We started our Southeast Asian adventures in Phuket, or as it is commonly slagged off, “Puke-It” (by us, we take credit for that nickname!). Let’s just say it is certainly an interesting place and choice for us non-drinking-budget-loving backpackers.
We did not plan to visit one of Thailand’s seediest island resorts, Patong, but instead arrived quite naively and by accident. The reason for our arrival was to meet my Dad, another laugh out loud moment when we all realised the realities of the next two weeks spent avoiding ping pong show-selling touts, grabby lady boys and massage parlours that stank of sex.
And for anyone who has yet to visit Thailand but imagines it to be as described above, this is not how Thailand is represented. In fact, you can count on one hand the number of places that represent this stereotypical gross-ness. Meanwhile locals across the remaining country live in disgust that these tourist heavy areas pander to the negative connotations of an otherwise respectful and beautiful country.
A great place to visit to see the stereotype does exist but this. is. not. real. Thailand. But look, it is something that needs to be seen to believed. It’s absolute madness, filth and yet highly entertaining. We will admit that.
Anyway, we have zero regrets in going but disliked how long we had to hang out there, and instead focused on the opportunity to spend some time with family while introducing my Dad to Thai culture. Despite what you might assume, not all of Phuket is what you see in Patong, and during the daylight hours Patong is calmer, more paradise than pathetic.
So if you choose to go, be warned and behave yet lap it up and do only what your mother would be proud of. For anyone who is more on the leaning end of wanting to visit Patong without getting caught up in the madness, you can visit the Bangla Road to witness it while spending majority of your time avoiding it like you would a STD.
Before we kick off the detailed guide we put together, here are a few little extras we thought was handy to share.
Cheapest Street Food:
For the cheapest street food, from 6pm onwards, visit the carpark of the Banzaan Fresh Market for fresh and affordable street food, the cheapest in town. When you arrive, skip the first stalls you see and head straight down towards the back of the carpark for cheaper dishes. The ones near the main road charge 100BHT a plate (€3) whereas the further down the back plates are 50BHT (€1.40).
You can also find more local serving stalls on the left hand side of the main road if you walk from the Banzaan Market passed Phuket hospital towards Phrabarami Road.
Find clean and chilled massage parlours at the quiet end of Thanon Ratuthit Songroipi Road, not too far from the Bangla Walking Street. The staff are so welcoming, of a good standard and only charge 200BHT (€5.50) for an hour-long full body massage.
Although we tried to find a way to avoid ATM transaction fees, it is no longer possible as all banks now charge a 200BHT (€5.40) withdrawal fee, on top of what your own bank charges. However some banks were trying to charge even more so for the lowest rates try withdraw at either the yellow Krungsri ATMs or the Aeon ATM machines which should only charge the standard 200BHT (€5.40).
If Thailand is your first stop, we suggest bringing cash and exchanging it in Thailand as you will get a better rate. In terms of avoiding the ATM fees, we withdrew two weeks budget at a time and spread it across the two bags hiding it in every nook and cranny we could. The maximum withdrawal is 20,000BHT (€540).
In terms of buying groceries, the Banzaan Market is the cheapest for spices, fruit and veg while Super Cheap 24hr is cheap for toiletries and staples. There is scanner in store to check prices.
The local bus services are the cheapest way to get from Patong to Phuket Old Town ad other beach resorts around the island. Unfortunately there is no direct bu link so you will have to take the local bus from along the beach road to Old Town for 30BHT (€0.80) and from there taking another bus to other Phuket destinations.
To get to and from the airport, take the Smart bus for 170BHT cash which runs direct from the airport to Patong, Kata and Karon beach resorts. For updated prices and schedule click on over – here.
Now. On with the guide.
From Phuket Bus Terminal To Patong Beach
First of all, if you need a detailed guide on how to travel cheaply and easily from either Khao San Road or Bangkok’s airport to the Southern Bus Terminal (essentially the gateway to Phuket and all of Thailand’s islands) then you can click on over – here – for a read.
And now, for a quick rundown on how best to travel from Phuket Bus Terminal to Patong beach via public transport, keep reading.
