3 Day Phuket Thailand Itinerary – Part 2

Welcome back to our Phuket, Thailand, three-day itinerary! If you haven’t yet read Part One, where we cover our wonderful resort and the Patong Beach city center, then click here. This week’s post will cover the most spectacular beach with the clearest water, fewest people, and best snorkeling in Phuket, Thailand (and maybe the world?)!

My biggest fear is being eaten by a shark in the ocean. As irrational as it sounds, I even hesitate to dip my toe into the water, or a shark is going to just open its mouth and eat me whole. I don’t have severe phobias such as Galeophobia (fear of sharks) or Thalassophobia (fear of the ocean or deep dark water), but I won’t go in water if I can’t clearly see my toes. Knowing this, my hubby knew it was essential that we find the clearest water if I was going to enjoy snorkeling with him. He just didn’t want to be in a super touristy area and surrounded by people.

Just the day before, we had been in town near Patong Beach at the Jungceylon Shopping Center, and we stopped at a travel agent booth to book our tour:

  • Travel agent recommended: Based on our guidelines of clear water, few people, and great snorkeling, the SeaStar Andaman company is the only option that is willing to go the extra distance and take guests out to the middle-of-nowhere paradise. This tour literally takes you to the farthest south island of Phuket, meaning that it has to be an all-day tour because it is a long distance to cover.
  • What our travel agent said to avoid: She said most people ask for the famous Phi Phi Islands or James Bond Islands of Phuket. Although those are the most photographed, the water is brown because of the quantity of boats and people visiting daily. The fish avoid those areas because the water is so murky, and therefore there isn’t good snorkeling. The other companies jam multiple tours in a day by completing half-day excursions to these nearby mainland attractions.

I was wavering booking at first because I don’t like to make quick decisions, and it seemed so expensive at ฿ 2,315 Thai Baht. Hubby on the other hand can make more impulsive buys with the facts, so he quickly ran the conversion numbers for me. ฿ 2,315 Thai Baht equals $75 USD. That was a more palatable number for me, and with the conversion and travel agent recommendations in hand, we decided to book.

Day 3

I began my day at the resort’s beachfront restaurant breakfast buffet by downing my breakfast as quickly as possible as to not be late for our early shuttle pick-up. Hubby stayed in the room and didn’t eat breakfast, because he had a violent case of food poisoning the night before and his body was still in the process of rejecting the white seafood pizza that he had for dinner the night before. It was really unfortunate that he had to be sick on a day we were leaving the hotel, as opposed to a day that we were lounging around, but when you book a tour in a foreign country, it’s not easily possible to cancel for refunds, so we were going to make the most of our day.

The shuttle van picked us up first and we headed off-property to pick up more guests. The ride was about an hour and we stopped at one other hotel to pick up an English-speaking couple, then we rode to Panwa Pier by the Chom Thong Village.

Credit: SeaStar Andaman

Upon arrival, we were ushered into a holding room with many other guests where there were light refreshments being served and gear for purchase. We began our check-in process in that large room. We figured that everyone there was for the same tour as us, but receptionists began to come in and call guests out for two other excursions. Before we knew it, there were only four people left in the room: us and the other couple we had picked up in our shuttle van. We began to joke that they must have forgotten about us. We thought it couldn’t be possible that the whole excursion was going to be for just the four of us.

We got called next. The receptionist said that it was our lucky day because only four people reserved today’s excursion. Say what?!?! She explained that the day before they had 40 people on the boat, and today it would only be the four of us! We all got super giddy because we knew that besides the fact that we chose the farthest away and most remote beach possible, this was going to be SUPER exclusive because we would basically be THE ONLY PEOPLE THERE. Talk about a deserted island! It was seriously lucky. Had we picked just a day earlier, it still would have been paradise, but not the private beach type of day that we experienced.

They gave us our goggles and flippers, and we headed to our boat. Along the walk down the dock, they stopped and took a photo of us before we boarded. Besides us, there was a captain and three other staff members on the boat. We began to depart the marina and head out to the open waters.

I felt so bad for my poor hubby. As we rode, he just felt sicker and sicker. Poor thing was laying across a bench in the back of the boat with a towel over his head. He had hardly slept the night before, and he was still queasy. Not a great mix for a day at sea. While he tried to recover from the last hours of food poisoning, I took as many photos as I could. I knew he would appreciate looking through them later.

Thailand is the most gorgeous tropical place I have ever been to. Mountains and rock formations that blend perfectly into the ocean. Many islands, some inhabited by locals, some developed by resorts, and some totally pristine and undeveloped. The bluest teal and turquoise water I have ever seen. Like literally the stuff I had only ever seen in movies which I figured was photo-shopped.

I grew up on the east coast of southern Florida. I thought the water there was clear and perfect, but once I saw southern Thailand’s waters, there is no comparison. As we went farther and farther from the mainland, the water became more clear and more blue. As we rode through the ocean past each island, we got farther and farther away from civilization. The final island we came to, Raya Noi Island, was totally uninhabited. It was a good distance from land, which may be why it wasn’t developed. As we rode in closer to land, it became more and more impressive. It was a culmination of the most unbelievable sights: mountains and rocks going straight into the ocean, a lush jungle, white sand, the bluest blue water I had ever seen in my life, and not a person in sight for miles. In the moments before we got off the boat, I knew we made the right choice booking this excursion.

There was no dock, so they turned the engine off, opened the back door, and we walked down right into a foot deep of water and onto the beach. The white sandy beach looked small enough that it may only be exposed in low tide and totally submerged in high tide. The sand at Raya Noi Island is so white that the shallow water is crystal clear pale blue. The medium water is crystal clear teal, and the deep water is royal blue. Clear light blue water is my kind of water!

The four crew members exited the boat and immediately started setting up a picnic of snacks. The tour included a full lunch (to be served later) as well as bottled drinks, fresh fruits, and packaged goods like chips and cookies on the boat and on land. We were able to go back to the picnic blanket and help ourselves as much as we wanted while at this island.

The tour also included all the snorkeling gear we needed. We put on our gear and immediately jumped into the water. I initially stayed right at the water’s edge, and hubby swam out a bit. Even though the water was super clear, I was still terrified because I hadn’t snorkeled since I was a child. I didn’t see many fish in that shallow water, so I swam out a bit farther and saw some. Eventually, I decided to take off my gear and walk on a nearby rock formation and look for shells. We ate some snacks and went back to continue snorkeling. Hubby was way braver than I was and went out deep and found vibrant coral. I could have honestly stayed at this beach all day and been 100% happy with what we paid for the excursion, but this was only stop one of four! So after maybe an hour and a half, the crew packed up and we boarded the boat to move along to the next spot.

The island north of us was Raya Island. This time, there was no beach, so they stopped the boat about 20 feet from the rocky cliff going into the water, and we were expected to hop into the middle of the sea to snorkel. Now I was really terrified! I probably would have been more comfortable if there were more people in the water with me (you don’t have to out-swim the shark—just the other people with you haha!), but it was just the four of us and another neighboring boat with a few people in the water snorkeling. From this spot, you had to jump off the back of the boat into about 20-feet-deep water. I only did it because the water was so crystal clear that I could see the bottom. Otherwise, I’d have been sitting back taking pictures of my husband enjoying himself. The area had large coral reefs and lots of colored fish swimming around. There was also a lobster in the reef. Hubby used his flippers to swim deep and capture the coral and fish with our GoPro camera. The underwater photos are awesome! I recommend anyone who does a water excursion to either have a GoPro or other underwater camera so you can cherish the memories forever! We didn’t stay in this spot as long as the first beach, because you had to swim the entire time and it does become exhaustive after a bit. So about 45 minutes later, we boarded the boat and moved along.

