Even though flying horrifies me, I still dont let it stop be going anywhere. after 3 months in the Philippines in 2012, I fell in love with South East Asia and have been itching to get back ever since.
With work, and my blog, it’s unlikely that I am going to get time to even have one of those long relaxing baths you treat yourself to anytime soon, so a 3 month holiday is about as likely as Arg sticking to his diet (which starts Monday in case any of you wondered).
So me and my friend decided to do the best with what we had, and pitch up for ten days in Patong, Phuket. Thailand is a beautiful country and we are lucky to have had so many wonderful experiences to share with you, especially if you are a fellow traveller looking to go.
Starting in style – The Skyteam Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 4
Being a nervous flyer, I use the well renowned ‘BA Baracas’ method when it comes to flying which is to completely knock myself out with alcohol. Now if you do this in the airport bar it can be a costly experience and you are right in the middle of all of the hustle and bustle. I can’t remember when I discovered the joy of airport lounges, but I’m sure I will never travel without using one again.
We booked into the Skyteam lounge at Terminal 4 in Heathrow for a few pre drinks before we went.
The lounge had two floors, and a complimentary Clarins spa, so you can help feeling a little bit spoiled when you go in. Unusually for a lounge, the bar is self service, but that actually worked in our favour and became really helpful. There’s always something I find embarrassing about rocking up to the bar in the lounge at 6.45am and asking for a double rum and coke, and then feverishly explaining that I’m scared of flying and making myself look like even more than an alcoholic than I would have if I didn’t breathe a word.
The buffet was also good, real good hot food like spring rolls, and pasta and fishcakes,. which were then followed about an hour in by some curries. They also had crisps and picky bits, and even little savoury snacks in the wine bar.
Another thing I liked is that they had a selection of magazines you could help yourself to for the flight. Well. They had a selection of magazines you could help yourself to to take on the flight is no one was looking. For all of the £56 it cost us for two, I would really recommend this if you really want to get away from all the hustle and bustle. I ALWAYS use http://www.holidayextras.co.uk. I have always booked through them and have always got a great rate with no problems.
The dreaded flight – Qatar Aiways
I have previously flown with Etihad, and although it was my first experience with ‘long haul’ I still personally thought the service was excellent. Qatar airways didn’t disappoint. Obviously airline to airline differences do not make any difference to my actual fear of flying, but actual customer experience makes you feel comfortable on the flight.
I have seen a lot of reviews of people slating the food. Ok, it’s not five star gourmet, but it’s cooked in a little microwave, what do you all expect!
I found Qatar to be a lot more forthcoming with the drinks and food than Etihad, and they even came round on one flight with crisps and offered tea, coffee or brandy. I’ll take a tea…NOT. The IFE is fine, I managed to watch quite a few films I wanted to see at the cinema anyway so that was an added bonus. When we came to land in Phuket, the weather was awful, stormy and raining, and the pilot had to pull back up and try again.
Not ideal, but during all that stress he was still nice enough to come over the tannoy and explain what was going on so no one panicked. By ‘no one panicked’ you can obviously exclude myself, who was clinging to the armrest for dear life, saying my final prayers, and wondering what I did to deserve this and if it could possibly of been that time when I was 14 and at Halloween I pushed over the local Chinese’s bin in a Scream mask. Thank fully, we survived it, and my friend Helen did make me chuckle when she spotted the rain and asked if she needed a coat.
It was lovely to be welcomed at Phuket airport by some Thai ladies giving out necklaces made from Thai flowers. At Heathrow all you get is grumpy immigration staff.
Resorthoppa – Transfers you can trust
I am honestly one of them that will happily just wing it, waltz out of the airport and think ‘Oh, best try getting to the resort now then’. Resorthoppa are basically a broker who organize the transfer for you, and as I have used them a couple of times before I thought it may be safer to sort us out in advance rather than us wandering round Phuket shouting ‘TUK TUK, TAXI’.
It didn’t cost a lot for the return, and despite the fact our flight was a tad late, and the immigration queue was horrendous, there was our guy patiently waiting in the Thai rain for us. (Word of warning for Phuket airport – pack your patience, the immigration queues both ways are an absolute joke. they manually enter the details on your entry and departure card, and then take a picture via webcam. Not fun at all. I staged a protest and sat down in the middle of the queue.).
It was a welcome experience getting in a nice air conditioned minibus, and even nicer that we didn’t need to stumble about after all the drinks on the plane trying to find a taxi.
