5 spontaneous days in Phuket - our itinerary
After Bangladesh, we knew we wanted to go somewhere more tropical to just unwind and be two of us after spending more than two weeks in all the Bengali craziness.
Flight Dhaka – Bangkok -Phuket
Dhaka - Bangkok; 3 ½ hour flight with US – Bangla airlines
Bangkok – Phuket; 1h 10 min flight with Vietjet Air
We had 2 hours transit time in Bangkok and it was a struggle. We realised that we didn't have visas for Thailand! This had escaped our minds completely! Luckily there is an option for visa on arrival as long as you have return ticket. In that short space of time we had to fill in some paper work, take document pictures and take out cash (they didn’t take cards or any other currencies for paying visa applications), then go through border security to the arrival hall to get our bags and then back to departures for Phuket flight! Also, visa on arrival usually costs 1000 bhat (£25) but I had to pay double for fast track as the queue was so long that we would have missed the flight. You get the idea, running around like headless chickens trying to sort everything out and make it to the flight!
TIP: don't forget to get visa ( ha ha and always have cash in local currency for urgent matters and a passport photo (if you do forget :)))
might be obvious one but I believe worth reminding again. Check beforehand visa requirements and just would be best if you keep some document/ passport pictures with you when travelling, you never know!
We rented a car from the airport, then drove 1h20 mins to our hotel in Karon and exhausted switched off for what was going to be 5 amazing days in Thailand.
Day 1- exploring Phuket: Karon beach and Kata
Tired from all the travelling, first morning in Thailand we allowed ourselves to sleep in! However who knows me, knows that breakfast is the meal I most look forward to in the day, so I couldn’t get rid of idea that we would miss breakfast and it being the only meal included in our room rate would've meant paying for eating out all day.That is a no no for budget travellers! We got ourselves together and rushed out in attempt to make it on time but got lost in the resort that big it was or that clueless we were! We arrived during breakfast closing time and regardless; breakfast staff sat us down and brought some fruits, pastries, and juices to our table so we wouldn’t leave with empty bellies! That is what I call a great service!
Quick breakfast over we went on to explore the local area. First stop Karon beach which didn’t ask much effort walking it being only 5 mins away from hotel. It’s a nice beach but not the one you have seen all over the gram and very busy with crowds too. Red flag was up and the shore was steep. ‘’Swimmers’’ like we are (tbh Kafh doesn't know how to swim and I can but not that confident) instead we got some freshly made ice cream, some coconuts, laid the picnic and chilled under what resembled to be palm trees. People watching can be good fun!
Refreshed and refuelled, we left the beach and wondered to Karon town. It was an early afternoon and town was empty. Everyone was at the beach or recovering from night adventures as it felt quite empty. The heat +33 felt more like +40 so idea of staying at the beach or by the pool wouldn’t have been that bad after all. We checked out local street markets and fell in love with fruit stalls and wanted to eat all fruits we possibly could.
Another thing I found hard to walk past was accessories and clothing shops. These shops are very popular with tourists and if you buy something you might meet another person wearing the same thing but I have a tip for you…just pick something that no one else likes and voila, thank me later! You can find value in these shops and so not breaking a bank you can get all your travel essentials which sometimes we don’t have space for or simply forget :))
It’s an easy place to find if you use google maps (lol) and you need to be able to climb at least 20 steps up to get to the viewing platform (another lol). We got there as the sun was settling down and saw other travellers and photographers obviously taking their game more seriously who had taken all “premium “picture spots. Don’t ask me how it happened but we pretty much missed all the sunset chatting with the couple that we met there – we discovered they live in London too and I am sorry this will sound pretty bad but I cannot remember their names (guys if by any chance you are reading this (what are the chances...) , drop us a message)! , I just remember we had so much to chat about and weirdly quite a bit in common too.
We only managed to take few rushed pictures before it got completely dark:)
Taking a picture of a nice view...
Few hours later, mosquitos started attacking us so we had to make a move and by that point we were starving.
Kata night market
Kata night market is the place where you want to go if you want to try local food for reasonable prices. In fact we didn’t know that place until we stumbled upon it accidentally. It’s a big enclosed street food market specialising in seafood and ,oh my goodness, we were spoilt for choice. Words just cannot describe how tasty it was. Pictures can’t do it justice, but we tried! Dinner bill came up to £20 for both and that £20 filled us up to the point where it was difficult to even move. (I know, overeating is a sin!)
Dinner finished we headed back to the hotel to rest as the following day was going to be a 5 am start for something very special!
DAY 2 –Phi phi islands tour and snorkelling
6 am start but exciting day ahead as we are going to the world famous Phi Phi islands for a tour around the Andaman sea and snorkelling for the first time in our lives!
There are plenty tours to choose from so you are in a good chance to find availability even if you have left it
till the very last just like we did ( booked it via Ebookers.com literally a day before). This set us back by £85pp for a 10 hour tour and included:
Pick up from the hotel and transfer to the port
Ferry with VIP lounge access and complimentary snacks in the lounge (tea, coffee, pastries). Lounge equipped with comfy red sofas and TVs for movies so perfect for longer journeys as it takes around 2h 20 min to reach Phi phi.