Upon arrival there may be tuk tuks and taxis waiting to bring you to Patong, which will be the fastest way there. But if you are looking to spend less and enjoy some life and sights of Phuket Old Town, definitely take the shared songthaew.
While it may not be there waiting for you, do hang around as they run frequently and you won’t miss it when it does eventually pull in. Jump on board for 15BHT (€.40c) until you reach the last stop – Phuket Old Town.
The last stop is the Phuket Old Town roundabout. From here, take a right towards the Central Market and pass it until you reach 7Eleven on your left hand side. Parked outside are the large, rundown, colourful busses that leave twice every hour on the hour to Phuket’s beach towns.
The journey from Old Town to Patong Beach is 45mins and costs 30BHT (€.80c). Busses to Karon Beach leave from the same spot.
Accommodation In Patong
Since we spent a long two weeks or so in Patong, we kept it interesting by moving homes a few times and are happy out to suggest the following.
We booked this guesthouse on the day of arrival via Booking.com (there is free WiFi around Phuket Old Town and near Patong beach should you need it!) and secured a cheap deal paying €46 for a private double room for 7 nights. It does state online that there is a kitchen, and there is, but it only has a fridge and a microwave – handy for the pot noodles and porridge making budget backpacker.
Dreams is owned by a very lovely lady who has low cost tours and bike rental available. The hostel itself is located around 5 minutes from the quieter end of Patong Beach. It is a good 15 minute walk to Bangla Road, but what we will say is that food, supermarkets etc. are cheap around this area.
With a very nice backpacker vibe, an adorable cat and a fully equipped kitchen, we enjoyed our 3 nights at Bedbox at the price of €21, again booking last minute via Booking.com.
Although it is hidden on a quiet street, it takes no more than 5 minutes to reach the Bazaar Market, street food and Jungceylon Shopping Centre, and around 10 minutes to Bangla road and the beach.
Definitely recommend this place if you can swing a cheap deal, prices shoot up during high season (Nov-Feb).
Hands down our favourite place to stay in Patong, Lynn’s home just that – a home. Owned by a very welcoming and kind Chinese couple, there is a really nice comfortable feel about the place that screams Airbnb more so than a hostel.
Although there are no private rooms available, we were lucky to bag a 4-bed mixed dorm and for most of our stay it was empty! The kitchen is available to guests and has a huge collection of cooking essentials as well as free use of their washing machine.
The WiFi was decent and both indoor and outdoor common areas are spacious, just mind the mozzies!
We spent 5 nights at the cost of €40, the price being a little higher than the others but we saved thanks to the kitchen. The beach, Bangla road and market are within walking distance, less than 10 minutes to each.
Things To Do In Patong
While there is enough to keep you fairly entertained in Patong, we preferred to venture away from the beach town and took advantage of Phuket’s little gems.
We also took advantage of my Dad’s generosity and booked some tours and package deals to surrounding islands. All in all, we kept ourselves busy and have put together a little list of our favourite things to do – both free and low cost.
Phuket Old Town:
You may hear that no trip to Phuket is worth it without a visit to its Old Town, well, we have to agree. Not only is it a nice escape from the daily beach life and manic party nights but it also boasts the best markets, some pretty impressive old Chinese architecture, the closet place where you can find authentic Thai life in Phuket, and a cheeky Monkey Hill hike with sea views and sweat inducing heights.
You could start the day early and visit all the below within one day, but depending on how long it takes you to get around, you may have to take a taxi back to Patong as the last local bus from the Old Town leaves at 6pm. Here are our favourite things to do in Phuket Old Town:
An easy and enjoyable hike, the Toh Sae Hill is quite a popular little outing for the visiting tourist. Not only because of its appropriate nickname ‘Monkey Hill’ which is exactly what is states – a hill full of macaque monkeys – but mostly because it is the highest hill in Old Town Phuket and to see the views from the top will sure to spark an appreciation for Thailand’s southern island.
