Sawadee Ka everyone! That’s hello in Thai.
Let me start off this post by saying that this is NOT a sponsored post at all. I saved, hustled, waited, done my research and eventually we travelled to Thailand earlier this year. I have divided this post into 3 parts as we had the privilege of visiting 3 locations in Thailand. I researched quite a bit and eventually got a terrific deal via Holiday Factory. It was about R12 000 (ZAR) each for the Etihad return flights to Thailand, including all private car transfers and water transfers, accommodation for 10 nights including breakfast, and we stayed in Patong, Phi Phi Islands and Krabi. I paid for the booking in March 2018 and we flew in September 2018.
I am mentioning the costs because:
a) It was a really good deal
b) People always ask me how much it all cost
c) Sharing is caring 🙂
d) Once you do some research online, one can still find good travel packages, in this case it was via Holidayfactory.co.za
Getting to Thailand
First things first – I have not travelled internationally since my blood clot and Pulmonary Embolism in 2015, which resulted after an operation. This meant that I had to take precautions in order to prevent another clot from occurring, and this is why I took Clexane injections 12 hours before the flight and then 24 hours thereafter, and the same for the return leg of the journey. This is a blood thinner that helps prevent blood clots, which is sometimes, an unfortunate side effect of long haul flights – please Google it, blood clots from long haul flights are very common and life threatening. I also wear my DVT compression socks every day and especially on plane flights.
Anyway, we left on the 1st of September 2018 and our first stop was Patong, a city on the beautiful (and huge) island of Phuket, off the coast of mainland Thailand. The flight was long – Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi to Phuket – about 17 hours in transit but well worth it. Etihad Airways can improve their leg room, but the food and service was great and the entertainment selection is vast. Being an Arab airline, I appreciated that all the food is Halaal and before take off, a prayer is said via the TV screens and PA system. Watch this below.
I suggest you get a data package and sim card once you land at the airport, or you may be stuck with a horrendous cell phone bill once you get back home. We got this data package for THB 299 (about R150) which is valid for 8 days. The staff were super friendly and swapped out my SA sim card with the Thai one in about 5 minutes flat! Don’t ask me about FICA – I just handed them my passport and they done the rest. Chop chop!
We spotted the tour promoter holding our names on a sign board and hubby and I were pleasantly surprised that our transfer was a comfortable and private mini bus (our transfer a few years back was a bumpy shared ride with about 8 other people). It was Sunday night, and the hustle and bustle of street vendors and many, many mopeds and scooters are the first things you notice, from the time we left Phuket International Airport to the our arrival at the hotel. Families enjoy eating out on the streets and market stalls are selling clothing, food and tour packages to the islands.
It took about 45 minutes from the airport to the Sunset Beach Hotel in Patong. We checked in at 9pm local time, so there was just enough time to get supper and a good night’s rest. The humidity hits you like an open oven, so I was glad to have an air conditioned room. The Sunset Beach Hotel is pretty basic (3 Stars) but it does the job – a place to sleep, shower and eat. It is situated opposite a beach that looks a bit like the Sea Point promenade in Cape Town. Have a look here:
Day 1 – Patong CBD
The Sunset Beach Resort offers a complimentary shuttle service from the hotel to Patong’s CBD every 30 minutes – but it is very basic, actually it is a converted bakkie with seats placed at the back, so make sure you have comfy shoes as it involves climbing in and out and makes for a jerky ride.
10 or so minutes later, we arrived at Jungceylon Shopping Centre – like typical Jo’bugers, we sought a place of refuge at the mall (LOL!) but at least it offered full blast air conditioning in the sweltering heat (we’re talking 30 degrees celsius at 6am heat!). We found a place to eat lunch, as I was not going to chance the street food and end up with a runny tummy on holiday. The restaurants on offer, and we’re not talking 5 star eateries, proved to be rather pricey. Even with the ZAR being twice as much as one Thai Bhat, we felt the pinch with every bite. Even KFC and McDonalds were pricey 😦
Be warned that “cash is king” in Thailand. Using a debit or credit or Travel Wallet card is frowned upon at most places, and one usually needs to buy for a minimum amount before they will accept it, so we wound up having to draw cash about 3 times during our stay, which means lots of ATM fees. I took THB 4000 in cash before we left, thinking that this would be enough cash and for the rest we would use a debit or credit card. At least the place is quite safe, but traveling with large amounts of cash is not a good idea in any country.
Day 2 – Patong Sight Seeeing Tour
By day 2 we had acclimatised to the weather and our surroundings and we were ready to take in the sights. Tour operators come to the hotels so you can book with them but try negotiating first so that you can get a better deal. We booked a Phuket/Patong sight seeing tour of the city’s tourist hotspots but chose what we really wanted to see.
We visited the elephants at a reserve (they are Thailand’s national animal and can be found on lots of memorabilia and souvenirs), the Gems Gallery (a bit of educational Madame Toussaud’s mixed with lots of jewelry displays), then Chalong Buddhist Temple (Thailand is about 93% Buddhist), Big Buddha (a must see just for the enormity of it and stunning views) and finally Kata View (a viewing point with breath-taking, Instagram-worthy ocean views).
If you are just staying in Patong and not planning to move to another part of Phuket, you can book island tours to places like the famous James Bond Island (which I gave a miss), and the myriad of stunning islands off the coast of Phuket. Since we were going to stay on Phi Phi Island next, we decided to opt for the city tour instead.
Here is a short video of the inside of Chalong Temple – please note that women need to be covered so dress conservatively at places of worship, but they do provide sarongs for those who are unprepared. You are allowed to take photos and film inside but it is an active place of worship and I was shocked that some tourists were actually taking cell phone calls while inside – I mean really!
Day 3 – R&R at Sunset Beach Hotel
We were knackered from all the walking and traveling the day before so took in a bit of Rest and Relaxation on day 3 at the Sunset Beach Hotel’s pool area, and what’s a tropical island vacation without a drink from a pineapple and coconut!
Day 4 – Travel to Phi Phi Islands
We checked out of Sunset Beach Hotel and were collected by our tour operator (private comfy sedan) for the hour long trip to Phuket harbour, to catch the ferry to Phi Phi Islands.
Here are some ferry pics – it was my first time on a ferry (I have been on a cruise ship before) and was surprised at the size. Tip: Pack light! We over-packed so much, and having to schlep your luggage from the port to the ferry by yourself (as there is not always staff to help you get stuff on board) is no joke. This trip included lots of climbing, getting out of and onto ferries, small boats, etc. so one actually needs to be rather fit and in shape in order to travel and not feel the consequences the next day, as I did on some days. I was also concerned about exerting myself, due to my blood clot issues, and I made sure to wear my DVT compression socks on most days.
I hope you enjoyed my post, which was written in a non-touristy type manner, and from my honest point of view. Catch Part 2 – Phi Phi Islands, in my next post.