10 days in Thailand
After nine visits to Thailand, some might suggest that I try another holiday destination, but I really like the place, so I decided to book up for the tenth time! This visit would be to the holiday island of Phuket – about 400 miles south of Bangkok. It wasn’t to be my first visit to Phuket though. I also spent 12 days there (at the brilliant Cape Panwa Hotel) in September 2007.
With my parents already in Thailand enjoying their 4-week break, I decided to join them for the Phuket portion of their trip, although I didn’t tell them I would be going. It was to be a surprise.
I am one of these people who likes to make the most of my holiday entitlement at work. I am not the sort of person to take a day off and do nothing with it, so I arranged a nice early finish on the day of departure. But my 3.00pm finish came and went, and at 4.20pm, I was still frantically typing away on my keyboard, keen to ensure that all was in order whilst I was away. Cutting it fine, I dashed home, showered and changed and set off on the train for Heathrow Airport. For anybody else in the Winnersh/Wokingham area, getting the train from Twyford (via Hayes) is definitely a cheap, easy and quick way of getting to the heart of Heathrow. My £15.00 one-way ticket got me from Twyford to check-in within 50 minutes. I didn’t have the hassle of travelling into Reading for the railair nor getting a very slow train to Feltham followed by the very expensive number 285 bus!
My flight was with Thai Airways International that evening. Despite a number of flights with the airline in the past, the last being in 2007, I went off of the airline. Whilst passenger comfort and amusement was a top priority for many airlines, it really wasn’t for Thai. Even on my first flights with the airline back in 2003, I really couldn’t understand how the airline expected passengers to survive an 11-12 hour flight without access to an individual television screen! Anyway, times have changed and the airline upgraded its 747 fleet in 2012 and every economy class seat was equipped with a large screen and an entertainment loaded with hundreds of hours of on-demand music, television shows and films.
Luckily, the middle seat on the flight to Bangkok remained empty, so I had access to 50% of it since it had to be shared with the lone travelling lady sat on the aisle. Like me, she was off to surprise a friend in Phuket, and she too was visiting for 10 days. Spooky, I thought.
I must say, a long haul economy class flight has never been so comfortable as this one. We were fed not too long after getting airborne at 9.30pm and then the lights were switched out. I then drifted off listening to André Rieu, and woke around six hours later – not too long before breakfast was served. Travelling alone, especially on long haul, is never much fun so it is always a bonus if you can sleep and pass a lot of the time.
The flight landed in Bangkok right on time (around 3.00pm) and I literally ran to passport control. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi’s immigration queues can be really long, especially after the arrival of flights carrying hundreds of foreigners. The last thing I wanted was to be last in line. Being one of the first to reach immigration, I had my passport stamped and was on my way.
My destination for the first night was to be the Best Western Premier Amaranth Suvarnabhumi Airport, located just on the edge of the airport – but reachable within about 10 minutes using the hotel’s complimentary shuttle. At £45 for the night (without breakfast), it wasn’t bad. It was a name I knew, a chain of hotels I had used before (including an airport hotel in Seoul, Korea) and it was on the doorstep of the airport. The only other big name ‘airport hotel’ was the Novotel, which, at around three times the price, was out of the question – even if it was only 300 metres from the terminal.
I won’t waffle on about the quality of the hotel since I have already done that on TripAdvisor. To read the review of my first stay, just click on the link at the top of the page.
All in all, it was a nice hotel, although I was puzzle by the huge window between the bathroom and the bedroom. As a lone traveller, I didn’t have to worry about somebody watching me in the shower or when using the toilet, but I didn’t quite understand its point! It’s not as if I could even benefit from the views of the city whilst on the toilet, since the hotel overlooked an industrial estate on both sides.
After my week in Phuket, I returned to the Best Western for a second stay, which wasn’t half as good as the first. With 36 hours between flights, I decided to book just one night in the hotel and then to try and negotiate a good value (or free) late checkout, but it wasn’t to be. The hotel wanted around £60.00 for the privilege so it made more sense to book an extra night on the internet at a much more attractive price.