We walked the 1.8km route from the Central Market, next to the local bus drop-off point, taking us less than a half hour to reach the base of Monkey Hill – use Maps.Me for an accurate route.
From the base, there is a coconut stand, and some snack stalls with traders encouraging tourists to buy fruit and nuts for the monkeys, and refreshments for yourself.
Now, do as you will here but we do NOT condone or recommend feeding the monkeys, and we hope you will join us in our attempts at ethical travel. In saying that, we are in no way judgmental (or try not to be), even my own Father bought some snacks to feed the monkeys, which he instantly regretted upon meeting the ravenous and courageous family of, oh, about 40 macaques who so sternly grabbed the bag from him.
It is a fun spot to see monkeys, but the real fun is observing, not interacting. They are wild, can be vicious and are not afraid of humans. So you have been warned here – pop up, see them, enjoy them but leave them be and don’t interrupt wildlife – besides, if bitten, you are asking for the next few weeks filled with rabies shots and a moment of going ‘ape shit’.
Oh! The walk from the base up towards the peak boasts a number of shrines and side-street temples which are fascinating to see. At one point you have a shrine for nearly every religion from Christianity to Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism and Hinduism – be mindful of your attire and if visiting always take your shoes off before stepping onto the altar.
- 30 minute walk from the bus stop
- Free entry
- A further 30 minutes to the top (including a stop to see the monkeys)
- Monkey Hill is open from 6am to 8pm
Known as the historical centre of Old Town Phuket, a stroll down this road towards one of Phuket’s oldest roads, Soi Romanee, whether pretty buildings are your thing or not there is no denying the colours and beauty that the Sino-Portuguese architecture show off (basically when Chinese and Colonial architecture have a beautiful brick baby!).
If you happen to be there on a Sunday, the local market that gives off a more boutique and hipster vibe (so yes, definitely more expensive) kicks off around 4pm. Either way, you are sure to find yourself posing for that perfect insta shot around this area – but in saying that you won’t spend a whole lot of time here so this could be down at the end of the day before jumping the bus back to Patong or Karon.
- Less than 10 minute walk from bus stop
- Free to visit
- Market on Sunday only and starts at 4pm
NaKa Weekend Night Market:
We thoroughly enjoyed this local market. Clothes, shoes, souvenirs, gadgets, you name it, are plentiful and reasonably priced. A lot of stalls do have the same style of clothes but haggling is welcomed and there are plenty of little gems to find too. Such as the smaller store-like stalls that stock quirky fashion styles, the kind to rival the likes of H&M and Zara, but for 90% less in terms of price.
It opens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4pm but we arrived around 3.30pm to find the stalls were open and this gave us an early start before the masses arrived. The market is partially indoors and it can get extremely hot in there, especially as the crowds roll in.
It is a 2km walk from the Phuket Central Market, which we walked in 30 minutes and enjoyed the lesser visited Old Town vibes en route – but you can easily jump a tuk tuk. We left visiting the NaKa market until the end of the day as we still wanted to catch the 6pm (last!) local bus back to Patong.
You could easily spend hours at the market, but we found 2 hours was plenty.
Patong to Naka Market:
Found along the Chao Fa West Road, it is fairly close to the large Central Festival Shopping Centre.
So if you are coming from Patong especially for the market, jump off the bus at the Central Festival Shopping Centre.
Up ahead is a large junction, head towards it and take a right. Follow the busy main road for 15 minutes until you reach a set of traﬃc lights. Take a left and you see the market on your right hand side.
Naka Market to Patong:
To return back to Patong, the last bus passes by the Central Festival at 6.30pm (arrive at least 15 minutes beforehand).
The bus stop is across from the shopping centre carpark, but you can easily ﬂag the bus along the main road. If you miss the last bus and need to take a taxi, don’t take any of the taxis outside the market as they charge a ﬁxed fee of 500BHT. Instead walk towards the Central Festival shopping centre and hail a cab or haggle with drivers outside the centre, better yet, hook up to the centre’s WiFi and price a Grab.
Either way, do not pay more than 200-250BHT.
