Home » 2018 Thailand Trip

Patong Beach, Phuket Island, Thailand

Sunday, March 25, 2018 - 1:15pm by Lolo
0 miles and 0 hours from our last stop - 3 night stay


Lolo really enjoying Patong BeachLolo really enjoying Patong BeachWe were now on the do-it-yourself part of our Thailand trip - no more Udom and his Gate1 flag guiding us through space, no more air conditioned bus delivering us everywhere we needed to go, no more giant buffet meals and luxurious hotels. It was kind of scary but liberating at the same time.

Being on a group tour had far exceeded our expectations, and if we had to do a guided tour, Thailand was definitely the place to do so -- we could never have seen and learned so much doing a trip like this on our own. Still, we are very used to planning our own trips and being on our own, so we were quite excited about spending three additional days in Thailand, just the two of us.

The Gate1 tour was centered around cities, temples, and culture, which was great. However, we wanted to end it with some natural beauty, relaxation, and fun. After some research, we chose to add three days onto our trip and spend them on the beautiful island of Phuket.

After spending a good half day finding flights, a hotel, transportation from the airport, and things to do, we had a new-found appreciation for all the planning that Gate1 had done for us on our 11-day tour. It probably would have taken us 11 days of planning to have pulled that off on our own.

Day 1 - Travel to Phuket

Patong BeachPatong BeachAfter checking out of Le Meridien Chiang Mai, Udom accompanied us on the bus to the Chiang Mai airport to make sure we had no glitches boarding our flight back to Bangkok. Rather than fly back to Bangkok with us, he was continuing on with the part of our group that had signed up for additional days in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. As much as we loved our Gate1 tour in Thailand, we were glad that we hadn’t signed up for more. 11 days was just about right.

Rather than staying in Bangkok for the night, as the rest of the group was, and then coming back to the Bangkok airport the next morning, we had arranged to fly directly to Phuket that same afternoon.

It was a long day, but we arrived at the Charm Resort Phuket, our home for 3 nights, in time to take a sunset walk along the beach, which was only a block away.

After so many days rushing around crowded, smoggy cities, it was nice to just relax and take in some fresher air and ocean breezes.

Day 2 - Relaxing on Patong Beach, sipping cocktails in the hotel pool, and checking out the action on Bangla Road

Infinity pool at the Charm Resort in PhuketInfinity pool at the Charm Resort in PhuketWow! A day totally to ourselves where we could lie guiltlessly in a lounge chair without a single planned activity in sight.

Armed with kindles and towels, we walked the short distance to Patong Beach, where for about the equivalent of $20, we rented lounge chairs and umbrellas for the day. It was extremely hot, but the water was refreshingly delightful.

Bangla RoadBangla RoadLater that afternoon, we switched venues to the hotel’s rooftop pool, where we sipped tropical drinks while watching the sun set over the Andaman Sea. It was really quite lovely - very different from our usual travels in a motorhome.

That evening, after dinner and at a restaurant called No. 9, Herb suggested we take a walk along Bangla Road, which is Patong’s infamous nightlife district. Despite its notoriety, I had never heard of it, so it was quite an eye-opening experience. At least it was more pedestrian-friendly than anything we had encountered in Thailand so far, as the road is closed to vehicle traffic at night.

It was quite a scene - neon lights, loud music, go go bars, pole dancers, street performers, and vendors touting ping pong shows (which I don’t want to go into). It certainly was an interesting place to people watch.

Day 3 - Tour of James Bond Island and cave kayaking tour

Phuket has a large Muslim population compared to the rest of Thailand, which is predominantly Buddhist. Our hotel was located near a mosque, so every morning before sunrise, we were awoken to the beautiful and haunting sounds of the morning call to prayer. No need for an alarm clock, as long as this was the time we wanted to get up.

Our James Bond Island TourOur James Bond Island TourFortunately, today we did want to get up early because we were expecting to be picked up at our hotel for our big excursion to James Bond Island and kayaking through sea caves. At least, we hoped we were going to be picked up. Things had gotten a little confusing yesterday when we called to confirm our reservation, which we had made through Viator.com a few weeks back.

