As most of you may have seen from my Instagram, I’ve been spending a bit of time travelling Thailand lately. It’s a place that has always been on my travel bucket list, and I almost visited a couple of years ago when I travelled around Bali and Singapore solo.
So when I heard that one of my best friends was off to get married at Patong, Phuket, I jumped at the chance to go. Not only would I get to experience a beautiful and surreal location for a close friends wedding, but I’d also get the opportunity to travel and sight-see some of the stunning places Thailand has to offer.
Last year saw me travel around Greece via cruise, so 2018 is already proving to be very different! However, I actually have a huuuuge love for Greece and all the gorgeous Greek Islands, so much so it’s on my list again to visit this year.
Touring around the Greek Islands was such a lovely holiday idea, especially when we arrived at Mykonos and I got the chance to see why everyone raves about it so much. You can find how I spent my day at Mykonos over here. It was much more of a ‘pretty’ island – clean beaches with crystal clear waters, bright white buildings and a stylish, modernised town still in-keeping with the traditional Greek architecture.
Although I completely fell in love with the place and would re-visit, it was an expensive place and one that I can see being enjoyed by the wealthier holiday makers.
The cute towns are lined with designer stores, luxury dining establishments and premium cocktail bars. I of course had to do a stop off outside various ‘wow’ landmarks like the Swarovski stores and Moet & Chandon bars!
Another beautiful little Greek Island I’m yet to discover but have heard a lot about recently is Sifnos, an idyllic island of Greece. It’s a quieter, more traditional place, offering friendly holidays in Greek islands.
It’s known for its ideal balance of gorgeous beaches, nightlife, potentially the best Greek food and old white villages seeping in tradition. The main town, near the center, known as Apollonia, is home of the island’s folklore museum and library. The town’s name is thought to come from an ancient temple of Apollo on the site of the church of Panayia Yeraniofora.
If I was to be a tourist in Sifnos this year, I’d opt for the more lavish stay, and accommodate myself via luxury villas in Greece. Sometimes by staying in the prettiest of villas, you get to feel like your experiencing more of the local life, as they are usually situated close by to the locals, and surrounding the beach fronts.
For those who have been asking me about my favourite bits of my Thailand tour, well, I’m not sure how long you have here! I could possibly write a small novel on everything I saw, experienced and tried out, but I’ll keep it super short in this blog post.
I’ll put together a few more localised blog posts on certain places and trips I went on in Thailand, but here’s a couple of favourites:
Phi Phi Islands
Phi Phi Island is approximately 50 minutes away from Phuket by speed boat, however we took the slow boat over due to having a couple of my friends children with us. It gave us longer to absorb in the views of the stunning islands just dotted in the sea, all decorated with woodland and trees.
The islands consist of 2 small islands: Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. Maya Bay is one of world most beautiful beach where the famous film was made, which we were lucky enough to spend a bit of time relaxing on and of course, going into the sea.
The particular boat tour we chose included a lunch for all of us on the island, close to the beach. It was a help-yourself buffet style, consisting of fried sweet and sour fish, green chicken thai curry, pad thai, and various fresh fruit and salads.
The tour of the Phi Phi Islands was a real eye opener and one I’m so pleased I experienced, however I would recommend the speed boat version to anyone else travelling from Phuket. I did feel I spent way too long on the sloa boat – about an hour 30 minutes each way – resulting in over 3 hours of sailing.
James Bond Island and Phang Nga Bay
James Bond Island is a famous landmark in Phang Nga Bay, and we booked the boat trip tour to take round the bay and stop off at various islands. James Bond Island It first found its way onto the international tourist map through its starring role in the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’.
A distinctive feature of this famous bay is the number of sheer limestone cliffs that vertically jut out of the emerald-green water. It’s a stunning island to just look at, with its bizarre, why-doesn’t-it-fall-over outline of James Bond Island.
The beauty of this trip is that you get to explore by canoe boat, where you get to sail in and out of the unspoilt islands and real cave areas. The entire area surrounding this island is indeed spectacular, but it can get crowded with tourist boats in high season.
This area is a popular destination for sailing as well as kayaking, and you are also given the chance to swim in the warm sea’s when you stop off at one of the most beautiful beach sides. Most of the organized tours to James Bond Island are combined with a visit to other popular islands and usually include a stop for a seafood lunch at the charming Koh Panyee – a nearby Muslim fishing village on stilts.
