A Very Phuket New Year

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, I’m going to clear one thing up–because I know we’re all a little juvenile now and then (right, Trent?). So, for all y’all English speakers of the world (which is probably the majority of the people visiting this site because, well, it’s entirely composed of a words and phrases constructed with the use of the English language), “Ph” does not make the same sound in Thai as it does in English. English speakers know “Ph” to make a sound equivalent to the English “F.” In Thai, this is not the case. In Thai, “Ph” is pronounced as we would pronounce a stand-alone “P.” So, although I’m quite sure some of you have read “Phuket”  with the English understanding that “Ph” = “F” and stifled a giggle, the Thai (and correct) pronunciation sounds like this: “POO-ket”

Let’s all say that together, now: POO-ket

Okay? Okay!

Now that that’s all sorted out, let’s get on with it.

— — — —

My New Years plans were up in the air for a while. I went from “Maybe Bangkok?” to “Ugh, I love me some Bangkok but I go there all the time. Maybe Chiang Mai.” to “Okay, I love Chiang Mai to pieces but I really want to go some place new and haven’t been down South yet…” and because a group of my friends were already planning to go to Phuket, “Oh, hey, beaching on New Years doesn’t sound half bad…I think I’ll book my ticket!” is what eventually happened.

Phuket, located in the South of Thailand, is the largest island in Thailand and the only island that is also its own province. It’s a major tourist area in Thailand so, quite, frankly, Phuket doesn’t feel much like the Thailand I’ve grown used to at all. It’s incredibly westernized and very expensive. That said, it’s also incredibly beautiful and I’m so glad I was able to experience it over New Years with good friends.

My New Years weekend started on Wednesday, the day before New Years Eve. After a day-long New Years celebration at school, I went home, packed up, and went to catch a van to Bangkok. I arrived at my friend Mo’s apartment and was unexpectedly greeted by a group of TESOL friends whom I hadn’t seen since we all left Chiang Mai at the end of October. They had all come to Bangkok for New Years. After spending the evening with them, the group of us that were going to Phuket in the morning went to bed–only to get up at 4 am for our 6:35 am flight.

Travel was painless and after the flight, we took a one hour van ride to Villarel Heights, our delightful and homey accommodation on the island (So, I’m not one for explicitly advertising on my blog as that is really not what this blog is about, but the owners were so kind and so helpful and truly made our Phuket experience all the more memorable. In conversation with them one day, my blog was brought up and they asked me to write a review for them–I told them I don’t really do reviews on my blog, but that I’d give them a very positive shout out in my Phuket post. Seriously. Villarel Heights was a bit more pricey than your average Joe hostel or hotel, but it was SOO worth it…and I also give a shout out to my friend Nina for finding the place).

From the hotel, we went to Kata Beach–and lied on said beach ALL DAY. That was New Years Even in a nutshell. Basking in the sun until I was too hot to function and then going for a dip in the ocean to cool down. It was incredible and sooo relaxing.

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So much happy on New Years Eve

So…this is the part where you may question my age and wonder if I am actually a tired old lady instead of a sprightly young woman of twenty-two. After beaching all day (I tell you, lying in the sun all day is actually exhausting), we got some food, relaxed for a few hours, and then talk commenced regarding what we should do for New Years festivities. Eventually, the group decided to head over to Patong Beach–one of the most touristy areas of Phuket–and brave what they knew would be an incredible crowd, for an incredible New Years to remember. Well, let me tell you–I was just not having that. I was exhausted and crabby from being up early for our 4 am flight and spending so much time in the sun and really just already having an incredibly full day–so while my friends were getting ready for a New Years night on the town, I decided to get ready for bed instead…and I was in bed by 10:00. I know my body and I knew I wouldn’t have had fun out among so any people with my exhausted, anti-social mood–so I do not regret my decision at all. My friends had an incredible night celebrating New Years in Phuket–and I had an incredible night of much needed sleep. I did wake up shortly before midnight at the sound of fireworks–so I was awake to ring in 2016. I watched some fireworks and lanterns being released from the hotel window and promptly went back to bed. #noregrets

And the best part of all this? I was awake and ready for an adventure of a lifetime the next day. We were all up early the next morning–some of us a little hungover. Most of my friends decided to go on a day trip to Koh Phi Phi, a popular island complex near Phuket. My friend Sarah and I decided to take another adventure, though–together, the two of us went on a speedboat tour of Phang Nga Bay, a gorgeous area with beautiful rock formations and so many islands all around us. Our trusty friends at Villarel Heights organized everything for us, so we just had to get up in the morning and wait for a van to take us to the boat launch–which was about an hour away from our our hotel.

