Trip Report Isaan, Phuket, Amazing Thailand
Here’s my trip report. I was in Thailand in May 2010 for three weeks, including very few nights in Bangkok, 5 family days in Surin, and more than two weeks of relaxation and diving in Kata, Phuket. The report contains some pictures, recommendations,
and ramblings. I hope you enjoy it.
I left THE boredom of Farangland on April 30, 2010, meeting my Thai wife in Bangkok. She arrived one month earlier than me to visit her family and spent some good times with them. My only requirement was that she’d take care of the
family’s loans once and for all. This being handled the Thai way, she obviously didn’t exactly know how much that was, and neither could the family find out, since they would have to talk to the loan sharks, which apparently never
crossed their mind. TIT. Eventually, we estimated that the equivalent to around USD6500 should be enough for her to enjoy herself, making some trips with the family, buying some toys for her son and taking care of the family loans. Basically,
having a great time there without me. Also, there should be some money left to put some windows in the house that we slowly build for the parents when there’s some excess cash available, which is rare, since the interest on those shark
loans require rather large monthly stipends from me.
Unfortunately, her grandmother passed away just the morning before my wife boarded the plane to Thailand, therefore my wife’s first three weeks back with the family in Isaan were spent organizing the burial ceremony for grandma, rather
than taking care of the loans. Grandma’s ashes are together with grandpa’s now (who died around 15 years ago) in a kind of a special shrine (didn’t want to take and post a picture out of respect). The beautiful shrine has
the best spot in that temple (cost quite a lot), near the door to the ceremony hall where a cousin monk holds his ceremonies which are now held like 3 meters away from grandma. Chok dee! Apparently, there was quite a party where many
people came, eat and drank, showed their respect to grandma, brought some red envelopes. Though we learned over the bush telephone that some of the visitors afterwards bitched about not getting enough food or whatever and therefore my wifey’s
family was kee neow (stingy). Apparently, the need for gossip is greater than the need to pay respect in rural Thai areas. I will never understand some Thais and their “Buddhism when it serves myself or my family” attitude.
Gladly, my wife prays not only for her own well being and good luck, but also for her family and my farang family as well. Even though I am an atheist, I appreciate her effort a lot and thank her for being so considerate towards my family.
Well, taking care of the great burial ceremony, shrine, etc. already cost around USD3000, leaving less cash for enjoying the time with the family, and three of the four weeks were over without taking care of the loans, even though that was
the most important part in my opinion, for the family’s future. TIT.
When I eventually arrived in Bangers from Farangland on May 1, my wife was extremely happy to see me (well, the feeling was mutual 😉 ). We just spent one night in Bangkok before proceeding to Isaan for a five days visit of the family. We
stayed at the Citadines Soi 8, which I found to be very nice, rather new, clean and good value for money (considering the location). The evening, we went to Nana Plaza (a ‘must’ whenever I visit in Bangkok) and to Spice club. my
wife and me really love that place – you know, the one in the parking lot of the Ambassador Hotel. This place is really the shit! The bands that sing there, oh my god! So much power, such a good show, such a good time had! Nothing in Farangland
compares to that (at least for that small price).
The next day we took the train to Surin, leaving Bangkok around lunchtime. This ride really sucked, since it was 8 hours long and I was out of reading material after around 2 hours. My advice: always take the “Sprinter” to go
to Surin which takes usually around 4-6 hours, not sure about the exactness of the official timetable. The price difference is negligible.
We had a really good time in her home village, a small village near Surin (if you have seen one, you’ve seen them all, as I always joke). I was happy with what they have done with the previous two-floor wooden shack (the top floor
is still there, but nobody uses it since the roof is leaking when it’s raining).
Whatever many readers may think on staying in the rural parts, I actually always like my time there. It’s pure relaxation for me. Hanging around, smiling at everybody all the time, I feel at peace there. Except when, because ATM is visiting, we
have to buy a new shovel that is not fucking needed for crying out loud! 🙂 Usually, I get my way. But I try to be as ‘nam jai’ (generous) as possible to my wife and to her family, within my own possibilities. But
there are limits, monetary and psychological, but my wife knows how I want things be handled, especially (but not only) regarding hard earned cash.
After 5 days we took the train back to Bangkok. Since now we booked the sprinter (3 cars all of which are powered by their own engine as far as I can tell), we left at 8pm. At around 11pm and still around 100km away from Bangkok, the train
stopped at some train station and wouldn’t move anymore. Apparently, the car in front was broken. So we had to wait for around 2 hours until a replacement arrived from another city. This obviously sucked in a way, since there was nearly
no information given as to how they proceed, what, when etc… TIT. But it was a nice change to be outside the train and enjoy the warm evening, even though it was just next the train itself. Smokers will be able to relate. 😉
Eventually we arrived Bangkok at around 3am, and because it was too late to book a hotel just for a shower and 3 hours sleep, we slept over at a cousin’s of my wife in Soi 31. Really helpful people these Thais sometimes! Nothing was
expected in return, we could shower, eat, drink, sleep and after four hours we had to leave again to meet my farang friend at Suwarnabhumi heading for Phuket.
My wife and I know someone who has traveled to Phuket for many years, hence many things were already arranged for a relatively good fare by our acquaintance's Thai wife based in Farangland. We stayed in the Kata View Guesthouse, which
is normally 1200/night, but it was “only” 800/night since our acquaintance knows the owner; I can highly recommend this hotel, it’s clean and not in the center, super friendly staff and owner. The airport transfer was 800baht,
usually probably around 1000, and the motosai rented in the hotel was usually 250/day, we paid 180. I never ever used the so called tuktuks in Phuket with their blasting stereos. And as far as I heard, prices are ridiculously high anyway.
