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.
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!
- 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.
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.
Photo Credit: Tri Trang Beach Resort
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.
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.
- 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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