Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm a girl from the Tropics

As I'm writing this, it's snowing outside. So I'm looking longingly at our vacation photos & wished we were still back in Phuket.

X & I spent many evenings discussing whether it was going to be Bali or Phuket - I've been to both & always partial towards Bali. X has been to neither & preferred Phuket. In the end, Phuket won for their beautiful beaches. And we were not disappointed. The beaches are gorgeous, even better than I'd remembered them to be.

We stayed at Kata & even though the beach is beautiful, we actually preferred Karon, since the beach stretches further & wider, it feels more spacious. Considering that beach chairs in Cannes can cost up to 35 euro, the ones in Phuket at 100 baht (2 euro) is a bargain. Sigh, I was often reminded how expensive Europe can be.

Phuket is still picking up the pieces after the tsunami. Even though we were there during high season, we were still able to get good hotel deals (check out www.latestays.com). Despite the many tourists doing the Phang Nga Bay circuit, it didn't feel annoyingly crowded (which we were really thankful for).

This shot was taken in Suwankuhu Temple in the Phang Nga region - as part of our day trip to explore Phang Nga bay.

The temple is situated in Monkey Cave - named after the hordes of monkeys whose sole purpose is to wait for tourists to feed them. Lilian commented that this looks like Yoda, don't you think so ?

This here is Ko Tapu, Nail island cos it looks like a nail but everybody calls it James Bond Island, after it appeared on The Man with the Golden Gun. It really is postcard pretty.

Phang Nga Bay with it's famous limestones caves scattered throughout the area. We took a canoe ride amongst the caves & it was such a fun way to see them up close & personal.


Next stop was at Ko Panyi - a self sufficient Muslim village nestled in the Bay. Built entirely on stilts, the village gets fresh water from a pipe connected to the mainland.

For the 1400 residents, there is a health center, mosque & school. They either fish, man souvenir stalls or work in one of the seafood restaurants catered to tourists. I wonder how it feels to have busloads of tourists at your door step gawking at you everyday. I guess they get used to it, especially if it's their livelihood. We did buy dried shrimp & shrimp paste, which we had forgotten & left behind in Singapore, I hope my brother is enjoying them.

We spent most of our time by the beach & even though the beach shacks offer food - they were mainly tourist fare like burgers, fried chicken & fries. If like me, you don't want to be stuck eating burgers in Thailand, I'd recommend you chose your beach chairs based on what food is served nearby. At Karon beach, we found a spot which was near a local restaurant so we only had to hop across the road to ta pau pad thai, yum won sen & fruit shakes back to our seats.

Here's typically what we ate during the trip (it didn't vary much from day to day)
Breakfast - buffet at the hotel (why is it only hotels in Asia offer awesome breakfast buffets)
Lunch - pad thai, yum won sen, som tam, watermelon & pineapple
Dinner - pad thai, yum won sen or som tam, watermelon & pineapple
We're boring that way.

That's not true, one night we did go to Chalong Bay for seafood (a sumptuous meal for 5 cost us less than 40 euro).

If not for the fact that we wanted desserts, we would be quite happy eating from road side stalls. 30 baht for a freshly made som tam right in front of you. 10 baht for a skewer of squid or chicken gizzard. Sadly only on our last night did I discover a stall right outside our hotel which makes a delicious pork belly "laab" style salad.

But desserts were calling & X craved for mango with glutinous rice, which surprisingly was not served in a lot of restaurants that we went to. We did finally find it, of course & look how beautifully it was presented.

The next half day trip we took turned out to be the highlight for The Girl. Based on my friend Jerome's recommendation, we went to Ko Khai. Knowing how everybody would be headed towards Phi Phi, we decided we didn't want to join the party.

Khai island is on the east coast of Phuket & even though long tailed boats from Rawai or Chalong can take you there cheaper, we took a half day tour that included insurance, refreshments & snorkelling equipment, which worked out to be more or less the same in the end.

The 3 Khai islands all had something different to offer - we swam, we snorkelled, we tried to catch crabs - found this pretty hermit crab wandering about by himself.......

....or just simply lazing on the beach enjoying the wind & scenery.

But it was Ko Khai Nok that was the star of the trip. Just look at all these tropical fishes so close to the shore. Like the monkeys earlier, they were waiting for us to feed them bread & bananas (yes, The Girl fed them some).

If you are going to Phuket with young children or the young at heart, I'd highly recommend going there. Buy a loaf (or 2) of bread. Have fun feeding the fish or just swimming with them. Plus you get a fish spa for free (apparently all the rage in Singapore now - what's up with that ?).

Now you know why we chose Phuket, just look at how clear the water is.


9 comments:

monlim said...

Wah, the beach at Khai island is breathtaking! The water looks super clear, and with the fish, it really looks like you're at a spa, doesn't it? (yah, don't know whatzzit with the fish thingy craze at spas). I'm not a sun-lover but if all beaches were like that, I would brave it anytime!

Anonymous said...

There are fish spas in Europe too. I think Hungary & Turkey. Its to cure psoriasis, a skin condition. See article here:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/good_spa_guide/article672642.ece

Next time if you do return to Asia & wish to get good hotel deals check out www.wotif.com which has excellent deals for Asia particularly HK, Thailand, Malaysia, Spore & Indonesia. They do better deals than priceline & most other sites as their focus tends to be in Asia.

Alcovelet said...

Hi Hi!

I found your blog, courtesy of Mon's comments. Your blog pictures are just gorgeous!! I love your Phuket travel tips - we normally go to Bali, but I'm completely convinced about Phuket now!

This fish spa thing - it actually looks quite filthy here - everybody dips there legs into this communal pool. Like - huh? No way I'm gonna do it! If you'd like an invite to my blog, can you leave your email address on the facebook group page? I'll explain the secrecy later.

Tks so much for the sunny intra-day break!

eunice said...

Fish spa??? Sounds kind of kinky. Never heard of it here.

You have convinced me to go back to Phuket. Last time we were there was just before tsunami. Love your pics!

BeLive said...

Wow...picture perfect holiday!

Yes, I also often wonder why the huge breakfast buffet spread is only available in Asia...slurp, slurp

Kevin said...

Just look at all of those amazing places!

Lilian said...

I never knew the water in Phuket was so clear! Must make that my next destination, share your itinerary okay?

Saw photos of you on FB, posted by your friend, you're awfully cute! Love your smile. Your little princess looks just like you.

charming said...

Wow, never knew there were such beautiful clean beaches in Phuket. Thanks for sharing such great photos, esp the one of your daughter with the fishes. My 3 y.o. would have loved that!

petite fleur said...

monica
I was really surprised at how beautiful the beaches are. If you ever want to venture to a beach, head over to Phuket.

anon
Thanks for the tip. I'll definitely bookmark wotif.com for my next trip.

alcovelet
Yikes this fish spa does sound rather filthy. I'm just glad I don't have psoriasis. I just left you a message on FB. Look forward to reading your blog.

eunice
There are so many other places in Thailand I want to go to next - Ko Samui, Krabi or even north of Phuket. You have to go & let me know.

Belive
I even choose my hotels based on their buffet breakfast

Kevin
Thanks for dropping by

Lilian
You're too kind.
Sure. Let me know if you're going there.

charming
All kids love feeding the fish at Khai island. There are a lot more child friendly activities, we just didn't do them all, preferring to laze by the beach instead.