To reach the Central Festival Shopping Centre from the market, leave the market, take a left and head towards the busy Chao Fah Road. Once here, take a right and stay straight. We found it easier to cross the junction and walk up on the left hand side as the paths are little wider there. When you reach an even larger junction, stay left up towards the Central Festival Mall – you won’t miss it.
The bus will pass by here, it leaves Phuket Old Town on the hour and takes about 10-15 minutes to reach Central Market so keep an eye.
- Naka opens Fri, Sat and Sun from 4pm-10pm but stalls will be ready for you from 3.30pm
- It is a 30minute walk from centre of Old Town to Naka Market
- Takes 20 minutes to walk to Central Festival Mall from Naka Market
- Last bus passes Central Festival between 6.20pm-6.30pm
- If getting a taxi from the Naka Market, walk away from it and flag down as it will be cheaper than using the taxis outside the market.
- Haggling is welcome, food is cheap, safe to consume and delicious!
There are plenty of other sights, smells and sounds to around Phuket Old Town from museums, more markets, temples and tourist fun spots such as the Trick Eye museum, the Upside Down House and the likes. The one place we didn’t make it out to which we really wanted to see was the Mai Khao Beach Resort, purely because it is next to the airport and the planes began their landing as the pass over the beach – it is supposed to be exhilarating! If you do make it down, let us know!
Karon: Wat Chalong Temple, The Big Buddha and Karon Beach:
It is a huge pity Phuket won’t cop the hell on and arrange local busses that runs from beach to beach but we imagine to keep the tuk tuk drivers happy, and in business, to travel from one to the other takes over an hour and two busses. But all the better to see Phuket from the eyes of a commuter.
It is possible to tackle all this in one day, but you may find yourself a little worn out. So probably best to split across two days. Either way, we recommend visiting the Big Buddha and Katong Beach, the Wat Chalong Temple is a nice visit and, as you will see across every blog and travel guide, one of Thailand’s most important Buddhist temples (29 in total). It is interesting to see and very easy on the eye but don’t kick yourself if you don’t make it down. One thing Thailand has plenty of, is temples.
There are two ways to see all the sites;
- #1 Hire a driver for the day and visit all three. Prices will start from around 1,00BHT (€27) and probably best to book through your accommodation. It is definitely the quickest way, but most certainly the most expensive and less adventurous – if adventure is what you are looking for.
- #2 Take public busses and hike/walk. The cheapest way to visit all three but it may be best to split these visits across two days as you may be a little tired and suffer temple overload.
Wat Chalong Temple:
The bus passes Wat Chalong on its way to Karon beach, and the stop to which the Big Buddha hike starts. So you can easily jump off and spend a quick hour (if even!) at Wat Chalong before jumpinh on another bus onwards to Karon.
Wat Chalong is one of Thailand’s important temples due to two monks who during the time of the Ang-Yee Rebellion, basically a large mob made up of immigrant Chinese tin-mine workers who were refused opium, locals began to fear and flock from their homes for safety and sanctuary. They found it in Wat Chalong.
The head monks at the time rallied and encouraged the people to fight, not flee. The fighting lead to death and even the temple walls were breached but thanks to the guidance of the temple’s monks and determination of the local people, they succeed in their attempts of victory.
They say that within the Grand Pagoda dominating the main temple you will find a splinter of Lord Buddha’s bone, among, what seems like hundreds of gold Buddha statues, and some beautiful murals depicting the Lord Buddha’s life.
Here you will see locals pray, shaking tubes that contain Chinese fortune sticks and setting of fire crackers, which wards off evil spirits. For a temple, it is a lively scene and one that you will enjoy.
Remember to respect temple etiquette, cover shoulders and knees (even if others don’t!), take off your shoes before entering, and use your inside voice. Don’t disturb prayer and feel free to take pictures but while always showing as much respect as you can.
How To: Patong to Wat Chalong Temple:
From anywhere along the Patong beach road, the large Patong Beach sign found at the bottom of Bangla road is a good place to wait, the rickety unmissable blue bus costs 30BHT (€0.80) and takes roughly 45 minutes to reach Phuket Old Town.
