They weren’t kidding about Thailand. It really is paradise here!
Our first stop was Krabi, more specifically Ao Nang Beach. We chose this spot initially because it was in the zone of “free pick up” for the ferry to Phuket. Not knowing anything about this area when booking, except for the fact that they had some beautiful beaches, we definitely lucked out in our choice. After hopping on Hotels.com through Ebates to earn our free nights with extra cash back (click our links and sign up so we get credit! PS! You actually have to make a purchase for us to get the credit!) we chose a hotel just 5 minutes walk from the beach, and head towards the beach was the first thing we did after dropping off our bags.
While it definitely feels like we’re in Thailand with all the tuk tuk’s, street food and culture, it was clear we were in a tourist beach town. The street heading down to the beach was lined with shops and restaurants begging us to stop in. Stepping onto the beach immediately hit us with the feeling of “holy crap… we’re in THAILAND!” So surreal! The glowing blue water, longtail boats and mini islands took control of all our senses and we absolutely loved it. It helped too that by the time we got to the beach it was only a few minutes until an amazing orange and red glowing sunset to start off our first night in Thailand. It was the perfect welcome.
Usually while we do some research before heading to our next spot but we wait till we’re there to actually decide on what we want to do, but since we were due to get in later in the day and had only one full day we pre booked a tour of some of the top islands. The “4 island tour”. We were happy we booked in advance because all the tours left early in the morning and it took the question of what we would do here out of the equation and planned our whole day.
We were picked up at our hotel and taken to the boat where we joined about 25 other tourists for the trip. Pro: we got to go on one of those cool long tail boats! Con: Imagine two fat people trying to climb up a tiny ladder into one of those boats. It provided quite the entertainment for others to see, but it was hard! Each time we got in and out of the boat we heard sound effects from our fellow passengers (ex. whoooooa!!!). Listen up skinnies! The boat tilts when you get on it too! Nevertheless, we made it on the boat and were off to explore. The 4 islands consisted of Koh Gai, also known as “Chicken Island”, Koh Tup, Koh Mawr and Koh Poda.
The first island was packed with tourists. It seemed this was the first stop for all the tour companies. Think of about 200 Swedish, Russian and Asian tourists all crammed into about 200 square feet of pristine powdery beach. All you could see was people and you could hear was a myriad of different languages being screamed across the beach…not exactly the ideal relaxation spot we’d hoped for. We were only allowed 40 minutes there and it seemed to be just enough time to dip in the water, see some great sergeant and needle fish, and head back to the boat.
The second island was a spot for snorkeling, which neither of us opted to do since we didn’t really dock anywhere. Trying to get back on the boat in the middle of the ocean would have made for an interesting experience for everyone involved, and we didn’t want to make international news as the two Fat Americans that capsized a boat in Thailand! Instead we decided to just take photos from on the boat.
The third beach was our favorite. The water was so crystal clear on each island and so turquoise but this one took it to a whole new level. We spent the most time on this island as they served us lunch here. We were expecting sandwiches and a bag of chips but instead walked up to a gorgeous spread consisting of green curry with chicken, sautéed vegetables and steamed rice. Forget that advice your mother told you, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat delicious Thai food and then go swimming! We spent about an hour and half wading in the gorgeous warm water with empty coconuts bobbing around us and even had schools of tropical fish swim with us!
The 4th island was next to the famous Railey beach and Dean got a chance to snorkel here! He swam in the caves formed by the rocky islands that protruded out of the water. Sadly the timing was similar to the first, a short stop to see the sights and it was time to head back on the boat. It was absolutely breathtaking! We can see why people flock here for vacation and rave about it. All in all, a great day of island hopping. If we were to do it again, we agreed it would have been much more enjoyable to take a boat to one island and spend a few hours there to swim around and soak in the sun versus being rushed at 4 different islands but for booking something in advance and finding a Thai thing to do for a day, this was pretty good!
We were then off to Patong in Phuket. We took the 2 hour bumpy and HOT ferry from Ao Nang to Phuket from what we had heard was going to be a very touristy area of Thailand. But we were prepared! At least we thought we were prepared… Our ferry company also includes a transfer to our hotel, which was about 45 minutes from Phuket town, score!