The next stop was for lunch being served at Siam Bay. We had worked up a mighty appetite snorkeling, and I was looking forward to a proper meal. This time, we pulled up to a more developed island called Ko Racha Yai. It had a restaurant right on the water, as well as several other buildings and resorts. There was no dock, so we pulled up the boat as close as we could to the sand and hopped into the water to walk to shore. They sat us at a four-top and paired us up with the other couple for a family-style lunch. By this point on our six-week honeymoon, hubby and I didn’t mind the company. Of course, we would have also enjoyed eating privately, but the company was welcome! We ended up having a lovely time connecting with them while we ate.

My hubby was still feeling unwell from his food poisoning, so he didn’t eat anything, but boy did he miss out! The food was delicious. This ended up being my second-favorite meal in Thailand (first being a cooking school in Chiang Mai where they let you customize your dishes). They served Thai classics—a lot of the same dishes we cooked at the cooking school—and the portions were plentiful.

After we ate, we had some time left on the island. We used the restrooms then separated from the other couple so we could explore a bit. We made our way to the water and took some time strolling down the beach and taking a few more pictures. Even though the island was more developed, it still felt like our own personal paradise and not too over-commercialized.

We were heading back north towards the marina and made our last stop at Maiton Island, a spot notorious for spotting wild dolphins. When they cut the engine, there was another boat nearby. Both captains began to blow a high pitch whistle to capture the dolphins’ attention. Soon enough, we were audience to a small school of dolphins that swam by to visit. I think we were really lucky that they happened to be around that day. The guides do say that dolphin-spottings are not guaranteed, so we felt even luckier about our already perfect day.

After the dolphins, we made the final leg of the trip back to mainland. After docking, we departed the boat and were handed a small framed photo as a parting gift. They had printed the photo we took at the beginning of the day and put it into a branded SeaStar frame. What a nice, unexpected touch! It was rare on the honeymoon we got a photo of the two of us that wasn’t a selfie, so this photo is really special! We boarded the van and made our way back to the two hotels for drop off.

When we arrived back to the Tri Trang Beach Resort, we were exhausted. The long day of swimming, saltwater, and sun had taken a lot out of us. We went downstairs to the resort’s beach-side restaurant and enjoyed our last dinner in Phuket as we listened to the sounds of live music and waves.

Day 4

We began our day with a final breakfast buffet at the resort’s beachfront restaurant. We savored every bite as we enjoyed the final ocean views. We went back upstairs and packed up our massive hotel room. This task actually took longer in Phuket than other cities, because the room was so spacious that we had really spread out and unpacked.

We schlepped all our bags down several flights of elevators and stairs leading to the front desk. The only thing worse than carrying our bags down all that way was actually leaving Phuket. We had really come to fall in love with this city. The front desk called us a taxi, and we made the hour-long drive to Phuket International Airport arriving at 11:30am. Next stop on our trip was Bangkok, Thailand, which is a domestic flight. We allotted ourselves two hours to go through security for our 1:25pm flight. Ends up, security at Phuket International is very fast. There was a quick curbside bag scanner and magnetometer walk-through, then we were inside the airport.

We are Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card holders, which gives us access to Priority Pass airport lounges around the world. Normally, most airports only have lounges in the international terminals, but Phuket had both domestic and international lounges available, so since we still had almost two hours to spare, we headed to the Coral Executive Lounge. We noshed on snacks and beverages and utilized the WiFi to get a little work done and FaceTime our families. Soon after that, we boarded the flight and were on our way to Bangkok.

Environmental Damage

In recent years, the Thai government has decided to close certain beaches and public waterfronts due to environmental damage. I remind everyone to be respectful of the places you travel to. Never litter, do not anchor boats to coral reefs, and do not disturb the wildlife. I recommend before you travel to Thailand that you look up the beaches and islands that are restricted. This may affect the location you pick to stay. Below you can read articles about the closure of Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh island (as of August 2019):

Upcoming Development

Though it may seem backwards, with the closure of beaches for environmental remediation and recovery, the country has approved plans for a new Phuket airport that would open in 2025 and bring in an additional 10 million tourists a year. Having experienced the original airport, I will say that an upgrade would be nice. It would definitely make visiting a tad easier if the airport was located more centrally or in the southern area, which would cut down on travel time from the north to the bulk of the southern hotels. Location has not been announced yet, but keep your eyes open for the opening of this airport if you plan to travel to Phuket after 2025.

Our beachfront resort was more than we could have hoped for. Our excursion to a private beach in the middle of the ocean was literally paradise and our favorite day of the six-week honeymoon around the world. Sometimes I look at my husband and just groan, “Ahhhhhhh… Take me back to Phuket!” We love to visit new countries before we revisit others, so it may be a little bit before we visit Thailand again. But the beauty of Phuket’s water is something I will never forget. To me, it really can’t come back soon enough. Stay tuned for our next Amarvelous Honeymoon post that will cover our final city in Thailand – BANGKOK!

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3 Day Phuket Thailand Itinerary – Part 1

Phuket is a true paradise. If I had to pick one destination in the world that I have already visited that I would love to go back to, it’s Phuket. Some of my favorite honeymoon memories are from this city. In these two posts, we’ll cover the awesome beachfront resort we stayed at, Patong Beach and shopping area, and a snorkeling excursion to the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen.

Travel and Accommodations

We flew domestic from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Phuket International Airport. We knew we’d be hiring a taxi to transport us from the airport to the hotel, so, initially, proximity was important to us. But then we started investigating Phuket and realized proximity to the airport isn’t realistic. Just south of the airport is a large park space. Then the west coast of Phuket is scallop-shaped down the coast, with a beach in each scallop and hotels along each beachfront. We found that hotels farther north and closer to the airport were expensive brand-name resorts or small luxury boutique hotels that were more expensive and included less of the amenities we were looking for. So we opened our minds to taking upwards of an hour taxi ride in order to find the perfect hotel.

Picking a beachfront resort was the most important thing to me. I wasn’t going to visit a beach town and cheap out and stay a few rows back at a hotel farther inland from the beach. That makes literally no sense to me. If I was going to the beach, I was going to wake up and see the view, and sit at my hotel with my feet in the sand. I was willing to pay. We wanted to stay on the west coast of Thailand to be on the open sea, as opposed to the bay side. As Floridians, we know the difference between east-coast Atlantic Ocean water versus west-coast Gulf of Mexico water. Both are nice, but open ocean water is our preference because it is usually clearer and not brackish, like gulf or bay water can tend to be. In hindsight, that didn’t matter too much, because the scallop-shaped beaches have the same effect as the bay area, and seaweed can get swept up into those areas easily. I am really afraid of the ocean and will not go in if I can’t see my toes. Unfortunately, the water wasn’t clear enough for my intense standards, so I didn’t go in much. Hubby loved it. I tanned on the beach and reserved swimming for the pool.

Photo Credit: Tri Trang Beach Resort

We stayed at the Tri Trang Beach Resort just south of Patong Beach. This was a three-and-a-half star hotel, with 544 reviews on TripAdvisor.com. They offered a lot of awesome amenities which aided to the decision of picking this resort.

