Delightful Thai Beach Resorts This Winter – Phuket
On this trip through busy beach resorts Phuket, Ao Nang and Ko Lanta, one might think all beaches are same-same. Not so. Coming from Phuket to Ao Nang, Krabi province, the beaches at and around Ao Nang actually shock. Suddenly lost are the deckchair monocultures in military order, covering every square centimetre of beach real estate. Ao Nang beaches feel much more open, enjoyable and natural than most sandy strips on Phuket (except for the northernmost ones).
Then, coming from Phuket and Ao Nang to Ko Lanta, Krabi Province, Lanta beaches shock again. Suddenly lost are the speedboats, fun boats, banana boats, long tail boats, sailboats, dive boats. You can swim anywhere and not just in fenced-off splashing ghettos, and it is much more quiet. Actually, around sunset time even on Lanta’s busy Ao Phra Ae (Long Beach), away from an easily avoidable beach bar strip, you can hear a casuarina needle fall. Thus, Lanta beaches feel much more enjoyable and natural than sandy strips at and around Ao Nang.
Coming from Phuket and Ao Nang to Ko Lanta, more shocks await: Prices suddenly tend to be reasonable, and people friendly. Heard of those Thai smiles? On Lanta they still grow.
But clever me, had to go Phuket first.
— PHUKET, PATONG BEACH —
I sit on a floor mat on the pavement and eat som tam, sticky rice and grilled chicken, together with drinking water and coke. My view goes over water, shoreline and an impressive sunset sky. Sounds like this is the Mekong riverside in Nongkhai or Nakhon Phanom, or maybe Khon Kaen's park around Khaen Nakhon lake. But my Isaan style dining takes place on one of the most expensive and farangized places on expensive and farangized Phuket.
My som tam dinner takes place in the little park on the northern end of the Patong tourist strip. I enjoy a perfect sunset view over the crescent of Patong Bay. The som tam is delicious, by request it contains chilli only in edible quantity. It's not at all the worst dinner I ever had in Thailand.
The talk with the som tam lady is in Thai and Lao only. I understand I have to pay "150 baht", so I hand her 150 baht. "Mai chai, neung loi", she laughs and gives 50 back to me.
— PHUKET, KATA NOI, PHUKET TOWN —
The Seashore Beach Cottages charge 4000 baht per night for a mediocre bungalow plus reasonable breakfast. But when I need drinking water together with my breakfast, it is declined: "No have, sir." No have drinking water? In Thailand?
A stall at Phuket Town's night market charges 30 baht for a hearty dinner with rice, veggies and meat. Free iced drinking water is supplied ad infinitum. So Thailand.
— PHUKET, BETWEEN PATONG AND KARON —
At 11 p.m., a policeman stops me on my rental motosai. He soon finds out that I don't carry a driving license. He writes a ticket for 300 baht, which I have to pay back at the police station in Patong.
"I am so tired, sir, can I pay here and now", I ask? "Maybe I don't find the police station in the black night". In Chiang Mai it had been possible to pay the police right on the spot, and straight into their private pocket.
He gives me a weird look. "Can pay here", I ask again? – "No, you go police station", he says with another weird look. On the other side of the street, a dozen Thais on motosais have been stopped by other police, too.
Unfortunately, my policeman can't be paid on the spot. I walk away towards where the police station might be. – "Your motosai, sir", bellows my police man. I had fully expected he keeps the motorcycle in custody.
In Chiang Mai, if you don't pay on the spot, they lock your vehicle until you come back with a stamped receipt. Here, he gestures me to drive to the police station with the machine. So there I am, back on the road and on my vehicle. Now could I throw away the ticket and drive anywhere I want? But I will have to pass this police checkpoint later, because I don't know any other way home to my bungalow.
The policeman had drawn a map on the back of the fine notice, but it is absolutely useless in my efforts to find the Patong police station. Five times I have to ask Thais for the "Police Station". They are never happy about my question, it surely brings bad luck. Finally in a very dark side road I reach the brightly lit and busy police station. I pay, get a stamp and drive back. The police post on the road to Karon is deserted now. So could I have ignored the ticket? <Yep, you sure could've! – Stick>
Next day on Laem Singh beach, a massage lady confirms that police on Phuket can't be paid off on the spot. "They control each other", she claims.
— PHUKET, KATA NOI BEACH —
What’s chai dee?
If you plant a paper maché greeting lady into the scorching sun and give her an umbrella to fend off UV.
One snack stall on Kata Noi beach plays Luuk Thung music and has several paper figures advertising TMB bank. Every paper figure is protected by a functional umbrella. Sure won’t develop that ordinary peasants’ tan.
