Travelogue: Thailand, Phuket

Phuket is a place to forget about time and responsibilities for a bit.  So much time was devoted to staying in bed and devouring pad thai. When we got bored, we’d go out for a massage and party. Famous for being a budget-friendly beach holiday destination, the place sounded perfect for a quick escape from reality with some of my best girlfriends. Yup, pretty much summarised the entire trip in this paragraph haha.

Like the rest of Thailand, the people were always smiling, shopkeepers were persistent and everything was wonderfully cheap! Definitely recommended for a budget chill out session with your mates, although Phuket also offers crazy parties and other kinds of adventures if you want to amp up the energy.

Note: I know Phuket is much larger than just Patong Beach, but because we didn’t move from that spot (too much effort), this travelogue will be focused just on that particular area.

Down this boulevard of motorbikes..

MUST-KNOWS:

  • ATMs in Thailand tend to give out money AND THEN your card, so make sure you don’t leave your card behind!!
  • Language: a non-issue. Nearly everyone speaks a smattering of English
  • Most places will only accept cash. The general rule of thumb is, if there isn’t air conditioning, there isn’t a card machine so do make sure you have sufficient baht on hand.
  • Transfers from the airport will be about 650 – 800 baht by taxi, and 150 baht by mini bus.


FOOD

Armed and ready to attack

Price ranges (using a plate of pad thai, the thai staple plate of fried noodles, as reference): 60 baht for street food, 100-120 baht is a common range for most restaurants.

Could I order a side of boobies?

What I consider die die must trys are Pad Thai, mango salad, shrimp cakes, fish cakes, tom yam soup, mango sticky rice (the yellow mangoes taste like soft mounds of golden honey here…) and red ruby for dessert. (trying to wipe the saliva off my keyboard now)

Food & Drink Festival:

So bright and happy! Had to go in

This is an open air market along Patong Beach, for that street food feel but in a setting that will reassure your hygiene concerns more. You’ll find incredible pad thai and mango salads, I had the most epic food orgasm here. Food prices are about 100 baht for a plate of Pad Thai.

Address:
The food festival is opposite Three Spices restaurant,
Thaweewong Rd.Patong, PhuketThailand

Halfway Inn:

Rated the number one restaurant on Patong Beach on trip advisor and you can tell they take the ranking very seriously. The food is gorgeous, but better yet is the feel of the place. Halfway Inn has a relaxed atmosphere similar to an Aussie sports bar (complete with burly Aussies watching rugby on the telly), great for dinner and drinks during happy hour in the evening.

Food is cheap (120 baht for a plate of Pad Thai), the owners come out to chat to you, you can ask for customised dishes and they even have cooking classes here!! Live bands on Saturday and free BBQ while you booze on Thursday and Tuesday too!! Truly an awesome place.

Address:
(five minute walk from Bangla Street)
210/16 Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Road, Patong, Phuket 83150, Thailand


A couple of words on Patong Beach street food and tap water: 

AVOID DRINKING FROM THE TAP! Both of my friends had tummy issues after drinking tap water. 

Meanwhile, street food is actually pretty safe to consume! I asked some friends who had lived in Thailand whether they’ve ever had problems and both said no. Of course, be smart about it and avoid the obvious nonos like seafood.

Nonetheless, if you tend to have a delicate stomach, I wouldn’t recommend sampling street food. I had no issues, but a friend did say she had stomach problems. I leave it to your judgment!


THINGS TO DO:

Get the best deals:

Contrary to expectation, you’ll actually get better deals by approaching tourist counters or your reception desk instead of purchasing tickets directly online or trying to make your own way.

Pamper Yourself

Hell yeah, go to Thailand and have a massage everyday!! Most places are open from 10am to 12am so maybe a massage twice a day?

Let’s Relax Spa:

Relaxing nao

Prices start from 300 baht, and it’s about double the cost of what you would pay for a more hole-in-the-wall kind of massage place but soo worth the indulgence. This is luxe pampering right here, plus you get a cup of tea and delish cookies (I bought back two boxes) at the end of it 😀 I saw people coming direct from the airport to this place, it’s that good haha.

Best post massage snack ever

The place does get super busy, so it’s a good idea to book an appointment the day before or really early in the day. I recommend a time slot before 4pm for a quieter atmosphere.

Website for directions and pricelist:
http://www.letsrelaxspa.com/index.php?branch=branch_a

If you don’t have the budget for Let’s Relax, sampling the hole-in-the-wall places isn’t a bad idea either. I had a really good oil massage from one.