  • The resort has an in-house restaurant and bar that was located on the lower level right along the beach. The menu was diverse with foods from around the world. Having the ability to eat all your meals on-site was super convenient. We did stop by a convenience store in town to pick up snacks and bottled water for lounging poolside, but we ate all (but one) meal at the hotel restaurant. There was also a second bar in the lobby area that overlooked the ocean, and the hotel offered room service.
  • The stay included a daily breakfast buffet. There was an abundance of items to choose from including cold, hot, and cooked-to-serve options like omelets. We LOVE hotels that include breakfast, because it allows us to fill up and then either have just a snack for lunch and a full dinner, or an early dinner, and save money on a meal for the day.
  • They had organized morning entertainment of yoga, volleyball, darts, and frisbee. We didn’t partake in these activities, because we were on island-time and wanted to relax and be less structured, but it was nice that the hotel offered these activities.
  • The resort also had nightly entertainment. One night, we saw a musical group perform on the beachfront patio. You could be serenaded while having dinner and drinks overlooking the ocean. Even though we were in Thailand, we knew a bunch of the songs they played. Maybe they were catering to the Western taste of the crowd? No complaints over here! On other nights, they offered karaoke, retro party, beach party, or a movie. You are provided a schedule upon check-in so you can plan your days and attend the activities you want.
  • There was a spa at the resort. It’s not very fancy, but it was clean. My aunts had gifted us a couple’s massage to enjoy on our honeymoon (P.S. everyone deserves a couple’s massage on their honeymoon). That was both of our first times having a Thai massage. The ladies may be small, but they are mighty strong. I recommend you get a massage before you tan. Hubby got a little sunburned and then the excess rubbing of the massage hurt. I loved it.
  • The hotel is a drive from Patong Beach, so they offered a daily complementary shuttle service into town and back.
  • Tri Trang has multiple places for you to cool down in the water. They own a long stretch of private beachfront property. They also have two swimming pools on the property, and towels were provided in the lobby building. Swimming pools were a necessity for me in the hotel search. Literally searched for a beachfront property with a good-looking pool.
  • The resort was built on the side of a mountain, so it is multi-level. This was awesome for us, because they had two buildings, and, although they were all ocean-view rooms, the ones farther back and higher on the mountain were cheaper. Our upper building was a little farther walk from the beach, but we had our own pool, so we didn’t need to go far to get to water. It was a couple minutes’ walk through the property to the lower buildings’ pool and to beach access. I didn’t find it a bother at all getting up to our room. And our room had the most spectacular view, with a big balcony for a fraction of the price!
Photo Credit: Tri Trang Beach Resort
  • The room was HUGE! This was the second-largest room and bathroom we had on our six-week honeymoon. We didn’t even need all that space, but it was a very relaxing feeling to come back to a room with all your bags and clothes put away in storage and a ton of open space.
  • The room had a mini-fridge that we used to put our drinks in to keep cool. It was so hot outside.
  • We didn’t end up doing it, but they sell a romantic dinner for two on the beach as part of the honeymoon package. They set up a small table and all these tiki torches around you. It is private and romantic. However, they have beach dining on picnic tables with votive candles already included, so we decided against paying the extra fee.

Our western hotel standards are higher than other regions of the world. I would recommend that, if you are visiting Asia, you try to stay in a minimum three-and-a-half star accommodation so you are comfortable. Something that we observed with hotels in Asia is that four-star and five-star hotels are very affordable! You can have the luxury accommodation for a fraction of the price. If we had to rate the Tri Trang Beach Resort on a site like TripAdvisor, we would for sure give it five stars. We absolutely loved it. I felt some of the reviews on TripAdvisor are one star for all the wrong reasons. For example, someone gave a negative review because they only offer the free shuttle into town two times a day. Upon check-in they provide you with the schedule, and they explicitly have it in writing. It’s easy enough to follow a a schedule. If you can’t, then you just have to pay for a cab. Some reviews are unfair, so take that into consideration when reading reviews. Most other hotels in Asia we stayed at four-star or five-star accomodations, but because some of these negative reviews were bogus we gave Tri Trang a chance. So happy that we did!

If you are looking to save some money on accommodations, then I would recommend that you avoid all the common hotel franchise names you find in America and elsewhere around the world. Not trying to knock them at all, because I am sure they are spectacular, but these brands are all over the world so that Westerners can go to that country and feel comfortable knowing it’s a brand they trust. However, those rooms can run upwards of $200 a night. That’s basically the same price as if you stayed with them in America! You are paying for a name, not necessarily because they are better than the other options available. In Thailand, you should be spending less on a higher-end hotel than in America. A quick Kayak.com search shows that the cheapest four-star hotel you can find in Phuket is $18 USD a night. We didn’t go that cheap, but we decided to save money and stay at a locally-owned resort, and we had a wonderful time. So, in the end, we were glad we didn’t go with what we knew and decided to take a chance. Reviews like mine from this post, and other sites like TripAdvisor, should be considered before booking any hotel.

Day 1

We spent the morning of Day One flying from Chiang Mai into Phuket, traveling from the airport to the hotel, checking in, then exploring the hotel grounds.

Upon arrival at the hotel, we checked in at the lobby building. Unlike some of the other hotels we stayed at in Asia thus far, everyone at the front desk spoke English which was really nice. We were given a cold refreshment while we were signing in and doing paperwork. They had bellman available to assist with bringing our bags to our room. As I mentioned before, we picked the upper building, so we left the lobby, carried the bags up a flight of steps and across a small bridge ramp (over the street below), then by the pool area of our building, up a few more steps, then we were at the elevator for our building. The only time it was difficult being in the upper building was upon arrival and departure with all our bags. We were so grateful the bellman were available to help! Haha

When we opened the door to our room, we were blown away!!! The room was humongous. Coming from one of the tiniest rooms of our honeymoon in Chiang Mai to one of the largest rooms in Phuket, we were giddy with joy over the space. The whole room seemed to have been newly remodeled. There was plenty of closet, hanging, and storage space to fully unpack our bags and then stow them away. The bathroom was a great size, although it did not have a window like you may see in photos online. The view was breathtaking. We were in the upper building, so we had a more elevated view of the water and mountains. We saw the roof-lines of the buildings below us, but our building was so much higher than theirs that it didn’t take away from the scenery.

We unpacked quickly then threw on bathing suits and went out to explore the property before dusk. We firstly went down to the restaurant to grab a bite to eat for lunch. I ordered grilled chicken over pasta and hubby ordered pasta carbonara. This was the first time in Asia that we had the option of eating Italian food, so we jumped on it haha! We also ordered mango smoothies, which were absolutely heaven. They were so refreshing and the perfect drink for the extreme heat. We loved them so much that we ordered them daily. A necessity to try if you stay at this resort.

After lunch, we spent a little time at the beach then went to lounge by both pools. We tested out each pool to see which one we preferred. The pool on the lower level seemed a little nicer or more newly renovated, but it was smaller. The one on the upper level could probably use an upgrade, but it was a lot larger than the lower level pool and was nice enough for me. Both had lounge chairs available.

At this point, the sun was beginning to set and we noticed the sky was changing color a little so we ran upstairs to grab our camera. By the time we got to our room, the color was stronger, and by the time we got back down to the beach, it was even stronger. We walked down the beach to these big rocks protruding from the water and took a mini photo-shoot. The sky went from a crystal clear blue during the day to yellow, then orange, then red, then pink, then purple, and finally black. I had never seen a more beautiful sunset. While watching the sunset, I was really grateful we chose Phuket. The pictures below speak for themselves.

Day 2

Buffet breakfast was served daily from 6:30am-10:30am. We began our day at 8am with the most yummy breakfast overlooking the beach. We knew it was a hot-and-cold breakfast, but the abundance of food was really impressive. Even in America and Europe, our buffet breakfasts don’t include so many options. We had Western-type foods as well as Thai and Asian foods. We left with full, happy bellies.

