One of the many benefits of teaching abroad is the ability to travel during free time. December 5th is the King of Thailand’s birthday (also known as Dad’s Day). The following week, the students at our school had mandatory testing and a camping trip. This left Phil and I with ten paid vacation days. What are you supposed to do with vacation days in Thailand? Travel, duh! Phil’s birthday was on December 4th, so it was up to us to plan a birthday trip! We decided on Phuket, one of the southern provinces of Thailand that lies in the Andaman Sea.
By embarking on a Thailand “road trip” we would be able to see more of Thailand’s gorgeous gulf and countryside. Along the way, we stopped in the towns of Nakhon Pathom, Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Chumpon. Before our train ride to Prachuap, we stopped at Fairy Tale Cozy Dessert Home; a restaurant completely devoted to dessert. My mother used to always tell me, “life is uncertain… eat dessert first,” so that is what we did. This entailed ordering the “monster waffle” and “monster toast”; dessert concoctions topped with chocolate ganache, M&Ms, whipped cream, chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and kit-kats. It was the perfect sugar overload to begin our journey south.
One train ride, three bus rides, and two hostels later, we arrived at Boondaree Home Resort in Karon Beach on Sunday evening. I stumbled upon this little guesthouse on booking.com (where I find most of my hostels and guesthouses). I decided it would be a good place to stay for the majority of our holiday because the reviews were great and the price was right. It was darling. From outside of our window, we could see the blue tiled pool, several lush green trees, and stone pathways. Winnie (the owner), let us rent a motorbike for ฿700 (about $20.00) for the entire week. This gave us the freedom to explore the island without having to use a taxi or tuk-tuk. Our first destination on the motorbike… the beach!
Kata Noi would be our first local destination; a beach known for surfing because of the waves (ranging from 2 to 4 meters depending on the season). Kata Noi was far less crowded than Kata or Karon Beach. The soft white sand and crystal blue water became visible from the entrance steps to the beach. It now seemed official, we had arrived at our tropical destination! At Kata Noi we spent our days relaxing at the beach bar (Singha beers for Phil and watermelon smoothies for me), snorkeling, swimming, tanning, and playing with my GoPro in the water. Every evening, we would walk downtown and do anything from bartering at the local shops to stuffing ourselves with much needed American food. My favorite restaurant that we tried in Kata was Burger House. I have been living abroad for only two months now, but of course I miss foods from home. I had been craving a veggie burger since I stepped off the plane (pathetic, I know). As Phil and I were walking downtown after a long day at the beach, I thought I would take a peek at Burger House’s menu in hopes of a veggie burger option. Ten minutes later and I had completely devoured the house-made potato patty topped with an onion ring, sauteéd mushrooms, cheddar cheese, and veggies; and it was aroy (‘delicious’ in thai). Of course, this is another place that I would highly recommend visiting in Phuket for all of you “veggies” and burger lovers!
On Tuesday, we took the motorbike up to “Big Buddha”; an extraordinary 145 foot concrete statue of Buddha coated in white jade marble. On our way up the mountain, we passed several Pará rubber trees, small restaurants, elephants, monkeys, and even a yoga studio! The view up the mountain was stunning, and worth the visit alone in my opinion. By the time we reached the top of the mountain we had a 360 degree view of southern Phuket; including Kata Beach, Karon Beach, and Chalong Bay. On a side note, there is no entry fee to visit the Buddha and “modest” clothing is required. Free sarongs are provided if you forget to cover your shoulders or knees like I did, oops. Big Buddha is a must see if you are in Phuket.
For Phil’s birthday, I surprised him with a sightseeing/snorkeling day trip to Phi Phi Islands for the day. The speedboat from Phuket Town to Phi Phi Islands took about 45 minutes. As soon as our boat neared the Phi Phi Islands, giant limestone cliffs covered in green trees appeared to our left and right. The water changed from a dark blue to a crystal-clear turquoise, with reefs just below the surface. It was absolutely awe-inspiring. It’s these exact moments that I find myself reflecting on my life. I am so grateful to be in Thailand. It feels like my hard work has paid off. During our tour, we had the pleasure of visiting Monkey Beach, Phi Phi Don, Loh Samah Bay, Pileh Lagoon, Viking Cave, Maya Bay, and Khai Island. Of all the sights we were able to see, Maya Bay and Khai Island were my two favorites.
Maya Bay is a gorgeous beach nestled between 100-meter high limestone cliffs. These islands came to worldwide prominence when Maya Bay was used for the film “The Beach” in 2000 starring Leonardo DiCaprio. This story, written by Alex Garland, is about a group of young travelers who drop out of society to live in a hidden lagoon in Thailand (sounds nice, huh?). I saw this film years ago and I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t one of the reasons that inspired the move to Thailand. The shore was sprinkled with several long tail boats and speedboats. Although crowded with tourists, it is a classic spot to visit and absolutely surreal to be in.
Khai Island is a small island tucked away in Phang Nga Bay. The beach itself is surrounded by crystal clear water and inhibited with hundreds of tropical fish; just what you would expect to see while snorkeling in Thailand. To my surprise, these fish were not afraid of humans. I was lucky enough to witness a colorful feeding frenzy when locals tossed pieces of bread to the fish. Most of the fish even tried to nibble at my string bracelets while being fed! After about an hour of snorkeling, we reluctantly got on the speedboat to go back to Kata Beach.
These were some of the highlights of our trip to Phuket & The Phi Phi Islands. Both are wonderful places to visit if you are in Thailand; but I say that about everything don’t I?! I hope to visit Phuket again in the near future to do further exploring. For now, I still have quite a few other places that I want to check off my list first! I have posted photos below, thanks for reading!