We arrived at our hotel, the Wyndham Grand Phuket, Kalim Bay which is the first Wyndham in all of Southeast Asia. We were skeptical at first because the online reviews were so mixed, but it turned out to be amazing. Since we knew this was going to be our relaxation stay in Thailand, we opted for a nicer hotel but it was still reasonably priced since it is brand new hotel. Everything about it screamed high end and it was a nice splurge for us! When we arrived we found out that we’d been upgraded, again! It was a pleasant surprised and we were so incredibly happy with the room. It was huge and it even had its own small pool! We joked that the shower was as big as our entire bathroom back in Boulder. The hotel was built into a mountain about 2.5 miles from the town of Patong and we realized after checking it out on our first night that being a bit further away was a VERY good thing. We couldn’t hear anything from the town, all we heard were the frogs croaking, elephants talking to each other and beautiful birds (not so beautiful when it’s singing outside your door at 5am though!)
It’s like spring break in Patong… all the time. Dean was familiar with what this area was going to be like but I had no idea. Party central. The town consists of streets filled with bars pumping loud music, restaurants pushing their menu on you, people selling everything from sunglasses, t-shirts and rubber duckies, to cigarettes, vaginal rejuvenation and “sexy girls”. It was complete madness! We liked taking it all in and seeing what all the craze was about knowing we had complete serenity to go back to at our hotel. Plus, the hotel offered a free shuttle to and from town so we could get our fix without having to take a taxi each time we wanted to go. Our first night we indulged and got some drinks at a fun bar and also got some Thai Fried Ice Cream which is made right before your very eyes! They take sweetened milk and mix it with your flavor of choice and mix it all together on an anti griddle until frozen, then they roll it up and plop it in a bowl for you to enjoy. The whole process takes about 2 minutes and it was fascinating to watch! We posted a time lapse on our Instagram so you can see what we’re talking about!
We went to town a few times to check it out but it all seemed to be the same until our last night. We stumbled upon a night market selling anything and everything you could want. Raw seafood, cooked seafood, satay, spring rolls, noodles, rice, juice, smoothies, ice cream… It went on and on! Best part about it was that everything was SUPER cheap!
First of all, they have Thai iced tea (although since we’re in Thailand so they just called it iced tea) in the convenience stores for like $.50!!!! That alone is cause for us to jump around with joy! When we have to pay $5 when we get back to The States it will just anger us! 2nd of all… they aren’t kidding about their spice here. Not to say we weren’t warned but WHOA!
The Massaman: This cute little place was right across from our hotel in Krabi and was a great first meal in Thailand. It really set the stage! We started with crispy spring rolls with that delicious sweet, sour and spicy chili dipping sauce and a green papaya salad. Green papaya, (fun fact, it’s really hard to get green papaya in the states!) chilis and carrots in a tangy and spicy dressing, topped with roasted peanuts. Dean tried to make this back home for work and once he tried the real thing here, he was so happy that he had actually gotten it pretty close back home! For mains Dean got Massaman Curry with Chicken, it was a large breast of chicken with large chunks of potatoes and onions in the sweet and spicy curry with peanuts. I got Pad Thai with Chicken. Pretty classic dishes that you’ve probably seen at your local neighborhood Thai restaurant. It was so surreal to eat some of our favorite classic dishes in their birth place!