The resort included a daily shuttle service into town at 9:30am and 3pm for free. Then at 12pm and 5:30pm they have an extra fee shuttle for 50 Thai Baht ($1.62 USD). Free shuttles back to the resort are at 12:30pm, 3pm, and 6pm. This was awesome, because we had planned on visiting town and thought we would have to pay for the taxi. We finished breakfast and got on the first shuttle out. We hadn’t known this when we picked the earliest shuttle that morning, but at 9:45am when we arrived at the mall they weren’t open.

So we walked around and explored town. We stopped at a convenience store and picked up snacks and bottled water. We walked over to Patong Beach and passed a bunch of bars and restaurants along the way. That was definitely the downtown area that would be poppin’ if you were looking for nighttime entertainment. We also came across a few happy-ending massage parlors. After the fact, I read online that Patong Beach has the highest amount of happy-ending massage parlors in Phuket! We didn’t partake, but this was something I’d only ever seen in movies, so it was funny to see them exist in real life.

When the Jungceylon Shopping Center opened, we walked around and found a travel agency booth. We explained that hubby wanted a isolated and private spot that wasn’t too touristy, and I wanted crystal clear water. The woman recommended a snorkeling tour that only one company (SeaStar Andaman) does because the island is the farthest south and most tour groups go to the northern more popular islands (which end up being more crowded). After looking at the brochure and seeing how perfect it looked, we deliberated for a while then booked our tickets for that next day. We purchased tickets for around $70 USD (over 2,000 Thai Baht) each. That seemed expensive for an excursion in Thailand, but in my next post you’ll see how incredible it was and why it was worth every penny.

We spend half the day exploring that area of town. We walked around so much that we got really hungry while we were out and ended up stopped at Burger King in the mall to grab some chicken nuggets as a snack. After that, we took the 3pm shuttle back to our resort.

We lounged poolside for hours and just relaxed and enjoyed the amenities. We had dinner again beach-side. Tonight, I had the pasta carbonara that hubby ate the day before, and hubby got a white sauce seafood pizza.

Pro Tips:

  • Investigate if your hotel offers a shuttle from the airport or not. The one we picked did not. Our taxi seemed expensive, but with the exchange rate from Thai baht to US dollar, it wasn’t bad for the 20-30 miles and an hour to an hour and a half that we covered.
  • Westerners should avoid tap water in Thailand. This doesn’t only mean drinking bottled water though. Consider that ice, washed fruits and vegetables, and cold deserts are all made with the same tap water. You are better off purchasing a cold refrigerated bottle or canned beverage to avoid the ice, ordering a food like a burger and holding the lettuce and tomato, skipping salads altogether, buying whole fruits and rewashing it with bottled water, and eating hot deserts. If the water has been boiled, it’s safe to consume. Sometimes drinking the water is unavoidable, so be prepared with medicine for light food poisoning or queasiness.
  • Consider playing it safe when selecting food options in Thailand. Hubby got a serious case of food poisoning while in Phuket. He had ordered a creamy white sauce seafood pizza, and that night and all the next day he was violently ill. Not sure if it was the cream sauce or the seafood that did him in, but it was bad. Ask your doctor to prescribe a backup antibiotic pill that will help in case of serious food poisoning. Our doctor prescribed hubby and me each two 500mg pills of Azithromycin, which is the generic for Zithromax. It’s a heavy-duty antibiotic, so he warned that it will kill both the good and bad bacteria, but it would clean you up if you caught a bad bug.
  • Never leave luggage or electronics under in-room air conditioning units. Our hotel room had one of those long, narrow units installed in the top of one of the walls. It was really hot in the room, even at night, so we slept with the A/C on, but it created condensation and started to leak! We had our luggage and laptop in close proximity along the wall. Had hubby not woken up during the night and turned on the light, we may have wrecked our possessions by morning. In the morning, we called the front desk and they sent someone to look at it.

Our time in Phuket is only halfway done, and the best is yet to come!! Visit back next week for a post on weddings, and in two weeks we’ll finish up Part 2 of this Phuket, Thailand, itinerary with a review of the beach with the clearest water, fewest people, and best snorkeling in Phuket, Thailand!

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3 Day Chiang Mai Thailand Itinerary – Part 2

This post begins our third and last day of our Chiang Mai, Thailand, itinerary. If you haven’t read about our adventures on days one and two yet, then click here. In this post, we’ll be discussing temple tours and three of the most famous ones to visit while in Chiang Mai: the stunning White Temple (pictured here), the ornate Blue Temple, and the eerie Black House.

🇹🇭 🕉️ 🛐 📿

Quick note: Our trip to Thailand includes photos that some may find offensive. Lots of phallic imagery in this country: soaps, sculptures, paintings, and more. If you don’t wish to see these images, then check back in next week for a new Amarvelous Wedding post instead!

Day 3

We began day three with breakfast at our hotel before we were picked up by our tour bus. Since we were spending the day at temples, I needed to have covered knees and shoulders. I wore my new long wrap skirt I had purchased in Thailand on day one and a white t-shirt. Hubby wore a t-shirt and shorts. For shoes, I wore flip-flops that were easy to take off in and out of temples. Hubby wore sneakers he had to re-lace when he left each temple.

Once on the bus, we began our ride north outside of the center of town towards Chiang Rai (yes, “Rai,” not “Mai”). This was a long trip, so the tour company broke it up with several stops along the way. The first mini-stop was to a natural hot spring. It was a small watering hole that had been developed into a few stands to buy souvenirs, a convenient store, some bathrooms, and a relaxing sitting area shaded by trees with warm hot springs nearby. It was very touristy and felt like all bus companies used the same pit-stop. There were areas you could get pretty close to the hot spring for a photo op, but the water is too hot to touch, so don’t get too close! We spent a half hour here using restrooms and picking up a few snacks and cool drinks in the store. Then, once everyone was back on the bus, we continued on our journey.

Our first stop was Wat Rong Suea Ten, better known as the Blue Temple, although the name literally translates to House of the Dancing Tiger. 100 years ago, there was an ancient temple that stood in this very same spot, but over time it had deteriorated. The land had been known for wild tigers that would frequently roam the temple’s six-acre property. The town decided in 2005 that they wanted to rebuild a modern-day temple on the old property and began construction. Although the main hall is complete, there were parts still under construction (we visited in 2018), but that did not detract from the beauty. The first temple we had experienced in Thailand (on day one) was very traditional with simple coloring and style. In comparison, the Blue Temple is exploding with color and extravagant statues. The temple colors are primarily shades of blues, with pops of neon colors and many gold accents. The main hall has an underwater effect with blue from floor-to-ceiling. Something to note about this temple is that admission is free, but there is no public transit here—so instead of booking a tour, you could rent a car, or hire a tuk tuk or taxi, but I’m not sure if it would save you money in the end. For us, the convenience of being on a schedule and seeing all the temples in one day really worked well for our short trip. Once everyone made it back to the bus, we headed off to our second location.

The next stop wasn’t an actual temple but the Baan Dam Museum, literally translating to Black House. The famous Thai artist and architect Thawan Duchanee designed this property, and it was his architectural masterpiece and home until he passed away in 2014. Although mixed with gardens, the large property has a dark feeling with 40 mixed-size matte black buildings. If there are other colors mixed in, they are colors of nature, creams, and brown shades. The buildings house a very unique collection of artifacts from around the world. The two themes you will see over and over again are animal bones and parts and phallic objects. Vegans and children beware haha! Our tour guide had said the property was representative of death, suffering, human desire, and cravings. Art is subjective, so I am sure others have different interpretations than mine, but I saw natural beauty represented at the Black House. Death is a part of life, and Duchanee does well to honor the animals that came before us. There is an entry price for this museum around 100 TBH ($3.25 USD). The price was included in our tour fee.