The speed boat was a little bumpy and it felt like a roller coaster ride at times and I did get a little bumped and bruised because when I said a little bumpy, I actually meant a lot bumpy, but it was an incredible day…a New Years Day that I’ll remember for the rest of my days.

Early on in the tour, Sarah and I spent some time standing up at the back of boat taking in the beautiful scenery all around us and snapping some selfies in paradise:

 

Our stops along the journey included a cave called Ice Cream (really, it’s called Ice Cream Cave); James Bond Island, which is famous for its appearance in the 1974 James Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun (which I actually haven’t seen, but it’s still an incredible land formation); a floating Muslim village, where we stopped for lunch (and which I really wasn’t a fan of–it felt way too overly touristy and incredibly invasive, as this is a residential place where people live that was clearly taken over for tourist purposes); and a beautiful beach (where I got a piña colada in a coconut, which was DIVINE). The highlight of the trip by far, though, (and I’m quite certain Sarah will agree with me on this) was the time we spent kayaking among some of the rocks and land formations. We got out of the speedboat into smaller boats and were brought around the rocks and formations and into caves. The caves are only accessible during low tide and it was pretty amazing to think that in a few short hours, the place that I was viewing would be covered in water.  Sarah and I were afraid of getting our phones wet, so we didn’t bring them–and hence, have no pictures of our experience–but it was all the more enriching. Because we didn’t have our phones, we were able to jump in the water on a few occasions and revel in the beauty of the world around us. Photos make wonderful memories, but sometimes we get so caught up in capturing the world from behind the camera that we forget to live in the moment. Sarah and I really felt that we were living in the moment and making the most of our experience sans phones, and it was incredible. I also got plenty of other photos throughout the rest of the day to document my experience:

After a long day of adventuring, we had a chill night on New Years Day; the next day, Saturday, was spent beaching again, this time at Nai Harn beach–a bit of an expensive taxi ride from our hotel, but it was so worth it as it is an absolutely gorgeous area.

Nai Harn Beach--this picture really doesn't do the experience justice.
Nai Harn Beach–this picture really doesn’t do the experience justice.

After  FULL day at Nai Harn, we headed back to the hotel and got ready to go out for dinner near Patong Beach. We had plans to meet one of our TESOL friends, who was also staying on Phuket. From dinner at a delicious Indian Restaurant, we wandered over to Bangla Road, notorious for the hard core party scene in Phuket. Everyone else had already been there on New Years Eve, but I wanted to see it because, well, when in Phuket…We were just going to wander through the road and then leave, but we decided to stay for a little bit longer and went to a bar where covers of American and Chinese pop songs were being sung for the majority of the night.

The next day, we packed up our things and headed for the airport. What a fabulous weekend we had in Phuket, but I was so glad to be back in Bangkok when I arrived. It is only when I found myself back at Victory Monument, ready to hop back into a van back to my town, when I realized how much Thailand has started to feel like home in the last few months. Phuket was wonderful–but it felt so good to be home.

— — — —

The bottom line? Phuket is beautiful, but be prepared to spend a lot while there. It’s not easy to get around Phuket without the use of overpriced taxis, and everything from food to sunscreen to…well, everything–is more expensive because it is a prime tourist location.

I preferred the quality of the beaches in Koh Samet–not only were the quieter, but there was something about Koh Samet that I can’t really put my finger on that was so magical…something that I didn’t find in Phuket. That said, the views and the land formations in Phuket are truly memorable and worth seeing. If you prefer to explore off the beaten, touristy path, Phuket probably isn’t for you. That said, I had a truly memorable New Years with good friends on Phuket and can’t imagine ringing in 2016 anywhere else.

 

18 thoughts on “A Very Phuket New Year

  1. This sounds like quite an adventure! I have never heard of any of the places you mentioned but they looked incredible. I would have opted for the quiet night too. I know what you mean about reaching your limit. Smart move. Thanks for sharing your experience. It was certainly different from mine here in NJ!

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  2. Just because I get a little juvenile once about the name I get marked for life 😉 I spent New Years on the beach and kayaked New Years Day too! Of course it was very, very cold on Cape Cod and I walked on the beach, not sunned myself. Also it wasn’t even half as gorgeous. Those little, steep islands are beautiful. I understand why the area is so popular with the tourists. Being in the sun all day is draining, but it is great for recharging, as is sleeping instead of partying all night 😉 What a great way to ring in the New Year! I’m sure you felt refreshed when you returned to school.

