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Thailand is the travel hub of Southeast Asia. Most people coming into the region fly into Bangkok and make that their base for doing the circuit around Southeast Asia, but along with my best friend/travel buddy, Jodi and I started our exciting Thailand journey in Phuket.
With its lush jungles, famed beaches, world-class diving, AMAZING food, and relatively cheap prices (these days you’ve got to really shop around and drive a hard bargain for your goods), Thailand attracts visitors from all walks of life. It is by far one of my favorite countries in the world!
With so many accommodation options to choose from at such affordable prices (or if you’d prefer 4 and 5 star resorts there are plenty available for the more luxurious holiday!), who wouldn’t want to spend their lazy days island hopping, kayaking around Phang Nga or Krabi, sipping the delicious local Chang beer (or ice-cold coke for the young ones!) at a beachfront restaurant while watching the adrenaline junkies paragliding off Kata Beach a few meters away, spending a peaceful morning visiting the beautiful ancient temples riddled with history, hiking up to the Semilan Island viewpoint to take in the breathtaking scenery, snorkelling in marine reserves with giant turtles; the list goes on..
Arrival and check in at our first hotel called Peach Hill Resort in Phuket went smoothly – we were told about the shuttle service which the Resort offers to and from Kata & Karon beach, which, I might add, was a much appreciated service after we’d conquered the steep hill from civilization up to our hotel the first and ONLY time!
We were given a brief breakdown on the hotel facilities, breakfast time, taxi services etc. The receptionist had the incorrect name for the person I was travelling with, but this was quickly amended and not an issue, though Jodi easily could have passed for the guy I was meant to travel with initially; I say this with only love and humor in my voice, because due to our super disheveled appearance, messy hair and clothes, and 24+ hours’ worth of ripeness from travelling (LOL) we may have passed for lady-boys! Who knows!?
We ordered room service on our first night as we arrived sometime after 9:30pm. Food was slightly over-priced for portion-size and quality, but we were starving after a day’s worth of tiny portions of airplane food so we gobbled our dinner up nevertheless! Breakfast was a bit disappointing, we were expecting delicious bacon and eggs to kick off a day of retail therapy in the local markets which we had planned – my point here is that it’s important for all first-time Thailand travellers to note that “American Breakfasts” are NOT the same as “English Breakfasts”, so prepare for things like fresh fruit, croissants, cold hams and sausages, cheeses etc. if you’re going on B&B American Breakfast basis.
After an exciting day in Karon, we decided to kick back and relax by one of the 3 pools the hotel has to offer; the pool bar at the main pool was awesome, the barman was friendly and accommodating, and quick to bring our drinks to the poolside.
Our rooms at Peach Hill were clean, comfortable and spacious and had all the necessary amenities; we had a balcony too, with a lovely view over the Karon mountains, to which we cheers’ed each evening with a Chang before the fun began and the Patong nightlife overtook!
Having travelled to Thailand before (we stayed in Patong last time), it was a welcome change of scenery and atmosphere staying in the Karon area; which features the third longest beach on Phuket Island – Patong Beach being the longest.
Located on the west coast, between Patong to the north and Kata (with which it shares a common municipality) to the south, Karon Beach is known as the second favourite holiday destination in Phuket. The beach itself has excellent snorkelling (and even diving) spots at its southern end and is wide enough for beach-goers to never feel crowded.
I can visualize and say it has three main areas, each with their own assets: Karon Centre is a lively small city where you can find a good choice of dining, shopping, and nightlife entertainment opportunities as well as a beautiful Buddhist temple hosting a weekly market. Karon Beach road is ideal for taking an evening stroll and is mostly occupied by large resorts interrupted by lovely restaurants and shops (including the popular Karon Bazaar). The third main area of Karon is centred around Luang Poh Chuan Road, towards the southern end of the beach, which houses excellent restaurants and the ‘hottest’ nightlife spot of the resort town. Though if you’re looking for more hype and excitement, Patong’s Bangla Road is a short ± 20 minute taxi drive from Karon (expect to pay around ฿400 one-way).
Onto the next adventure/part of our trip, we headed south to Koh Lanta (arguably one of the most amazing islands Thailand has to offer) – our transfer couldn’t have taken more than 2 hours and 45 minutes, in which time we drove through villages, towns, a drive-thru (in our defense, we just had to get our fix of Burger King before we headed to the remote Lanta island where Phad Thai, Tom Yum Goong (shrimp soup), Gaeng Daeng (Red Curry) and Khao Pad (Fried Rice) would be in abundance!), beautiful mountainous passes, over bridges, onto a ferry which took us across from Krabi to Koh Lanta, and finally we arrived at our favorite hotel of the trip, Lanta Cha-Da Resort.
