If you’re connected with me on social platforms, you already know that I went to Thailand twice last month. Yes, twice! I hadn’t been to Amazing Thailand before, and I’ve been itching to plan a Thailand trip for a long time. And when it finally happened, it happened twice in a month. Like they say, when it rains, it pours. Who’s complaining though? I had a super time exploring Thailand, especially Phuket.
My first Thailand trip was a solo trip in association with Thailand Tourism and Cox & Kings India. I haven’t been on a solo trip for about 5 years now, and this was like a refresher course in Solo Travel for me. I have been travelling with my 4 year old daughter recently, and travelling all by my own this time, came with a lot of new experiences and learning.
Note: You can read about my list of ten things to do in Phuket, a guide for the solo women travellers very soon on this blog.
During my first ever Thailand trip, my first destination was Phuket, via Bangkok. I was to take Visa on Arrival in Bangkok and then get on a connecting flight to Phuket. From hotel reservation to boat tours, Cox & Kings and Thailand Tourism had meticulously planned my itinerary. I did my own research and utilized the free days to explore Phuket on foot. The amount of walking I did there was impressive, thank God I packed my comfortable flip flops!
After getting through the process of Visa on Arrival and catching my flight to Phuket, I slept a little on the one hour flight. The hotel car met me at the airport with a ply card of my name – something which I love, no matter how many times it happens, ha ha.
As soon as I got out of the airport, I knew that Phuket was different that the busy and bustling Bangkok. It was calm and serene, and the landscape from the moving car was already making me want to turn into a photographer.
A little about Phuket:
Thailand’s largest island Phuket is situated off the west coast of country, in the beautiful Andaman Sea. It is one of the southern provinces of Thailand, id I’m not all mixed up with info. Phuket consists of the Island of Phuket along with 32 smaller islands off its coast. The next nearest province is Krabi (I went here as well, more on this later!), to the east across Phang Nga Bay.
My guide who’s name was Thon (he pronounced it as Thong and I might be getting the spelling wrong, sorry Thon(g?)) and was incredibly helpful and well-informed, told me that Phuket means Mountains in local language, and I looked it up for reference. Sure enough, some reading aka Wikipedia told me that the relatively recent name “Phuket” is apparently derived from the word bukit in Malay which means “hill”, as this is what the island appears like from a distance. An alternative suggestion is that the name originates from two Thai words, “phu” (mountain) of “ket” (jewel), and this is said to be recorded in a Thai chronicle.
Thon also told me that Phuket was big in tin and rubber industries in the previous decades, and showed me old tin mine which were now full of water. The rubber trees are still everywhere and give the landscape a rather scenic backdrop.
But the Tin business and Rubber industry are not as big today. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.
Phuket has a rich and colourful history as well. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign ship logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English traders.
My detailed travel articles on Phuket will soon go live on Cox & King’s website (one went live, you can read it here – Forever Young in Phuket), but I want to share a piece of my solo travel to Phuket here as well. Plus, I have so many amazing pictures to show you guys! ha ha.
As far a Solo Travel is concerned, especially for women travellers to Thailand, I want to say that Thailand is extremely safe. Phuket is buzzing with activities well until past-midnight, and the streets are never deserted.
There are 7 Eleven outlets at frequent intervals, on every street where you can buy your water and other essentials from at the best price.
The shops are also open till late, and on weekends, the streets come alive with travellers experimenting with delicious Thai food at the food markets.
You will find international cuisine in abundance in Phuket. From Pizza Express to Starbucks, and every big food chain in between, have a strong presence in Phuket. But Thai food is at its best and fresh-est at the Naka Weekend Market.
For the first Thailand trip, especially as a solo woman traveller, I think it was a great thing that I was staying in the Patong Beach area – the most touristy area of Phuket Province. Patong Beach is on the central west coast and boasts of a beautiful and long beach. Most of Phuket’s nightlife and its shopping is in Patong, and the area has become increasingly developed.
Patong means “the forest filled with banana leaves” in Thai, by the way.