The night before my arrival, hundreds of Chinese people were staying (according to the receptionist) and the the hotel was completely full. Clearly the housekeeping staff were overwhelmed by the number of rooms to make up, so they let standards slip considerably. My twin room (since there were no doubles available at the time of checking in (not a concern)), was far from finished. The minibar was completely empty, I had towels missing in the bathroom, a robe missing in the wardrobe and somebody had missed the clumps of hair in and around the shower plug. After seeing the price list in the wardrobe for souvenirs, I called reception. The last thing I wanted was to be charged for the consumption of every last spirit in the fridge. Every last item in the room on the souvenir price list had a price – even the teaspoons.
Not wanting to look like a numpty in the more formal restaurant, I decided to dine at the poolside bar, which was available until 7.00pm every evening (weather permitting). During thundery showers, the place tends to flood and closes. At around £5.00 for a tasty cheeseburger, chips and salad, it was good value for money. With the hotel being in the middle of nowhere, there was little else to choose from in the vicinity. The local FamilyMart convenience store sold meat on sticks but it could hardly be considered a meal.
Anyway, going back to Phuket, I had booked myself onto the 2.15pm flight from Bangkok to Phuket, which was conveniently the very same flight that my parents were travelling on. I arrived at the airport around three hours before departure and then walked back and forth – for about 90 minutes – awaiting their arrival. When they arrived, I let them get to the check-in desk before springing the surprise. A gentle nudge got their attentions.
After an hour in the air and only a croissant filled with a suspicious green substance, we were on the ground in Phuket, and then on our way to our hotel in Rawai. Phuket Airport is in the north of the island, whilst Rawai is in the south, with the journey by road taking around 50 minutes in a taxi.
Our accommodation in Rawai was the the 4-star Rawai Palm Beach Resort, which I have also reviewed on Trip Advisor. It was a very nice hotel, if not a little poorly organised, but it was in a nice location, just steps from a beach and it had the most amazing swimming pool. Breakfast too was brilliant and that was included at no extra cost every morning. Fresh food, ranging from fried eggs, sausages and fruit to curries, rices, salads and pastries. Nothing beats a spicy curry for breakfast!
When one taxi driver asked for £20 for a 30-minute tour of the local area, we realised that taxis were not particularly cheap, so we hired scooters, which we had also done on previous visits to Thailand. For the equivalent of around £3.00 a day, we had access to 125cc scooters, on which we did in excess of 150 miles, exploring as much of the island as possible. With fuel at around £1.00 per litre, it was definitely a cost-effective (and fun) way of exploring the island. The many hills quickly use up the fuel though. The journey to the Phuket Buddha was the biggest killer, and, for fear of breaking down, I literally had to roll back down the hill.
To hire a scooter in Thailand, you are expected to have an international motorcycle licence, but nobody will ask to see it. Most of those hiring scooters sign a sheet of paper, usually marked ‘no insurance’. No matter what happens, whether a crash or theft, the person hiring it is expected to cover the cost of repair or replacement, if necessary. Also be aware that the police do confiscate scooters and fine those who do not carry the correct documentation. Fortunately, I wasn’t stopped once in Phuket. The same cannot be said for Pattaya, where the police seem to stand on every street corner, randomly stopping people and fining them for sometimes silly things.
Riding through Phuket during afternoon thunderstorms was always a lot of fun and it often resulted in us stopping wherever we could find shelter. In an instant, the heavy rain would reduced visibility to almost nothing, so it made sense to take a break. On one occasion, heavy showers saw us stopping every five minutes!
Songkran was looming so it made sense to return the scooters. For those who know little of this celebration, it is the Thai New Year, which the Thai people like to celebrate with water. For 3-4 consecutive days, there is one big water fight across the country. Buckets of water are hurled at anybody and everybody – whether on foot, in the back of a vehicle or on a scooter. No matter who you are, what you are wearing or what you are carrying (valuables included), you can be sure of a good soaking – sometimes without warning!
A week after arriving, we set off on the short flight back to Bangkok. My parents were in transit there and would continue to London but I had a couple of extra days and returned to the Best Western hotel.
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