - a half hour elephant trek through the rubber plantations and pineapple fields, a trip to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, a trip to a waterfall and a ride in cart pulled along by a water buffalo. The elephant trek was amazing! Our elefalump was called Simaroo and he was an independent little spirit! He took us down a swollen stream and through rubber trees - at times it could be a bit hairy but loads of fun. The elephants and trainers were obviously friend and the elephants were well looked after. There was even a little baby elephant - so cute! Afterwards we fed Simaroo some bananas and he kindly trumped to say thanks!
Another recommendation is to get a Thai massage - these can be carried out in your hotel (where l paid a bit more) or in the towns - massages are offered everywhere - they seem to be legitimate!! I had an hour massage - the girl carrying out the treatment uses all parts of her body to manipulate you - it was brilliant. I was so relaxed afterward - one of those experiences you never wish to end!
For night entertainment - visit the Simon Cabaret - this is a show put on by lady boys! They perform cabaret acts from the shows and Thai pieces. The costumes are amazing! Tickets cost around 500 baht and the show lasts for around 1.5hours. It's a fun way to spend the evening. It's on the road between Karon Beach and Papong Beach.
We didn't visit the Phuket Fantasea Show so l can't comment - though others we spoke to said they thought it was brilliant. There is a buffet at it also and for catering for such high numbers the food was praised. Also you can go deep sea fishing, play golf, horse riding, or even sign up for a Thai cooking class!
I enjoyed Phuket - the trips out of it at least. The scenery was spectacular. I don't know if l would necessarily rush back - it is very touristy and we did almost everything there is to do. There are so many more facets to Thailand that l think l would have to visit them first! I could however recommend it as a great place to relax and it is very child friendly too. Just try to visit during the UK winter time to ensure you miss out on the rain!