on the road: phuket, thailand

our last and final honeymoon stop was phuket. after 5 days of non stop moving and flights and cities, we were more than ready for a week of sand and sunshine. a word to the wise? thai sun is.not.messing.around. i’ve never felt intense sun like that. we used spf 75 and aside from me forgetting my brain the day of the boat trip and burning the crap out of my back, neither of us burned.
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phuket is an island and one of the southern provinces of thailand, neighboring phang nga and krabi (where the hangover 2 was filmed, if you’re keeping tabs). we stayed at the northernmost beach, mai khao. i’m not sure why, but when i went into planning this, thinking about phuket, in my head it was much like our beloved st john, usvi. quiet, sleepy and a little bit racy (it IS thailand, after all). phuket is, in fact, HUGE. population of over 348,000 huge. it’s asia after all, the land of overpopulation so i’m not sure what i was thinking.

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i’ve got to be honest for a second…i didn’t like how our plans landed in phuket. because our trip was based around gifted hotel stays, thanks to josh’s parents, we had little flexibility with the phuket part of our trip. meaning, we had to spend 7 nights there. this is hardly a problem, i am aware, however we felt really isolated being SO far north for so long. the city center and craziness of patong beach was at least an hour cab ride away and fear of not being able to get a taxi all the way home kept us from venturing down there–something i now regret heavily. in a perfect world, we would have been able to spend a few days less in phuket, split our time between our isolated (luxurious, gorgeous) resort and something maybe a little less elite down in patong so that we could have experienced more of the island. and then taken a couple extra days in both bangkok and chiang mai. again, going back to the size i THOUGHT phuket was, i didn’t think it would be THAT big of a deal to we were tried. and i needed a pina colada.

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with that said, we adored our time in phuket. it will, for the rest of my life, be one of the happiest memories i have with josh. we were the most stress free, care free we’ve ever been. that’s speaking more to me than him as he is 90% more laid back than i am in our normal lives. our service at the resort is the stuff thai dreams are made of. friendly “sawadee kas” around every corner, waiters at breakfast who remember your coffee/tea order and share a genuine interest in getting to know you…and the fresh juices. oh my, the fresh juices.

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we did manage one day-trip, one i was hella excited about: a sunrise phi phi boat tour. i can NOT recommend our tour company enough (info at the bottom). our trip began at 5am and took us straight to maya bay (aka “the beach” from the movie of the same name) and enjoyed the most breathtaking sunrise of my life on the way. i’m confident no photo will ever do that site justice.

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maya bay is just as beautiful as postcards and tour guides brag about. it’s also as crowded (“we have to hurry, the russians are coming” was spouted by our tour guide numerous times. turns out, he was totally serious) as i was warned. i’ve seen this happen with our own, aforementioned, beloved st john, usvi. it takes a couple guide books touting the extreme beauty of something and BAM, there are tour boats upon tour boats loaded like cuban immigrants hailing all the way from bangkok, full of russians.

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after a beach breakfast at maya bay, we reloaded and headed to pileh lagoon. it’s a “hong” as our guide referred to it, literally meaning “room” with steep limestone cliffs surrounding a narrow opening. this “hong” is only reachable at high tide and because of this, it holds THE MOST SALTY WATER i’ve EVER swam in. as we began jumping off the boat, jeff (the owner/captain) warned us to plug our nose. seriously? i haven’t done that since 1993. you don’t want to go against this warning. trust me. i did, however, float my butt off, which is something of a feat as i normally sink like a cinder block.

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did i mention the water? it’s clear. like really clear. like, see for 8+ meters clear. this fact made the water the most stunning shades of blue and turquoise i’ve ever seen. and i’ve seen some gorgeous water.

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after a stop at pileh, we continued to monkey beach (no monkeys that day), viking cave (look up bird’s nest soup…they harvest nests in this cave by shimmying up those bamboo poles), camel rock, and had lunch at bamboo island. by this time, the motion of the ocean and heat put me into a coma-like state on the beach. after a snooze, we boarded once again, drove past phi phi island (where the tsumani hit the worst, hitting from both the north and south at once)  and stopped to snorkel straight rock before heading back to phuket.

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this would be a  good time to mention the tsumani. thai’s don’t talk about it much. partly because i can imagine it’s too painful and horrific to relive (the most horrifying story jeff told us was the reason so many people died, aside from the fact that it was moving SO quickly, was because they began to see water being sucked out and fish were flopping around everywhere. they all went down to the water’s edge to see what was going on…i don’t need to say much else) and mostly because thai’s are buddhist and believe in an afterlife, meaning….everything’s meant to be. the 2 areas hit the worst were phi phi, which i mentioned above and patong beach on phuket. both areas have made drastic recoveries compared to the photos our captain shared. he told us that at the time, there were no tsunami warning systems in place. not surprising, as they still sell gasoline in old liquor bottles.

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in my life, i’ve always loved the beach. growing up, i probably didn’t realize that most photos you seen when googling “world’s most beautiful beaches” come from phuket and thailand in general. i’ll be honest in saying that one of my first encounters with really discovering phuket came from juno after hearing, “PHUKET, THAILAND?”. i never in my life thought i would be lucky enough to have sat on one of phuket’s beaches, chang in hand, without a care in the world. it’s astounding where this life takes you and who you get to go there with.

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my overall opinions of phuket: it’s as gorgeous as travel sites tell you it is. i only wish we had more time to discover other parts and local culture.

favorite thing about the city: again, it has to be the people. combined with the scenery, which is out of this world.

least favorite thing about the city: i wished it was easier to get around.

favorite thing i ate or drank: since we were mainly at our resort, the food wasn’t out of this world. however, josh had an amazing calamari dish (seasoned simply with black pepper, garlic, soy sauce and ginger) at the resort’s thai restaurant.

would i go back? i wouldn’t go back to thailand just to go to phuket, but given that there are so many daily flights from bangkok/chiang mai, it’s almost too easy to get there to NOT go. i’d stay somewhere more centrally located, though. and would probably only go for a few days.
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resources:

hotel: renaissance mai khao (4 stars, all the way. like i said, i can’t say enough about the level of service at this resort. their manager, thainee–prounounced “tiny”–made our stay unbelievable. i actually got a little choked up when we said goodbye to him. we advise to reserve a chaise lounge early to ensure you have somewhere to sit. there were a lot of kids, but that didn’t bother us as none of them were american and let’s face it, european kids are much better behaved than american kids. food in general at the resort was just ok, however the breakfast buffet was on another level. lunches/casual dinner at doppio were really good. oh and we came to wait in our room between 4-5pm waiting for our “complimentary afternoon treat” brought around by room service.)  // tours: simba sea trips (4 stars, all the way. jeff and harry made our day so incredible. everything was arranged for us from the pickup at our hotel since we were so far north, to breakfast, lunch, snacks, snorkel masks and beach mats. he and harry were funny and so knowledgable. two things made me pick simba sea trips: the fact that they did a sunrise tour (they’re one of the only companies who does so) and that they have 12 people or less per boat. no more. ever.

see more travel posts here

see all my photos from phuket, bangkok and chiang mai.

gear used: canon 5d mark ii with a 50 1.2L, canon s100 point and shoot with an underwater housing.

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