By the time we left the Black House, I was famished. It was a super-hot and humid day, and by now we had spent a few hours either on the bus or exploring at each stop. I was so ready for lunch. We all got back on the bus and headed to our next location. Lunch was conveniently located across the street from the final temple. Sure, it was included in the price of our day, but I did not care for the lunch choice. Being so hot outside, my body could have used a retreat into some air conditioning. However, the restaurant was totally open walled and exposed to the outdoors. I hate nothing more than being hot, so this was already a bad start. We all sat and ate family style, and I was underwhelmed with the food offerings. We had the best Thai food at the cooking class on day one, so when comparing this food to that, day three was inferior. The restroom situation was also not that great. Overall, I wouldn’t go back to the restaurant. The area had a bunch of places to eat, and I would have selected a place with air conditioning if I had a choice.

We crossed the street and were standing in front of Wat Rong Khun, the famous White Temple. Opened in 1997, this was the oldest property we had been to. The original Wat Rong Khun had also been deteriorating and in bad shape when local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat decided to rebuild the temple with his own funds. A great portion of the project is completed, but there are still portions under construction that aren’t expected to be completed until 2070! This was my absolute favorite temple of the day. Every structure is white on a backdrop of the blue sky and green grass. The super-white buildings and statues look almost angelic from a distance. Some structures to note are “the Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth,” which you use to walk up to the temple; the Gate of Heaven guarded by two statues, one representing death and the other Rahu; Ubosot, the large white building with fragments of mirrored glass embedded into the façade; and the Golden Building for restrooms. You’ll see a slew of stunning exterior photos below, but the artist doesn’t let guests take photos inside the temple, so we don’t have any photos indoors. At first, we thought that was due to a sign of respect for the place of prayer, but after being inside, we felt the paintings may be the reason why. Upon entry, turn around, and you are greeted with an incredible colorful mural sprinkled with well-known cartoons and superheroes. Just my own thoughts here, but maybe the no-photography rule has something to do with copyright laws? We purchased these thin sheet metal ornaments that you are supposed to hang on the property to add to the newest artistic walkway. However, we collect Christmas ornaments, so we figured we could use that as a memento. I felt I could have stayed at this property all day. Every turn you saw something new and beautiful. Even the bathroom area was beautiful! Based off my pictures below, and my rosy cheeks, you can probably tell how hot I was feeling. By the end of the visit, I was doing everything in my power to cool down: I had tied my hair into a top bun, had a wet towel around my neck, a cold-water bottle on my forehead, heavily utilized my paper fan, and purchased ice cream to consume while we were waiting for the rest of our party to make their way to the bus. Heat stroke, anyone? Definitely plan ahead if you are visiting in the hot season. Admission fee is a minimal 50 TBH ($1.63 USD), but they do accept additional donations. Again, the fees were included in our overall fee for the excursion.

We rode the bus back towards town and were exhausted! We got back to our hotel and took a break to wash laundry while we lounged poolside for a bit. When the wash was done, we hung it up then changed to go out for the evening. We headed to Rachadamnoen Road for the Sunday night street market and walked around from tent to tent and purchased a bunch of souvenirs for family and friends. If you are ever purchasing multiple items from one vendor, then try to work a deal into the pricing. They are usually flexible to throw in something for free.

I stopped along the way and got a foot massage while hubby kept exploring nearby. There are so many massage shops to choose from, and they are all priced similarly. I’d recommend to just pick one that doesn’t have a wait. After such a long day walking around, it was rejuvenating, and a 90-minute massage for 461 TBH ($15 USD) was expensive for Thailand but well worth it. Massages in Thailand are much cheaper than the US though! I should have gotten one a day. Don’t make my mistake.

On the bus ride back from the tour, we had run into some other Americans who told us they had been in Thailand for a couple of weeks so far and ate a lot of street food without getting sick. They recommended purchasing something directly off the grill and not to purchase something that looked grilled but had finished cooking and sat out after. As New Yorkers, we already play street food somewhat safely when in the States. Of course, we were going to play it even more safely on the streets of a night market in Thailand. We hadn’t intended on eating dinner at the market that night, but keeping in mind our new friends’ advice we felt more confident to eat some grilled snacks along the way. We didn’t end up getting sick, so I was glad that we took a chance and tried some grilled meats.

We got back to our hotel, brought our newly-washed-and-hang-dried clothes back to our room, and, after such a long day, just crashed.

Day 4

With all of our clothes cleaned and a bunch of new souvenirs to pack, we had an alarm set to wake up early and pack up the room. It didn’t take too long, because we were basically living out of our suitcases. We brought our bags downstairs for the front office to hold while we crossed the street to enjoy breakfast for the last time. We took our time while eating, because although we have airport lounge access they only had a lounge in the international terminal. Our next stop was to Phuket, Thailand, and it was a domestic flight, so we only needed to be at the airport an hour in advance. Our flight was scheduled for 11:35am. The front desk called us a taxi. We left the hotel around 9:45am and got to the airport by 10:00am. The airport is super small, so we got through security and to our gate very quickly.

Pro Tip: Domestic flights within Thailand are super cheap! With flights being so affordable between cities, you should take advantage of seeing more than one city while in Thailand. There are other options to take a train or a bus between cities, but the flights are so quick that it’s the most time-efficient option.

Our first two days in Chiang Mai were spent exploring town, taking a cooking class, and enjoying a day with rescued elephants. Our final day in Chiang Mai was jam-packed with temples, each one more unique than the next. Overall, I think it is possible to see Chiang Mai in a minimum of three days. There were many other tours or activities you could do while in Chiang Mai, but I feel we experienced a great mix of shopping, food, temples, and nature. Stay tuned for our future Thailand blog posts on Phuket and Bangkok!

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3 Day Chiang Mai Thailand Itinerary – Part 1

Thailand, here we come! Next stop on our six-week honeymoon around the world was Chiang Mai, Thailand. We had heard wonderful travel stories of elephant sanctuaries and beautiful temples in the jungles of northern Thailand, so we knew we had to add this city into our itinerary while we were visiting. In this post, we’ll be covering our three-day itinerary, including transportation, where to stay, guided tours, and the best Thai food in Thailand.

Quick note: Our trip to Thailand includes photos that some may find offensive. Lots of phallic imagery in this country: soaps, sculptures, paintings, and more. If you don’t wish to see these images, then check back in next week for a new Amarvelous Wedding post instead!

Day 1


We departed Hong Kong at 10:35am and flew on Air Asia airlines to Chiang Mai International Airport arriving at 12:20pm. The flight was $272 USD for the both of us. There is a one-hour time difference between these cities.

Photo Credit: Google Maps

Chiang Mai International Airport is small. Maybe I am biased, because we had an issue upon landing, but I don’t think the customer service was very good. When our brand-new (wedding gift) hard-shell Samsonite luggage came down the conveyor belt, it had a massive crack in it. That crack happened sometime while our luggage was in the care of the airline and/or airports (Hong Kong or Chiang Mai). Air Asia Customer Service offered us two options: to receive a comparably-sized non-brand-name luggage as a replacement or a small sum of cash so we could go purchase our own luggage in Thailand. We didn’t enjoy either of those options, because our newly destroyed luggage was valued at way higher than the two replacement options. When we expressed our dissatisfaction, they offered us a third option to fill out a form from the airline company, which we did. SPOILER ALERT: Samsonite is a fantastic company and they replaced our luggages. We got the same model, but in soft shell this time.

Pro Tip: Duck tape is your broken luggage’s best friend. We found a 7-Eleven store that sold a roll, and we taped up our luggage. It looked unsightly, but it held the luggage together for the rest of our trip. We were only halfway done with our six-week honeymoon around the world and had several more flights to go.