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    1. You make it sound so negative! I didn’t say there was anything wrong with being juvenile. 😉 Sounds like you had a wonderful New Years, also. Oh, I’m sure Cape Cod is beautiful! I’ve never been, but I’d like to go someday. Thailand is gorgeous, but the U.S. certainly has beauty of its own. I definitely needed the sleep and don’t regret it. Don’t mind going out to party now and then, but New Years Eve was NOT that night for me. I felt so refreshed when I returned to school and so ready and eager to start start out 2016 positively.

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      1. No, you didn’t say there was anything wrong with being juvenile 😉 Cape Cod is very pretty, but it is a gentle beauty. Of course being there during a storm is anything but gentle, and the winter winds do whip pretty hard. The winter is great, but even walking on the beach can be hard when it is well below freezing and the wind is strong. If you ever make it to the East Coast when you are back, we do have a spare room in the cottage on the Cape so you have a place to stay.

        There are some very gorgeous places in the US and every place has its own beauty. We are such a big country that the variety is astounding. Still, the beaches in Thailand look like a slice of paradise. I’m not sure if I told you, but all of the females in my family did a “girl’s night out” to Thailand. My mom treated them all to a vacation. They didn’t hit the beaches, but did visit a big part of the country, spending more time in temples and ruins than anything. It all looks and sounds great. I want to go there someday.

        I’m glad you started 2016 with a positive attitude.

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  3. Brings back memories! I have the very same picture of that cave… didn’t know it was called ice cream cave. hehe. Maybe because those stalactites look like ice cream cones? And I agree with you about that Muslim village being very touristy. We explored deeper into the village and saw most of the homes had souvenir shops in front. I love the long tail boats, makes for a good photo op. Looked like we took the same speed boat tour to Phang Nga Bay. I wished we had more beach time though. Did you go to Big Buddha?

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    1. Haha, yes, they told us on our tour the name of it. Yes, we went farther into the village–mostly because our tour guide encouraged us to see the school–and I have to say, I felt very uncomfortable during the whole experience. The locals weren’t very friendly (and I don’t blame them, with tourists taking over their backyards) and I just had a bad taste in my mouth during the whole excursion. Yes, beach time was only an hour for us. We were fine with that since we had spent the whole day at the beach the day before, and I ended up spending the whole day at the beach the day after.
      I did not go to Big Buddha. I wanted too, but no one else in my group seemed interested and I didn’t want to pay a taxi to go by myself–it would have been too expensive for a solo taxi and it wasn’t worth it in my mind. I do wish Phuket was easier to get around. I felt confined to my big group the whole time because taxiing together was so much cheaper. I had an absolutely wonderful time with them, regardless, but I do like doing some solo adventuring and that wasn’t really an option in Phuket without breaking my bank on taxis.

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      1. I agree that the taxis are expensive in Phuket. I even think they take advantage of tourists. Come to think of it, our guide might have told us the name of that cave and I was just probably not listening. haha… 😛

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  4. What a sad face you have on those pics 😉 So glad to see you re having a blast in Thailand. We were not really into Phuket, but into Koh Samed – so close to Bangkok! Definitely less touristic but youngsters like you might feel bored there 😉

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    1. Are you kidding? My friends and I love Koh Samed! We went over the King’s Weekend in early December and had an amazing time! Phuket is gorgeous and I had an amazing time, but it was way too touristy and way too expensive. I don’t feel the need to ever go back there. I actually like the beaches better on Koh Samed. We went around on motorbikes and found a bunch of small, quieter beaches on Koh Samed and had an absolutely lovely day exploring them!

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  5. So I’m playing catch up because I was too busy being smoochy in Glasgow….but New Year in Phuket sounds fun! It also looks pretty gorgeous (but if I’m honest I think you have been to other places in & around Thailand that are more beautiful in my personal opinion!)

    Also, *high five* for knowing and respecting your limits. Clearly was worth it given what you could do the next day!

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    1. Haha, that’s aokay. I saw some of your Instagram posts and it looks like you had a grand time being smoochy. Hope to see a blog post sometime soon? 🙂
      Phuket is gorgeous but I agree–there are definitely places in Thailand that I’ve been to that are prettier. It’s also SOO touristy. Still had a great time. Thanks! It was SOO worth it. I love a good night out, but it just wasn’t the night on New Years Eve–and I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed New Years Day half as much had I gone out.

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