We spent our first evening in Phuket exploring the different eateries and bars in Karon. The restaurants we really liked included Two Chefs (our favourite!), Karon Café, PaPa Restaurant and Irish Pub. In general, the food was good everywhere – my only tip would be to be cautious when ordering for spicy food because in a Thai kitchen spicy means a really generous portion of red chillies in your dish. I suggest ask for the spicy sauce separately. Also, if you are a vegetarian you might want to pick rice instead of noodles because the latter invariably smell of fish oil.
We also liked the little open bars on the road. Also, don’t miss the Nutella pancakes off the street which are absolutely to die for.
Monday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Tuesday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Wednesday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Thursday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Friday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Saturday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Sunday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Monday: 6:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Tuesday: 6:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Wednesday: 6:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Thursday: 6:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Friday: 6:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Saturday: 6:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Sunday: 6:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Breakfast Buffet and Karon Beach: Fortunately, hotels in Thailand, unlike those in Europe, serve the breakfast buffet as late as 11.30 am. And the variety they offer in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options is lavish. I especially gorged on fresh fruits like mangoes, melons and pineapples.
After a big and satisfying breakfast we went off to Karon beach, which has beautiful turquoise waters and clean sand. You can spend hours on the beach, get something to eat or drink, and get one of the beach chairs to lounge around. Try water sports like banana boat ride, jet skiing and parasailing. Just remember (and I cannot stress this enough!) that the sun in Phuket is very strong and you need to constantly reapply sunscreen (at least SPF 50) if you don’t want your skin to burn.
Day Trips from Phuket: Most people suggest that when you go to Phuket you should make a day trip to either Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Island) or Phi Phi Islands. We couldn’t choose which one we wanted to do more, we decided to do both!
Tough part is, there are at least a million different itineraries for both the tours and it’s important to pick one that offers things that you are really interested in. For instance, we didn’t want a tour that started too early in the morning (most tours start as early as 6.30 am) or one that didn’t cover the islands we wanted to see. So we spent the better part of the hot afternoon scanning countless brochures to find the two tours that started relatively late, included canoeing and snorkelling and covered maximum islands. Your hotel would also offer these tours but they are likely to be the more expensive options. I suggest go to one of the many tour agencies in the market area – they are all quite open to bargaining.
After finding the perfect trips we could get back to enjoying Phuket for the day!
By now we had realized that the best way to enjoy the town was to hop along the many restaurants and pubs and soak in the lively Phuket nightlife. While I had planned to do my shopping in Bangkok, I couldn’t resist checking out the many street shops in Phuket. They sell great beachwear, dresses, hats (good idea for the blazing sun!) and other touristy knick knacks.
We were scheduled to be picked up at 9 am from the hotel, so we woke up a little early to factor in enough time for breakfast. I’m a vegetarian and was a bit sceptical that I might not get good food during the tour so I wanted to eat a hearty breakfast. A mini bus arrived to take us to the pier where all the passengers for the trip collected. It took almost an hour for everyone to gather and finally about 20 of us got on the slow boat that was to be our vehicle for the day.
While Phang Nga Bay is more popular for the James Bond Island, what we were most excited about was the canoeing experience offered as part of our tour. An hour into the journey, we reached the limestone caves – it was a beautiful experience as we all climbed into our respective canoes with our partner and the canoe driver to explore the waters. The caves were absolutely magnificent and seemed to have a life of their own. Some of them were so low that we had to lie on our backs to cross them.
Lunch was served on the boat itself. Turned out that I was lucky and the cooks on this tour made simple but excellent vegetarian cuisine including rice, noodles, veggies and onion rings. Next up was the famous James Bond Island where we spent about an hour. The island itself doesn’t have much to see except for the iconic rock from the movie, The Man With The Golden Gun. After getting the token pictures clicked, there wasn’t much else to do because the water wasn’t as clean as the other places.
Then came the most memorable moment of the trip! We went to an uninhabited island in the bay where we had the option to paddle our own canoes. Just picture watching the sun set while you’re rowing over the calm waters.
We reached Phuket around 6.30 pm and back to our hotel by 7.30 pm. While we had planned to explore Bangla Road tonight, we were a bit tired and decided to head to our usual haunts instead. By now, the servers at the Karon restaurants had become our friends!
Like the day before, we were picked up from our hotel and driven to the point where everyone was collecting. The tour operators told us that while the snorkelling gear came free for us, we should ideally rent fins because the corals are sharp and can hurt your feet.
This time we had opted for a speedboat to try something different. All enthusiastic, we along with an Egyptian couple, chose to sit right in front of the boat to get a good view of the sea despite the guide warning us that the sea gets very choppy making it really uncomfortable to sit in front. Unfortunately, it only took ten minutes into the ride for me to figure out I had made the wrong decision! While my more adventurous husband enjoyed the bumpy ride, I held on to the railing for dear life with a mental note to sit at the back during the return journey.
Finally after about an hour and half, we reached our first stop – Mosquito Island. We could take a half an hour dip into the waters for snorkelling. I don’t know how to swim and my head was spinning after that boat journey so even though I tried to get into the water I couldn’t bring myself to snorkel. For my water-loving husband, this was a life changing experience as words fell short for him to describe what he saw underwater. Determined to try it again at our next stop, the Bamboo Island, I started thinking of encouraging thoughts.
Unfortunately, what I hadn’t realized then was that the fins really weigh you down if you are planning to walk and not swim. After a couple of tries at Bamboo Island (and almost losing one of my fins to the sea) I realized it just wasn’t my day and decided to enjoy the view over the water. Fortunately, the island was beautiful beyond imagination. With white sand and transparent sea, we could actually see schools of fish swimming even without putting our head under water.
Our next stop left me completely spellbound. We were on a lagoon in the middle of the sea and the water was shimmering under the sunlight making it one of the most poetic sights I have ever seen. Even if I try, I will never be able to explain just how beautiful it was.
I could have stayed there for hours but we had to move on to our final stop, Maya Bay, which became famous after the Leonardo Di Caprio starrer, The Beach. I have to admit that it was beautiful but because it was so crowded with tourists it seemed a bit overrated compared with the other experiences we had had in the day. That is why I strongly recommend that you must pick a tour that allows multiple experiences in Phi Phi and not just the popular ones. We also made quick stops at Monkey Island and Viking Island but those were cursory views of life on the islands.
Monday: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Tuesday: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Wednesday: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Thursday: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Friday: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturday: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Sunday: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
On our way back, our van crossed Patong and we considered getting off to explore the much talked about nightlife in Patong. But somehow the experiences we’d had during the day were too overwhelming to switch to party mode instantly. We knew we had probably missed some of the must-do attractions in Phuket, but honestly, we were so smug and satisfied with both our day trips that we had no regrets. It was such an amazing trip, I’m sure we would return some day to Phuket, and explore whatever we left out this time.