The island of Phuket is a popular beach destination in Thailand. While some areas (e.g. Patong) are intended for crazy party time with tons of non-family-oriented activities, we decided to get a hotel closer to the quieter Karon Beach, and within walking distance of the lively, but tasteful, Kata Beach. What a great decision!
Bangkok to Phuket
Breakfast in Bangkok
Our morning started with a delicious breakfast at our Bangkok hotel, a taxi ride to the airport, and an hour and a half flight.
Allergic Reaction on Flight
We bought some drinks and snacks on board. I had a couple of John’s almonds and a few sips of Sprite. Almost immediately, my upper lip and cheek started getting tingly and numb. Scary! I eat almonds all the time, so my suspicion was that there was some sort of preservative or added ingredient of which I was allergic. Fortunately, I had some allergy tablets in my purse and took one within minutes of the symptoms starting.
When traveling in unfamiliar areas, I highly recommend always carrying a few items in your purse or day pack: tissues, hand sanitizer, ibuprofen and/or Tylenol, zinc lozenges like Cold-Eeze, bandaids, Imodium, and your favorite allergy medication – liquid Zyrtec works the fastest, but anything is better than nothing. Depending on individual conditions, you may also want to have a few other items with you, I often have: cortisone cream, a sharable tube of Carmex, cough drops, gas drops, dramamine, and anything else needed for current symptoms of myself or my kids.
Getting to Hotel on Karon Beach
On arrival, we looked for a cab, but the system was not clear and we wandered a bit more than needed – some touts wanted to herd us into shared ride vans at taxi prices. Eventually, we saw a couple of taxis parked and accepted the proposed 1000 Baht fare ($33). Online forums indicate that it’s apparently possible to pay slightly less, and it was a 1-1.5 hour taxi ride. There is a bus as well, but it’s not a big savings when buying 4 tickets, and the taxi is somewhat more comfortable. Oh well, at least we were on our way.
On arrival at our hotel, Karon Butterfly Residence, the cab driver was terrified of the hill and called the hotel to send their shuttle down to pick us up from the main road. At the time, we weren’t sure what was going on, but everything eventually made sense. The hill that was described in the hotel reviews was crazy steep!
The apartment-style hotel was fairly nice, and was reasonably new, but was obviously going through some hiccups. We were supposed to have a “balcony,” but were instead on a ground floor patio. Then we had a few plumbing issues. Then we discovered that the hotel provided duvet covers, but no duvets. Odd, but we still really liked the place.
A Walk on the Beach
After getting settled, it was roughly 2:30-3pm. We decided to take the 10 minute walk down the hill to the beach, to go scope out the area, and to grab a few snacks for a late lunch. In retrospect, we should have had the kids put on their swim suits, but I was able to hike up my long skirt and the boys were wearing their shorts and sandals, so we were able to at least dip our feet in the water as we walked along the beach.
After getting a feel for the area, we decided to head back to the hotel. There was an hourly shuttle that could have brought us back, but we didn’t feel like waiting for it and got a nice workout on the hill.
We thought about going back down to the beach, but decided that the hotel pool was good enough and went for a nice swim. The nice cool water was amazing and we all felt instantly refreshed. There is definitely no need for hot tubs in Thailand! Instead, they had jets and seating in a regular pool. Wonderful!
After showering, we decided to head back to the beach for sunset. Beautiful! What an amazing start to our time in Phuket.
For dinner, we found something close to the water and I tried some more Tom Yum soup.
Delicious, but still not as delicious as my first bowl in Bangkok. It has been fun to compare this soup between restaurants.
Shops and Markets on Kata Beach
Afterwards, we decided to explore the shops and markets on the way to Kata Beach, stopping to get some ice-cream rolls. Think of a frozen platter that you pour milk and fruit or other flavorings onto. The server mixes everything until it becomes solid, spreads it out, then uses a scraper to roll it up. Jeremy prefers real ice cream, but the rest of us really liked them.
As our wanderings continued, we discovered that the Kata area is definitely more lively (while still being family-friendly) and confirmed that this would have been a nicer area to stay over Karon. That said, the actual Karon beach was a bit less crowded than Kata, and bit quieter. Unfortunately, Christmas is the peak season, and when we booked a two months earlier, there wasn’t a ton of availability, so we booked what looked sensible.
Our wanderings took us all the way to a night market, where James admired some fried insects and scorpions on a stick. Somehow he talked us into getting a mix of three different varieties of insects, I think there were: silk worms, grasshoppers, and mini-frogs, all sprayed with soy sauce before being delivered to us.
Then he started looking at them and wanted ME to try them first. Sigh. So, I pulled out a grasshopper, saw it looking at me, then I started making squealing noises, closed my eyes, jumped a few times, and stuck it in my mouth. As it turns out, it tasted a bit like potato chips or french fries. Definitely tolerable, with a nice crunch and a tasty salt flavor.
He then tried a few and LOVED them. John even tried a frog. I couldn’t bring myself to try a silk worm, but James happily chowed down until Jeremy thought he was going to be sick watching the whole process. At the next trash can, we happily disposed of the remainder. Definitely an adventure!
Ending the Evening
John’s ankle started hurting, so we decided to turn back. Evenings are really so much cooler than the rest of the day. If you are able to rest during the hottest part of the day, do it and save your energy for the mornings and evenings.
On going back to our hotel, one surprise to us was the high price of taxis in the area, compared with elsewhere in Thailand. In Bangkok, it’s easy to get a few-km taxi ride for 100 Baht ($3), so we hopped in them without thinking. Meanwhile, in Karon/Kata, we never paid under 300 Baht ($10) for even the shortest ride – apparently the Phuket taxi drivers are better at maintaining a fare floor. While not unreasonable by western standards, it was fairly high compared with other costs there, so we ended up not taking the taxis quite as gratuitously. One take-away is that in Phuket it’s probably more important to stay where you want to spend time.
As we returned to our hotel, we were surprised to learn that our bedding consisted of a duvet cover, but no duvet. So we adjusted the AC and tried to make it work, but all of us found it uncomfortable to basically only have two sheets on top of us. The next morning, we asked the front desk for a blanket, but they said that all they had were duvet covers. To be fair, they did give us an extra one, but that only brought us up to the equivalent of 4 sheets. In the end, we pulled out our puffer jackets and used them as mini blankets. It worked, and we still liked the hotel, but it was quite odd.