10 January 2012

Journey to Thailand: Part 2 in Phuket

As we said good bye to our hotel in Bangkok we made run for the Airport. We chose to fly to Phuket over any other mode of transport to time and it being more hassle free. When purchasing our ticket (before we came to Thailand) it was a choice between Air Asia and Nok Air. In the end we opted for Nok Air based on the level of security used on their website when it came to buying our tickets but the cost of the ticket between the two were quite similar.

Once we got to the Airport we had about 1 hour before we needed to catch our flight. We had both downloaded the Nok Air iPhone app which allowed us to check-in online. We thought if we had checked in already we would be able to queue jump but that wasn't the case when we were waiting at the airport. We ended up waiting a long time to check in at the Nok Air counter due to the amount of people flying with them that day. Although luckily as our flight time drew near the cabin crew decided to call people to the front of the queue in relation to their flight time so we were just about able to get on the plane in time.

The plane was a little cramped and in front of our seat was some time of partition that stopped us from seeing the whole of the plane which was a little annoying at first. However the flight was fairly quick to Phuket taking roughly around 1.5 hours. As we approached the island we got a beautiful view of the aquamarine water and white sand beaches. Outside of the Airport was pretty busy with the many travellers trying to get to their respective hotels. We opted for the Mini Bus option because of cost and convenience. Inside our Mini Bus there were a bunch of people heading in a fairly similar direction as us. The journey from the Airport was quite pleasant and fairly quick. We were the first group to be dropped off at our hotel Sawaddi Patong!

Once we walked inside the hotel we were quite impressed at how nice it was and it was pretty much exactly like the photos on their website. In total we paid around 24,570THB (64,620yen - £491) for our 7 night stay which wasn't too bad since we were splitting the bill 50/50. The hotel was not in the main area of Patong so it took around 10 minutes to walk to the beach but that wasn't an issue for us. Like our previous hotel in Bangkok our room was very spacious and the bathroom was very nice.

Although the hotel may have been quite nice like our previous hotel in Bangkok the area around the hotel wasn't the greatest. But like I said before that didn't really bother us too much. That evening after getting settled at our hotel we took a walk down to the main shopping/party/entertainment district in Patong which was about a 10 minutes away on foot. The area was very busy which we were surprised about since it was a Monday after all but I guess when people are on holiday it doesn't matter what day it is...since everyday is the weekend!

Whilst we walked through the streets we looked for a good place to eat. There seemed to be a lot on offer but neither of us could decide on what it was we wanted to eat. In the end we went to a seafood restaurant due to it being one of the last restaurants we saw on the street and it having free WiFi. Between the two of us we ordered maybe 4 or 5 dishes but they messed up our order and gave me the larger portion of chicken when I asked for the small one. They also didn't bring my friend his food in time, we ended up waiting even though we nearly an hour for our food. In the end we cancelled our order and told them we wouldn't be coming back to their terrible restaurant!!

The next day we didn't have anything planned during the day so we explored our hotel and the area around our hotel. That evening however we planned to see another stage show named Phuket Fantasea that we booked through the tour desk at our hotel. This method was quick and hassle free and helped that Boom who worked at the tour desk was extremely helpful and friendly. We were picked up at our hotel at the pre-arranged time then taken to the park with a few other guests who had been picked up along the way.

Like Siam Niramit in Bangkok this stage show had a similar premise about the beginning/history of Thailand. Unlike the show in Bangkok the grounds in which the show was situated was a lot bigger with more attractions and things to do before the show started. The place was very colourful due to it being night now and all of the parks lights had been turned on. Also unlike Siam Niramit we had a all you can eat buffet thrown in with our ticket.

Before we got inside the massive palace like structure to watch the show we had the opportunity to take some photos with some of the elephants walking around the park which was quite interesting.

After we took some photos with the elephants we walked through the village/temple area where they had some traditional looking goods for sale. This was also the area where we would have the buffet dinner which was included in the price of our ticket. There was a lot of food on offer with quite a variety so there would at least be something to suite everyone's taste. Our meal was ended at a specific time and all the guests were then ushered into the main theatre hall to watch the performance.

Overall we both enjoyed the show even though it was kind of similar to the one in Bangkok but we did find it funny when one of the elephants just went toilet (for a while) on the stage in the middle of the performance!

The next day we had decided to go on a Safari Tour because Ashley was dead set on riding an elephant before he left Thailand. We had a choice between two tour groups but decided on the one that gave us more for our money. Like always we had Boom set everything up for us because it made everything that much easier.

On our way to the Safari compound we passed The Dino Park which we had put on our itinerary of things to do in Phuket. Considering we had been driving for like 30 minutes before we saw it we felt it best to be dropped off here on our way back due to the distance from our hotel to Dino Park.

