I don’t know why it took us so long to finally visit Thailand, but I’m glad that we did and will take advantage of any opportunity I have to go back–there’s just so much to see, experience and taste!
Here’s a look at our 11-day itinerary to visiting Bangkok, Phuket (Panwa and Patong) and Koh Yao Yai.
We arrived in Bangkok late at night and had booked a relatively cheap, but clean hotel. We were heading out to Phuket the next morning and so we just needed a shower and a clean bed to sleep on. At 100 AED a night with breakfast and a 20-minute drive from Don Mueang Airport, D Varee Xpress Makkasan Hotel was a very convenient choice. The location was good for getting a taxi to Don Mueang International Airport early the next morning so that we could go straight to Phuket. So there wasn’t much we got to see in Bangkok then, but we did get to stay a few extra days towards the end of our trip.
We woke up at the butt-crack of dawn, had breakfast, checked out and headed towards Don Mueang Airport to catch our flight to Phuket via Air Asia. At the airport, we booked a day full of activities (the Monkey Temple, ATV, ziplining, river rafting, lunch, and take services for our entire stay at Phuket and an elephant ride) for about 180 USD for two. To be totally honest, the convenience of having a taxi driver waiting for you at each hotel and dropping you off the piers and whatnot is worth the investment alone.
We arrived in Patong and checked into our hotel. It was clean, cheap and the location was perfect for exploring the hustle and bustle of Patong–plus it was right underneath the night food market which is a win in its own right in my book any day! The Crib Patong checked all the boxes when it came to cleanliness, budget friendliness and good location. I mean, it’s not secret that food in Thailand is incredible, so the being right next to the night market, that night we had about 13 courses! I kid you not, I tried absolutely everything they had to offer–from grilled crocodile to whole shrimp to fried grasshoppers.
Our driver came to pick us up in the morning and to take us to our full day of activities. I’d recommend you do your research well when it comes to these things. Some travel agencies get commission based on your purchases and so will cut your actual activities short to take you to some random snake-fight arena so they can get commission on every ticket bought. When we got back to Patong, we headed out to the night market for some grub then hit the infamous red district for a walk into the unknown.
Breakfast. Beach. Massage. Taxi to paradise.
Up until this point, I really wasn’t too sure how I was feeling about Thailand in general. Once we headed for Panwa Beach, I knew I had fallen in love. I totally different vibe than anything in Patong, Panwa Beach is the quietest area with serene beaches–so serene, it feels like your own personal beach. We stayed at Dream Sea Pool Villa and I couldn’t recommend the estate more. If you’re looking for a pause from life, for a place where everything just stands still and is just so beautiful it leaves you speechless, in Phuket this is where you want to be. We got the room right next to the beach, with our own private pool. It was heaven. Pure, utter heaven. I couldn’t believe that just a 30 minute drive away from all the hustle and bustle of Patong, this serene setting existed.
We woke up to the crisp sea breeze, and went straight to breakfast. I spent three days in Panwa and my diet solely consisted of fresh coconut water, seafood and sunshine. I didn’t have to wear shoes for three whole days and never realised how liberating that feeling would be. We spent the day lounging around the pool and the beach. Took a few walks. And steps away from the hotel on the beach side, there are only 2 places in the entire area. Lucy’s massage and the little restaurant right next door. Her deep-fried bananas and lemongrass and ginger stuffed prawns were a killer! After your meal, you can go right next door and enjoy a Thai massage right on the beach. I got 4 in three days and fell asleep on the massage bed all four times.
Last day in Panwa and we spent it eating, getting more massages, kayaking and lounging around the pool. The hotel even arranged for a scrumptious romantic sunset dinner. Absolute bliss.
I was absolutely heartbroken to have to leave Dream Sea Pool Villas, but alas Koh Yao Yai awaited is and so did our driver. He drove us to Bang Rong pier about 20 minutes away from the hotel and we hopped right on to the tiny, but beautiful island of Koh Yao Yai a mere 30 minutes away from Phuket.
And then it happened. The moment I’d been waiting for my entire life, but didn’t know it. A predominantly Muslim village of fishermen this island is as beautiful as it gets. A handful of hotels inhabit and it’s villagers are kind, loving and simple people that welcome you with open arms.Our hotel, however, was exactly what I’d imagine heaven to look like. 5 months later, and my heart still hurts every time I think of Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort and Spa. It was like walking into a dream that you never want to end.
Once you’re on the island, the only things you really can do are discover the grounds of the hotel, or walk outside of the hotel and rent a motorbike and discover the small island. Within 30 minutes, you’re able to get from one side of the island to the other. We lounged around in our private hot tub and in the room the first day. Just thinking about Santhiya brings a lump to my throat.
We woke up early, went for yoga, had breakfast and then went to explore the island and have (a much cheaper option) lunch.
And then just like that, it was time to leave again. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t tear up. And I’m not going to pretend that we didn’t try to come up with ways to stay on the island forever. But Santhiya will always have a special place in our hearts and I’ll be back soon–I have to.
It was time to head back to Bangkok so we took Santhiya’s ferry straight to Ao Po Grand Marina where we were taken by shuttle bus to Don Maueng Airport. The whole ride took no more than an hour and a half. And then we were in Bangkok again–just like that, a total different world! We checked into our hotel Thee Bangkok Hotel on Sukumvit 20. The red light district, restaurants, markets–all within walking or tuk-tuk distance. Bangkok really is totally different from the islands and it can get to you at times. The plethora of homeless people, prostitution and children begging for money in the wee hours of the night is truly heartbreaking. It kills me to know that modern tourism has exploited their destitution. We arranged for a tour to the Floating Market the next morning.
Woke up again at the crack of dawn to go to the floating market. And boy, was that an experience in itself. I highly recommend it–it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before! Old Thai grammies pulling boats closer with her stick so you can buy her fresh coconuts! AMAZING!
You’ve got to try everything they serve you. Fresh coconut ice cream, deep fried bananas, sticky rice and mango–do not eat before going, because you have to pig out once you’re there.
We explored Bangkok some more and then checked out of the hotel and grabbed a cab to Suvarnabhumi Airport. Give yourself a good 1 and ten minutes to get there, Bangkok’s traffic is tricky.
And just like that our Thai trip was over. There’s only two other trips that I went through a travel withdrawal after–Thailand and Morocco. I can’t wait to go back to both!