Just getting all of my thoughts together from my AMAZING trip I took to Thailand last month. I can’t believe this trip was almost a month ago. It seems like I was just there with the warm sand between my toes! I was so grateful to join my family this year on my younger sister Katie’s Spring Break. My sister is a sophomore in high school and gets two weeks off for Spring Break. The past few years I have been in college my family has been going on beautiful vacations without me during my siblings Spring Break, so I was thrilled to join them this year.
We decided on Phuket because Thailand has been on our “Wishlist” for years. Southeast Asia is where my parents honeymooned 25 years ago in Fiji and New Zealand so they have been anxious to get back and explore other parts of this area. Phuket seemed like our best place to start our exploration and we decided not to jump around to other parts of Thailand and fully enjoy Phuket the 10 days we were there.
SHOP MY PLANE OUTFIT
Oh man, is it a journey and a half to get to this part of the world. We flew from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Qatar Airways. This was our first time flying this airline but they are a One World Partner and we frequently fly American Airlines so were able to get two of our four tickets on miles and the last two tickets on 50% miles.
Qatar Airways is a great option for international travel because their airline has one flight a day out of major cities across the United States to Qatar and from Qatar you can get anywhere. The Qatar International Airport is also gorgeous and has many lounges so if you buy a ticket in business or first class or have One World status there are lounge options!
The total flight time Dallas to Qatar was 14 hours and then we had a 4 hour layover before flying another 8 hours to Phuket. To say it was a long exhausting flight would be so underestimated. I watched lots of movies and slept a lot! I watched the movie Instant Family and it has been one of my favorites! I’ve rounded up my long flight essentials below!
SHOP MY LONG FLIGT ESSENTIALS
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Best Time of Year to Travel: The weather in Thailand can make your travel plans tricky. Their “cool season” if you can even call it that because it will be warmer than anything you are used to here, is from the months of late November until early April. Our trip was mid-March and the weather was in the upper 90’s everyday with a high humidity. Be wary of their rainy season that runs from July until early November.
Visas and Immunizations: Passport Health is my go-to in knowing when visas and immunizations are needed when traveling to a foreign country. This is something you can be less concerned about in Europe, but I always like to double check when traveling to other parts of the world. Luckily, for Thailand your visa is admitted to you when you arrive. This is called “Visa Upon Arrival” and I have done this in the past in St. Lucia and Tanzania. You go through customs with your valid passport and as long as your passport does not expire in the next 6 months, you get a Visa that is valid for 15-30 days based on the length of your stay. Sometimes there is an associated fee with your Visa on Arrival but in Thailand we did not pay an extra fee. Then when you fly out of the country, you hand them your Visa and you’re on your way. If you lose it (like my sister did) you can easily refill one out.
Currency: Flights to Thailand might have you rolling your eyes at how could you ever afford to live once you get there after a flight that expensive. The good thing about Thailand is that you can afford to live in absolute luxury while spending next to nothing. Depending on how much you are willing to spend you can find a basic hotel room for $50 a night at a nice property or spend up to $200 a night for the biggest room in the resort.
Tourists: Something interesting to note is who is traveling to Thailand. The primary countries tourists were traveling from was Germany, Australia, England and China. We saw almost zero American tourists, not to say they aren’t around, but most our excursions even had German tour guides because so many people spoke German.
Language: Which brings me to my next point, language. The language spoken in Thailand is Thai but almost everyone speaks English. Even our taxi drivers were very knowledgeable and could hold a conversation. We also found interesting the tourists where English was not a first language would speak to the locals in broken English so they were both communicating in a language that was not their first language.
WHAT TO PACK
If you caught my blog post before I left on “How to Pack in Only a Carry-On for 10 Days” then you know my family only travels with carry-on luggage. See the full post here.
The Weather: The weather in March is technically Summer in Thailand so it is their hot season. Our days were warm and we spent most the time in shorts and dry fitted t-shirts to combat the heat. My sunhat was crucial to the hot sun. I wore it so much more than I thought I would because I was so scared of my skin getting burned. You can shop it here.
