Bangkok, Phi Phi Island & Phuket

10 December 2017 – written by Lisa Glassey

Thailand has always had the reputation as a cheap beach holiday option and it used to be, however this time round I was surprised. Having been to Thailand many times previously and would get excited to ‘barter’ at the local markets – nothing beats being able to pick up a bargain or two while on holiday. These days however Bangkok is still great for shopping, albeit not as good as it used to be, but as far as Phuket goes, I feel Phuket has now been over run with tourists and fixed pricing is now in place, transport (a tuk-tuk is the same price as an Air-Conditioned taxi!)

My husband and I choose Phuket as our holiday destination to purely relax (ok, maybe a spot of shopping!) … we arrived at Phuket airport and headed straight down to Kata Beach as we were staying at the Chanalai Garden Resort located at the South end of Kata. From the moment we stepped inside the Chanalai Garden Resort we felt welcomed and really couldn’t the fault the hotel or the service. Nearby there are plenty of eateries, in the three nights we were there, the first night we ate at the Hotel Restaurant, followed by a lovely meal just down the road at a franchise called Two Chefs but the third night was the best and highly recommend checking out Red Duck for authentic Thai Cuisine. To my delight, I was pleased to see there wasn’t any duck on the menu and this is purely because the owner used to tend to duck’s as a little boy and sees them as part of his family not food – the full story is outlined in the menu!

During our three days in Phuket, we made our way around the surroundings areas, Patong and Karon. Patong is not my cup of tea … it’s busy, although Patong is not short of bars, restaurants and massage parlors, I would only recommend this area if you are truly planning a ‘party’ holiday. If you are more interested in the beach and relaxation, then Karon or Kata are a lot quieter. Karon has a few more restaurants and a little bit more of a buzz over Kata.

As the main reason for our holiday was relaxation and rejuvenation after three days in Phuket we opted to head over the Phi Phi Island. We stayed at the Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort which was so amazing we ended up extending our stay and cancelled our additional nights in Phuket. Although expensive to get to, I highly recommend paying the $100 per person one-way transfer which picks you up from either Phuket Airport or your Phuket hotel, drives you to Ao Pier & Marina (where you will see some pretty amazing super yachts!) but this is also where you then jump on-board the Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort private speed boat. This is the easiest way to get to the resort, otherwise you can take a Ferry from Rassada Pier to Tonsai Pier followed by a long-boat from to the resort – total travel time approx. 2-2.5 hours where the speed boat is only 1 hour…. And in the heat, nothing worse than having to carry your own suitcases!

As far as beach resorts go, Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort is true paradise… the white sand beach and crystal-clear water. Once we arrived via speed boat we were welcomed with cold towels, banana & coconut mocktails and a Thai Cookie. We took a seat in the main entrance (under air con) while the reception staff checked everyone in. There were approx. 10-15 others on our speed boat arriving at the same time. By the time we had been checked in, Boop our concierge guy, for the duration of our stay, had our luggage on a golf cart waiting to transfer us to our room. All the rooms are bungalow style, all separated and very, very private. We were in Deluxe Garden Room which was amazing. Absolutely LOVED this resort.

There is so much to do on Phi Phi island, at the Island Resort there were two incredible swimming pools, good activities such as snorkeling and diving as well as a good range of restaurants and bar areas. Each night there would be live music playing at each restaurant and just to the back of the resort you take a walk through the village to experience the local culture and eateries. One afternoon we took a long boat to the North of the island to snorkel, although we really enjoyed it and saw all types of tropical fish I would recommend that anyone planning on a snorkeling trip to take a morning tour as the water was crystal clear each morning but by 4pm you could see it starting to cloud over as the tide goes out which perhaps didn’t provide the best snorkeling experience. It was still enjoyable nether less.

After Phi Phi we flew back to Bangkok to fulfil the shopping desires. While in Bangkok we stayed at the amazing Anajak Hotel located down a back alley near the Phaya Thai Metro Station which has a direct link to the airport. The Anajak is a newish boutique hotel and it’s amazing, I will definitely stay again next time I’m in Bangkok … let’s not forget to mention they have THE most comfortable beds in Thailand … or even the world in my opinion! The Anajak is only a two-minute walk to the metro (maybe less) and only minutes away from National Stadium by Metro. If a boutique accommodation option isn’t you, then I would recommend either the Radisson Suites, the Sheraton Grande which are both 5* hotels very centrally located.

Shopping in Bangkok is always fun, I just love a good bargain. The best places for shopping is MBK which is a eight story market (so to speak) to pick up ‘luxury’ brands – all fake!) … if you don’t mind the odd ‘original copy’ as the Thai’s say, then this is the place for you. MBK is located at the National Stadium Metro stop. For the real thing, directly opposite MBK is Siam Paragon which is another fabulous mall selling luxury brands such as Chanel, Gucci, Coach, Calvin Klein etc. and next to that is Siam Discovery. At the other end of Sukhumvit Road near Asok Station is Terminal 21, this is another mall with a boutique feel, tend to be a lot quieter than some of the other and you won’t find any high street stores. It’s boutiques and on the lower ground floor the most amazing food market – I think of it as the Harrods of Asia!

Bangkok has some amazing restaurants. One of my all-time favorites is Mango Tree in Patpong – I have been here many times previously and it never disappoints! Although Patpong is not the nicest location due to the large amount of strip clubs in the area, it’s great in the evening for a good Thai meal followed by a walk through the night market just a block away from Mango Tree. It’s not particularly close to a metro, therefore recommend taking a tuk-tuk or taxi. Another must restaurant in Bangkok is Al Saray Lebanese Restaurant. Al Saray won World Luxury Restaurant Award in 2017 and I can see why. I have eaten a lot of Lebanese food in my lifetime, but the food here is the honestly the best I have ever had. The service was sub standard and very slow but well worth the wait. A little hint, try not to use the restrooms out the back, it will ruin your experience!

This trip we attended the Bai Pai Cooking School. The crew picked us up from our hotel and took us to the school, located approx. 1 hour out of Bangkok. This day was amazing. Started off with a walking tour through the Schools herb garden explaining each herb and the history and best use, along with tastings etc. Each class has a cooking area in one of many outdoor kitchens where we learnt to make a full 3 course meal, followed by a group lunch and a cookbook to take away. This really was a highlight in our trip, both my husband and I loved our afternoon there.

There are so many other touristy things to see in Bangkok, from the palace, museums, parks, River Cruises, Floating Markets, all easily accessible via tuk-tuk – remember to negotiate a price before you get in!

If you are thinking of Thailand as a holiday destination or Bangkok as a stopover, give me a call and I can give you plenty more ideas to ensure your trip is the most memorable.