It’s really quite amazing when the heavens cooperate with your travel plans. Our initial plan was to take grandma to Bali because the hotels are quite cheap there and none of us have been to Indonesia before. However, the weather forecast wasn’t very good so we opted Phuket where there are less rainy days. Everywhere else within 4 hours of Manila that is visa-free is experiencing rainy season.
To our delight, the days we spent in Phuket were sunny, and rain only fell during one evening!
As we decided on this trip just a couple of days ago, we did our last minute booking through Hotels.com and booked a double room at Sunset Hotel in Patong Beach. Our flight from Singapore arrived past 8pm and while the minibus-booking process was right at the arrival hall, our expected journey of an hour from Phuket International Airport to Patong Beach became longer.
First, the public van drove to an office and told us to present our minibus tickets for inspection. Turns out, it was a travel agency that tried to talk us into availing of tours. This is probably one of the many scams you’ll encounter in Thailand so be wary. I told the lady I would consider the option and got many tour brochures. I told her I will have to consult and think about it after I’ve had some rest.
Next, the group of males with us took longer in that same office and had quite a huge fight with the staff concerning their tickets. We had to drive back to the airport for them to talk with the ticket seller. At this point, I dreaded wanting to save 50% off our total fares. We should have just taken a private minibus. The whole ordeal lasted for almost 2 hours and they were an extremely noisy group. Add to that the annoying Thai lady who kept shouting into her mobile phone.
Our luck turned for the better when we got upgraded from a double room to a suite room complete with kitchen and dining area. Still, my aunt and I slept on the couches and my gave the King size ensuite bedroom to my grandma. We also got a veranda overlooking the huge pool where we could dry our clothes or lounge in the sun.
Another great thing about Sunset Hotel is the breakfast buffet. You get more than 5 types of drinks, at least 10 viands to choose from with the usual rice, mashed potatoes, cereals, bread, croissants. There is more than enough variety for guests of different nationalities.
Since the hotel isn’t situated in the heart of Patong Beach, the hotel offers free shuttle service every 30minutes from 8am to 9pm with the dropoff at Phuket’s very own Walking Street. Here you will find plenty of tour agencies and money changers. To get the best bang for your buck, try to scour the entire street first before exchanging your currencies. I found that the one nearest Patong Beach on the corner of Walking Street has the best exchange rate for GBP.
Loads of activities are offered on Patong Beach by peddlers: you have jetski, parasailing, and more. Because of these activities, a portion of the beach is cordoned off for the safety of swimmers. For those who prefer to chill out, sun lounges are available for rent or you can just bring a beach towel to lay upon.
The beach itself is a lovely wide stretch of fine white sand that is devoid of any trash. These cute little shells looking like butterflies litter the sandy beach.
We dedicated our entire 2nd day for a Phi Phi Island tour. Our shuttle arrived at exactly 8am and we arrived the port at 9am where we boarded a mid-size ship to Phi Phi Island and it’s surrounding attractions.
TIP: When booking your tour, clarify whether the entry fees / taxes / etc are included in your payment. If possible have your agent write down in English and Thai the confirmation for it.
When we arrived at the port, the staff told us that our tour package did not include a disembarkation in Maya Bay and that we’ll have to add 200Baht per head if we wanted to swim there. After arguing and calling the agent, they said it was a misunderstanding on OUR part and the agent will pay for it anyway. We boarded the ship last.
Our sour morning mood turned for the better upon seeing the cozy interior of the ship and the unlimited coffee/tea/biscuits available :) Food always makes everything better!
The staff on board were friendly, particularly the captain of the boat. I can say this with confidence that he is friendly to all, not just because I am female, because I noticed how he helped the elderly on board, played with the children, and made sure their life vests were snug.
TIP: When choosing a tour boat to go with, get one that has the capacity of 100-400 people. Some ships boast a 1000-person capacity but the tendency for huge ships is slower loading and unloading times, less food, and huge crowds. Smaller private boats may cater to your privacy and time management but the seas can be rough. And if you are susceptible to motion sickness, the waves may get you nauseous and ruin your day.
Here we are at Maya Bay. Nothing spectacular, except the view is lovely and the sand is fine. The shoreline steeps too soon that even if I am an okay swimmer, I dared not to take my life vest off. So, if you are thinking of arguing with the staff back there or spending the extra 200 baht per head, there’s no need to do it :) Just stay for an hour inside the ship and eat to your fill.
I missed the time to take a photo of the food, but I had no complaints about it. The vegetables were fresh and flavorful!
After Maya Bay and on-board lunch, around 2pm, we reached Monkey Island. There is no port on the island, so those who wish to see the monkeys up close had to swim to the shore. Mask and snorkels and life vests are provided for free, while fins can be rented at 100baht.
Having become friends with the captain, he helped my aunt swim to the shore while I almost lost my strength fighting the currents. Some guests stayed near the boat and fed the fishes with bread. I just took the opportunity for a nice photo here…
This is my grandma’s first time abroad and on an island tour. We wanted her to experience travelling and sight-seeing since she isn’t getting any younger.
Tired from all the earlier activities and just wanting to hibernate after a full meal, we just took grandma for a walk around Phi Phi Island Pier. Other tourists on board disembarked to stay a full night in the island, while there were also some who went aboard to go back to the mainland. Basically, it’s not just a tour boat, it has become a passenger ferry.
On our way home, the clouds darkened over the seas, but a rainbow promised us of another beautiful day tomorrow :)
For day 3, my aunt and my grandma rode an elephant while I walked behind them, avoiding poo on the path, while taking lots of photos for their first time.
By night, the road in front of the hotel gets filled with street food stalls selling grilled meat, fish, rice, and even local desserts. Many locals also gather in this area for a picnic bringing their own mats and just laying it wherever there’s space.
The dawn in Patong Beach told us that we have used up our Sunny Days card…
But the sun eventually shone upon us so we’ll remember beautiful Phuket with a smile. Flying in and out of Phuket International Airport (HKT) is one of the best views of the blue sea you can ever experience.