SHOP MY WARM DESTINATION ESSENTIALS
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in four hotels the 10 days we were there. We are big Marriott reward members and with the recent merge of Marriott and SPG, there have never been more options for beautiful hotels. My only complaint when searching for the best place to stay through Marriott, is that there are limited details on what the room actually looks like.
The first place we stayed was by far my favorite and was a beautiful and well maintained property. The Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa in Phuket had breathtaking views and villas with infinity pools in addition to three community pools. We stayed in the 2 bedroom renewal pool villa and spent so much time in our plunge pool on our balcony. There were two bedrooms inter connected with a living room, half kitchen and dining room. The bathrooms were incredible and the views couldn’t be beat.
The second place we stayed was part of the Marriott Luxury Collection. This is a series of hotels that Marriott has bought that were previously owned independently or by different hotel chains. They are supposed to be a luxury experience and are usually a little more expensive than the typical Marriott properties. The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, was not what we were anticipating at all. What was advertised as a two bedroom villa was actually one large bedroom. The square footage was advertised as 1,000+ SF when in reality this included the exterior garden and plunge pool and the actual air conditioned space was 300 SF for four people. The bathrooms were also disconnected from the primary hotel room and were not air conditioned which came a huge surprise for us because that was not listed on the website. We ended up only staying at this resort for 24 hours and decided to move hotels.
Take this as a lesson when traveling internationally that not everything is what is seems from a hotel website. We don’t fault the Marriot for this experience and we still had a lovely stay there, just for the price we paid we were expecting something more… air conditioned.
Marriott Beach Club & JW Marriott JW Resort and Spa
The last place we stayed was the JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa. Our room had a balcony with a hot tub that overlooked the beach. The pools at the JW were just beautiful and we spent one entire day by the quiet pool which was quite heated because of the hot sun. They also serve you banana ice cream and watermelon poolside which I will never complain about.
All in all, you have a lot of options when staying in Phuket. We chose to move around a lot because we wanted to see different sides of the island. The Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa was on the bay side and the JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa is on the ocean side. Both were completely different experiences and we enjoyed all our hotels immensely.
WHAT TO EAT
If you have followed me for awhile, you know that Thai food is one of my favorites and the food in Thailand did not disappoint. One of the things you should probably know is that you will have Thai food breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is little “American” food available and why would you want to eat what you could get at home while you are away?!
Breakfast: Our breakfast everyday usually consisted of pho soup and rice porridge also known as congee. This was a very different take from my usual eggs and toast but I loved every minute of it. The rice congee I was originally very wary of but it was so good and refreshing and you could top it with all sorts of things like green onions, soy sauce, ginger and bean sprouts. One day I did find pancakes and had to try them and they were not good… at all. Stick to what the locals eat and you’ll always be happy!
Lunch: Our lunch was usually eaten out during excursions and was provided to us. Every excursion we went on provided a hot lunch which was surprising even when we traveled by boat to a beach spot we were still served a hot lunch! The lunches usually consisted of a pad thai or lo mein type of noodle dish and rice and usually chicken.
Dinner: We ate dinner mostly at the hotels we were staying at. It was always a sit down dinner with lots of thai options. Some of our favorites were lobster pad thai, Tom Ka soup and green chicken curry.
Sea. Fire. Salt. was a restaurant at the Anantara Hotel property that we did not stay at but we did eat there one night. The restaurant it primarily outside and we enjoyed watching the sunset over the beach. I ordered the tuna tartare for an appetizer and tuna on a salt brick for my main. (Lots of tuna what can I say it is my favorite).
FOOD IN THE KNOW
Beef: Beef is not good in Thailand. All the beef on the island is imported from Australia or the United States and is very chewy and nothing like you would be used to. I would suggest staying away from beef and choosing chicken or fish instead.
