First and foremost, let me answer the most asked question I got while I was gone, “Who are you with?”
I went with a girl I didn’t even know. I can now say I went with my friend, Anica. Her family owns my favorite restaurant in Evansville where my dads goes for lunch a couple times a week and I try to make it in once a week for my fix. Annica was telling my dad how she was going to Thailand and none of her friends could/wanted to go and my dad, being the person he is, told her, “well Sarah can go.” and it’s all history. The conversation between Annica and my dad took place 3 weeks before she left, I went into the restaurant a week later, told her I was serious I would love to go, we texted back and forth for two days and I booked my plane ticket.. 2 weeks before the trip. I didn’t even know her last name, how old she was, where she went to high school. NOTHING.
I told myself after I got back from Europe last summer I didn’t want to travel back to Europe until I went to Asia. I’ve been dying to go for years and didn’t think I’d be going so soon. It’s crazy how BSing with one person turned into one of the most amazing opportunities I’ve ever experienced + I gained a lifelong friend out of the deal.
Massive shout out to my dad for this one.
Without a doubt this was the best vacation I’ve ever been on… besides the food poisoning I got on the 13-hour flight home 🙂 but I’d endure the food poisoning again if I had to!
Make yourself an iced coffee and get comfy, I’m breaking down the best place to stay, when to visit, if you need a visa, what the money situation looks like and so much more!
What to know before you go
Visa & Currency
To enter Thailand, no visa is required, a 30-day visa is issued for Americans. All you need is a valid passport!
As of May 2018, 1 USD equals 32.10 THB. Note that most hotels won’t exchange creased or marked bills as well as any bills any older than 2006.
When To Go
Rainy Season starts anywhere from May-July and ends in October.
After talking to the locals, it seems the best time to visit Thailand is from mid-November to the end of March.
April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand. Go figure that’s when we went. The average temp was about 95°F with 1,000,000% humidity. No that was not a typo. Your girl grew up in Southern Indiana where an average summer day is 95°F and 85% humidity then proceeded to go to college in Mississippi where an average summer day is 100°F and 90% humidity and when I say I will never complain about heat or humidity ever again in my entire life. I WILL. NOT.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Diamond Cliff Resort & Spa in Patong Beach.
This Resort was just recently renovated, the room was stunning, views were fantastic, spa experience was an A+, and the on property restaurants were very good and for a resort, priced pretty reasonably.
It was less than a 5-minute walk to Patong Beach. Along the beach there are loads of restaurants, and it’s about 20/30 minute walk, depending on how fast you walk, to shopping and nightlife.
We really couldn’t have picked a better location, and my friend was talking to someone on her ride from the airport to the hotel who said he’s been coming to Phuket for 15 years and has stayed all over the island and always comes back to Diamond Cliff, so I’d say we made the right choice.
What to Eat
Pad Thai: no this is not an Americanized “Thai food.” Yes, it does taste different in Thailand than the pad thai at your neighborhood Thai Restaurant and by that I mean it is 1,000,000x.
My go-to hangover food will never be the same ever again.
3 Spices: Our first meal in Thailand and our last. We came upon this gem on our first night in Phuket. We were walking to find dinner and couldn’t decide on anything mostly because you would walk up to a menu and people would start hounding you to eat there, and if I’m honest, all that does is make me not want to eat at your establishment. I feel like both of us spotted this place from across the street and decided to stay because honestly, it was so aesthetically pleasing and holy hell the FOOD YOU GUYS WAS SO GOOD. So good we couldn’t stop talking about it or thinking about it for 10 days. If you make it to Phuket, head to Patong Beach and stop here. Do yourself a favor and order one of everything on the menu.
Tom Kha Gai: I’d call this chicken soup on crack. We craved this every single day & we tried one from every restaurant we went to.
Found a recipe and need to make my own ASAP because I cannot stop thinking about it.
Malin Plaza Food Market: Go here for dinner one night or two! Everything is so cheap, and you can try so many different dishes all made fresh to order (:
Find the stand where they make spring rolls, pre-fry them take them out of the fryer cut them into pieces and FRY THEM AGAIN. All the rice noodles inside the spring roll get all crispy and outrageous. I will never eat a spring roll the same ever again.
Eat copious amounts of Coconut Ice Cream from any of the booths it’s all good (yes I tried them all) Don’t even try to tell me you don’t like coconut because I will never be able to look at you the same again.
After you’re done stuffing your face grab some fresh fruit to take home with you for breakfast in the AM. My fav fruit to eat in the AM was mangosteen. When you’re in Thailand eating it, pls think of me.
Old Town: The historical part of Phuket City surrounded by colorful building, temples, printing shops, and cafes. You can really get a feel for how the locals live in Phuket. It also kind of felt like I was in New Orleans or some small beach town in Europe with all the colorful buildings & coffee shops everywhere.
Patong Beach: Here is where you will find all the nightlife, beach clubs and soak up some sunshine during the day.
Phuket Big Buddha: 360° views of the whole island. Dress conservatively. something covering your shoulders and if your wearing a dress or skirt make sure the length is close to your knee. Don’t fret if you don’t have anything “conservative” you can pick up a shawl and wrap skirt for no charge if you forgot or just didn’t bring a longer dress ect.
Similan Islands with WOW Andaman: Similan means 9, so the Similan Islands consist of 9 islands. However, you don’t go to all nine. This is a National Park, so some of the islands aren’t open to tourist. You’re taken to 5 different islands, breakfast and lunch are included, we stopped at 3 different coral reefs to snorkel. I’ve never seen such crystal clear blue water.
Elephant Sanctuary with Sealand Camp: This sanctuary is about 2 hours inland from Phuket. If you get car sick easily, Dramamine is necessary. We got to cut leaves off of banana trees to feed the elephants and cooked sticky rice and wrapped the banana leaves around the rice.
Let me be brutally honest. I hated this… It was so sad to see these beautiful creatures held and made to put on a show every day for tourists. Now, it is common for families to own elephants in Thailand, but this was just really hard for me.
Note that if you do go to a sanctuary or an excursion to see elephants DO NOT go to one where you can ride them. This is so inhumane, and the elephants are treated terribly.
Although I personally didn’t enjoy this, I would still do it all over again. It was a great experience, just not my cup of tea.
Phi Phi Islands: 6 islands best know by Phi Phi Don & Phi Phi Lah. Phi Phi Lah is best known for Maya Bay, the location of Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Beach. As beautiful as these Islands are you can only imagine how packed these islands are with tourist. So packed with tourists that the Thai Government has started to close some of the 6 islands to preserve and protect them. Word on the street is the Thai Government is going to completely close all Phi Phi Islands by the end of 2018.
John Gray’s Sea Cave Explorer: If you’re in Phuket and can only choose one excursion to go on, go with John Gray’s Sea Cave Explorer. Best over all experience, your own personal guide to take you through all of the caves in a kayak. Our guide was so knowledgeable and able to answer any and all of our questions. By far best food out of any excursion and could tend to any of your dietary needs (holla at ya gluten-free girl.)
The most magical moment of this excursion and frankly the whole trip was catching a glimpse of the bioluminescent plankton that fills the Andaman Sea. The microscopic plankton flair brightly when disturbed and can only be seen in the middle of the night. A chemical reaction like the one seen in fireflies is what makes the plankton glow. Many unpredictable environmental factors have to take place for the plankton to be seen, so I was extremely lucky to see such a sight.
Image by diveprice.com