Some places look all sleaze and no skill though, so try to look for a place where the masseuse isn’t fully made up and wearing skin tight clothing that obviously has nothing to do with the quality of the massage.

Tiger Kingdom:

Just me, chilling with a soft kitty

Tiger kingdom is where you get up close and personal with the beautiful cats. Reading reviews on trip advisor, it seems other places drug their animals (Phuket Zoo has a really bad rep) but this place swears that they don’t and many netizens do agree.

Personally, I don’t think the tigers were drugged either. In fact, the animals were very well-groomed, enclosures were clean and spacious, and handlers seemed to have very good relations with the animals. Still, it is saddening to see these wild cats cooped up but that is a debate for another page.

So, if you’d like to stroke kitties in a place that puts your safety as number one, prices vary according to the size of the tiger (starting from 800 baht for a large tiger to 1000 baht for the smallest), and you can opt for combinations of sizes, hire a photographer for a fee or have a 500 baht buffet lunch between 11 – 3pm. Taxi transfers from patong beach will cost 400 baht but you can haggle for 200 baht.

Check out the website for more details:
http://www.tigerkingdom.com/tigerkingdomphuket/TigerKingdomPhuket.php

Simon Cabaret:

Almost had an epileptic seizure from all the reflective bling onstage. Highly entertaining show, it’s mind-blowing to know all the female performers who looked better than korean popstars were actually lady boys. Need a referral to their surgeon..

Fakeboobsarestillboobs?

Note that if you wish to take a photo with the performers before/after the show, it will cost you 100 baht per photo. Also, don’t worry too much about reserving a ticket. You should be able to get seats easily enough if you book a couple of hours in advance.

VIP ticket: 800 baht
Stall ticket: 600 baht
From ticket counters: 600 baht including return transfer

Website:
http://www.phuket-simoncabaret.com

Adventure time:

There were many adventure packages offering a mix of phuket tours, ATV rides, tree-top adventures, flying fox, elephant rides, etc ranging from half day to full day itineraries. Worth checking out if you’re into having a shot of adrenaline stirred into some cultural sight-seeing! Unfortunately my friends and I couldn’t afford to go for any of the packages so I can’t say much else on this except that I really wanted to go haha.

Range of advertised prices: starting from 1000 baht (30 mins on ATV and tour of Phuket) to 3300 baht (3 hours on ATV, touring Phuket)

Website (but really, there are many more. Look out for brochures at your reception):
http://www.atvphuket.com

Water sports:

Phuket offers plenty for the water baby. Dive trips, snorkelling, parasailing (think it’s about 1200 baht), jet skiing and so on can be easily sought out along the beaches.

Patong beach was really gross though. It was dirty, with strong currents that prevented wading. You also have to pay to use the deck chairs. It was pretty bad, I ended up not spending much time at the beach on what had initially been planned as a beach bum holiday.

All sewer water yucks

Island trips: 

There are plenty of beautiful islands to visit around Phuket, including the famous Phi Phi islands (where James Bond and The Beach starring Leonardo Dicaprio were filmed), Similan islands, Khai island and so on. I can’t really tell you what the differences between the various islands are, but judging from the brochures all appear to offer similar promises of luxurious white sandy beaches and snorkelling in blue seas filled with rainbow fish.

For myself and my friends, we only visited Phi Phi Islands which also happens to be the most popular amongst tourists thanks to its Hollywood fame so you could perhaps use this as one extreme end of the spectrum to gauge how the other island experiences may fare.

The only photo I could get in my seasick state

Phi Phi Islands:

I’m actually undecided if I enjoyed this trip. We were brought to a couple of islands, had chances to snorkel and lunch was provided. I enjoyed the snorkelling (lots of rainbow fish), lunch was not bad (fried chicken was great),

BUT the beaches were hell crowded and I was terribly seasick on the way there (they have a never-ending supply of seasickness tablets, bags and water though). Spent most of the time feeling ill and/or sleeping. Also, the waves were too strong to do any paddling around and we had to give a visit to the famous Maya beach a miss because of sea conditions.

So crowded

Probably could have done without going on this little expedition, but I suspect it would have been a lot more enjoyable if the sea conditions had been calmer.

Another option you could consider is to stay overnight on Phi Phi islands, which has great bars and throws beach parties every night!

Advertised cost: 3300 for adults, 1600 for children. We were instantly offered 1600 baht from various tourist counters – try your luck at bargaining, and certainly don’t pay anything more than 1600 for this trip.

SHOPPING: 

Get yerself some swag, dawg
Bargaining: 

Bargaining is the best part about shopping in Thailand! It can be exhausting and cut throat, but never take it personally and always maintain politeness. It’s a good bet to begin by cutting 50% of opening price. Purchasing more or combining with friends gets you better prices.