I was booked at the centrally located and immaculately maintained Millennium Resort in Patong. The hotel has two wings, and I stayed at the Lakefront, which I loved. The staff was extremely helpful and the pool on the fourth floor was a delight. I was on the fifth floor so the pool was my view from the room. The booking was made by Cox & Kings.
The boat tours I took were both great, although I loved the tour to James Bond Island a lot more than the Phi Phi Island trip. The fact that I went to James Bond on a long tail boat instead of a big boat like Phi Phi, and that I made an amazing friend Natalie on that boat, might have something to do with it.
James Bond island is breathtaking, really. It is beautiful. The sky was dotted with some clouds that day, and the water was a stunning shade of sparkling blue. And when you find a good travel partner, the trip becomes more fun anyway. Thanks for the super time, Natalie. Until we meet again (Greece, eee!)
Phi Phi was lovely as well, and the Big Boat meant lots of more people and families to interact with. With Snorkelling, swimming, cave watching (is that a thing?) and just plain sailing through the Ocean, I had a great time at this trip as well. It’s a blessing I don’t get sea sick because a on our way back the ocean got wild and the waves got bigger, making a lot of people throw up throw lunch. Don’t worry, the boat staff hands everyone a plastic bag right on time – they really are prepared for everything.
When I wasn’t on boats or a car taking a town-trip, I walked at lot through Patong. I got a foot massage for 200 Bhat and bought a couple of trendy swim suits for as low as 300 Bhat (which is roughly Rs.600).
I liked walking through Bangla Road/Street because it is an experience you’ll never get in India. Bangle Street is probably the most buzzing part of Phuket. During the day, it is full of tourists eating and drinking at the various bars and restaurants on both sides of the street. At night, the place transforms almost magically. You can see pole dancing girls and scantily clad women offering you a good deal on drinks at various restaurants or bars on the street. You will also be bombarded with Ping Pong show pamphlets.
Ping Pong show is an adult show with women, men and lady boys displaying various acts on a stage. Entry is free but it is mandatory to buy a drink. And those drinks are priced as high as 900 Bhat for a glass of canned orange juice. If you want to see it out of curiosity, you will have to buy at least one drink.
Which brings me to the topic of Lady Boys. Oh, what a classy bunch! Most of the time, you can’t even tell if its a girl or a lady boy. They are everywhere – employed at the massage parlors, at the restaurants, at the currency exchange counters – not just restricted to the Bangla Street. It is liberating to see how open the Thai society is.
The Lady Boys I met and saw were all tall, most over 6 feet, and flawlessly dressed. I couldn’t take my eyes off most of them, and only stopped short of staring. In fact, if you see an immaculately dressed girl here, with stunning makeup and perfect lady-like mannerism, chances are she’s a Lady Boy.
Before I forget, there are lots of Water Adventure Sports at the Patong Beach. From Parasailing to jet ski, you’ll get something to match your taste, but be sure to negotiate for the right price.
After all this and more, the best thing about this Thailand trip was learning how kind and helpful the Thai people are. They smile at you, they bow down doing Namastey and they go out of their way to help tourists. This is something that I loved the most. I love to go to a country where the locals are friendly and warm. I found the same during my life changing trip to Israel, where people came up to me and struck a conversation about India or just to ask how my vacation was going. Warmth is something I value a lot, even when travelling solo. Can’t say the same for Hong Kong though (maybe it’s the language issue, but I find the some “locals” in Hong Kong to be borderline rude)
Lastly, I’ll just say that this Thailand trip and my roaming the streets of Phuket was an experience that made me look at Solo Travel with the same excitement that I had before I had my daughter. This Great Girly getaway planned by Thailand Tourism and Cox & Kings is going to stay with me forever.
Thank you for the love, Thailand!
I will see you soon, Phuket!
And if you’re planning a trip to Thailand in the future, do not miss Phuket. Try Cox & Kings, they did a fabulous job for me.
PS: For travellers with Indian Passport, here is my experience with Visa on Arrival in Bangkok and Phuket. Hope it helps.