After a month of exploring Bangkok, Koh Samui, Krabi and Khao Lak, our tour of Thailand came to an end with a week in Phuket. Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and a hugely popular tourist destination full of activities and beautiful beaches.
We mainly used Phuket as a base for exploring the surrounding islands and beautiful coastal areas on speedboat day tours. Our hotel was in the heart of Phuket and its ‘sin city’, Patong. We’d stayed in some gorgeous and relaxing hotels earlier in our trip so we decided to try out a different pace and atmosphere for our final week, which Patong definitely provided!
Patong Beach is a hive of activity. On our first evening in Phuket we spent about an hour people-watching (particularly all the tourists trying out paragliding!) and watching the sun go down over the sea.
After seeing a beautiful sunset, we walked along the beach to reach the bottom of the infamous Bangla Road.
Essentially Phuket’s very own ‘strip’, Bangla Road is lined with bars, strip clubs and promoters. Don’t be surprised when you get asked to attend a ‘ping-pong show’! This street is a prime example of Thailand’s seedier side but if you take it as a bit of fun, there’s no harm done.
We stopped off at a couple of bars for cheap drinks and a game of Connect Four with the woman behind the bar. Trust me, you’ll never beat the bar-tenders at the board games they whip out!
You can ignore the sleazier side of Phuket, and Thailand in general, quite easily if you wanted to as there’s never a shortage of luxury resorts. I personally think you have to experience the many contrasts and different sides to the country whilst you’re there, or you’ll end up with a filtered perception of it.
After our evening in Patong our first full day in Phuket was spent with Simba Sea Trips exploring Phang Nga Bay. Simba offers private tours that always aim to avoid hoards of tourists. It’s worth every penny to be practically alone on some of the most beautiful beaches and bays in the world.
Setting off very early in the morning to avoid the crowds, we had a full day of cave exploring at Koh Phanak, canoeing around Koh Hong, walking around James Bond Island and swimming at Treasure Island. The limestone ‘karst’ formations make the scenery around Phang Nga bay absolutely stunning.
Khao Ping Kan, or James Bond Island as it’s known, was my favourite location of the day. Khao Ping was a prominent location in the ‘Man with the Golden Gun’ film starring Roger Moore; every tourist is encouraged to have a cheesy photo taken of them doing a Bond pose.
We arrived on the popular island extremely early, before throngs of tourists or even local stall-owners had arrived. This meant there were no more than ten of us on the whole island (as far as we could see) which felt very special.
Our first day tour round Phang Nga Bay was non-stop and packed in so many amazing locations in one day that we had a day of rest before embarking on our second day tour, this time to the Phi Phi Islands.
We were with a different tour company for Phi Phi as Simba doesn’t offer Phi Phi day tours during the off-season. Due to the weather forecast, only a few companies seemed to be running tours on the day we wanted to go. We were lucky enough to have sun most of the morning before encountering a heavy downpour and storm whilst snorkelling in the afternoon. This is the obvious downside to visiting Thailand in the monsoon season, but you get the benefit of cheaper accommodation and tours.
Our first stop was to Maya Bay which was breathtaking. This is where ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. Unfortunately by the time we got there, the whole beach was incredibly busy with various tour boats dropping off tourist groups every 5 minutes. This is definitely one of the locations that it would be worth getting up early for and paying extra for a private tour.
After paddling in the waters and chilling on the white sands of Maya Bay, we took a short boat ride round the corner to Pileh Lagoon where we swam in the emerald waters and took in the surrounding views.
Drying off on the speedboat, we drove past ‘Monkey Beach’ and a few wild monkeys jumped on board, including a Mum and her baby, and managed to find every last morsel of remaining food on the boat. I don’t think I’d have liked to actually stand on the beach as some tourists do, unless you like being mobbed by monkeys.
We were taken to Phi Pi Don Island in the early afternoon to eat lunch at a local restaurant which served a variety of lovely Thai dishes. We were left stranded on the island for an hour or so due to the bad weather not allowing the boat to come close enough to the shore to pick us back up. The storm didn’t deter people from snorkelling, but I stayed on the boat at the first sight of lightning! Pretty sure I got equally as drenched by the rain though.
The storm subsided and we headed to Bamboo Island to relax on the beach and snorkel with the local fish. Our tour guide provided us with bananas to attract the fish, but I’ve read that this shouldn’t really be done as the fish will start associating humans with food. It was then time to head back to Phuket.
We loved both of our day tours, but I would love to re-visit the Phi Phi Islands in the dry season, and perhaps get an earlier departing tour to see Maya Bay in all its secluded glory. If you’re staying on the Phi Phi Islands, it’s perhaps worth paying for a boat to take you to Maya Bay early in the morning.
We had plans to explore more of Phuket, but unfortunately I was taken ill with severe food poisoning during our last few days in Thailand and had a very unpleasant long-haul flight home! It’s an excuse for us to return at least.
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