Our hotel was a 15-minute drive away from the Chiang Mai International Airport, and we utilized the airport taxi stand. Our driver rode over a curb and popped his tire before we even left the parking lot haha. So we got in a new taxi and were finally on our way! Between the broken luggage and the taxi, our first hour in Thailand was eventful.

Where to Stay

Old City is the best area to stay within Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is a cube of land surrounded by a canal located in the heart of Chiang Mai. This area is walkable and has many hotels, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, and small temples. Additionally, most tours that provide transportation will only pick you up from a location within the Old City borders. Being that we were booking two days of tour groups, it was essential to stay in Old City.

Photo Credit: Thailand For Visitors

We stayed at the Somwang Boutique House near the west border of the Old City cube. This was a beautiful, charming three-floor boutique hotel with lots of outdoor seating areas. It checked off all the boxes on our travel wishlist, and, in the end, it worked out really well for us.

  • Washing Machines: We were traveling on a six-week trip and wanted to wash our own clothes as much as possible. Do-it-yourself laundry facilities within the hotel were high on our “must-have” list. The washers were on the top floor with many cables hanging to dry clothes on. We purchased laundry soap at the local store, washed all our clothes upon arrival, and then again before we left. We of course brought all our delicates back to the room to hang dry, but shirts, pants, and bathing suits dried outside on the cables. It was actually really nice putting clothes in the washer then hanging out poolside while they washed. It didn’t matter that the hotel didn’t have dryers, because it was so hot outside that the clothes air-dried very quickly.
  • Pool: It is super HOT in Chiang Mai in the summer. We visited in early May, so we only looked at hotels that had a pool. In hindsight, this pool was in the center of the U-shaped hotel, so most of the day the three-floor building shaded the pool, leaving the water a little chilly. There were other hotels that had a pool on the roof or in an unshaded area. If you can find a hotel like that, the water will be warmer. But like I said, it was so hot that even the brisk water temperature was a welcome relief to my boiling blood. (Can you tell I don’t like being hot? Haha)
  • Included Breakfast: On a long vacation, it’s nice having one meal a day included by the hotel. Eating out three meals a day is not only costly, but it can be exhausting trying to find a spot. This hotel offered a really nice breakfast just across the small street in a separate building. Every morning, they served from 7:30am-10am, and if you had to leave the hotel earlier than 7:30am, then they could prepare you a breakfast to go if you let them know the day before. They offered a buffet of continental breakfast items such as breads, fruits, and juices, then you could sit down at your table and order your hot breakfast items such as eggs and sliced meats. It was nice being able to eat something while the rest of your breakfast was made to order. It helped with getting us on the road for our tours faster.

There were two downsides to our hotel:

  • The room had no storage space. We understood that in a boutique hotel the room may be smaller, which we were totally fine with because we planned on being out all day anyway and hardly spending any time in the room. But guests still expect a closet to hang clothes or drawers to fold and put them away. With the exception of a couple wall hooks, we ended up living out of our suitcases. We made do for our three days here, but had we been staying longer it would have been annoying not having the space.
  • Being only three floors, there were no elevators. Our room was on the second floor. We had a large suitcase, two carry-ons, and two personal bags. The staff was friendly and helped us bring everything upstairs.

After we checked into the hotel, we quickly dropped our bags in the room and left to walk around and explore. The roads are small, and there are hidden gems everywhere. One road had an entrance to a stand market where I picked up a sheer white scarf with blue elephants on it. The next road had a large catch-all store where I purchased a wooden hand fan (so hot).

The next road had a small temple that we decided to explore called Wat Phantao. I knew that Thailand’s temples had certain clothing etiquette, but I hadn’t anticipated on our first day that we would just stumble upon a temple in the heart of the city, so I wasn’t prepared with attire to cover my shoulders and knees. Fortunately for me, there were some very friendly monks that worked at the temple entrance that would loan visitors skirt wraps and shirts for free so they could enter, and they even helped me tie it on. The temple had a tile floor, dark wood walls, a peaked light and dark wood slatted interior roof, and gold ribbons hanging as accents. There was a gorgeous gold Buddha at the far side of the building. The gold color really popped on the dark cherry walls. The sides of the building had donation urns set up. We walked the grounds, then continued on exploring the city.

Our next stop on the walk back to our hotel was a travel agent company storefront. We had only booked our elephant excursion in advance of our travel, because we were informed that they sell out quickly. Other than that, we hadn’t booked other excursions, so we stopped in to see what they offered. Our goal was to book a day at the famous White Temple. The travel agent offered a combo Blue Temple, White Temple, and Black House package that included lunch and transportation. We booked that for one day. They also offered a cooking class with the Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre and had a few additional slots available that very evening, so we booked that too.

We quickly headed back to the hotel to be ready for our cooking class hotel pick-up. A little after we arrived, they showed up in a tuk-tuk van. We were the first hotel pick-up. We stopped at two more hotels that picked up a group of three women, and then two men. We introduced ourselves as we rode along to the first destination and learned that they were from England and Australia and were all taking a gap year between high school and college (so my husband and I were a decade older than everyone else in the class haha). The first stop was a local grocery store to pick up all the ingredients for the cooking class. The hilarious guide cracked jokes and taught us about all the essential Thai cooking ingredients, allowed us to taste several spices and mini dried shrimp, then gave us another five minutes to explore the store on our own and purchase anything we wanted before meeting back in the tuk-tuk and heading to the cooking studio.

The cooking studio was basically a house. You entered the main door to a big courtyard. The cooking school took place in the courtyard and a small air-conditioned building in the back. Everyone was provided an apron and was allowed to select between a few dishes to cook. Everyone made spring rolls as appetizers, then hubby and I each selected different soup, protein dish, and noodle dish options so we could taste several dishes. They also provided everyone with white rice. We had so much fun cooking and learning new techniques. We loved that since everyone had their own cooking station and was only cooking single-serve portions for themselves, you could leave out whatever ingredients you didn’t want. For example, my dish was supposed to include mushrooms, but I don’t care for them so I just left them out! When we finished cooking, we brought all our hard-earned food into the air-conditioned room and feasted on (no exaggeration) the most delicious Thai food that I have, still to this day, ever had in my life. As a parting gift, the cooking school gifted everyone with their own cookbook. All the recipes we cooked were included, plus some extras that we didn’t make.

After the class, with full bellies, we were ready for some dessert. We wanted to keep exploring and walk off some of our meal, so we skipped the shuttle back to our hotel and instead continued our walk around town. We came across this wonderful street and indoor market named Anusarn Market with what seemed like hundreds of stalls selling all types of goods. I purchased a long skirt similar in style to the one that the monk had tied on me (just a whole lot cuter). We haggled down the price a bit because the stand I liked the print at the most had a higher price, so we made a deal. We continued on until we found ice cream cones. Even in the evening, it was so warm that the cold treat was just what the doctor ordered. We ate our desserts as we strolled back to our hotel. We took a night-time dip in the pool to end our first day in Chiang Mai.

Day 2

Day Two was dedicated to an all-day excursion at the Elephant Nature Park. We knew coming to Thailand that we wanted to see elephants up close and personal. It took some research, but we decided on this specific park because they did not allow riding, and all the elephants were rescued from terrible conditions and were being nursed back to health. The proceeds of ticket sales are used to save elephants from extreme conditions and bring them to a peaceful retirement. How can you say no to that?