Food Bazzar: Escaping the heat of Patong we found ourselves in the basement of the Jungcelyon mall surrounded by food stalls and there was no question this was where we would eat lunch. Similar to the hawker markers in Singapore, there were tons of stalls selling all different kinds of Asian cruises. Mostly Thai of course, but there was something for everyone, from Japanese katsu, Chinese pig intestine soup and even a noodle shop selling spaghetti with tomato sauce if the spice had taken too much of a toll on you! I opted for my favorite, chicken Pad Thai and Dean got some more of that delicious green papaya salad and pineapple fried rice. My pad Thai was classically delicious and served on an egg pancake which made it the slightest bit more fun. Deans papaya salad was SPICY! He had told them he likes spice and they definitely delivered. Talk about a punch in the face! His pineapple fried rice was cheekily served in a pineapple which made for some great photo ops. When he ordered, he made sure to tell them “no seafood!” since he’s allergic, which they repeated back and confirmed but as they were handing it to him, two shrimp were hanging out right on top! When he asked them about it, they simply removed them from the top and went on with their day. Luckily he’s not severely allergic or that would have made for quite the lunch time drama. We thought it was funny because back in America that would have never flown! Especially for people with severe allergies, that would have had to been completely re made! The flavor of the fried rice was delicious though, it had great warming spices like cinnamon, some raisins, ham cubes and of course the diced up pineapple from which the serving bowl was made of.
Grand Wyndham Phuket: We don’t normally rave about hotel food but we were pleasantly surprised here. Since the hotel is a good distance from town, it was nice to have a good restaurant to go to! Their breakfast buffet was BOMB! They had everything you could want! Fresh fruit, made to order omelets and a huge spread of Thai dishes, as well as western style breakfast foods like bacon, potato wedges and yogurt. We had dinner here as well one night and were so impressed with the level of care and passion that the chef has given to the food here. They had a Thai set menu where you got to pick an appetizer, a soup and a main dish with rice and fresh fruit for dessert. We shared a bowl of Tom Yum Gai, a chicken soup with coconut milk, lemon grass, limes leaves and galangal (a cousin of ginger). Our appetizer was a spiced rubbed chicken thigh with crispy fried shallots on top, served with some more of that fresh and spicy papaya salad. Our main was minced chicken with Thai basil, LOTS of chilis, onions and other vegetables served with steamed rice. It was SO SPICY! Dean ended up enjoying the whole thing because I couldn’t eat more than one or two bites without my mouth burning off! Dessert was a spread of fresh fruits, the perfect thing to cool our palates and end the meal.
Patong Night Market: Once we saw how many cheap options there were here for dinner there was no question in our minds that this is where we needed to have dinner. It’s always so hard to decide which booth to eat at. Everything looked incredibly authentic and delicious. We came across a booth that had huge mounds of different types of noodles to choose from along with a few other Thai dishes with rice and we were star struck. I chose glass noodles with crispy chicken. They grabbed a handful of noodles, a handful of chicken, some bean spouts and green onion, threw it in a wok with some sauce and it was cooked right before my eyes. Dean chose Larb Gai, another spicy minced chicken dish served with rice and a fried egg on top that was perfectly runny and had the brightest orange yolk we’ve ever seen. Yum! Both dishes together totaled $2.90… does it get any better than that?! We don’t think so! While walking around the market we saw some coconut ice cream being served in its shell and knew it would be the perfect end to a flavorful meal on a hot night. They were cutting the coconuts right there and stuffing them with the sweet creamy treat. They’ve mastered the sustainable, local and vegan dessert!
Two beachy, tropical locations to start our adventure in Thailand! It’s definitely surreal to be here, soaking it all it! Next up we explore the city up north, Chiang Mai! We are loving all tips, tricks and love everyone is reaching out to us with so please, keep it up! Thanks everyone for following us and joining us on this fabulous adventure!
**We are using Ebates and Hotels.com to book everything we do! We get cash back from Ebates and earn free nights on Hotels.com so you get rewarded for doing what you would normally do anyway! On Hotels.com, they provide excellent service and will match hotel prices if you find something cheaper elsewhere. If you stay 10 nights, you get 1 free and if you become a gold member (30 stays in 1 year) you get early access to deals and special rates. Also 24/7 service. On Ebates, while the percentage cash back varies depending on the store, you legitimately get cash back on almost every store you would shop online for anyway and get a check every quarter with your savings. They also have special coupon codes to get discounts on the site that you can’t get otherwise. We’ve gotten over $500 cash back! That’s nothing to sneeze at! We get credit if you use our links (hyperlinked in the names) and would love if you could help us out! But really, you’re helping yourself too!!**