Okay, so let’s get this out of the way up front. The name of the island off the southwest coast of Thailand is pronounced “pooh-ket.” Not the other way. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Now, onto the narrative:
Sunday morning in Bangkok arrived early for me (about 5AM) and by 6AM I was once again up in the lounge, breakfasting.
After food, I showered, packed, checked out, and took a taxi to the airport. This time, because the hotel called the taxi for me, the driver used his meter and I ended up paying less than 300 baht for the ride. This was my first time flying on Bangkok Airways, which is one of the Asian local carriers. They call themselves a Boutique carrier, as opposed to the ultra-low-cost airlines like Thai Smile or Air Asia. Turns out, that airline was a pretty good choice.
The flight to Phuket was a mere one and a half hours, and the plane didn’t have a first class, so I had to “slum it” in economy class. (I lead such a difficult life.) Fortunately, when I checked in, they allowed me to upgrade to an exit row for free. With my Priority Pass (this time from my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card), I was able to get into the Bangkok Airways Lounge, where I enjoyed a lovely two hours with free snacks, beverages, and four of the most amazing massage chairs I’ve ever used. I lost a solid 30 minutes in one of the chairs, having a surprisingly good massage that helped break up some of my nasal and chest congestion, and relieved my aching muscles. This is something that all airline lounges should implement.
The flight to Phuket was in a rather small Airbus A319, which was like most of the single-aisle domestic planes we usually fly at home. Even on a flight as short as this one, however, Bangkok Airlines served a meal and had a drink service. The meal was a surprisingly tasty fish curry with rice and a little fruit plate. The presentation left something to be desired, but I was surprised they even bothered at all on such a short flight.
After arriving at the Phuket International Airport, the taxi dance began again. This time, I knew I was going to get taken to the cleaners; I had been warned by the hotel’s website that the taxi to the resort was going to be expensive. Rather than deal with being yelled at by a bunch of super-aggressive taxi drivers outside the airport’s front doors, I just opted to go to one of the taxi stands where you pre-pay and get a ticket to your destination. The trip took a solid hour and a half, and cost around 1500 baht (around $50), but the driver took me through a beautiful scenic route due to road construction traffic that gave me an incredible view of some of the remote villages around the island, and the acres and acres of Rapa Nui tree farms. Also, this:
Phuket seems to be kind of like the Hawaii of Thailand. Yeah, people live there, but it’s mainly a tourist destination–in a “I know this it touristy, but I still freakin’ love it” kind of way. The island is both rustic and modern, and exceedingly beautiful. As we drove along the winding roads, seeing cows and chicken and dogs wandering free alongside the streets, I kept thinking that this was a bit more like the Thailand I thought I would see.
The majority of travelers to Phuket understandably gravitate toward the island’s many beaches. The most popular, and the one that has the most vibrant nightlife (if you’re into that kind of thing) is Patong beach. Just south of Patong is Karon beach, where I stayed. And after that, Kata beach. Karon beach is a 3-mile stretch of white sand on turquoise water with lots of restaurants, shops, hotels, resorts, and tailors. It’s very walkable. The beach is pretty nice, and it’s not overly crowded. With that much beach real estate, it’s possible to spread out a bit and claim your own bit of sand without having to worry about stepping all over everyone else.
When the driver dropped me off at my resort, the five-star Hilton Arcadia, I’m sure I was smiling like a little kid at Christmas. It was a fairy tale. You’re dropped off at an open-air reception area with helpful staff who take your bags and load you onto a tram that takes you into the resort (where no outside cars are allowed.) Then you’re brought to the main reception building, also open-air, where the staff whisks away your luggage and you’re brought to the hotel’s desk.
There, you’re presented with an amazingly delicious drink made from tropical fruits, and an ice-cold wet towel while you check in. The staff is lovely and helpful. I have Hilton Gold status (also through my Amex Platinum), so I was upgraded to the most amazing room with an incredible ocean-front view. Through it all, it was taking most of my self-control not to start giggling and jumping up and down.
After being shown to my room, I stripped off my clothes and took another hefty nap. I was still feeling a bit under the weather, and I had a very big day planned for the following morning. After my nap, I changed into my beachwear and went for a nice long walk.
My only real destination for that day was Anthony’s Boutique, a tailor shop in Karon Beach that had glowing reviews. It wasn’t the cheapest shop in town but seemed to be the best. One of the things I had planned to do on this trip was to purchase a custom-made suit. After talking it over with the staff there, I decided to go for a package: a full suit, an extra pair of trousers, and five long-sleeved, button-up shirts–all custom-made from the fabrics of my choosing. I paid my $400, they took my measurements, and I went on my way.
After that, I walked further down the beach road, then crossed it onto the beach itself. I took off my shoes, and walked the length of the beach back to where my hotel was located, then continued on in the other direction, taking note of ice cream and coffee shops, restaurants that looked promising, and even locating my destination for the following day.
Eventually, starting to get a bit pink from exposure to the sun, I returned to the hotel, changed into my swimsuit, and went to one of the five pools at the resort. There I laid in the shade of an umbrella, swam in the crystal clear water of the circular pool, and enjoyed several drinks.
I should note that the drinks at the Hilton were among the weakest I have ever experienced anywhere. I’m not entirely sure they contained any alcohol at all. And they were rather expensive compared to drinks elsewhere. But still, there’s something rather enjoyable about sipping slushy, fruity concoctions that are brought to you while you lounge poolside. It was a lovely evening.
Finally, after the sun went down and the breeze picked up, I returned to my room, took another nap, another shower, and dressed for dinner. Rather than leaving the resort, I opted to try the Italian restaurant on the campus. This was an expensive mistake. The food was passable, but certainly not great. And even more certainly, not worth the price charged.
Satiated, but not quite exhausted, I walked the hotel grounds in the dark. It was a beautiful location, landscaped to perfection. True, I’m sure it was a bit manufactured, but it was still lovely. I enjoyed the sculptures and architecture of the place, the buddhist shrines and pagoda tucked in amongst palm trees and other exotic plans. The calls of tropical birds echoed in the trees. Tiny transparent geckos darted about wherever a bit of light could be found. Vines wound about trees and hung over wooden-planked walkways. Tiny frogs croaked and splashed around every body of water.
And then there were the cats. I don’t know what it is about the cats in Thailand, but I fee like they understand how good they’ve got it, and act accordingly. All of the cats that I saw were free-roaming, small, but healthy-looking, and as sweet as can be. They were calm, affectionate, and loved being scratched in the right places. I came across three different cats my first night walking through the resort, and all three of them came up to me to get some scritches.
It was an incredible, peaceful, relaxing evening. I returned to my room once more and went to bed, ready to embark the next morning upon main reason I had journeyed to Thailand.