Monday, 19 March 2018

Adventures in Thailand - Exploring Koh Yao Yai and Phuket

At the beginning of March I was lucky enough to be able to spend 11 days in Thailand with a dear friend. There's some obvious reasons why this was amazing, such as the great food and the sunny weather but I'd like to show you a little more. Sounds interesting? Then grab yourself a cup of tea and keep reading, this is going to be a long one! 

On the 28th of February we boarded a direct flight with Edelweiss Air from Zurich to Phuket. We both knew Phuket changed over the last years and it's so much more touristy than it used to be. However, as we only had 11 days to search for the sun we wanted the journey to be as easy as possible so we went for a direct flight to paradise. 

We wanted to make the most out of these days and explore and decided to take the next speedboat in Phuket to head to Koh Yao Yai. I've never heard of this island before and I still struggle to pronounce it but I can now tell you that it is well worth a visit! We stayed at the Koh Yao Yai Village Resort which is absolutely stunning! I've heard it being described as eco luxury and I totally agree. There are a lot of beautiful wooden details in the room and the shower is outside! 

We we're both blown away by the view from the infinity pool and the lovingly put together breakfast buffet. It offered so many healthy options with a great selection of nuts and seeds and yes, I do get very excited about a good breakfast! However, staying on the island isn't cheap compared to other parts of Thailand and I would recommend to bring enough cash, as there are only three ATMs on the whole island. 

To explore Koh Yao Yai, we hired a taxi driver for a few hours. The hotel arranged this for us and told our lovely driver where we'd like to go (i.e. see the rubber trees, watch the local specialty coconut biscuit being made, etc.). Sounds great, right? Well, it didn't go as planned. Our driver was so nice but she didn't understand any english, which is totally fine by me but she didn't drive to the places we expected to be going. We tried to explain what we wanted to see using hands and feet but it didn't work, even though we had a map with us, so I can't tell you whether our little sightseeing tour would have been worthwhile. Anyhow, I can tell you now that Ban Chong Lad is the most beautiful beach on the island, that shopping shouldn't be your aim when you're visiting Koh Yao Yai and that the island is very green and authentic. 

Ban Chong Lad
Loh Jark Bay
Pad Thai Gai
There are restaurants on the island to eat out but you might need to arrange for a taxi to pick you up with your hotel or rent a bike because there wasn't a good restaurant in walking distance to where we stayed. 

If you're planning on visiting Koh Yao Yai, please keep in mind that to respect the local culture you should't walk around in your bikini outside of the hotel and away from the beaches, just bring a nice shirtdress, pareo and T-shirt or something like that. 

Main thing to do in Koh Yao Yai: Relax. You could also book snorkeling trips or explore different beaches. We've only stayed on the island for two nights and I wouldn't recommend to stay there for a whole week as you can pretty much see the whole island in a day but we really enjoyed the stay at Koh Yao Yai Village and I would definitely go back. 

The transfer to Phuket was easy and very comfortable and we arrived at our hotel Thavorn Beach Village Resort after about two hours. To be honest, being in Phuket was a bit of a shock after staying on Koh Yao Yai as the latter was very quiet and by far exceeded our expectations. Phuket is popular all over the world and it attracts a lot of tourists. We were lucky that our hotel had a private beach which we shared with about 8 other people who preferred the sea view to the gigantic hotel pool. 

So what can you do in Phuket? Pretty much everything you can think of. We did a little trip everyday and got to see a lot of the island. I would recommend visiting old Phuket town. It was pretty empty when we were there and the streets are gorgeous. The architecture is inspired by Spanish villages which is not what I expected to see in Thailand. The whole town is full of little shops and pretty cafes and the whole vibe of the town is different than anywhere else I've been in Thailand. 

Soi Rommanee, Phuket town
A must do but most likely cultural shock is a visit to Bangla Road in Patong. Patong is well known as a party destination and Bangla Road seems to be where the party happens. There's bars and clubs on each side of the road and there's no chance you can walk through there without at least 5 people offering you to see a "sexy show", which is shown in all the bars on the street. We've seen enough just by walking the street up and down but we weren't the only tourists going there just to watch the crowd. We've seen elderly couples sitting there comfortably with a beer enjoying the sight of the busy street. Go there, take a look around, and if it's too much you can always just walk around the corner to a more quiet street and enjoy an oil massage, or even a thai massage, if you're a little more adventurous than I am.

The most surprising thing during our time in Phuket: We wanted to do a snorkeling trip in Ao Sane, where you can find a hidden little beach and we heard that it is a great place if you want to go snorkeling from the shore. However, when we tried our snorkeling equipment right in front of the hotel beach, we were totally blown away by the amount and variety of fish we were able to see there. I did a snorkeling trip to a reef in Thailand the year before and I didn't see as many different fish as we did right there at our hotel, which is just insane. Parrotfish, moray eels and many of their colourful friends just hung around there. 

The private beach in front of Thavorn Beach Village Resort
View from the Big Buddha
One day we went to see the Big Buddha and Wat Chalong. The picture above is shot at the top of the hill where Big Buddha is. In my opinion, the view is the only reason to go there, as the whole experience around the Buddha doesn't feel authentic at all. I haven't seen any locals up there, it seems like it has just been built for tourists. Wat Chalong on the other hand feels real. There are tourists but at the same time there are people worshipping in the temples and the whole area is beautifully built and well worth a visit, if you're interested in culture. Bring something to cover shoulders and knees, just as I did with my Calzedonia pareo if you're planning on visiting temples. On our way back we ate the absolute best food we had during our whole trip at Baan Rim Pa Kalim restaurant. If you're staying in Kamala or Patong, I highly recommend to check it out! The restaurant is situated on a hill and has a huge terrace overlooking the ocean. If you're there, try the Massaman Curry with beef, it is seriously the most delicious thing ever! 

For our last two days we travelled to the northern part of Phuket to the L'Esprit de Naiyang hotel near the airport. It's located about 5 minutes away from the best beach we've seen in Phuket. We weren't expecting this as the beach leads directly to the airport. If you don't mind hearing and seeing planes all day long, I'd really recommend to stay around there when you're in Phuket. The hotel itself is ok but nothing special, there's some better hotels which are closer to the beach. 

Nai Yang Beach

The highlight in Phuket happened on our last day. At Nai Yang beach, a local charity organization hosted a small event to release sea turtles back into the sea. We were lucky enough to be there at that very moment, so we could stand at the beach and see about a hundred sea turtles find their way back into freedom. As far as I know, this happens once a year and if you're there early enough, you can even sign up to help. 

That was the last evening before we headed to the airport at 3 a.m. to catch our flight back to Zurich. Even though I wouldn't go back to Phuket because there are just too many tourists for my liking I felt so relaxed after this holiday because it was so much fun, great food and the sun was just what I needed. I'm sure I'll be back in Thailand before long. 

This post was a little different than what I usually write about but I intend to broaden the variety of topics on this blog in the near future. Let me know what you thought about this in the comments below or via email, feedback is always appreciated!

If you have any questions, want more tipps or if you want to share your own experiences in Phuket, just leave a comment below. 

Have a great day!

XX Cheryl

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