Even though tour companies usually hand out plastic bags to protect your camera it really is best to bring along a snap-shut waterproof camera bag. If you want to have more freedom, you can rent a long-tail boat from Surakul Pier in Phang Nga for less than 2,000 baht for a good three to four hours. The boat can carry up to ten people.
Patong Beach, Phuket
I stayed at Villa Achara, very close to Patong Beach, where the iconic ‘Patong Beach’ sign sits at the busy crossroad. It’s nestled uphill in the middle of two very luxury hotels, The Novotel and The Hyatt Place. However, although a 3-4 star itself, it more than did the job for my week long stay, with its clean, modern and friendly rooms.
Patong is a combination of both stunning and exotic, and to be pretty blunt, dirty and dangerous. It’s the most famous beach resort on Phuket, with its wide variety of activities and nightlife making it an ideal place to party and play.
By night the town has a bustling nightlife which includes hundreds of restaurants, beer bars, massage places open til late and of course night clubs. The nightlife is centred around Soi Bangla (Bangla Road) however there are quieter parts of town if you explore the further out areas.
Visitors hoping for a glimpse into the exotic East might not find it here, though the steaming hot streets, neon lights and chaotic atmosphere of Patong can be overwhelming for the new arrival. It reminded me of my first arrival of Bali – locals on bikes and scooters driving chaotically on the poorly put together streets, with unever pavements and crazy roads and masses of traffic.
It’s noisy and can be prone to bad smells, and you’ll spy a lot of low key hostels and rooms to stay lined up against the main roads. However, there is also a fantastic side to Patong, where the luxury spa hotels sit and overlook the beaches, cleaner roads and traditional Thai eateries and stores. It just depends which parts you visit.
Patong Beach itself is a gorgeous beach – ginormous in size and runs across the entire Patong stretch. However, it gets super busy, especially around the hours of 11 am-3 pm. It’s made up of a soft, powdery sand and the sea waters are warm and clear, making it a lovely beach to spend an afternoon on.
For sunset, the beach bars and eateries that line Patong Beach get real busy, as the sunset is absolutely stunning from this side of Phuket. What I love about Patong Beach is the whole local vibe – you’ll see hundreds of locally ran food and drink stalls, locals selling coconuts, pancakes with fresh fruit, frozen ice cream and all sorts of delicious treats as you pace the beach.
Chang beer is sold everywhere is ridiculously cheap. I’m sure it works about to be about 50p or something!
I was lucky enough to spend a day at this incredible villa which looks out onto the entire area of Patong Beach. Complete with infinity pools and lavish loungers, this beautiful place let me escape the smog and bedlam of the crazy main streets of Patong, and admire the views from afar.
A point I will make is that Patong gives you that bit of ‘home comfort’ in a really strange way, for those cautious of travelling Thailand. For example, it can be slightly awkward the whole topic of food poisoning and becoming familiar with the diets and foods in Thailand. I won’t go into it in this post, but 40 out of 70 of us who attended the Phuket wedding all got struck down with a bout of food poisoning. Uh oh indeed!
Patong offers traditional Thai eateries and local street food, but you’ll also feel like its a home away from a home. You have countless McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King and even Pizza Hut situated at the Jungceylon – a huge shopping mall catering for all your clothes, food, groceries and everything in-between you may need.
Although upon approach of the Jungceylon you feel less and less like you’re in Thailand, and more like London (minus the heat!), you’ll notice big retail giants for Thailand situated in there, like ‘The Big C’ discount shopping store.
Although they may feel un-cultural, these are still Thai companies which give you super cheap access to all your shopping needs, and it’s all still a new experience.
To summarise, here’s 3 positives and 3 negatives associated with my recent travel in a blunt honest summary:
- Hot temperatures all throughout February, and no sign of rain!
- Delicious Thai food at every corner, although you can still grab a Big Mac if you’re entirely into the cuisine
- Cheap and cheerful! From food and drinks, to shopping and taxis (known as tuk tuks!)
- Taking about 20 minute to cross the roads (bedlam a it best)
- Poor pavements and street conditions
- Common food poisoning, meaning poor hygiene
Have you ever been to Thailand? Where is next on your bucketlist this year for 2018? I love talking travel so feel free to comment or join me on social media!