The last stop in Phuket town is at the roundabout. There will be guys with maps to help you if you need directions while also trying to encourage you to book a taxi or tuc tuc. Just thank them and move on. From the roundabout head right towards and past the Central Market. Coming up on the left hand side is the 7 Eleven, across from it the TMB bank. Here is where the bus to Karon Beach departs every half hour on the hour (busses run from 7am-6pm).
The bus costs 30BHT (€0.80) and it takes another 20 minutes to reach Wat Chalong. Just mention the temple to your driver and he will let you know when to jump off, or follow your route via Maps.Me. The bus drops you off right at the temple entrance.
This is the same spot to flag down another passing bu to go onwards to Karon Beach. But if you want to head back to Old Town, cross the road and head left towards the small family-run buffet style eateries and wait there (they also serve delicious cheap food there for 50BHT– try the fish!)
- Wat Chalong opens 7am-5pm and is free entry
- Be aware of temple etiquette and dress appropriately, take off your shoes!
- Reach the temple via the bus to Karon from near the Central Market in Old Town
- Bus takes 20 minutes and costs 30BHT
- Average time spent here is an hour.
- Taking photos is allowed.
- Could hire a driver for the day and visit Wat Chalong as part of a day trip.
Big Buddha and Karon Beach:
Sitting at 45m tall on the highest peak of the Nagakerd Hills in the southern part of Phuket island, this is such a fantastic day out and, in our opinion, worth the hike. The marble-made statue is extremely impressive up close, and despite the fact that it is quite touristy, the added views, serene atmosphere, a chance to be blessed by a monk and become more acquainted with Buddhism, not only makes it easy to forget that it is an attraction but definitely makes taking some time away from the beach totally worth it.
If you make it around midday, there should be a ceremony taking place inside the Buddha. We spent a good two hours up at the Big Buddha, between taking photos, reading information about Buddhism, exploring the grounds and observing prayer before heading down the stairs towards the exit (not the same stairs you walked up) to be blessed by a monk and partake in some of the Buddhist culture.
During your blessing you will receive a monk-made woven bracelet. This is to bring your good luck and protection. The idea is to wear it until it falls off, but locals usually wear it for minimum three days – after the three days it no longer holds the power of the blessing, however you still do. Months later and I still wear mine that sits alongside the bracelet I received at Angkor Wat.
There are many ways to reach the Big Buddha; you can easily hire a tuk tuk or driver for the day (costs start around 1,000BHT – €27), or you can arrange motorbike rental or a quad bike tour, and of course, the old Ungraceful reliable – jump on a local bus and then take a hike!
How To: Patong to Big Buddha:
From the beach road in Patong, take the local bus for 30BHT (€0.80). It takes 45 minutes, and drops you off at the roundabout near central market. Walk past the central market and you will see large busses up ahead – Karon will be displayed on front, or ask the driver. Busses leave every half an hour on the hour, cost 30BHT (€0.80) and takes 40-45minutes.
You want to get off the bus at Baan Karon Guesthouse, it is the first hotel on the left as the bus arrives into Karon., right next to the Family Mart. Cross the road and follow the path that leads up towards the mountains. The road will break into two where there is a longer route heading left along flat ground, or, the “quick” way heading up a steep 1500m incline. Depending on fitness levels (it is not difficult to climb just tiresome) easily completed in 30 minutes with the aid of the rope.
#1 Longer Route: 2 hours
The easier but slightly longer route is a 4km walk up along dusty roads, pass stilt-built houses and through the rain forest. This way offers scenes of local life, and is genuinely a straight forward hike with plenty of nature to keep you entertained. Follow the “Big Buddha” signs and continue straight along the trail leading up.
Eventually, a concrete trail will rear its unnatural head but not for long, ending at another fork in the road. Once again, take the path leading right. If ever in doubt, look at the trees for hand drawn signs, some may be covered by the overgrowth but there are plenty to keep you going. Again, stay straight and pass through elephant riding camp, which is absolutely devastating to see.