They were also just as reliable on the way home, and came and popped into the lobby to find us.
Aspery Hotel – Patong
Mine and my friends hotel choosing process went a bit like this. ‘That one looks cheap’ ‘do people on Tripadvisor say it’s clean?’ ‘yeah…and breakfast is included’ ‘yeah we’ll book that then’.
So when you look at it, we could of ended up anywhere. Good job then, that Aspery is actually really nice. I tend to stay away from larger ‘resort’ type hotels if I am going to a country that far away. Only because I know how lazy I am, and I will DEFINITELY spend the whole trip on my bum on a sun lounger if I go to a resort.
The staff are so friendly, and nothing is too much trouble. There is a spa/attached and affiliated and you can literally spend hours in there having every treatment under the sun for about £10. The room service is great. No stupid table charge smacking you in the chops like in the UK. Only about £2 for a meal.
The rooftop pool is a lovely addition: on the highest deck you can actually see all of Patong bay.
If you are planning on staying here, top tip is to hit the pool in the afternoon. The sun is right on it and the temperature of the pool is WARM.
Our whole holiday cost us £650 each, and a flight is about £500 to £550 so this must of been £100 for the whole week.
YES, the breakfast is a bit samey, but what more options do you want for breakfast? Quiche Lorraine? Coq Au Vin? I REALLY don’t know where some people on Trip Advisor get off. We had bread, eggs, potatoes, beans, cereals and a Thai selection every day for breakfast, with some random fried chicken thrown in.
If you cant eat fried chicken for breakfast on holiday, then for god sakes when can you?
The rooms were fabulous. Nice big, power shower in the bathroom (which was epic for my mate as it is where she spends half her time), balcony and beds. The maid comes every day to replenish water, tea and coffee and make up your room for you.
There are little services which make this hotel great, such as laundry and late checkout, which cost me and my friend all of £10 to get everything laundered before home and check out of the room 3 hours late.
The only gripe I would have is that the beds are really uncomfortable. It sounds like a small thing, but being away ten days without one proper nights sleep you will REALLY notice it.
We got a great deal through Expedia: http://www.expedia.co.uk/Phuket-Hotels-Aspery-Hotel.h4517816.Hotel-Information
Excursions, places to go, places to eat.
Le Versace French Restaurant.
Well where to start with Le Versace? Well first things first, if you are getting a Tuk Tuk and you say ‘Le Versace’ and they look at you like you have just urinated on their whole family, say ‘French restaurant up the hill’ and they might get somewhere.
Le Versace is set in the hills of the jungle and has a beautiful view. You can literally see the whole of Patong city and bay and some of the islands off of it on a clear night.
The owner George, is attentive and obviously takes great pride in his restaurant. He was happy to explain all the menus for us, and even bought round a small taster of the starters and desserts for us to try.
One was a salmon with cream cheese on a cracker, which I didn’t try as I don’t eat fish for religious reasons (it smells). My friend enjoyed it though, and said it was really nice. the second was a little ball of goats cheese on a stick, which was really creamy and has left us baffled on how they ball it and cook it. The next appetiser was a vegetable soup, which was extremely pleasing on the palate and really did set us up for the main course. Unlike most bland vegetable soups it had a certain kick of flavour.
the main course, we both had the 12 day slow cooked lamb, with Dauphinoise potatoes and truffle oil. To say the lamb ‘fell off the bone’ is an understatement. It melted off of it the minute you put it to your lips. It was fantastic. As for the dauphinoise, I had never tried truffle oil but all I had heard it was an ‘acquired taste’. It was so rich, and smooth, and it complemented the dauphinoise perfectly. It was like eating silk. Silk embroidered by 85 year old Chinese women. Wearing hats.
Once we had eaten, we were shown personally by George to the rooftop bar, to have a glass of wine and overlook the whole of Patong. To say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life is an understatement.
You can check out their menu on their website: http://www.leversace.com/ but rest assured George will 100% help you and sort you out if you want something different.
Tiger Kingdrom – Patong
I don’t want to start this review like many on Trip Advisor with aggressive capital letters like other users saying ‘DO NOT GO HERE’, but I would like to politely inform you not to go actually. There are also people on Trip Advisor really intent on slating people that do go, saying that they know what they got into before they went.
Well actually, no we didn’t. I have NEVER visited a Tiger Sanctury in a foreign country in my life, so how would I know how they are treated at Tiger Kingdom? Once we paid and got in, we went round each separate cage to take photos with each Tiger.
