With white-sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise water, palm trees, and a unique exotic vibe, Phuket, Thailand is a dream destination and a top choice when it comes to exploring Thailand’s beautiful islands. I can still feel the hot breeze in my hair and the taste of freshly juiced exotic fruits.
After four nights spent in the busy Bangkok, we were so excited to escape the capital’s hustle-and-bustle and the fear caused by the first coronavirus cases, and spend ten well-deserved days on the beach with a book, a cocktail or a beer in our hands.
You can read about our experience in Bangkok here:
Once we arrived and checked in at the hotel – LaVintage Resort, a very nice hotel in Patong, we went straight to the beach to discover the famous Patong Beach, known for its cool vibe. But what we discovered was a very, very busy beach with so many people that you couldn’t see the color of the sand. But there you could breathe fresh, salty air.
There is no wonder why Phuket is considered Thailand’s heart and soul. The first thing we did the next morning was to book our island trips and tours because we wanted to spice up the relaxation at the beach with some adventure throughout the island. There are many street agencies where you can negotiate the price and get big discounts for groups, but we chose Million Smile Tour And Travel agency and we booked three trips – Phi Phi Island Maya & Khai, James Bond Island, and Elephant Sanctuary (please, read again, sanctuary – a place dedicated to elephants’ well-being, not a place where you ride them), and we received a city tour as a bonus. We checked only two trips out of four. Why? You will find out later.
We spent the second day at Freedom Beach Phuket, a beautiful, hidden beach, smaller but less crowded than Patong, that offers not only fascinating views and crystal clear turquoise water, but also a fantastic trip through a palm jungle before sinking your feet in the soft, white sand. Freedom Beach is just 10 minutes tuk-tuk ride away from Patong. It is also accessible by longtail boat during the high season, from Patong Beach, Kata Beach, and Karon.
The fact that it is not easily accessible still makes this beach a hidden gem. The trip down through the steep terrain is less physically challenging, but on your way up, prepare to push your limits. Bring a lot of drinking water with you.
The effort is worth it once you arrive on the paradisiac beach. From snorkeling to sunbathing, Freedom Beach is the perfect place to relax and unwind, and that’s what we did. It offers excellent snorkeling conditions among colorful fish that are as curious about tourists as you are when you first see them.
You can enjoy a cold beer or soda, coconuts, fresh tropical fruits, delicious corn on the cob or barbeque, but the beach is still wild which means there are not umbrellas, beach loungers, or toilets.
Another tremendous beach near Patong is Paradise Beach which deserves its name. Compared to Freedom, Paradise Beach is more luxurious, there are many beach chairs, bars, restaurants, toilets, and a club where sometimes thematic parties are organized. There is also music on the beach. To access it, you have to pay a fee, this is why the beach is not that crowded.
Shaded by impressive palm trees and tropical almonds, the beach offers swings, rope swings, ball swings, and many Instagrammable spots if you love taking photos.
Phi Phi, Maya & Khai Island Tour – Is It Worth It?
Fun fact: I had a parrot called PhiPhi and from time to time I thought hmm, maybe one day I will visit PhiPhi Islands. Big dream, but it became a reality and we were very excited when we chose this trip. Phi Phi Island is a must-visit destination while in Phuket.
After a one-hour ride to the pier, we embarked on the speed boat. The first stop was Maya Bay, the bay where the famous movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. The access to the bay was still prohibited, but we could still mise-en-scene Richard’s adventures inspired by Alex Garland’s novel.
If you are a fan of snorkeling, you will find this tour more than perfect. Well, I am not, so during the snorkeling breaks, I had to remain on the rocking boat and my movement sickness activated quickly which transformed the tour into a tiring experience for me; but it still very beautiful even though I couldn’t concentrate on taking photos.
We had lunch in a hurry at Phi Phi Island – we had almost 45 minutes to eat and admire the island or take photos, but it was almost impossible to find a spot as it was very, very crowded.
The next stop was Monkey Beach. As the name suggests, we expected to discover a true monkey kingdom, but there was only one monkey in a tree, eating some coconut, and hundreds of people trying to take a selfie with the cute creature.
For the last stop, at the small Khai Island, we had almost two hours of sunbathing and relaxation for me, swimming and snorkeling with thousands of colorful fish for Alex, enjoying fresh tropical fruits, and chilling after a full day. Khai Island was my favorite spot.
