To do a quick recap, Josh came out to Asia for the second time and we decided to branch outside of China together. Two days in Shanghai, two days in Hong Kong, two days in Chiang Mai, two days in Phuket and back to Shanghai for two days.
Josh and I left Chiang Mai wishing we didn't have to catch a flight and leave the beautiful rainy mountains, but we still remained optimistic for the beautiful islands that southern Thailand had to offer. After a quick two-hour plane ride, we arrived in Phuket.
It definitely was not the beautiful mountains that we had just grown to love - our long drive from the airport to the hotel was not scenic, and not even five minutes into the drive, the driver was handing me his phone where a woman on the other line was trying to sell me tickets for excursions and tours. I could easily tell I was back into a tourist area.
We stayed at the Chanalai Garden Resort which was perfectly fine for what we needed. Our room was clean, they gave us a coupon for two free drinks, and we could see the water from our room. Since we stayed only a 5 minute walk from the beach, we decided to take a bit of a walk after we dropped off our bags.
The only time I have been to a beach in a touristy area was when I went to visit my friend in Fort Lauderdale at the end of summer - this was worse than that. There were tourists everywhere. Trash everywhere. People trying to sell us ice cream, umbrellas, and towels - everywhere. We kept our heads down and just kept walking along the beach, talking to one another, trying to ignore our hectic surroundings.
By the time we reached the end there were still people around, but few enough that I could attempt to snatch up a few photos without getting others in the shot. Unfortunately, I had to try to not get all of the trash in the pictures either.
Looking back on all of my pictures, I don't know if I just did a really good job of not getting people and trash in the photos, or if I just imagined it all. But I promise that it was all there! There were several moments where I had to practice patience, like waiting for the nude man and his son to keep walking just a little bit further so I could get the picture that I wanted.
After we spent a good bit of time walking up and down the beach, we decided that a night in was going to be the best solution. We went back to the hotel, ordered drinks to the room, and sat on the patio and watched the sunset. Even when your surroundings can get hectic and overwhelming, it is nice to be able to take a step back and just relax with someone over good conversation and cocktails.
This next part is what made coming to Phuket worth it. We booked the Phang Nga and Beyond tour through Simba Sea Trips. It. Was. Beautiful. I was hoping to see the parts of Phuket I had seen pictures of - the caves, the green islands, the blue water - and this trip did exactly that. We were the first of our group of 13 to be picked up at 6 AM, retrieving the others shortly after. I believe they said the boat can hold well over 20 people, so there was plenty of room and at no point did we feel cramped. They fed us breakfast, lunch, and a multitude of snacks along the way.
The first thing we did was walk through a cave at Koh Phanak. In the picture above, you can see a man's head and the tiny opening in the bottom on the rock. You've guessed it. We went under there. There were moments where we could see nothing more than the person in front of us and there were times when the water was so high, I had to swim but still be careful that I wouldn't hit my head on the rocks above me. I would never recommend doing this on your own. The only reason I felt comfortable doing this was because our guides were all locals who knew exactly when the tides would rise and fall, which meant they knew exactly how much time we had before it was going to be unsafe for us to be there. I did not bring my camera at this point because I was too scared of it getting wet (even though they did provide us with dry bags). Once we got to the other side, we could see there was a beautiful hole in the center of this rock. We were completely surrounded by rocks covered in the most beautiful green [moss?] stretching high up into the sky. I wish I could show you because no matter how I try to describe it, it just won't do it justice.
We swam our way back under the rock and onto the boat for the next leg of our journey. Kayaking at Koh Hong! We had a local guide take us around another island and once again, going both around and under rocks to see the most beautiful pieces of nature. I am just going to post a few pictures so you can see everything I got to see from the front of the kayak (because yes, I did have Josh sit behind me).
After all of this, we were taken over to the popular tourist area - James Bond Island. Honestly, this island is not the most beautiful in the area. Other than it was used in a movie back in the 70's, I don't see any reason for it to be the one place the majority of people go. Sure, it's pretty, but now that it is swimming with tourists, there are definitely other places that you can go. But of course, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Our guide had us take several corny touristy shots with the James Bond Island, and alas, there were no lasers - but he did have a golden gun for us to pose with!
We were then taken to a small, random cove with the tiniest, little private beach where we got to jump off the front of the boat! Jumping off a boat in a random cove off the coast of Thailand that doesn't even have a name and laying in the sand next to the man I love while the water washes over us - that is what I came to southern Thailand for.
Next stop, lunch! We headed over to Koh Yao Noi to a local Thai restaurant on the beach. The food was completely average, but the views were stunning. Being out in the sun all day we weren't very hungry, so we nibbled a bit and then opted to sit on the beach until it was time for us to get back on the boats and head to another private beach to lounge away the rest of the day. If you are planning a trip to southern Thailand, do not, I repeat, do not stay in Phuket on the main island. Koh Yao Noi was absolutely beautiful, and peaceful. Apparently they are building a bridge to connect it to the main island so that may change in a few years. But for now, that is where I recommend staying.
Normally, I'm not one for just laying on the beach. I get bored easily and would rather be walking around or climbing or something, but after such a jam packed morning, it was the perfect way to end the day. We took a quick lap around the beach and then laid down in the sand to take a small nap, all the while listening to the sounds of the water.
We got back from our trip and still had about 8 hours to kill before we went to the airport. We stopped by a restaurant down the road and ate and drank to our hearts content. I don't really remember how long we were there for exactly, but I was told that when in southern Thailand you have to get the Pineapple Fried Rice, so I did! I personally think you could get better tasting food there, but the rice is an excellent choice for those who aren't normally adventurous eaters.
We were very lucky that the hotel let us hang out by the pool for a few hours, and even gave us fresh towels to shower and freshen up after being in the water all day.
Overall, Phuket was not nearly as wonderful as Chiang Mai, but the excursion made it worth it. If you really want a trip to southern Thailand, stay off the main island and give yourself a few days so you can get on the right ferries to and from the more secluded islands. But I still think you should go to Chiang Mai first :)
As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments! Let me know if there is more you want to hear about, more pictures you want to see, etc. I'd love to hear from you.