For a start, I don’t care what ANYONE says, the Tigers are obviously heavily drugged. We were booked into to see three different sizes. We started with smallest, and without being able to communicate with each other I think we still portrayed silently to each other how distressed we were when they started hitting the tiger to make him look for a photo. After a few seconds we could bare no more, left the photo, and I asked my friend if we could leave before he gets hit again.
Unfortunately, the experience is somewhat a cattle herd, and once you are in, you are in, so there’s no going back.
I wish someone would of warned me in advance, which is why I am mentioning this now. I have also chosen not to put up any pictures of Tiger Kingdom as I do not wish to give them publicity in anyway or endorse them on my blog.
Camp Chang Kalim Elephant Trekking
After the experience with the Tigers I cant say I was looking forward to our already booked elephant trek through the jungle. Obviously it’s not very nice for an elephant to be carrying humans around on its back but it is a once in a lifetime experience, and as long as their are people willing to book it will still go on.
Luckily, this experience changed all of my thoughts of how Thai people treat animals from the Tiger place. The elephants were treated incredibly well, all had unlimited water and shade and plenty of bamboo to feed on.
Another great thing is that you could buy some bananas to feed your elephant for 100 bhat, and literally every tourist does this, so that means lots of bananas for the elephants. The tour was an hour long, and you are taken by a guide through the jungle, with lots of rest stops for the elephant and to feed them bananas.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and I have to admit there were a few incidents quite near the cliff face where it took a lot for me to put so much trust in the elephants walking skills.
Bangla Road, Walking Street
When people think of Thailand they often now think of the partying aspect than of the actual beautiful island itself. Patong is a very built up, touristy area and has a long ‘strip’ much like those in Malia and Magaluf, but obviously very different.
If you are going to venture to walking street for a drink, be prepared to keep your eyes open and watch out for the local drinks and the ice in them. Even the most seasoned drinker cam easily be knocked for 6 by some of the local brands of whisky, etc, and if you are going to have a drink with square ice in it (as opposed to tube shaped ice which is manufactured in the same place as the bottled water) that has been made with tap water, be prep[ared to spend the next day with either end of you in the toilet.
Some of the bars have tacky, obvious ploys to pull in tourists, but its all great fun, and the lady boys walk up and down the strip happily chatting and trying to get people to the infamous ping pong shows.
If you are a sociable person, or travelling alone, Bangla road is a great place to meet new people, with a mix of tourist from all over the world.
Although Patong beach itself was actually only a two minute walk away, we decided one day to venture a bit off the beaten track and go to Karon beach. It was still a bit built up, but not as much as Patong beach at all. If you are doing a few days in Patong I would recommend popping over to Karon for a day just to get a bit of peace. It’s the next bay down, and a tuk tuk should be no more than 750 bhat return if you barter properly.
There are a lot of people walking round selling on the beach, but you can either be savvy to it, like me, and say no thank you, or embrace it, like my friend, and spend £48 on a hammock you’ll never use.
Da Maurizio Restaurant
On our last night, we had a little treat and went to Da Maurizio Italian restaurant on the actual beach in Patong. It was a little bit different from Le Versace as it was right on the beach, so you could watch the sunset over the sea.
The views were absolutely amazing, I would definitely recommend getting here just before sunset and having a bottle of wine and some food while the sun goes down.
They have an incredibly good wine selection, and will bring your bottle round on a little table, in an ice bucket if it’s rose, white or sparkling, and pour it for you. Be warned, your glass will never be empty so its easy to have one too many while watching the relaxing views of Patong bay.
As for the food, i had the basic spaghetti in tomato sauce as I wasn’t chancing anything the day before a 12 hour flight (not that it mattered, i still ended up getting rid of my chicken sausage in the plan toilet during some turbulence).
It was well presented, and well cooked, and it was brilliant to find somewhere Italian that actually cooks the spaghetti PROPERLY Italian and doesn’t absolute over do it like most Brits do.
It WAS a bit on the pricey side for Thailand like Le Versace, but for the quality of the food and the views it was well worth paying the extra that you would f you just went to a local bar.
Again, if you grab a tuk tuk, it’s probably easier to say that you want ‘the Italian restaurant’ rather than the actual name.
So that’s another adventure under my belt, and for someone who is terrified of flying I am proud to say I stepped off of my 28th flight yesterday. Now I am back to concentrate on blogging and getting in shape for my next jaunt to Marbs in February.