Once we had arrived at the Safari compound we were led with the other people in our party to the monkey show. To be honest whilst watching this show I felt slightly uncomfortable because of the chain around the monkeys neck. But like with any monkey show the trainer had the monkey perform for its audience and beg for tips.

After the monkey show we were led to the elephant area where we were able to ride them. We climbed up a tower first before we could climb on top of them. The elephant walked around a predetermined route with its rider sat on top of its head. The rider had offered to take a few pictures of us on the elephant for a bit of change. This seemed like a better option for us since the tour group wanted to charge something like 500THB for one photo.

When we came back from the elephant trek we had the chance to take some photos with a couple of baby elephants. Once again I felt a little uncomfortable because they had the elephants perform for their audience and it made it even worse when they had them play a harmonica.

Next thing on the tour was riding the tame buffalo. But to be honest it was more like just sitting on it whilst we took some photos. Then we had a ride in an Ox drawn cart which we were told was a method commonly used for transportation many years ago. The ride was quite short but was fairly interesting. Shortly afterwards it was time for our cooking demonstration/lunch. The lunch consisted of fried noodles with chicken which Ashley claimed he could have done a better job after tasting it.

The final stop in the tour was the snake show! We had to get back in the mini bus for this show as it was not located in the same compound. It took us a little while to reach the new place because our driver had gotten lost due to the fact that he was fairly new. Like the monkey show I got the feeling that the animals were not always treated very well. This was quite clear due to the way the snake handler would just throw the snake down on the floor free he had taken it out of the box. But like the other shows we had seen it was quite entertaining.

Like we had decided earlier we asked the driver to drop us off at Dino Park instead of at our hotel due to convenience. The Dino Park was a Dinosaur themed mini-golf course. The Dino Park was not very high in things that we must do in Phuket but felt it was something simple to do in the evening that wasn't that expensive. The course consisted of 18 holes each with their own unique dinosaur/environment. I would say I enjoyed my time at the Dino Park until I accidentally hit my ball into the river. But luckily I was able to find another ball in a bush whilst I was helping Ashley find his ball. It took us a little while to get home because we couldn't find a cheap Tuk-Tuk willing to take us back to our hotel. Once we got home we ended up going to sleep pretty much straight away because we had a long day!

The next day was probably one of my favourites if not my favourite of the trip. This was the day we had booked our speed boat tour to Phi Phi Island, Monkey Island, Maya Bay and Bamboo Island. This was the earliest we had woken up since arriving in Thailand to get ready for this trip. Like always the bus came to our hotel at the designated time and took us to the boat yard with a few other tourists he had picked up on the way.

Once we arrived at the boat yard we were met by other tourists who had been picked up from other hotels. We all each given a coloured sticker which would determine the groups we would be in and also who our guide was. We ended with a man named Um who also didn't mind being called Jack Sparrow.

The ride away from the boat yard was quite exciting. It was noticeable that we were moving quite fast. We also noticed how the colour of the water changed from a murky green to a beautiful turquoise the further we went out. Or first stop was Bamboo Island which happened to be one of the shooting locations for the movie The Beach. After that we went for some lunch buffet style on Phi Phi Island. The weather that day was very good with clear blue skies that complemented the beautiful water and white sand. Once we had finished lunch we moved on to Monkey Island but due to high tide we were unable to get on the island. Instead Um our guide fed some of the monkeys from the boat. He also told us before hand "if this is a good day you can feed the monkeys but if this is a bad day they could attack you!" which made me laugh because he was being honest.

Later we made a quick stop at the Viking Cave that had supposedly been inhabited by Vikings a long time ago. Our next stop on the tour was Maya Bay with Um explaining that part of it was used in the filming of Jurassic Park. But before we made it to land Um had the boat stop around the back of the island. He explained that this was a perfect spot to do some snorkelling. However after not feeling so comfortable out in the water during our previous chance to snorkel earlier in the trip I decided to sit this one out. Ashley on the other hand was really up for it and went out.

The water there was perfect because it was so clear and there were many fishes swimming around. We were given some bread to feed the fishes too which allowed Ashley to get really close to them since I was throwing the bread in his direction. We stayed there for about 20 minutes before we moved to the front of the island.

Once we came to the front of the island we were greeted by many other tourists who like us were at Maya Bay as there last stop on their tour. We probably stayed here for maybe an hour or two whilst we spoke to some of the other people from our boat. Ashley went swimming briefly and explored some more of the island while I on the other hand decided just to relax on the beach.

When it was time for us to go that was when it surprisingly started to rain. I say surprisingly because the weather for the whole day was beautiful. But Ashley and I could both agree that this day was one of the best if not the best of our trip. We both really had a great time and would wholeheartedly recommend this type of tour to anyone who visits Phuket.

...to be continued.

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