MEMORY LANEMy first trip to Thailand was back in December 2015. I can still recall listening to Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon album (2015) on the plane from Dubai International Airport to Phuket International Airport. Every time I listen to that album it takes me right back there in the clouds where I kept imagining what Thailand would be like and all the fun I was about to have. I travelled with my friend Fari (Gophari.com) and as we had successfully completed our first year as working girls, this was the perfect travel gift which we had been planning for months. Months before the trip, I prayed so hard that nothing bad happens or gets in my way. I wanted to create wonderful memories and God answered my prayers until I safely landed in Thailand.
ABOUT THIS POSTIn this blog post I will share my 7-day itinerary in Thailand and all that I got up to while on holiday there. I’ve wanted to write about this trip for the past five years. As I write this post I’m thinking of a word that can summarise Thailand for me, one that will remind me of this beautiful country and the adventure. I plan on giving every city or country that I travel to a specific word or a phrase to remind me of my own authentic experience of that particular place from now on during all my future travels. One thing I remember is literally living in a bikini everyday in Thailand, so “BEACH-BUM” or “RESORT” are words that come easily to mind. You are welcome to use my itinerary as a template for when you plan your trip (as soon as the travel bans are lifted internationally and once we have conquered #COVID-19)! Visit my previous blog post where I have shared all the tips that you need to take into account before planning your trip to Thailand here : “How to plan a trip to Thailand“ NOTE: I will only cover Patong and Phuket in this blog post because those are the areas where I visited for most of my stay. You are welcome to also do research on other attractions to explore while in Thailand and travel packages that extend to Bangkok, the capital city.
1. GETTING TO AND FROM PHUKETWe flew with Emirates to and from Phuket. As the island has its own international airport, you can fly directly to Phuket or like in our case via Dubai, depending on where you are traveling from. Useful money saving sites or apps for cheapflights (if not using a travel agent) are:
- We go
2. WHERE TO STAYWe stayed in Patong Beach, at the 4 star Sunset Beach Resort Sunset Beach Resort Hotel which is known for its dark royal blue pool and the tallest palm trees ever. The hotel is placed away from the hustle and bustle of Patong town, but close enough for a short trip to the center of town. You can enjoy free WIFI and breakfast before stepping out to explore Phuket. We shared a double bed room as part of our package (read more on my previous blog post for how much we spent Thailand trip for first time travellers). If you are looking to book your own accomodation and not rely on an agent, then I suggest the following Apps or sites for you to check out:
- AirBnb (Get up to R850 on your first booking when signing up using my link)
3. GETTING AROUNDEver been on a Tuk-Tuk before? Yep, those red mini trucks parked in a single file are called Tuk-Tuks. They get their name from the sound made by their small-capacity, two-cycle engines. This was our transport in Patong Beach. I won’t lie, it was so much fun riding in these red little trucks. However, for our airport transfers, we were picked up in a minibus. The cost for a one-way trip to town was around 15 Thai baht = R7.50 at the time. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember paying a fortune for those Tuk-Tuk trips, after all it wasn’t an Uber. We also had our own special hotel shuttle that took us from the hotel to Bangla road in Patong town. However, these shuttles only operated in the morning from 8am until 7pm in the evening. Below I will outline all the activities that we got up to on each day of our trip. As it has been five years since this trip, I may be mixing days around and I’m using the dates on my “Thailand Album” as my guide.
4. WHAT TO DOSo now you have landed in Thailand and it’s time for some fun in the sun (literally).
SUNSET BEACH RESORTOur very first day in Thailand was so full of sunshine and happiness and we were so excited for the day. We got dressed for breakfast, took so many selfies and met so many South Africans at breakfast. It really felt like we were in Cape Town or on a #ShotLeft somewhere in South Africa because there were just so many of us there. Like you turn around and someone is legit speaking Afrikaans or Sesotho/Zulu. It felt good to hear a familiar language. As I think of my word for Thailand, “FAMILIARITY” keeps popping up too. (Our complimentary alcohol free drinks the morning we arrived in Thailand) After breakfast we met with our assigned travel agent who informed us about our ‘complimentary’ sightseeing tour of Phuket city which was a bonus on our package and all the other activities we could try out during our stay. He also gave us advice on transport services we could use and different activities which we could explore during our stay. This was useful information as there were a lot of agents trying to sell us trips and activities on a daily basis. He advised us to be careful of some tour packages as they were priced high for tourists and encouraged us to review all the trips accordingly.