However, listed prices tend to be less flexible. Also, if you are in an air-conditioned marketplace, shopowners tend to give in less and have higher starting prices then stores outdoors.

Thai Creative Souvenir:

Want something handmade and gorgeous to give as gifts but can’t be bothered with getting the usual boring fare of elephant keychains and muay thai boxers? Check out Thai Creative Souvenir, a humble store that stocks items made by local artists who put quirky spins on typically Thai products.

I could hardly tear myself away from the straw clutches and muay thai fighter kitchen apron (complete the look with boxing glove oven mitts haha). Prices are very reasonable, ranging from around 350 baht for an elephant ceramic mug to 800 baht for a straw clutch.

I really wanted one of these! Photo credits to Thai Creative Souvenir

Address: 104/8 Soi Praisanee, Patong Beach, Kathu, Phuket, Thailand 83100 

See the selection of beautiful products on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ThaiCreativeSouvenir

Siam Ceramic Handmade:

Just a few stores away from Thai Creative Souvenir, you’ll find even more beauty in the form of ceramics hand painted in 18k gold. I’m not a huge fan of cutlery and plates but wow this place was beautiful, I wanted to own a piece of everything. It was all so shiny and precious. Prices aren’t too heart stopping either, with small items such as bells and bowls starting from 800 baht onwards although you can expect larger pieces to go for a lot more. Would be an excellent gift for any homeowner!

Address: 104/17-18 SOI POST OFFICE, THAWEEWONG RD., PATONG BEACH, PHUKET 83150 Mobile: 66-81-537-6071

Online catalogue (but SO much more is available in the store):

Jungceylon shopping mall

I try to avoid shopping malls as far as possible, but Jungceylon is a pretty good place to opt for if you’re running low on cash and want to charge to your card. There’s the usual mall fare and a huge supermarket for cheap eats, but the best bit was a market concept at the basement where you can haggle. There’s a minimum expenditure of 1000 baht if you want to pay by card however. I recommend going here to purchase souvenirs like art, food, and spa stuff like soap and incense.

Address:
Thanon Ratuthit Songroipi, Patong, Phuket 83150, Thailand

Website for store directory:
http://www.jungceylon.com/directory_en.php?f=1&lg=en&s=0

Open-air street market next to Jungceylon

To the right of Jungceylon you will find a sprawling street market where starting prices are about half those of the basement stores in the mall… Stalls here sell mostly apparel and a few small knick knacks however. The apparel selection may be slightly less extensive than stores in the mall, but there are so many stalls you’ll definitely find something you like eventually.

NIGHTLIFE: 

Just this blur photo for the nightlife section because nights out were just that epic

By law clubs have to close by 3 am, but if police stay home this law often gets ignored. Nonetheless, clubs did get shut down the one Friday night we were out with no real option for after parties (except chilling at the beach, maybe).

Partying starts fairly early, with happy hours everywhere going on from 6pm (happy hour prices are something like 60 baht for a beer, 100 baht for a shot). Bars get really crowded from 9pm onwards, and clubs are most hopping around 12/1am.

Bangla street is where you’ll find most of the action. This place is really nonstop haha. The Patong nightlife is insane, cheap and really fun but don’t take safety for granted and always take the usual precautions, like never accepting drinks from strangers and keeping an eye on your belongings.

Clubs that I visited (all along Bangla street):

Monsoon: really good way to start the night! We were here banging away on the dance floor from 9pm onwards. The place only has live acoustic music, but people get pumping on the dance floor while the singer belts out Katy Perry and Swedish House Mafia tunes haha. There’s also a club two stories up (free entry) for a change of scene, but people only start going in there after 1am.

Hollywood: crowded sleazy place. Pretty much just working girls and guys looking for said girls here, wouldn’t recommend it unless you have similar purposes

Seduction: pretty similar vibe to Hollywood but not as dodgy nor as crowded. All right for some dancing

White room: pretty good music, mostly tourists just chilling. I had a good time here!

For more club recommendations (I really wanted to try Banana disco!):
http://www.phuket101.net/2011/07/7-discos-in-patong-beach.html

ACCOMMODATION:

One hundred percent recommend the hostel I was staying at. The place was clean, had superb (and cheap) food, a bar, great wifi and the friendliest staff ever. This is already the number one place on trip advisor, and I can safely say they deserve the spot. Location is seriously fantastic as well, being a five minute stroll from Bangla street but also in a quiet residential area so you actually have a good night’s sleep.

Website:
http://www.bodegaphuket.com

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s