This really upset me so be warned. It will fuck over your beautiful walk, especially as you see the mistreatment and disgusting conditions – say NO to elephant rides!
Pass through the elephant camp towards the main road and take a right, remember to always go uphill. This is the final 1km stretch, stick to the main road the whole way but be mindful of the bends and turns as traffic is quite fast approaching.
#2 Short Route: 40 ball-breaking minutes
Guided by thick rope and handmade signs, keep climbing until you reach flat ground. Turn right and cross the field towards the main road. At the main road, take another right until you reach the Big Buddha.
The entry is free, but small donation is appreciated. Ladies, you won’t want to hike covered up so know that there are sarongs available at the entry if you are not dressed appropriately. However I suggest you bring something to throw over you when you arrive. You can take it off once outside the temple.
Note that the last bus leaves Karon main street at 5pm, it takes 30mins back to Phuket Town and the last bus from Phuket Town to Patong leaves at 6pm so give yourself plenty of time, if you hike down.
We walked the long route back and when you reach the bottom, wait at the main road for the bus heading back to Old Town, or if you have some spare time, visit Karon beach for a dip, a sit down and a chill (we think it is a nicer beach than Patong!)
- It takes at least 1hr 45minutes from Patong to Karon by bus
- Allow 2 hours for the long hike up and 1 hour for the shorter route.
- Free entry to the Big Buddha (ladies, cover up!)
- Allow two hours to explore the Big Siddha grounds (may be less, won’t be any more)
- It will take 1hr 45minutes to stroll back down to Karon via the long route.
- Be careful taking the short route down especially if it has rained recently.
- The last bus leaves Karon at 5pm and passes by the road at the end of the Big Buddha trail
- If you have spare time, visit Karon Beach.
- Possible to hire a driver, skip the hike and visit Karon, Wat Chalong and Big Buddha in one day.
Regular readers will know that we aren’t too fond tours, but the Father of mine treated us to two of them and while we disliked the sheep-like shepherding and tourist elbows to the face, we did find ourselves enjoying at least one of the two tours.
James Bond Island:
Hard to miss the gazillion posters promoting this day trip, this one-day tour is fairly jam-packed and, dare we say it, fun. It was fun.
There are many variations of the tour, so triple check hidden costs and ask questions with regards to the itinerary and what is and isn’t included. There are also day trips to suit different styles and budgets, the more expensive, for example, promising luxury yachts, snorkeling, fine dining etc.
We booked our tour through the Dreams Guesthouse and Hostel for 1,500BHT (€40) which included pick up from the hostel, followed by a long-tail boat trip through the Phang Nga Bay National Park – incredibly beautiful to see and exactly what you would expect from Thailand’s picture perfect landscape.
We were then split into two for some sea canoeing; two a kayak driven by an experienced local who will make you laugh, have some fun and at the end, expect a little tip. The jaunt is experienced with the hundreds of other day trips and tourists, with some queues to enter and exit the natural caves. It can become manic but all in all, it was, fun. It was fun.
Next up was the James Bond island, the iconic landmark made famous for its appearance in the 1974 Bond movie ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. Here you will have an hour or so to explore, follow the small trails, chill and swim. Unfortunately for us, it didn’t stop raining the whole time but we still made the most out of it.
We then went for lunch at the floating Muslim Village. Be warned that you will be promised a floating village where the entire community lives within stilt houses, and even the local football pitch and mosque floats. It is true, it does. But you won’t see much of it. The best view is coming in on the boat, and you will be dropped at the pier of a restaurant where lunch will be served. There is no leaving the restaurant so once you eat you are sent straight back onto the boat for the final leg of the tour. What we will say is the lunch is top notch, but when is Thai food ever not good?
Finally, it is a quick stop at the Monkey Cave Temple. Wat Suwan Kuha shelters a largereclining Buddha and is home to lots of bats and, surprise, monkeys. There will be vendors trying to sell you fruit to feed the monkeys but again, we must encourage you NOT to feed any wildlife while on your trip. Keep the wild, wild.
Ladies, you are expected to cover up but the good news is that there are sarongs available as you walk in. As always, remember to respect the culture by taking off your shoes before approaching or standing on an altar.