Important to note when being driven around Thailand: do not fear when on-coming traffic is in your lane, when cows are browsing centimeters from the tar road you’re travelling on, when your driver is pretending to be a Dakar rally driver, or when “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” comes onto the radio and you feel like you’re all of a sudden back on Bangla Road dancing, except this time it’s your driver dancing in his seat and you’re sitting in the back of the car wondering if you’re going to make it out of this alive!
Back to our hotel on Koh Lanta – what a gem! From the minute we arrived we felt the warm welcome of the Thai hospitality. One of the managers went through the check-in process with us while we sipped on delicious cold glasses of fruit juice (the cold hand towel was also very welcomed after our long drive, especially with sweaty palms now a factor in our lives after the Dakar rally race to get here – LOL).
When we stepped into our pool access room we were blown away; very nicely decorated and set up – spacious and comfortable. The sunken bath was a favourite! Breakfast was absolutely delicious every morning, with a few changes throughout our stay to keep things interesting; the staff were always friendly and smiling.
The beachfront location was awesome; about a 10 minute stroll from our room and we were on this long stretch of golden sand with the expansive turquoise ocean just a few more steps away.
We hired scooters from the tourist shop just outside of the hotel entrance for transport; a fantastic way to get around the island, I highly recommend it, and at an absolute steal of ฿200 for the ENTIRE day (including a full tank of fuel and helmets for safety!). It was also nice to know that as this is one of the main modes of transport on the small island, bigger vehicles respected the little scooters zooting past in their designated area of tar road. It was great to have a safe place to park our scooters on the hotel property when we were back at the hotel for a swim or lunch etc. too, because there was threat of hefty fines if the scooter got lost, damaged or stolen!
We discovered a beach restaurant called Thai Cat on Long Beach, which quickly became our daily hang-out for cocktails, tanning, swimming, out-of-this-world food, and new friends! If you have the chance to visit this island, a mission to Long Beach to experience what Thai Cat has to offer, I assure you it definitely won’t be on your “Ragrets” list (LOL – click on the link if you’re not familiar with my reference here!)
After 6 days in this blissful paradise (by which time we had heavily discussed packing in real life, renting a bungalow on Long Beach, marrying a local – 1 each of course, buying scooters and relocating to Koh Lanta, aka Heaven), we had to head back to Krabi for our last 3 nights in Thailand. Cue the Dakar rally driver again….
Thankfully though, for our next journey we had a different driver who was as mellow as they come, and instead of having to ferry twice, to get back to Krabi, we were able to drive over the newly built Koh Lanta Bridge which opened for public use just the day before; and to our excitement, the South African flag was prominently displayed on the railing along with many other countries.
On arrival in Krabi, we were met by smiling faces and yummy juice to quench our thirst; we were shown to our rooms at Krabi Thai Village Resort which were spacious and very comfortable – a bit dark in décor, even with all the lights on in our room we still struggled to read our books in the evenings after a leisurely dinner out.
The quiet-zone pool was such a lovely feature – we really enjoyed having this area to relax at without any squealing children around; pool towels that you signed out at the pool bar were a great idea and very welcomed after a dip in the pool, instead of having to remember to bring our own towels from the room.
We spent our last few days being extremely lazy after all the shopping, exploring and socializing for the most part of our holiday; not to mentioned that we were low on funds from all of the shopping, exploring and socializing!
Ao Nang is the main tourist hangout in Krabi; we found that the beach and sea were a bit dirty due to the long-tail boats constantly coming in and out of this general area to drop off people who spend their days at nearby islands, out snorkelling etc. so we decided if you can’t beat them, join them! We hopped on a local boat from Ao Nang to Railay Beach about 15 minutes away (a bay just around the corner from where we were), and my goodness, were we speechless when we rounded that corner:
The sea was so transparent, the limestone cliffs were so clear that it felt like you could reach out and touch them, the beach was immaculate.. If you have the opportunity to spend time at Railay Beach, you too can take photos of a setting so perfect even your friends and family might not believe you were really there!
Just as our trickling funds had come to an end, so had our 12 days in Thailand; 12 days of adventure, sunshine, laughter, bargaining, eating, meeting, exploring, swimming, scooting and so much more..
The aim of writing my experiences in the form of a blog was to evoke images of what your holiday in this amazing country could be like; so now that you have an idea of what to expect when in Thailand, you’re one step closer to having the experience of a lifetime!
Thailand is one of the most exhilarating and thrilling places in the world and whether you’re there for a week, a month or a year, Thailand will be an experience that will last a lifetime.
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THAILAND SPECIALS - 7 nights from only R12 243 per person sharing ex Johannesburg