We had a rather frightening introduction to Phuket, as there was a storm raging at the same time as we were scheduled to land. At first we were enjoying the light show going on in the sky outside the window, with loads of forked lightning lighting up the clouds around the aircraft. When the turbulence started getting really bad and more frequent, it started to get a little scary. Our captain attempted to land numerous times, each time pulling back up and accelerating upwards just as we were supposed to touch down. We circled the airport for a while in darkness as the cabin lights were turned off by the captain for some reason. Eventually the pilot managed to get us onto the ground in the heavy wind and rain, and everyone on the flight applauded and gave a huge sigh of relief. This was the first time that we both had such a scary experience on a flight, and since then we are much more nervous about flying.
After we had disembarked and went outside of the airport to catch a taxi, we saw how bad the storm really was. The entire parking lot was flooded, and our taxi ride to our accommodation was slow due to heavy rain and accidents we passed along the road.
We checked into Issara resort hotel in Patong, which was about a 15min walk down to Patong beach, and just around the corner from the night market. Although close to the beach, our hotel also had a roof top pool, which was really nice to use during the heat of the day, and to admire the view of the mountains.
Patong beach is a nice beach for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. The beach was pretty clean, the water was warm, and it had nice soft white sand. We especially enjoyed the sunsets every evening, with a grand finale of a short fireworks display in the distance every night, possibly from a nearby resort.
Close to the beach is the infamous Bangla road, which during the day looks like a regular street lined with restaurants and shops. After dark, Bangla road turns into an x-rated party street, with loads of drunk tourists everywhere. There were lots of half naked women and lady-boys all trying to get you to come into their bar / ping pong show / x-rated club, and they really dont want to take ‘no’ for an answer.
As usual we explored as much as we could by foot every day, and we visited a number of temples and shops in the area, and even tried the fish foot spa! Near to our accommodation we found a restaurant modeled after the fictional ‘Central Perk’ restaurant from the series ‘Friends’, where we couldn’t resist going to have a cup of coffee.
Like every seaside town in Asia so far, there are lots of tours for sale on almost every street corner. We decided to take our first tour to Phi phi island with Siam Adventure World, which although a little more expensive, was the ‘early bird’ tour. This tour enables you to avoid the crowds, and be the first on the beach at Maya Bay, which was made famous by the movie ‘the beach’ with Leonardo Di Caprio. This tour took us to a few different islands, where we were able to snorkel, and this was our first exhilarating encounter with some black tip reef sharks about 1.2m in size.
We were enjoying Phuket and decided to extend our stay, but our hotel was fully booked, so we managed to book accommodation at another hotel around the corner (Asia Loop Hotel) for even cheaper. This new hotel also had a rooftop pool and was another great deal.
We decided to take another tour with Siam Adventure world, this time we went to Phang Nga Bay, otherwise known as James Bond island. The island was made famous in the James Bond Movie, the man with the golden gun. This tour again took us island hopping to different islands in the area, we saw the famous island in the movie, and saw lots of the limestone karst formations. Activities on this tour also included walking and canoeing through caves and mangrove swamps.
The night market around the corner was a great place to get cheap dinner every night. There were also interesting stalls, such as the Thai ice-cream stall, where you choose your ingredients, and they make you a tub of ice-cream right in front of you.
Our next destination after Phuket was Koh Samui!