We woke up, had breakfast at 7:30am at the hotel, then got picked up by bus. The Elephant Nature Park was just over an hour away from our hotel. Upon arrival, we were in awe. There were a bunch of other buses and tourists there, but the property was so large and full of lush greenery, that when we split into our smaller guided groups, it didn’t seem touristy. We were literally in a valley in the middle of the jungle with the Mae Taeng River flowing on the exterior border. It was an elephants’ paradise. The main building was a place for visitors to line up and throughout the day feed the elephants by hand. We held pieces of melon and bananas in our hands, and the elephants would stretch out their trunks to each get a fresh piece. I found it fascinating that they ate the whole piece—rind, skin, and all!

On our guided walk around the park, we were introduced to each elephant by name, told their back story of where they were rescued from, and if they were currently on the mend and healing from an ailment. The park had rescued elephants of all ages, from old to young. Some of the elephants on property even had their own baby elephants. They even had two different species of elephants in the park.

By midday it was so hot, but we got a cool-down with a rain shower. I had worn a one-piece bathing suit and shorts to the park that day, because I knew it would be hot, so I didn’t mind at all that we were getting wet. Bring on the rain! During the rain, we had a lunch break. All the groups headed up to the main facility for our included buffet lunch. Our tour group had been at the far side of the park and arrived last, so some dishes were completely gone. I liked what I had eaten, but I wish we had been able to see what the other dishes were. They were probably the more popular ones, and that’s why they ran out. Oh well! In the time that we were heading back to the dining hall, and hardly any groups were out, our tour guide let us take individual photos with some elephants. I’ll take close-up interactions with elephants over Pad Thai any day haha!

After lunch, we walked around some more and watched the staff wash the elephants. That had been an activity the website said we could participate in, but before we had left for Thailand they emailed us and said for the safety of the elephants they had changed their policy, and guests were no longer allowed in the water. I had been looking forward to getting in the water with the elephants, but when I saw how rough the baby elephants were playing, holding each other under the water, I was relieved we weren’t in there with them! We purchased a mango smoothie and a Thai iced tea from the café, then we got back on the bus to our hotel.

The Elephant Nature Park offered other kinds of tours too. They had tours where you could sleep overnight and then volunteer and be more hands-on and work at the facility. We were on our honeymoon and wanted to fit in other activities while in Chiang Mai, so that option didn’t work for us. They also have a dog sanctuary where you can go for the day and do similar activities that we did with the elephants.

After we arrived back at the hotel, we took a dip in the pool to cool down. Then hubby did some laundry while I headed out to a nail salon a few blocks away called 2SiS Nails & Spa. We had gotten married three weeks earlier, and my gel manicure was not looking pretty, especially after a day with the elephants. It was the tiniest nail place I’ve ever been to. Basically just one woman and two chairs. It took her almost two hours to strip my gel manicure and do a new manicure and pedicure. I hadn’t anticipated it would take that long, but I was glad I did it.

Once she was done, hubby met me, and we walked back towards the hotel to John’s Place Tapae Gate restaurant just at the corner of our block. We went to the upstairs balcony overlooking the canal below and sat at a booth. So many things on the menu sounded good. We ordered the same soup we had the night before at the cooking school, Pad Thai, battered and fried shrimp, and a mango sticky rice for dessert. The people at the booth next to us were looking at us and laughing a bit. We had not really known why, until we got our food. When the server was coming over the people turned around to us and said “big!” and that’s when we realize just how large the portion sizes were at this restaurant. The soup was like a whole pot’s worth. The fried shrimp was a whole plate of fried shrimp among other battered and fried foods like onion rings. The Pad Thai was a big heaping pile. And the mango sticky rice was also really large for a dessert. Haha whelp… no way of knowing we were significantly over-ordering. We had such a long day we were probably ordering with our eyes. We ate as much as we possibly could then headed back to the hotel.

Our first two days in Thailand were jam-packed with shopping, cooking, elephants, and swimming. Even though we got off to a rocky start with a broken luggage and a busted taxi, things significantly turned around, and we were loving our time in Thailand!! Stay tuned for the rest of our 3 Day Chiang Mai Thailand Itinerary: Part 2 will be released in two weeks!

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Two Days in Hong Kong

Two Days in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is very beautiful! It is the world’s fourth-most densely populated region, has many parks spread throughout, a spectacular waterfront along Victoria Harbour, a cruise port, Disneyland, and hosts the largest number of skyscrapers in the world. It is definitely a sight to behold. In this post, we will discuss our post-cruise two-day itinerary in the Hong Kong regions of Kowloon, Lantau Island, and Hong Kong Island.

Photo Credit: Discover Hong Kong

Mini History Lesson

Hong Kong is located on the eastern side of the Pearl River in southern China. It is not technically its own country but rather a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR). Hong Kong was a colony of the British Empire from 1842 until 1997, when the territory was returned to China as a SAR. Hong Kong maintains a separate government and economic system from mainland China. They welcome a whopping 60+ million tourists annually.

Day One

We arrived in Hong Kong via cruise ship. Click here if you are interested in reading our Royal Caribbean Cruise Through Asia post. What a beautiful port!! Pulling in was so picturesque. You have a view of this futuristic customs building with a green roof, the city behind it, and mountains behind that. Total “WOW, welcome to Hong Kong” moment as we pulled into port. We departed the boat early at 7:00am because we wanted to maximize our short time in Hong Kong. Since there is no train right at the cruise terminal, we took a bus to the train station. From there, we took a train towards the area where our hotel was located. We walked a few minutes to the hotel. The block we walked down seemed like nearly every store was selling bathroom fixtures (sinks and toilets).

Photo Credit: Kai Tak Cruise Terminal

The Novotel Century Hotel (238 Jaffe Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong), located on Hong Kong Island, was worth the hour and a half public transit commute. We knew that we were arriving well before check-in, so we packed bathing suits, cover-ups, and flip flops in our carry-ons. The hotel stored our bags, and we went to the rooftop pool to cool down (it was sooo HOT outside) and lounge around. Not much of a view, but the pool was very nice and relaxing. There were only a few other people there with us. The reception desk ended up calling us to check in early. Our room was very spacious with a really nice bathroom. We only had two days in Hong Kong, so we knew that we would not be spending too much time in the room, but it was nice to have space to open our bags, hang clothes, and unpack a bit.

Photo Credit: Novotel

After we quickly settled in, we changed and headed out for our first day. First thing on the itinerary was to visit the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (11 Man Kwong St, Central, Hong Kong) located on Hong Kong Island right on Victoria Harbour. Entry was 30 HKD or $3.83 USD. This was the best maritime museum we had ever been to. They showcased a diverse set of artifacts ranging from art, ship models, diver gear, geographic renderings, and maps. They also had a large exhibit for children that explained where drinking water comes from and how water is cleaned after it is soiled. The museum has a cafe on the top floor if you had wanted to enjoy breakfast or lunch with a view over the water. For the price, this is a must-see!

After the museum, we strolled along the waterfront past The Hong Kong Observation Wheel and AIA Vitality Park (33 Man Kwong St, Central, Hong Kong). It was an incredibly hot day, so we stopped to get ice cream and did not end up riding the Ferris wheel. It did look awesome though. From the top, you probably have an incredible view during day or night. The wheel is covered in neon lights at night. Even if you don’t ride, it is still a great photo opportunity.

We walked to the bus stand near the piers with the intention of going to our next destination. Little did we know, you had to have exact change to ride the bus. We only had large bills from the bank. A really nice local could tell we were confused tourists. She offered to pay for our ride and even made sure we got off where we were supposed to.

We got off the bus at The Peak Tram Lower Terminus. Total price for the tram ride up the mountain to Victoria Peak and back down with 360° view from highest elevation was 99 HKD or $12.62 USD. The queue to buy tickets and get on a tram was really long. When we finally got on the tram, we were lucky enough to claim seats. It was a long ride up the mountain, and with the steep incline it would have been uncomfortable to stand. The optical illusion of tilted skyscrapers was really awesome. Buildings look like they are leaning a gradient of between 4 to 27 degrees. Total mind trip.