Overall, the tour is manic but you do get bang for your buck, and the Father of mine seemed to really enjoy it. It is one of the more expensive tours but one that, if you are “into” day trips, is certainly more enjoyable.
Phi Phi Islands Tour:
OK, let’s start by being completely honest here. We hated this tour! It was extremely rushed and not worth the money for the time you actually spend on Phi Phi Islands. We had never been to Phi Phi before, and after the whopping 1 hour to take to see the beach and walk through the town, we would suggest either going to Phi Phi DIY-style or going and spending a few days there – it is a million times nicer than Phuket.
So, let’s start with the tour and then we will share how we wish we had visited Phi Phi Islands.
Father Hogan haggled this tour package and scored a day trip for 900BHT (€24) which included hotel pickup, island hopping, snorkeling, lunch and free water and soft drinks on the boat. When originally quoting the Phi Phi Islands day tour, the average rate was between 1,000BHT-1,2000BHT (€27 -32) so do work your magic and we found booking the night before helped to secure a slightly cheaper rate.
Like any day tours, there are more expensive tours which offer more luxurious modes of transport, more activities and little extras such as free booze etc.
- Flip flops / sandals (your shoes will get wet!)
- Sun cream
- Your own water (just to have extra)
The tour starts from the Phuket’s Rassada pier where we had to endure an induction talk on what shoes were appropriate to wear, and why we should splurge on a waterproof bag for all our gadgets. While we appreciate the safety talks, it quickly turned into a sales pitch and the mob become irritated – what a great group start!
We then queued as we boarded the boat (they will take a picture of you before you jump on the boat to try sell you a framed photo on your return). There were a total of 36 people on the small boat. It was cramped, uncomfortable, and just too much. I suppose you get what you pay for so a heads up on this one!
We zipped through the seas and slowed down to spend 30 minutes snorkeling in the clear waters near Loh Samah Bay. Despite all the other tours stopping at the same spot and so there were more floating orange life-jackets than fish, there was a reef and we have to say it was beautiful to float off and escape the crowds to see the colourful Dorys under the sea.
Once finished up, we passed Maya Bay and unique the ‘Viking Cave’ – the boat didn’t slow down and so there was a scramble of people jumping up to take a look out the window (the boat wasn’t open top so you can imagine the elbowing!).
Note: The famous “Maya Beach” (as featured on The Beach) is no longer allowing tours to visit (apparently an attempt to save what is left of the diminishing ecosystem damaged by tourism) and so you will need to pay extra to hire a private boat to visit yourself.
The boat will arrive at Phi Phi Don Island where you will be given an hour, to enjoy the delicious lunch buffet (vegetarian is available) and after lunch you can pop off to the beach or take a quick walk around the island, but do not arrive late back to the boat as this was the case and the tour guide made an absolute show of the family who rolled in late. It was extremely awkward.
Personally, one hour was not enough whatsoever. It was extremely rushed and we debated not returning and jumping on a local ferry back to Phuket.
We had one more “attraction” to visit which was another island called Khai Island which is a tiny island, the same size as a football pitch and, unfortunately so, is less beautiful than Phi Phi. The final stop on the tour, every single tour stops here and it feels like an outdoor hall full crammed with tourists. We were given another hour here and honestly, we would have preferred more time on Phi Phi Island, the one place we had actually booked to see. All you As you can probably read from the irritated sassiness – we reeeeally disliked this tour.
So while we enthusiastically recommend this tour, it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Let’s just say if we were to do it again, we would rather go and stay in Phi Phi for a few nights and enjoy all the island has to offer in your own time.
How To: Phuket to Phi Phi island:
Ferries leave from the Rassada Pier, which is around 4km from the centre of Phuket Old Town, and takes two hours to reach Phi Phi Island. Prices for the slower ferries start at 500BHT (€13) and depart 8.30am, 11am, 1.30pm and 3pm. There are other services available at different costs – for an idea and some promotional deals, visit Phuket Ferry.