BANGLA ROADWe decided to explore Bangla road first and this area reminded me of Long Street in Cape Town, but multiply by 10 (10x the heat, the people and vendors). In a nutshell, Bangla road is a very busy town in Patong and at night it becomes the life of the party (you have to go there at night to see it for yourself). We used the hotel shuttle which dropped us right in the center of town. I can still remember how hot and humid it was and I remember feeling like I was in a movie. It was packed with a lot of people (mostly white people and a few asians and other mixed race). It was simply a diverse mix of people and accents from all over the world. I could instantly feel that I was not in South Africa. Most of the time we found ourselves being the only two black people. I will never forget one random happy-old asian guy who shouted “Jambo” (hello in Swahili) with a big smile to us. We laughed. He meant well, or maybe he just came back from his East African trip and wanted to flex on us with his African salutation and we were probably the first black people he’s seen since that trip. Either way, he made our day and we greeted back saying “Jambooooo!” (+ the giggles) Things to check out in Bangla Road
- The Street Market – We basically ate from the streets when we were out during the day and Thailand definitely takes street food to a whole other level. I personally gravitated more towards the sea food because I love seafood and I had never ever seen so much seafood in my life! I can’t remember Cape Town or Durban selling that much seafood at markets as openly as street vendors in Patong do. But it’s still the best seafood to date.
- TIP: Just be careful not to eat anything you are not used to at the markets, especially if you have a very sensitive tummy. Don’t try to eat other animals you wouldn’t eat at home (that’s all I have to say).
- Shopping: Shopping in Thailand can be a bargain, but always do your calculations and think it through before splurging. It also helps to first go have a look at what is sold and then coming back another day to shop with a clearer mind. There are also a lot of designer knock-offs too, so be on the lookout. However, I really enjoyed Thailand shopping and buying some souvenirs for myself and my family.
DAY 2: SIGHTSEEING TOURDay two was an exciting day because we got to go on a sightseeing tour to the View Point and Wat Chalong temple. This was a complimentary (FREE) tour provided by our travel agent and we were not about to miss out!
View PointsThere are a few viewpoints around the island to explore – FOR FREE! They offer a magnificent view of the island and a fresher view of Phuket. Try to wear comfortable shoes when going on the sightseeing tour as there are many staircases to get to the top part of the view points. I wore those shoes for the photos (jokes), I only realised that I should have taken flats afterwards. Wat Chalong Temple We also visited Wat Chalong Temple on the same day we visited the view point and our tour guide had advised us to cover up for the temple tour, as this was a sacred place of prayer and needed to be respected. As the weather was hot that day, I remember I wore my custom made Dashiki and covered up with a kimono once we got to the temple. We also had to take off our shoes before entering the temple as a sign of respect. I still cannot believe how beautiful Wat Chalong Temple was and still is. This is the largest temple in Phuket. This colourful building is said to be elaborately decorated with numerous images of Buddha along with imagery from Thai and Buddhist mythology and it also houses many Buddhist statues. I was so in awe with how big and magical this temple looked and how peaceful it felt being in this sacred place. Although my Christian values would not permit me to participate in the prayers, I did step inside the temple to have a look at how the temple was inside, but did not stay for long. I honestly loved everything about the experience of being at the Wat Chalong Temple, for its beauty, the architecture and the peace surrounding the whole building.
DAY 3: Phi Phi Island CruiserAfter searching for reasonable deals to Phi Phi islands, we finally managed to get a package that was reasonable enough and we paid around 1500 Thai Baht each for the trip (R750). The package tour varies from a daily package of = 1500 (adult) and 1200 (child) Baht or a VIP package of 1800 and 1500 respectively. The amount we paid included: A full day trip and lunch, so you may want to schedule a full day for this one. Our itinerary for Phi Phi Cruiser looked something like this: 07: 00 AM: Pick up from your hotel 08:30 AM: Departure from Rassada Harbour 10:15 AM: Sightseeing at Phi Phi Lay (Maya Bay, Pileh Bay, Loh SaMah Bay and Viking Cave) 12:30 PM: Enjoy lunch at Phi Phi Don and free time to explore the island 14:30 PM: Departure from Ton Sai Bay 16:30 PM : Arrive at Rassda Harbour and transfer back to the hotel I really enjoyed snorkeling (I can still remember having an out of body experience after swimming so close to the fish for the first time). I can still remember how scared and refreshed I felt after my first snorkeling experience, like I had seen God in another form. Crazy. I’d definitely do it again. Another island which we did not get to visit was James Bond Island, as we ran out of time and people kept on saying it is similar to Phi Phi in a way. However, if you can, do try and visit James Bond Island too and if you have the budget and time to explore.
DAY 4 : SPA DAY / THAI MASSAGEGoing to Thailand and not trying a Thai massage is simply like going to the sea side and not seeing the beach. Like that just doesn’t make sense. Even though my first experience of a Thai massage left me wondering if I were breaking my bones or what?! However , like any massage you have the option of asking for minimum or moderate pressure. I must have a low pressure threshold because I still felt scared for my life that my joints were coming loose. To this day, I am still not sure if I can say for sure if I will ever put my hand up for another Thai massage or not. We will see. We paid about 650/800 Thai Baht = R400 for a full 1 hour Thai Massage at a fancy spa called the Oriental Spa in Patong.
DAY 5: PHUKET PARADISE ADVENTURE TOURAlthough we did this activity on the same day as our spa activity due to overbooking in previous days ( as it was December and peak time in Phuket), I would advise you to divide your activities like I have. Like set a side at least one major activity for a every day of the trip. You have to make room for rest and for really just taking a day off to relax too. On this particular tour, you could select between different programs such as:
- Elephant trekking
- Snake show
- Monkey show