First of all, they were supposed to call us to confirm, but they didn’t. When we called them, they kind of gave us the impression that they had no intention of calling us to tell us that the boat we were supposed to go on didn’t have enough people signed up to go out. They then tried to change us to another day, which wouldn’t work for us, before finally saying that they would switch our reservation to another outfitter. It didn’t exactly give us a warm and fuzzy.

Enjoying being kayaked around beautiful Phang Nga BayEnjoying being kayaked around beautiful Phang Nga BayHowever, at 7:30 sharp, a van did pick us up at our hotel and bring us to the Kong Khien Pier on the other side of the island, where we would start our adventure. The scene at the pier was utter chaos, with hundreds of people being lined up and somewhat randomly loaded onto about half a dozen boats. We sincerely hoped we were on the right tour.

It was, and soon we were cruising out to beautiful Phang Nga Bay, which is home to over 100 islands, each more beautiful than the next. Our goal later in the day would be the James Bond Island (Khao Ping Kan), a major tourist attraction ever since it was featured in the 1974 Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Fortunately, the island is now under the protection of Ao Phang Nga National Park, or it would be completely overrun.

But first, we had some sea caves to explore. I had thought when we signed up for this trip, that we would be doing the paddling, but instead we were loaded up in pairs onto inflatable kayaks with someone to paddle for us. I guess exercising while in Thailand just wasn’t meant to be.

Sea cavesSea cavesIt was still fun though weaving in and out of the stalactite and stalagmite formations and limestone caves. Fortunately, the tide was low enough for us to squeeze through without too much contorting. I can imagine that you can get in a bit of trouble on your own if you get caught on the wrong side of the caves when the tide comes in.

Our paddler was lots of fun and always smiling. He even took a corny picture of us through a leaf he pulled out of his pocket that had a heart frame cut out of it.

After kayaking, we were treated to a delicious buffet lunch on the boat, which was actually freshly cooked on board. Once lunch was complete, we pulled up anchor and headed towards the main event - James Bond Island.

Since the island is under national park protection, no big boats are allowed to go too close to the island. Instead, we were transferred to one of the many long-tail boats anchored nearby that were authorized to deliver tourists to the island.

James Bond IslandJames Bond IslandIf I thought this morning’s loading of the cruise boats was chaotic, this was insane. Boarding and unboarding the long tails required climbing up on and balancing oneself along the gunnels of the boat, with barely anything to hold on to. There were small children, grandmas, Muslim women in full-length black garments and veils, and people of all shapes and sizes tightroping their way to the front of the boat. It was amazing no one fell in the water.

Herb and I are not big on tourist traps, and that is exactly what this was. It was beautiful enough - a really cool rock formation that rises out of the water, slim at the bottom and big on top, but we had seen many other small islands on the cruise over, just as interesting. However, what those were missing was the aura of James Bond. Needless to say the island was full of souvenir shops and hordes of people.

Long-tail boats to get on James Bond IslandLong-tail boats to get on James Bond IslandOnto the next event with safety precautions thrown to the wind - anchoring and swimming off Koh Hong Island. Jellyfish, some of which can be quite nasty, are often found in these waters, but our faithful crew peeked over the gunnels and said they didn’t see anyway. Oh, ok. Then it must be fine.

While most of us just jumped in and hung around near the back of the boat, Herb and a young couple from Germany decided to swim to shore, about ½ mile away. I think Herb swam a lot longer than that because the was doing backstroke and veering off too far to the right. Rather than do the hypotenuse of a triangle, he was doing its two sides.

Herb meets ladyboys aboard James Bond boatHerb meets ladyboys aboard James Bond boatOn his way back, unbeknownst to us at the time, Herb was stung by a jellyfish, which left a series of red lines across his arm. I was quite concerned and asked the crew what he should do. “Don’t worry,” they said. “If it was the bad kind he would be crying in pain by now.” Well, that was comforting. With my persistence for them to do something, they rubbed some some stuff on his arm that looked entirely too much like soy sauce. Herb was a real trooper though. I would have been much more dramatic.

As we were returning to port, the crew had one last surprise for us - ladyboys - not exactly the attractive, flamboyant kind we had seen in the Chiang Mai night bazaar, but rather two crew members with flowery dresses and balloons for breasts. They put on quite a show though, shaking it up for the men on board. It was hysterical.

I’d have to say, it was really a fun day and well worth the cost, which I believe was about $90 each.

Patong Beach, Phuket Island location map in "high definition"

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