When we got to the top, there were many shops and restaurants. We didn’t eat at Burger King, but they have a balcony overlooking the skyline, so we went outside just to take daytime pictures of the skyline view.

Next, we went back inside and found an activity that was totally free: It was many wall murals with twisted perspectives. When you stand next to or on it, it makes it look like you are a part of that scene. We had so much fun in this area.

Next, we had a tasty sunset sushi dinner overlooking the Harbour. We felt the prices were high at every restaurant at the Peak. Obviously, it’s a bit of a tourist trap, but being that you have to pay just to get up there, we didn’t mind spending a little more on food to extend our time. A quick note on sushi in Asia: Sometimes when you order shrimp, they are served totally raw. We don’t find that much in America, so we were a little “shell” shocked (pun intended).

After we finished dinner, we headed up to the Sky Terrace 428, the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong with 360° views of the city. Due to the time of day we picked for this activity, we were able to see the final transition from daytime to nighttime while up here. I think that was the best because we captured daytime and nighttime photos. At night, the city comes to life with every skyscraper lighting up. There is even a light show on several of the buildings. My tip is to pre-download the app so you can listen to the music while you watch. We hadn’t known there was music or an app. At the top of the Peak, cellphone signal was slow so we couldn’t download it. We still thoroughly enjoyed the show even without the music. We stayed upstairs to watch it twice! For the first show, we were a few rows back from the railing. Then, when people left, we took their spots in the front row. For the second show, we had a way better view. It is seriously crowded in the Sky Terrace, so if crowds aren’t your thing, then maybe visit earlier in the day. The nighttime show is the busiest time of day at the Peak.

After the show we waited in a very long queue to get back on the tram down the mountain. By that point, we were fed and got the photos we had wanted for the day, so we didn’t mind waiting in lines, but it was really long. If you can’t stand for long periods of time, then either wear comfortable shoes, or avoid the tram and ride a bus instead. It was really dark going down the mountain, and the view was not as good as during the day, so if you were to ride the tram only one way, then ride it up the Peak and during the daytime.

When we got off, we walked to the train and headed back to our hotel. That was a wrap on a jam-packed Day One!

Day Two

We started our day early because we were headed to Disneyland Hong Kong!! It is on my bucket list to visit every Disney theme park, so of course I couldn’t be in Hong Kong and miss this attraction.

Travel to the park was easy and enjoyable but lengthy. In total, the commute was about an hour from our hotel. We took the orange Tung Chung Line northwest till we arrived at Sunny Bay Station (before the Hong Kong Airport). Some of this trip was below and above ground, so the changing views helped time pass faster. From this stop, we transferred to the pink Disneyland Resort Line that took us directly to the Disney property. The Disneyland Resort Line train is not like the other MTR trains. This train was clearly paid for by Disney and branded adorably. The windows and hand supports are shaped like Mickey Mouse heads, there are bronze Disney character figurines displayed in each car, and the seating is comfortable and plush.

Hong Kong Disneyland is one park that includes seven themed lands: Adventureland, Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, and Main Street USA. The iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle is the park’s centerpiece. If you have been to other “Disneyland” parks in the world, or Orlando’s Disney World, then you will note that this park has a similar vibe of lands surrounding a castle. The public areas in this park occupy 68 acres. There are 12 Disney Parks in the world, and Hong Kong Disneyland is ranked second- smallest just above Walt Disney Studios Paris.

Tickets were about 650 HKD, which was approximately $82 USD. We arrived at the Park just as gates were opening. It was a Thursday and didn’t seem as crowded as other Disney Parks we have visited. We didn’t ever wait more than 20 minutes in line for a ride, which was awesome. It was April, so the park was all dressed up for Easter with character eggs all over the park. In comparison to other Disney Parks we’d already visited around the world, Hong Kong Disneyland was very similar. I think the coolest rides for us were Mystic Manor (similar to Haunted Mansion but less scary and no ghosts), Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Car (similar to Thunder Mountain), It’s a Small World (see if you can spot the hidden Disney characters among the regular Small World characters), and the Toy Story RC Racer. Hubby also really liked the Iron Man Experience ride.

We stopped into the City Hall guest services building off of Main Street USA and asked if they gave away free celebratory pins (like they do in Orlando). We were on our honeymoon and brought our “Just Married” pins from Orlando. We figured we could show them just in case they hadn’t known what we were talking about, or if they didn’t give away pins we could wear the ones we already owned. Lucky for us, they did have pins! So the first souvenir we got from that park was totally free. The parks usually have a pin or sticker you can get for free to show staff you are celebrating something: first visit, birthday, anniversary, or wedding. All you have to do is go to guest services and ask.

One silly thing we noticed in every gift shop were character-branded nail clippers. Not sure what the infatuation with nail clippers is all about, but they had walls full, and not just in Disney—they were all over Hong Kong. They were even sold in family packs. How many nail clippers does one family need? haha

There was some construction throughout the park due to an upcoming expansion with additions of Frozen, Moana, and Marvel lands. Disney is also totally overhauling the central castle. It will no longer be the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, but instead a larger newly-envisioned castle that features elements from many different Disney Princesses. The full expansion is set to be completed by 2023, although some elements will come online sooner than others. I may have to book my next Hong Kong trip for after the expansion is complete!☺

Due to the castle being under construction, there was no nightly fireworks display. We had arrived when gates opened, hardly waited in lines, and completed all the rides, so we decided to leave the park early just after lunchtime. We missed the Lion King show, because the next show was a three-hour wait away. We didn’t want to wait around for hours just to see one show. In hindsight, we should have planned out our timing better and known the show times so we didn’t miss it. I’ve read online that it’s spectacular.

We took the Disneyland Resort Line train back to the MTR Sunny Bay Station, then transferred to the MTR and headed back to the heart of Hong Kong. Since we still had half a day left, we went straight to the Hong Kong Space Museum. The museum was educational, included interactive activities, had several great photo ops, was fully indoors and air conditioned, but it was on the smaller side in comparison to other space museums we’ve been to. We didn’t add on the special exhibit, because there were many school groups in attendance that Thursday and we felt that portion of the museum would be too crowded. We probably spent over an hour in the museum.

After the museum, we took a stroll along the Victoria Harbour waterfront to Harbour City Shopping Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. There was a wide array of stores, and most were high-end. We ate dinner nearby in McDonald’s. We love to eat McDonald’s once in every country we travel to so we can compare to American McD’s. We almost always feel the quality overseas is better. We also enjoyed McDonald’s in Asia in general, because they had really different menu options compared to North America and Europe.

When we left the mall, it was raining. We stumbled upon the Golden Harvest Grand Ocean Cinema which was close by the mall. The Avengers Infinity War movie had just come out while we were on vacation, and the theater was showing it in English, so we decided to spend the remainder of the evening watching that movie.

After the movie, we walked back to the train and went back to our hotel.

Our flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand, was at 12:15pm the next day. Due to the international flight, we wanted to be at the airport by 9:00am, so we woke up early, packed, checked out, and kissed Hong Kong goodbye.

If you have one extra day in Hong Kong, I would recommend booking a junk boat tour. Royal Caribbean offered this activity as one of their Hong Kong excursions, and we didn’t have the time to fit it into our crazy schedule. It looked nice though.

Overall, we had a short but incredible time in Hong Kong! We were able to fit so many activities into two short days because none of the activities lasted more than half a day. We also didn’t mind waking up early and going to bed late in order to add one more activity to each day. So… is it possible to see Hong Kong in two days? You bet it is!

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