To conclude, the tour is worth it, but expect every stop to be crowded.
Why We Missed the James Bond Island Tour and The Phuket City Tour
The day after the Phi Phi Island tour was dedicated to fun and relaxation at Patong Beach. It was a great day with perfect weather and adrenaline for Alex who enjoyed some fun in the heart of the ocean on a jet-ski. We ate a local restaurant at the beach (I will tell you later about my relationship with the food in Phuket) and we went back to the hotel to rest.
After we arrived in the room, Alex started to have a fever, to feel nauseous, and in half an hour he couldn’t get out of bed. His body was red and dry, and he started to hallucinate. Luckily, I had some paracetamol from home, and I went in a hurry to the nearest drugstore to get him some rehydration salts. Going to the doctor was the last option since coronavirus was already a big problem in Thailand and they would have kept him in the hospital for God knows how many days. He had hallucinations during the night, but he started to feel better the next day, the day we had the James Bond Island tour which we skipped. We also skipped the city sightseeing tour, but we were happy that he recovered in a few days.
WEAR 30+ SUNSCREEN and a HAT and HYDRATE when going to the beach. Alex learned this the hard way. The UV index in Thailand is way higher than in many other places around the world (11+) so, the risk of sunburn and heatstroke is very high.
Half-Day Experience at Elephant Family Phuket
We have researched a little before choosing an activity that involves elephants because we wanted to visit a sanctuary, not a place where elephants are treated cruelly. In Thailand, many adventure parks advertise themselves as sanctuaries, but if the activities involve riding an elephant, make sure they are not sanctuaries or retirement parks. On the contrary.
At the Elephant Family Sanctuary, we had the chance to discover a new and fascinating world where elephants are well-treated; they look happy, they are very calm, nobody rushes them or forces them to do some magic tricks.
We have discovered interesting things about the Karen Hill tribe and their devotion to elephants.
We put on the Mahout blouse and we started the adventure learning about elephant care and feeding, and we actually fed them which was fun and exciting since the elephants are free to engage with you.. as long as you have some goodies in your hands, especially cucumbers which they love.
The morning continues with the elephant bath and the mud spa. The guide was awesome, he presented interesting information, he took pictures of all of us and engaged everyone in the activity. This is an experience I would repeat and I highly recommend it.
My Relationship With Thai Food in Phuket
While in Phuket, I ate a lot of fish and chips, seafood – actually pasta or rice with seafood, fruits, and fresh fruit juice. One of our favorite spots was Patong Food Park.
We had breakfast every day at the hotel, and one evening they organized a barbeque party where we had the chance to taste both European and Thai food.
The food scene in Phuket is a blend of traditional and foreign dishes, so you don’t have to worry about finding something good to eat here. For me, the only problem was the extreme heat because I can’t eat when it’s too hot, so I relied on fruits fresh juices which are the most delicious.
Phuket After the Sunset
I am not a party addict, but when you are in Phuket, especially in the Patong area, you can’t miss the infamous Bangla Road. Our hotel was a 5-minute walk from the colorful Soi Bangla, the road that comes to life after the sunset. When the night falls, the road closes and pubs, bars, clubs open to offer tourists an exotic experience like nowhere in the world. We went here a couple of times to feel the vibe, have a cocktail, and listen to some music. If you want to enjoy a wild party, this is the place to be. The entire road feels like an enormous party since most of the bars don’t have walls so you can hear a mix of music. Expect Bangla Road to be extremely crowded.
I told all my friends that I wouldn’t visit Thailand again, but in the cold light of dawn I’ve realized I would do it again but differently; I would choose quiet, unspoiled islands and I would opt for a do-it-yourself trip – this time we worked with a travel agency. Overall, it was a unique experience, a mix of feelings seasoned with difficult situations that were not actually related to the trip but influenced my entire perception – my grandmother passed away two days after we arrived in Thailand and I was upset I couldn’t return home sooner to be with my family and the stress induced by the coronavirus outbreak. Remember that the world is how you see it!
Hopefully, this blog post and all my posts related to Thailand will help you make a real idea about how it is to travel to Bangkok and Phuket.
This article reflects my own beliefs and experiences.