Sunday, 1 December 2013

Thailand - Part 1 - Phuket

I've had a few people ask for my advice on where to stay/what to do in Thailand so I figured, why not share some of my travel stories! I definitely don't consider myself to be an expert on Thailand by any means as I was only there for 2 weeks...but my friend and I did have the time of our lives so here are some of our stories and experiences. 

I traveled with my good friend Mara who I've known for almost 17 years. We've always liked to refer to one another as "twins" as we have the same birthday in the same year, although couldn't look any less alike. I had a great time travelling with my twin and couldn't have picked a better person to go with. Mara and I arrived at Melbourne Airport at 1am on a Saturday morning ready to catch our 4:30am flight to Thailand for 2 weeks of sun, cocktails, beaches and relaxing. Our holiday entailed exactly what we'd hoped for and more.

Mara and I arriving at the Melbourne International Airport
Phuket - Patong Beach
Most of our days in Phuket were spent lounging by the pool, sipping on cocktails and soaking up the sunshine. We stayed at the Holiday Inn which was directly opposite Patong Beach and within walking distance of the famous, Bangla Road. Patong Beach wasn't the nicest (or cleanest) beach I've been to but it sure did put on a hell of a sunset (below). 

Sunset at Patong Beach
The Holiday Inn was perfect for what we were looking to do in Phuket. The pool areas were great for lounging around and relaxing, the restaurant had nice food and more importantly had a happy hour for cocktails and the staff were really friendly and helpful with anything that we needed. We did a little bit of shopping and wandered around close to where we were staying but during the day we mostly stuck to our hotel and ventured out at night. We also did a couple of tours while we were there - a speed boat tour to Phi Phi Island and an Elephant Trekking tour (which I'll touch on more in my next post). 

Cocktails and Pizza at the Holiday Inn
Bangla Road
You haven't experienced Phuket unless you've been to Bangla Road. It was different to any other place I've ever been. 

As an introduction, one thing I should mention is my terrible fear of lizards. I cannot stand them. In Bangla Road, there are giant lizards EVERYWHERE. Locals walk around with lizards and monkeys on their arms offering them to tourists to take photos (for a price). So each step I took along Bangla Road involved extreme caution to avoid all lizards in my vicinity. This did involve a number of screams and horrified looks when said lizards came too close (much to Mara's amusement). 

Lizards aside, Bangla Road was an interesting place to say the least. The first person to approach us offered us entry to a free Ping Pong Show (at the price of one drink). We figured, "when in Thailand"... The Ping Pong show isn't really something that I care to explain in detail but it's one of those things you have to see if you ever find yourself on Bangla Road. It's also something I never have to see again.

After being both shocked and amazed by the "skills" of the Thai women and parting with cash for the most expensive drink we were to buy on our entire trip, we made our way along Bangla Road in search of a bar. I can't remember the name of the place, but at the first bar we entered we were challenged to a game of Connect 4 by one of the locals. She was impossible to beat and knew every move so we ended up tipping her and buying her a drink. Her skills were impressive but we didn't want to spend the whole night being beaten at games and inevitably buying drinks for everybody else so we set out in search of another bar. 

Walking along Bangla Road trying to figure out where we would go next, I swore I heard somebody calling out my name. I thought I must have been mistaken because who could possibly know me Thailand? The world really is a small place. I turned around to see the familiar face of a fellow Tasmanian, Beej, who I'd been speaking to only a month or so before about how funny it would be if we ran into each other on our trips to Phuket. 

Beej and his friends were off to a bar called Monsoon where they'd been the night before so we decided to tag along. This was the first night we'd had out in Phuket and it didn't disappoint. Mara and I had to leave early to do our tour to Phi Phi Island the following day but I met up with the guys at Monsoon again the following night and the little bar started to feel like home. The theme song of the two nights was definitely "Wake Me Up" by Avicii which we sang to the band each time there was a break until eventually they'd give in and play it. I love how songs can spark up a memory of a time or place; now every time I hear that song it takes me back to those nights at Monsoon.

Roses on Banlga Road
Lessons Learnt
I did learn a few lessons during my first couple of days in Phuket:

1. Do not fake tan before a holiday to a tropical location.. it will only sweat off and leave you with blotchy patches after the first day
2. DO NOT brush your teeth with the tap water.. "Thai belly" is not a myth
3. I am terrible at bartering
4. Ronan Keating, The Backstreet Boys and Savage Garden will be the music of choice in 95% of hotels, restaurants, taxis and everywhere else in Thailand
5. I'm still terrified of lizards 

Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more travel stories soon. 

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