To visit Thailand wasn’t really on our agenda for this year. Our daughter, Brenna, was teaching English to Thai students in Trang, Thailand, and we wanted to see her. But, a visit seemed far away and expensive. After our week-long trip to Phuket, we recognize what a treasure Thailand is, why Brenna has fallen in love with the country, and how we’d like to visit again.
Thailand Here We Come
After hearing about a Facebook page for a travel agency called Travel Pirates at a convention I attended, I started receiving posts from them on my Facebook feed with various travel offers. One caught my eye. Air travel to Phuket, Thailand and 7 nights stay in a luxury hotel for just $650 per person. What? From my perspective that would be cheap for the hotel alone. Initially skeptical, I investigated. Departure cities in the U.S. did not include Minneapolis, but even traveling to Newark would only add about $250 per person air travel. The carrier was Air China, which we had never flown on before. After assurances from a friend who had travelled with them several times and noted their top-notch service, we booked the travel deal.
In preparation for the trip, my wife Mary Jo and I bought a couple travel books on sites to see in Thailand. We both got flu shots and hepatitis A shots. Knowing we wouldn’t be traveling outside of Phuket, we opted out of the typhoid shot. All of us were healthy for the entire stay.
Phuket Via Beijing
We flew into Newark (2 hours) and flew from there to Beijing, China (14 hours) and then on to Phuket (6 hours) in October. With layovers, we spent about 30 hours in flight or at airports. No two ways about it, it’s a long trip. But, as suggested by my friend, Air China was awesome: on time, great service and professional in every way. We arrived at Phuket late at night with rain coming down. October is the tail end of rainy season in Thailand which partially explained the great travel deals.
Our accommodations were fantastic with a ground floor, two room suite that was 15 strides from nice swimming pool with a premiere golf course behind it serving as the backdrop. We awoke to sunshine the next morning and Brenna joined us later that day after a 6 hour bus ride from Trang.
Seven Reasons To Visit Thailand
We spent our time exclusively in Phuket – pronounced “Poo-get” – for our vacation, Thailand’s biggest island. Here are seven things we think most folks would like about Thailand.
1.) Thai People
One of the first things you’ll notice as you travel about Thailand is how happy and friendly the natives are to visitors. If there was a group of people designed for the hospitality industry, this would be it. Humble and helpful, the Thai folks made our vacation enjoyable at virtually every encounter.
Brenna had picked up enough Thai language to interact with shopkeepers, taxi drivers and hotel personnel and gain some insights on the Thai culture. Along the way, she attempted to teach us about the culture and some common phrases (with some success).
2.) Comfortable Weather
The predominant temperature in October while we were there was 85 degrees and sunny, with a little humidity. Compared to Minnesota’s October weather, this was a big upgrade! In our 8 day stay, we saw rain on two other mornings – on and off again for a couple of hours, but then sunshine the rest of the days.
I’d compare Thailand’s weather as comparable to Hawaii, but with more humidity. Rainy season can make a difference, but we were very lucky.
3.) Sandy Beaches
If you’ve saw the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio, you might have somewhat of an understanding of the scenic beauty of Thailand. Just in our visits within Phuket, we found ourselves at several beautiful horseshoe-shaped beaches. Fabulous!
In the past few years, Thailand’s government has made cleaner beaches a major initiative, and it showed. The beaches we visited were clean and just naturally beautiful.
One of our favorite things to do while in Phuket was to eat outside at restaurants that had a view of the beach and watch the sun set. Arrays of pinks and oranges filled the sky with a canvas of color seldom seen in our neck of the woods.
5.) Thai Food
At Brenna’s suggestion we tried Thai favorites like jok for breakfast. Jok is a rice porridge that also included an egg at the restaurant we ate at. Very flavorful and delicious.
One of my favorites was Tom Yum soup. It’s a hot and sour Thai soup, typically cooked with shrimp. We also tried Som Tum, a spicy green papaya salad which is very popular in Thailand. The best meal I had was beef cheek in coconut curry on a patio deck overlooking a beautiful beach. Rolled Thai ice cream quickly became another favorite with our crew.
Once you get to Thailand, seemingly everything is very affordable, especially restaurants. Brenna finds it less expensive to eat out in Trang than to try to stock a fridge and cook from home. The restaurants in downtown Phuket and in the resort area that we stayed were great bargains.
A hour-long massage cost $12 U.S. and a manicure was $6. To get out and around Phuket, our taxi charged significantly less than Uber type rates. Our taxi driver charged only $25 U.S. and was with us for the lion’s share of the day. Essentially, everything was a bargain!
7.) Entertainment — Lots To Do
We spent a lot of our time sight seeing and at beaches in this beautiful part of Thailand. However, we made time for a few excursion.
For one, we took a Chinese junk boat and visited Jame Bond island, where Bond’s rival in Man with the Golden Gun’s called home. Ko Tapu, or Nail Island, juts out from the beach.
Our next stop was Ko Panyi, a fishing village built on stilts by Indonesian fishermen. About 350 Muslim families call it home. It was built in the 18th century because land ownership was limited to folks of Thai descent. Note the Golden mosque and the green floating football pitch. Their boys team is one of the most successful in southern Thailand having won the league championship six times since 2004.
On another day, we visited the Big Buddha. The 148 foot Big Buddha is carved from Burmese marble is a spiritual site perched high with great views of the Andaman Sea. We also visited Laem Phromthep, the southernmost cape and popular vista for sunsets.
Other entertainment options include visiting a rain forest, kayaking, Muay Thai (Thai boxing), visiting temples, rock climbing, sightseeing in Old Town and other options abound. There’s something for every taste in Phuket.
From the U.S., Thailand is a long trip, but ultimately worth every minute. With first class resorts, a delicious cuisine, beautiful beaches and sunsets, and incredible weather, it’s easy to see why Thailand is on so many people’s bucket list of places to visit.