The only thing to be aware of is you will need to arrange transport to the departing Rassada pier. You can easily jump a local bus from Patong to Phuket Old Town and grab a tuk tuk or Grab car from there since taxis from Patong will try charge you around 800BHT (€21.50). Or shop around at the many kiosks scattered around Patong and book both your ferry and transport for one price.
If you do book your ferry online, you can add transport pick up from your hotel before paying – pick shared minivan for the cheapest option.
Phuket Back To Bangkok
If you have read the above, some of this may sound repetitive but for those who have come just to find out how the hell you can get from Phuket back to Bangkok for as cheap as chips, this is for you.
#1 Patong/Karon to Phuket Old Town:
The local busses, a.k.a the big blue bangers, leave from the beach road in Patong (the large Patong Beach sign is a good place to wait!) and along the main Patak road in Karon.
Always triple check as schedules can change but as far as we know, the last busses leave both beach towns for Phuket Old Town around 5pm. The local bus costs 30BHT (€0.80) and takes 45 minutes.
#2 Phuket Old Town to Bus Terminal:
From the Phuket Old Town, stay at the roundabout where the bus has dropped you and wait for the smaller pink and blue songthaews. These shared shuttles pass by both Bus Terminal 1 and Bus Terminal 2 for 15BHT (€0.40).
Despite what any tuktuk drivers might tell you, the songthaew stops at the roundabout to collect passengers every half hour or so and runs from 7am-8pm. It’ll take 10 minutes to reach Bus Terminal 1 and 25 minutes to reach Bus Terminal 2. The driver will usually shout the destination out the window, but either way before boarding tell the driver you want the Bus Terminal 2.
Unless you have booked your bus to Bangkok online (may be a little more expensive doing it this way but always search for a deal online!), it is best to arrive at the bus terminal in the late afternoon, even if you plan to take an overnight. This is to ensure you can book the cheapest seats and bus.
Overnight Bus to Bangkok:
The two cheapest overnight busses heading back to Bangkok leave at 4pm and 6.20pm at the price of 587BHT (€16). The “VIP” bus, which promises free WiFi and USB plugs, leave at 5.20pm and 7pm at the rate of 913BHT (€25). These prices are advertised across the board and seem to be the ﬂat rate (always subject to change but these were the prices as of November 2018).
However, when we arrived to ﬁnd out the cheaper 6.20pm bus was fully booked, we went window to window (there are at least four ticket sellers in the back of the ticket oﬃce building) full of smiles and bows to haggle our way down to 750BHT (€20) so know you CAN get cheaper, just be polite as fuck!
On a ﬁnal note, the last bus to Bangkok from Phuket leaves at 7pm (in May during low season) and it takes around 12 hours.
The bus will arrive into Mo Chit/Chatuchak Bus Terminal where there are selective busses and minivans heading to the airport, Khao San Road and other Thailand destinations.
Although not Thailand’s best island, it is an eventful one and you could say it has something for everything, my Dad enjoyed it so much he has already booked another two weeks back which does say a lot as he is a picky fecker!
I’ll admit it. When writing this blog, there was a sudden realisation that we did enjoy our few weeks in Phuket. When people ask us if we would recommend it, we are brutally honest in how we feel about the place but would never discourage anyone from visiting, different tastes and all that jazz.
Gun to the head situation, nope. We can confidently say we wouldn’t return in a hurry and instead would turn our attention to Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, or the fairly untouched Koh Mak which has been dubbed as the island that closely resembles the Thai islands over 10 years ago (that probably won’t last long!).
Not our wish to end on ta negative note, do enjoy the crazy lady that is Phuket. Explore as much of the island as you can, even move around and lap up the many beaches turning a two week holiday into a little adventure as each corner as something unique to offer.
Also, do check any events that may be happening during your visit. We have been lucky to see Phuket under the bright full moon while locals celebrate Loi Krathong. A festival honouring the Goddess of Water – it was such a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of.
If you have any other questions, mumblings or experiences to share, pop us an email or post a comment. We love to hear from you guys.
Now, new goal: Try not Puke It in Phuket.