Generally, transport and (tourist?) food don’t come cheap. A car with driver at our hotel cost 800 baht to go from Kata to Patong and back (a 10 minutes ride), which I still find a lot, but he would wait for us in Patong as long as
we wanted to stay, which was great though. We could’ve taken the motosai, but that would be a 15-20 minutes ride, and we wanted to enjoy alcohol. Don’t drink & drive!
Drinks are quite expensive compared with other parts of Thailand. But not so expensive that it hurt. I’d say upper limit.
I really wouldn’t want to pay 180 Baht for his tail! On the other hand, a male escort would probably be more expensive. Or was this just the cook’s barfine?
Generally, I would estimate that all dishes that we enjoyed were around 300baht/person on average. I find this quite expensive, looking at prices in Bangers or Isaan or other places in Thailand. Well, Phuket is 100% a tourist place, so prices are naturally
higher. Food was generally super delicious, which was a pleasant surprise – in contradiction to what you find in some roadside places in Isaan for example. Really to EVERY restaurant we went, we weren’t disappointed. Two thumbs up!
By the way, we eat this lobster at the Karon beachside restaurants just on the right side when coming the steep part of the street down the hill from Kata. We ate there many times, it’s really great food. This lobster was freshly delivered and
was priced according to its weight.
Once we ordered some spring rolls as starter. We were quite relieved to see that they wouldn’t take off the plate when delivered to our table!
I am not sure that many customers will order this, but who knows maybe he’s good value for money:
Me and my farang friend went diving. We found the dive operator “Dive Asia” somewhere in Kata and they were really professional and had standard prices for Phuket. We didn’t know them beforehand, but I can only recommend this team,
everything was very well organized and food on the boats was very good (you always make day trips on the boats, because the dive sites around Phuket are not very close to the beach). When returning to Charon harbour in the eve, you feel very happy
about your dive trip when you get such a sunset:
Since May is the beginning of the low season and rain season in Phuket, the visibility was not that great below the surface (read: 15m), but good enough nevertheless to enjoy all dives and be amazed by the fish and corals you’d find there. However,
you couldn’t dive towards Similan Islands (west), since the sea was getting too rough, and you don’t want to puke before diving. So all of our dives were around the south or southeast of Phuket. Standard stuff: Phi Phi Le, Raja Yai,
Raja Noi, Shark Point (no sharks though) and so on. Great diving, it was maybe not the Maldives, but in my opinion nicer and better organized than Egypt, plus you have the advantages of Thai evening entertainment and good food.
This was one of the small islands in the middle of nowhere that we dived around.
Interested first-time divers, you don’t need to worry yourself where you’re going to dive, Dive Asia (or any other serious operator for that matter) will have all standard dive sites in their repertoire; so you simply hop in the boat, enjoy
your time. If I were to go to Kata again, I’d immediately choose this dive operator again.
Yes, May is really low season in Phuket. The bars in Kata were nearly empty (Patong was a better though), so evening entertainment is a bit, hmmm, weak I’d say. If you want more action, go to Patong. Or be ready to pay a driver to
Patong or something. We were there only twice, once the daytime and once in the evening.
We were all having a good time that one evening in Patong; we joined a friend of wifey’s and her husband and friend, who all stayed in Phuket at the time. So the six of us were in a really good mood and followed a tout on the street
to some gogo bar in a side street of the upper area of Soi Bangla. After sitting down, the three dancers on stage immediately started to completely take off their clothes (my goal was achieved – “See titties in a bar in Patong, Check!”).
Service wanted to take orders, and mentioned that the first drink is 500 Baht. I said WTF, we’re outta here. TIT (or should I say TITL – This Is Thai Logic: overcharging when customers are already very scarce in low season). After
being chased by the tout constantly lowering the price and begging us to come back (last offer was 200 Baht, mind you LOL), he eventually gave up when we entered a small side street bar venue towards the beach to the right. Don’t know the
name, but we had an extremely good time there, as there were enough sexy ladies to look at but not too many customers for it to be cramped. Good times were had, and we were happy. Or as some smart Thai owner of a restaurant put it:
Yeah yeah, and spellings you can’ts, especially heres… I promise!
Funnily enough, this photo was taken on a sightseeing daytrip when we book a driver again. In my opinion Phuket really has only a few things to offer in terms of sightseeing, compared with other places in Thailand. There are a few temples,
the amazing marble Buddha on the mountain behind Karon, and a few places that in your country wouldn’t count as “sightseeing”, such as a few viewpoints on top of some cliffs, and where this photo was taken: a park (read: “5
minute walk from car park through jungle to waterfall, which did nearly not carry any water, but paying 240 Baht per person for it”) and some other “sightseeings”. To put it bluntly: Except for the marble Buddha, the Charon
Temple and a few beers in a cliffside restaurant, sightseeing in Phuket is utter crap, in my opinion.
After two weeks in Kata, returning to Bangers, where we had to endure one night in a hotel with the curfew in place, we drove to the airport after 3 weeks in Thailand. I gave the old taxi driver a 1000 Baht note and told him it is a gift
for him and his family. He appreciated it a lot, and I felt very good that I could make one man and maybe his wife happy. Tamboon Sabai Dee (probably not perfect Thai – I am still learning).
We really had a great time in Kata. I can recommend the Kata View Guest House and the Dive Asia dive shop. If you want to sightseeing, don’t go to Phuket. If you go there in May and want a lot of evening entertainment, stay in Patong.
If you like a bit more quite ambiance, stay in Karon or even better, Kata.
Last but not least, “cenerally, the winner takes it all!”
Nice report. With that said, Phuket has been off my radar for a while now. It's one place I reckon has been pretty much ruined – too much tourism related stuff and prices that are just ridiculous for Thailand.