— PHUKET, KHAI ISLANDS BOAT TRIP —
This regular speed boat daytrip to the Khai islands had cost 1500 baht. First port of call is tiny sandy Khai Nui island. “Follow me to my station”, says the boatman. We waddle over hot sand under a hot sun through shadowless area to his “station”. This is a table surrounded by pairs of deckchairs with umbrellas. “On this island we stay one hour”, says the boatman, “in this time, you can rent two chairs with umbrella for 150 baht.”
All the rich tourists pay without even a shrug. The pleasure of Phuket’s high season.
Later, on Khai Nai, the price sinks to 100 baht – and that a for generous two hours usage.
— PHUKET, KATA YAI BEACH, NORTHERN END —
At sunset hour I stroll around the northern end of Kata Yai's beach. Actually, I look for some thing I could abuse as a tripod for my camera. And see, there stick some huge bamboo poles in the sand, the upper end looks like a perfect stand for my snapmachine. Funny, these upper ends are covered with thin plastic.
I walk close and put my camera on one post. Hectically a young Thai man rushes by: "Don't do that, sir, don't do it!" My god, this is Phuket, you can't even place your cam on a piece of beach wood.
"Why can't I place my camera here?"
"Sir, here we prepared a firework. It will go off around eight p.m., shooting straight out of these tubes. DO NOT place your camera on top."
And guess where I am at eight p.m.
I lie in a deckchair on black and warm Kata Yai beach. Just ten meters away from me, the battery of bamboo tubes fires off in madness. A tremendous star rain seems to directly drown me. Seeing the spectacular light show rushing down onto me, it feels as if *I* get sucked into the sky.
— PHUKET, KATA YAI BEACH, SOUTHERN END —
After the firework, still with some black patches on my arms, I stroll down the beach towards the southern end. Really, what can you do on Kata in the night? From the massive and dull Kata Beach Resort comes soapy dinner music. The dinner band manages to sing Peter, Paul and Mary tunes even soapier than the original artists did.
I climb up the stair next to Kata Beach Resort, go away from the beach. Still I hesitate to enter the busy, but completely bland beach road.
When I hear funky funky music. And see, there is this little pub there in the shadow. It is just a barn, actually. Inside the place is completely painted white – bar, chairs, walls, ceiling. You take off your shoes and walk inside – on soft blonde sand! Now that's a cool feeling, a funky bar with people who look interesting by Kata standards, your feet in the sand, but your hand around a cocktail on a slick white bar, and then this cool, groovy music, even with brass. It's live! It's a band from Bangkok, tells me the bartender as he prepares my first Caipirinha. When they request the audience to request songs, I go ahead with Marvin Gaye's "Heard it through the grapevine", which seems to fit exactly into their repertoire. They regret they don't have it on their list, but play another Marvin Gaye song for me.
I admit I did not check out music places around Phuket town. There must be something. What I did see were two semi-open-air Thai rock pubs with the ubiquitous wooden multi-level layout. They are on the first hill on your way from Patong to Kata, almost opposite each other. I checked around 11.30 p.m. when the music was rather boring and the audience rather small. I never managed a second stopover.
Better for me was what a waitress recommended as the "Blue Eleven". She said at the inland end of Patong's Bangla Road one could take a motorcycle taxi for 20 baht to "Blue Eleven". The first taxi driver insists it should be 50 baht, but the second accepts my price – and the wording. "Blue Eleven" is actually called "Blue Elephant", even though I doubt it has something to do with the expensive Thai restaurant chain and their outlet on Bangkok's South Sathorn Road. Here it is a rather dim, low-ceiling low-key pub with no open air at all on northern Racha Athit road. But the live band does a very decent job with Thai rock from I-Nam, Sek Lohso and others.
— PHUKET, NAI THON BEACH —
I get my soda manao from a male, but very effeminate Thai waiter. Hair and dress like a guy, but walk and talk like a crazed disco girlie.
"Khop khun KHAAAAAA", raves he.
— PHUKET, NORTHERN BEACHES —
At Bang Thao beach, a waitress welcomes me with a wai and a smile. When I pay, I get another wai and smile. I feel like in Thailand. Elated.
At Nai Yang beach, I have a sunset dinner in the sand. The Thai owner lady goes around with her baby, to practice waiing with mixed Asian and western customers. She has a gentle smile, the food is good and reasonably priced, a relaxed unpushy place.
Is this still Phuket? You might feel like you're in Thailand.
The pictures really make this submission – beautiful photographs!