When you think of exotic destinations, Thailand is definitely one of them and probably one of the first to cross your mind. When I decided to take my first trip to Asia, I wanted to go somewhere exotic so, naturally, I picked Thailand and specifically Phuket. Because of its well-known and touristic islands, I thought it to be visitor-approved and safe as a choice.
Instantly, I started dreaming of palm trees, magical beaches with turquoise water, amazing Thai food, massages, and the ridiculously low prices I’d heard people talking about and bloggers writing about. BULLSH*T!
OK, not the palm trees and the massages, but everything else.
I’ve come to the conclusions that either:
- every blogger is being paid to write that nonsense
- they lack taste generally
- they have a short memory or
- they’ve never experienced or swam in a truly nice beach before.
No one tells you that from the moment you exit the airport, you feel like you’re constantly in a Turkish bath. The air was so humid, I thought I was having a panic attack every second I was the outside for the first 3 days. I just couldn’t breathe normally. And my hair never fully dried for 10 days!
Palm trees everywhere! And that is the only thing that made me go to Phuket’s beaches, otherwise I would have totally skipped them and stayed at the amazing Mandarava Resort & Spa and its gorgeous pools.
I am Greek, OK? So when it comes to nice beaches, I’m pretty spoiled. I expected to find beaches that would blow my mind in a way that I’ve never seen before. And… I did. I faced overcrowded beaches full of plastic bottles and garbage. Kata, Karon, Karon Noi, Patong, Nai Harn, even Coral Island (which was by far the dirtiest and most packed) – all of them.
In contrast to the Mediterranean beaches, those in Phuket are not cute little bays. They’re the open and wild Indian Ocean (almost). Most of the day, the sea is wavy and shallow and the water much too warm, like piss. You need to walk 70-100 meters out for the water level to reach up to your neck. There are red flags posted everywhere for several different reasons. Plus the water is unusually cloudy and not crystal clear blue as they present it in the over-photoshopped pictures you see online.
Basically, everyone keeps talking about the magical beaches in Phuket when it is actually the least attractive thing about the island. You want to see beaches? Try Milos or Lefkada or even Thassos instead.
The best thing about Phuket and what they should talk about instead of the beaches, is the jungle. The nature and the germination is absolutely amazing – I’ve never seen that much greenery in my life. Enchanting birds singing on the branches of the huge coconut and banana trees, elephants and monkeys strolling around freely, and so many other species… I’m telling you. Phuket’s jungle is the main reason I’d return to the island.
I was definitely not satisfied by the food at the restaurants and I LOVE Asian food. To be honest, I’ve eaten Thai food once a week for the past 7 years or so. I read how everyone is obsessed with the food there but for me it was average. The food at the markets and the street food were so much better. They tell you that you can eat lobster for $6 but that’s a lie. You can’t! You probably could’ve 20 years ago, but now no-no. However, for $6, you can have some amazing shrimp and crab skewers, noodles or rice, and a yummy pancake for desert in the market of your choice.
My recommendation? Karon Beach Temple Market, Baan Son Night Market in Patong, Phuket Town’s Weekend Night Market Na Ka and finally the Phuket Town Sunday Night Market in Thalang Road which is my personal favorite.
We also had great food in the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: an amazing Pad Thai, some tasty spring rolls and chicken curry. Also, everything we ordered at the hotel whether it was pizza, burgers, or Thai food, was very decent and well prepared.
I must also mention that, in the 10 days I was there, I had food poisoning twice. The second one slightly more severe and both times were from the restaurants and not from the stalls. If the stall is busy, it is because it is good.
But the restaurants?? Let me tell you…
Hygiene is pretty bad unless you want to pay over 50$ per person. We had dinner at a restaurant in Karon beach and noticed a couple of rats crossing in between the tables and outside their kitchen. Nightmare. And everything didn’t taste the way it should. Even the cheese on pizza. I wish I had known better and stuck to the stalls and the hotel.
Another great reason to visit Phuket and yea, they tell the truth when it comes to this. You can get a 1hr full body massage for 10$ and the ladies do know what they’re doing. I got a massage daily and I wish I had time to do so twice a day.
