Our final stop in Thailand was the wonderful and very popular Phuket! This place may be set up for tourists, but there is definitely a reason for its popularity: delicious food, bumping nightlife, stunning beaches, island excursions, wildlife experiences, and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, we had a rough start with our accommodations in Phuket. We were scheduled to stay at Centara Villas which overlook the ocean and are nestled peacefully into a lush mountainside. When we arrived, they had us wait over an hour before telling us that our villa had been flooded and drove us down the road to Centara Kata which was not our cup of tea. It didn’t have a view, our room smelled musty and it was full of drunk people and large, loud family groups. Clearly, this wasn’t a place to lounge at so even though we were tired from traveling, we freshened up and hit the streets!
Our first night in Phuket we walked around quite a bit and saw massage parlors, restaurants, open air bars, street food stands and shops. Eventually we came upon Palm Square and sat down for some drinks, Thai food and live music.
The next day we were pretty happy to have a full day of excursions so that we didn’t have to stay at our temporary hotel. We were picked up early by a minibus for some island hopping. It was a long drive to Phuket Marina, but when we got there we were served tea and coffee while introductions were made and boat safety was discussed.
The first island we visited was called Bamboo Island. Each of the islands we visited had something different to boast about. Bamboo Island had HUGE stretches of white sands, excellent snorkeling and rows of the picturesque traditional Thai wooden boats.
All aboard the three engine speed boat and on to Ko Phi Phi Don! Phi Phi Don was a much more populated island with huge, open-air restaurants. This is where our group stopped for a buffet style lunch with amazing massaman curry and rice. We didn’t have much time to explore this island, but of course Scott got some good shots in.
Continuing with the Phi Phi trend, our next view was of Ko Phi Phi Leh. We didn’t get off the boat at first, but instead watched monkeys jumping in the water off of the cliffs and then went snorkeling off of our boat. It was stunning and so much fun to watch the wildlife. So much so, in fact, that we didn’t take a single photo at this stop and just enjoyed the frivolity of it all.
The boat eventually anchored off of Phi Phi Leh’s Maya Beach. This beach was crowded and had several deadly jelly fish warnings posted, but it was quite a sight. There were massive cliffs, turquoise waters, white sands, and lush greenery to stare at through the crowds of bodies. I was all about risking the jelly fish to get back in that water.
After a long and exhilarating day of island hopping, we traveled slowly back to our temporary hotel. We didn’t want to eat at the restaurants there so we hit the streets once again. We were so hungry that we stopped at the first thing we saw that looked edible and we were pretty stoked about that decision. Street food in Thailand is delicious and cheap! We sampled some BBQ pork, BBQ chicken, Pork satay with honey sauce (best thing every) and washed it down with some Chang for an appetizer. Then we found a live seafood restaurant and chowed down on some Phad Thai (we weren’t feeling adventurous enough to try one of the fully intact fish we were seeing on other tables). With full bellies, we walked back home and crashed out in a damp-smelling bed.
And just like that it was finally elephant day! I had been looking forward to visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary since we started planning this trip. This time, we were picked up in a pick-up with a covered bed and rode through the jungle with a few other girls.
Upon arriving at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket, we were immediately able to feed a mother and her baby, Cho, pounds upon pounds of banana and watermelon. It was cute to see their preferences and personalities. As visitors to the sanctuary, we were also volunteers so we loaded baskets with more fruit than I’d ever seen in my life and fed it to 16 more elephants. We were taught the command, “Bon” to get the elephants to lift their trunks and open their mouths for a treat. Some elephants were calm, others were frisky, some were friendly, others swayed back and forth in a dance of anxiety. It’s clear that some of these elephants were rescued from less than desirable circumstances and it was eye opening to see them in recovery.
The last step of elephant care on our tour was giving the group a mud bath. Scott and I actually didn’t participate for quite a bit of this because the mud baths were full of elephant dung and super crowded. Some of the HUGE creatures were doing barrels rolls unexpectedly right next to people and it just looked like chaos. Eventually, however, I couldn’t resist going in up to my thighs and interacting with two of my favorite elephants while Scott kept his roll as bystander.
Elephant day was amazing, but it wasn’t over yet. After a lunch buffet and a long ride back to the hotel we were originally supposed to stay at, our villa was STILL not ready. So they upgraded us to a villa with a view and a private pool (would have been nice to have that for four nights instead of two, but we settled right in). We took a dip in our private pool, napped in the villa with the doors open, and fully relaxed for a few hours. When the sun set, we were up and running again.
We had heard there was an amazing night market in Phuket and this, my friends, is very true. Naka Market was the best market we saw during our time in Asia and we visited many. We purchased tons of goodies here including some of our favorite art from the trip and some tasty pork buns.
When the market got too crowded we snagged a cab to one of Phuket’s most famous attractions, Bangla road. This is where this blog gets a little “explicit”. The sex trade is famous in Thailand and Bangla road is one of the epicenters of this kind of activity. As soon as you arrive on Bangla road, you feel a Las Vegas type atmosphere: loud music, peddlers trying to sell you a show, people walking around with adult beverages, go-go dancers, etc. Scott and I sat at one of the open-air bars with go-go dancers and had a few drinks while trying to absorb everything we were seeing. There were bracelets for sale with the most obscene expressions you could possibly imagine, advertisements for “ping-pong” shows, “husband daycares”, strip clubs of every type of intrigue, and you had to pay for most of the toilets. Overall, probably the best people watching I’ve seen.
When we’d seen all of the interesting sights we could handle for one day, we packed up our market purchases and took a cab back to our villa for the night. The next day was our last full day in Phuket and we decided to spend it relaxing.
There was a primitive pathway down to the beach right behind our villa so we were able to walk straight from our beds to the beach. It was an overcast day, but it was warm and perfect for reading and enjoying the waves without getting fried to a crisp. We could even see the famous Big Buddha from the beach and Scott was able to get a couple of photos of it. We ended the day with dinner with a view at the hotel restaurant and went to rest up for another day of travel.
Our time in Phuket was scenic and jaw dropping. It was also our final stop in the country of Thailand before the city-state island of Singapore. It was time to trade in Thai food and beaches for skyscrapers and cocktails. Looking forward to sharing our time in that unique city in my next post ❤
Until next time,