Prawns: Shrimp or prawns are very commonly served in Thailand and are quite big. They are really good and even if you aren’t a big shrimp person I would suggest giving them a try!
Allergies: I also thought I would touch on food allergies. My sister has a gluten allergy so we sometimes worry when traveling internationally with her of communicating this allergy and finding food safe for her to eat. Everywhere we went could not have been more accommodating. They would bring her separate meals on our excursions and if the waiter was ever unsure the chef would come out and ask us questions like is soy sauce ok? Etc. We were so pleased and appreciative of the lengths the locals went to in her allergy accommodation.
WHAT EXCURSIONS TO DO
I love a good beach day, but I would much rather be out and about experiencing the country through excursions. We had quite a few planned throughout our trip. Here were some of my favorites.
Blue Elephant Cooking School Class: Our first day here we attended a cooking class with Blue Elephant. It was so informative and I loved doing it at the start of our trip because I felt I really got to know the local flavor of food and knew what to order the rest of the trip. I would highly recommend and check out my full blog post on this experience here. The market tour was one of the highlights of the trip and a must see in my book!
Elephant Excursion: This was by far one of my favorite life experiences. Elephant sight seeing is so heavily advertised in Thailand but you have to be careful because there are some inhumane programs out there that do not take care of the elephants properly.
We attended Green Elephant Sanctuary Park and the elephants were so happy and very well maintained and cared for. They called this elephant ground a “retirement home” for elephants because most of them were brought here in old age after being abused or abandoned earlier in life. The elephants that are born into this plantation will always need to stay here because like a zoo, a life of food being fed to them is all they know and they would not survive in the wild.
This is definitely the most “touristy” thing we did because they just have crowds of people doing these elephant excursions per day. Some parts of it were a little cheesy but being able to touch, pet and feed the elephants was the best part and they are so loving and friendly.
Phi Phi Island Tour: About an hour jet boat ride from Phuket are the Phi Phi Islands that are world famous for some of the most exotic beaches and snorkeling in the world. This is a full day and very long but worth it. We saw monkeys climbing on rocks, went snorkeling with the most fish I’ve ever seen and saw sea turtles. We climbed to the highest peak of Phi Phi where the two islands meet. This island is a very cheap place to stay and is more of a party scene if that is what you are looking for. Lots of backpackers and nightlife.
Biking Tours: Most of the hotels we stayed at had free bike rentals. One day we rented beach bikes and bike along the beach. This photo above is not quite what beach biking entailed. We biked along the beach on the trail and took photos on the beach after attempting to ride our bikes in the sand. Not quite what we were envisioning bikes and beaches don’t mix.
SHOP ALL SWIM
GOOD TO NOTE
Taxi’s: The taxi’s are huge vans and you can ask your hotel to call them for you. A typical Taxi ride from the airport to a hotel in the Southern part of Phuket was around $35.
Beaches: Thailand really cares about their beautiful country and does not want to use all their resources and compromise their countries beauty for tourists. Most of the beaches are National Parks and you won’t find a beach chair in sight. The JW and Marriott Beach Club were built up far away from the beach where you still had views but they cannot build anything too close to the beach. This beach is also a sea turtle nesting ground so you won’t see any boats on the horizon either. It was so relaxing and quiet I loved not having the beach become a tourist trap and really preserving the beauty of it.
SHOP MY SUITCASE
We had an amazing stay in Phuket and felt like we really saw Phuket in the 10 days we were there. If I could do it over again I would not have stayed at the Naka Island Resort and have stayed an extra night at the Westin.
The trip home took me 36 hours. We flew from Phuket to Qatar to JFK and then drove to Philadelphia where I hopped on a plane back to Dallas. I think if you are fine with long plane rides (sleep!!) you only need 10 days to travel in Phuket. You can’t see the world without a little jet lag 😉
Not sure when or where my next adventure is but I will be sure to share and give you all my insider tips. Be sure to save one of my photos to your Pinterest board to archive for future reference!