I highly recommend the FRUTTA MASSAGE AND SPA in Karon Beach. They are slightly more expensive (meaning by 1 or 2 euros) but they are well worth it because they only use organic products, which smell heavenly. I have tried almost everything there and my favorites were the foot massage and the facial treatment! Ask for my sweet Thai aunt Som – she is the best. And don’t forget to tip them! What you make in a month, they probably make in a year.
THE STREET MARKETS
The street markets are great. Especially for those who love to haggle – i.e. my hubby. If you ever find yourself there, arrange to include a Sunday on your trip because by far the best market I went to was Phuket Town’s Weekend Night Market. You can find everything and anything. I even found a place where you can make your own customized passport holder!
For your transport, whether it’s a tuk-tuk or a normal cab, it won’t come cheap! I felt robbed every single time. Ok, it’s not London’s black cab prices, but hell, a taxi in Phuket is more expensive than in Athens and that is not cool.
The tours are also expensive and nothing decent comes at less than 40 euro per person. The tours I booked are ones of the most expensive tours I ever went on anywhere in the world.
The food in the restaurants do NOT come cheap. Now, I don’t mind paying as long as I can enjoy, but as mentioned above, that never happened.
Overall, do not expect to pay the cheap prices you have imagined for anything of quality. For that, like everywhere in the world, you have to pay. Fakes, fruits, aloe cream, street food and coconut oil are some of the things that are inexpensive. What you can also get at a good price, but not cheap, are tailor made suits and coats.
Patong… If you google that name and read the description, you’re gonna think it’s the place to be. The agency I went to book the trip with initially (I ended up booking everything myself in the end), suggested that I stay there overnight and most of the agencies give you offers on hotels in Patong. When I went there and saw how it was in real life, I wanted to vomit. Have you ever been to Laganas in Zakynthos? If yes, imagine that, 7 times worse. If not, let me describe it for you.
Lady boys and hookers selling themselves to you, drunk tourists throwing up on the side of the streets, transgenders up on top of the bars dancing to the rhythm (not) of hideous music, third-rate sex shows with women putting glasses and other fancy things in their parts, adult beverages that promise to give you a cheap hangover or make you go blind… I can keep going but I guess you got the picture.
If that is your cup of tea, you are probably reading the wrong blog, because there is nothing here for you.
Things you should know:
- Like the British and Cypriots, in Thailand they drive on the “wrong” side of the street so keep that in mind before thinking of renting a car.
- Do not book your tours online. Book them in one of the countless agencies you’ll find in every town. You’ll pay almost 50% less that way.
- The sun will burn you even when it’s cloudy. Always wear some suncream. The sun in Phuket is very strong!
- Due to that, your tan will be deeper than ever! In just 2 days of sunbathing in Phuket, I got the same tan that took me 4 months of effort in Greece.
- Always fasten your seatbelt in a vehicle. The driver is not obliged to let you know and you will be fined. There is a piece of paper somewhere in the car but if you don’t notice it, guess what! They don’t care.
- In some beaches, smoking is not allowed. Do not ignore the signs or you will be fined. Usually you can smoke in the beach bar’s area.
- The elephants used for trekking are mostly mistreated. Visit a sanctuary instead and you’ll never forget the experience.
- Every designer item that you spot on a market is a fake. Never question that!
- The tourists visiting Phuket are not what you would see in Cannes or Mykonos. I don’t know how to put it differently.
I am disappointed, guys. You know why? Because no one tells you all that. They skip basic facts that are important for someone to decide on a destination. Why? People need to know what to expect, and for me, it would have saved me 4 days of frustration. If I knew all of the above, I would have arranged my itinerary completely differently.
With this post, I’m not saying do not go. No. I’m saying know what to expect. If you want beaches, come to Greece. Seriously. If you want to see amazing nature in a jungle setting and see elephants, monkeys, colorful fish species you never knew existed, coral reefs and beautiful sea beds, by all means, Phuket is the place. But if you travel in style and have a spoiled palate, do not expect it to come cheap.