Winter in Phuket

I was reluctant to write about Phuket for a long time, as I have mixed feelings about it. Sure I loved laying on the beach with 34°C sunshine or enjoying cocktails in the pool by the pool bar… but it just felt like everything and every person on that island was there merely for the tourists. (After our holiday there, my colleague told me he secretly calls it “the foreigners’ ghetto”, which I feel is fairly accurate.)

When we arrived in Phuket, I was shocked as our hotel room was super small (the whole room was filled by the bed), every shop was a convenient store or small gift shop for tourists, we drove past lots and lots of Russian tourists, and mainly also because we went to Kata beach first (described by Lonely Planet as “classier than Karon and without Patong’s seedy hustle” and struggled to find a free spot to lay down and the whole beach was full of locals wanting to sell something to you. Every 2 – 5 minutes you would be asked whether you want a massage, want to buy sunglasses, drinks, scarfs, dresses,… I felt so sorry for those locals who were dressed from head to toe in sun protecting material and seemed solely reliant on the lazy beach tourists to make money. After our scam in Bangkok I had researched the most common scams in Phuket and was advised not to rent jet skies, motorbikes or follow a taxi driver into a jewellery shop (not that we would have done that anyway). Not only at the beach, but at every corner they would call to you “Sawasdeeeee-kaaaa… Massaaaaage!” in a very sweet way, but after you’ve heard that 5 times in 10 minutes, it can be really annoying. We tried three different massage places, as it was very cheap, but the quality of the massage and surroundings were not that good and I’m guessing they were probably also not properly trained. It’s just worth investing more money in a more professional massage to prevent returning home with neck pain!

Already in our first night we really bonded with our boutique/art hotel in a Thai style called Sawasdee Village, as it had many lounges, sunbeds, water fountains, an amazing pool and really nice hotel staff. And so the small room was instantly forgiven. (And I was so pleased when I discovered that Netflix works in Thailand without VPN and you don’t even have to stream! So I was able to finally catch up on the latest Gilmore Girls episodes.)

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Relaxing at Sawasdee Village

 

The next day, when we went to Karon Viewpoint (and we by then discovered there is no such thing as a taxi or tuk tuk on the meter in Phuket, and the prices are much higher than in Bangkok) we had a good outlook over Katathani, Kata and Karon beach and decided to try Katathani, which I think mostly “belongs” to a beach resort. It was smaller than Kata, had a much nicer convenient shop nearby and less (or none?) people trying to sell things to you. However, we saw (Russian) tourists surrounding a small elephant that has been exposed merely for that purpose by a local. The elephant looked slightly frightened and it made me sad to see how both the tourists and the holder were exploiting it. That day we also decided not to go on an elephant track, as we read that they are not treated well and are not meant to serve as transportation for humans. The day after we tried the south side of Karon beach and were really pleased – the sand is soft and almost white, the water very clear and you can walk for a bit and just look inside the water and see small, colourful fishes.

Karon Viewpoint
Karon Viewpoint
Karon Beach
Karon Beach

The hotel offered a Thai cooking class that we had booked in advance, as we love Thai food! (I think we ate Thai food every day during our stay in Thailand!) One of the hotel staff drove us to the market and showed us all the ingredients we needed to the three dishes that we had chosen to make: fish cakes, green chicken curry and vegetable tom yum soup. The market was really cute and they had amazing food – fresh herbs and vegetables, ripe mangoes and papayas, lots of curries to choose from… we were in food heaven! Back in the hotel, we made all three dishes with (a lot of) assistance from a chef and the restaurant manager. They had already laid out all of the ingredients for us and was amazing to learn how to make it and also to eat it when it was fresh straight away. At the end of the cooking class we could keep the recipes, so we’ll try to replicate them soon.

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Green chicken curry and vegetable Tom Yum soup

A few days later, we also went to a speed boat tour to the Phi Phi Islands in a nice group of about 30-ish people. The guy who sold us the tickets said that on this tour there will be 20-ish people and that’s why it’s a bit more expensive… But nevermind, our group was super nice as there were some families from Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. We went to four beaches – two of which were very overcrowded by tourists and two were more quiet and relaxing. Although Maya Bay “Ko Phi Phi Le” was crowded, I still loved it, because this is exactly what I came to see: turquoise clear water and white, soft sand surrounded by lush green.

Longtail boats at Maya Beach
Longtail boats at Maya Bay
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Maya Bay
White sand and turquoise clear water at Maya beach
White sand and turquoise clear water at Maya Bay

For New Years Eve, we had been invited to the hotel’s gala dinner which looked like they had put a lot of thought into. The band, however, was a bit old school and probably the reason why many guests left early. They had some fun games in between and an amazing food buffet right at the start. Just after it had turned midnight we went down to Kata beach to see some remaining fireworks and had just escaped the busiest time as most people were leaving. It was nice to be at the beach at that time, but there were lots of drunk tourists trying to shoot firework rockets, which seemed quite dangerous.

All in all, we befriended Phuket more and more each day. Would we come back though? Probably not, as it’s just way too touristy!

– Her

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Interesting post. Glad you didn’t go on the elephant ride. I find it dreadfully sad the poor elephants are not treated well. How sad. But loved your photos and commentary.

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    1. Thank you, Sue! I found it really sad to see how the animals were treated there to please the tourists. Another thing we saw was a couple releasing a turtle from a plastic bag in the sea to free it – which they have obviously bought from a local seller who will catch it again after they’ve disappeared… 😥

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it’s dreadfully sad. I did the same with sparrows in Laos. Bought the lot and set them free even though I knew they would be recaptured.

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