Speedboat around Phi Phi island group
Snorkelling in 2 locations (gear included)
Traditional Thai buffet lunch in a beach restaurant
Return back to the hotel or your chosen drop off point
Tour meant to pick us up at 7 am but the driver showed up an hour late with no apology or explanation. From there everything went quite smooth except some fellow passengers were late and caused the whole bus to wait for them. There is never a tour without few latecomers, right? Time we lost due to lateness, driver compensated in km/h and got us to the port on time.
You have probably seen pictures of famous Maya bay where it looks like the person in the photo has the whole place to himself but it couldn't be further from reality. Behind that shot there probably are 50 people waiting to get into the same place and take that gram shot! We didn't bother with that. There were people around, boats around and instead we just appreciated the scenery.
Real life "warnings" for Phi Phi islands
Warning Nr 1: tour guide can change the itinerary any time
As far as your expectations go, it is good to bear in mind that itinerary of the tour can be changed at any moment and no one will explain you why. Looking back now, I think we didn’t visit some of the islands that where mentioned on the tour description online and some we have crossed watching with the boat but weren't given time to go out and explore. Tour guides may change the route due to weather conditions (tides, sea condition, crowds), which is not a bad thing that they care about your safety.
Warning Nr 2: turbulence
Get ready for rough seas and turbulent speedboat experience. If you get seasick, it may be a good idea to get some anti sickness tablets.
Warning Nr 3: have a protective case for your phone/cameras anything else you don't want to get wet
Get ready to get wet! On the approach to the famous Maya bay (place mainly known for the movie ‘’ The beach “and the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio was walking on the same sand got hundreds thousands of tourists excited to visit for years) bay waters were so shallow that none of the boats could dock at the shore so you could see hundreds of day trippers jumping in the water and plunged until their chests walking to the beach desperately trying to avoid water getting in their cameras, phones and bags. View was pretty “spectacular” and amusing at the same time :)))
Warning Nr 4: Maya Bay is indefinitely closed - no tourism for now
Before closing Maya Bay, at least 5000 paradise seekers and day trippers would flock into the bay every single day. Nature couldn't cope with tourism which is so hardcore anymore. In Autumn 2018 Maya bay was indefinitely closed due to tourism damage to the ecosystems and corals. I heard there are some positive improvements since! Fingers crossed!
Warning Nr 5: Monkey free monkey beach
We also didn’t see monkeys in what was called monkey beach as according to our guide no one is allowed to walk on that beach but we have seen plenty of people in the beach so how did they happen to be there? Our guide didn’t seem to bother with any explanations only reiterated we couldn't get out of the boat. We had to try spot monkeys from a distance of our boat. The day we visited monkeys decided not to show their faces.
The highlight of the tour definitely was snorkelling as we have never snorkelled in our lives before and as scared as I was, I still remember the feeling that comes after doing something you wanted to but had to overcome yourself, it’s a pretty good feeling! Our group wasn't that experienced so we didn't go to deep waters but still loved every minute of it. I have to say our tour guides were really supportive and showed us how it's done! Even Kafh who doesn’t know how to swim had a go!
Day 3 - chill day at the resort and afternoon visit to Wat Chalong temple and Big Buddha
After couple of intense days you may want to unwind and just enjoy the sun and the blue waters of Thailand and so did we. Half way through our journey we decided to spend the day at the resort, which has a lot to offer, so let’s talk more about the hotel and it’s facilities. Mind you, it's not an ad, it’s all just based on our experience and we recommend things we have tried and like.
We stayed in HILTON ARCADIA PHUKET RESORT which is located in Karon village less than 5 minutes walk from Karon beach, around 10 minutes away from Kata village. Kata is popular go to destination for night markets, restaurants and bars and I would say it has a lot more to offer than Karon itself. Both places are very touristy so it will get busy especially in the evenings.
The resort has a good range of restaurants to please different taste buds.Thai, European Italian, it’s own café for great coffee and pastries. On the first night we had dinner in Thai restaurant, which is only opened in the evenings from 6 pm for dinner service. We stuffed ourselves with delicious Thai food - Ox tail soup, green and red curries, Thai salads and calamari, all topnotch quality and the service was impeccable, the whole atmosphere just magic! No pictures were taken, we just enjoyed!
Other two restaurants “Sails” and “Buon Apetito” are all day dining restaurants. I preferred “Sails” restaurant breakfast as it had a lot more local food options and I am always up for trying something new that I hadn’t tried before. Asian breakfast can be anything from savoury or sweet noodles, stir fries, curries and rice! For someone with more traditional taste, Italian restaurant would be a better fit.
After trying out all these delicious foods, you may want to go chill by the pool (5 outside pools and ocean beach club where they serve fresh coconuts, yum!) or take up a yoga class or enrich your Thai cooking skills in a private lesson which hotel organises few times a day for extra cost and are available by booking.
If you fancy real sand and beach, Karon beach is 5 min across the road from hotel, just as I mentioned before the shore is quite steep so be careful!