Phuket (Thailand) – Wild Patong Waves and Dream World of Fantasea

Table of contents for Phuket (Thailand)

  1. Phuket (Thailand) – Wild Patong Waves and Dream World of Fantasea
  2. Phuket (Thailand)- Exotic Phi Phi

I cannot remember why we decided on this destination. We did not know much about Thailand and even less about Phuket, except that that it had a beach and of course we had heard of it in context to the Tsunami. But staying in Singapore, we wanted to start exploring south-east Asia from somewhere – anywhere.

So, for the approaching long weekend of the Singapore National Day in August 2010, we booked our Jetstar flight from Singapore to Phuket. (By the way – the correct pronunciation of Phuket is Puket and not fuket !) We then began our research to get acquainted with the place. I know this is a little topsy turvy approach but we have learnt the hard way that you need to book really fast for the long weekends here else you may be left with no options.

Travelling together with mom and our 5 year old, we were little skeptical whether Phuket will be able to appeal all 3 generations (It of course did and we now fondly refer to it as our 3G vacation)! Also, we were quite confused on whether to stay at the wild, party type, touristy Patong or on the other serene, away from the maddening crowd, quieter beaches like Kamala, Kata Noi or Kata Yai!

Being in Singapore, we were already missing the crowded, community feel, which, to me also gives a sense of security, so we decided that we did not want a holiday in seclusion and went ahead with Patong as our base.

After refusal from many hotels to accommodate 4 persons in one room, we finally booked for 4 nights with Royal Phawadee Village which fulfilled our need of family room and closeness to the beach.

Visas

Thai embassy confirmed Visa on arrival for Indian passports. We were also pleasantly surprised to know that to boost tourism in the current situation of political crisis in Thailand (remember the Bangkok Red Shirts!); it was offering free visas till March 2011 which normally costs 50SGD (approx 1500 INR) per visa.

The Journey

We had a 9 PM flight and the journey was only 1.5 hours, but it got so delayed that we landed at 3 AM Thai time (Thailand is one hour behind SG, 1.5 hrs behind India). Thankfully, the hotel driver was patiently waiting for us with water bottles and afterwards the guy at the hotel reception showed us our beautifully done family room and said ‘waiting for you….go rest….air con already on’.

The Hotel Reception

beautiful wooden décor

However much one reads the reviews and sees the pictures on internet, the hotel always remains mysterious till you see it in person. Most of the times, all it takes is one look to know whether your decision was right!

For us…..we slept in peace with our decision.

***

Wild Patong Waves

The first agenda of the day was of course to check out the Patong beach.  The lady at the reception asked us to walk straight for 10 minutes for the beach. I suspect that she wanted to drown us ;-) because we were right at the beach in 3-4 minutes! (did not understand this reverse advertising – elsewhere people would have claimed their hotel to be ‘on’ the beach).

The whole street from hotel to beach was lined with massage parlours with a group of ladies sitting outside calling out to people in a shrill voice and also a lot of shops for tour bookings and rentals.

Massage available on every corner

Scooters for rent

And there it was….the immense Andaman…the crests and troughs of the waves coming like gurgling white froth while hitting the shore with a bang….only the horizon ahead of you where water and sky were one…Err…while we romanticized the sea…mum was already experiencing the waves and Pranav (our 5 year old) was tugging at us to look at the designer hole he had created in the sand! In all, everyone was at task.

It was a bright sunny day. We hired beach chairs, applied some sunscreen and dipped ourselves in the Sea. Every now and then we were put totally off balance by a hard hitting wave.  Slowly it became like a game…..we were ready with our inertia to face the next big wave – sometimes we were successful and at other times the wave just knocked us down. This is one of the rare occasions when you can have a hearty laugh at being knocked down.

The beach

We became a little adventurous and slowly went a little more into the sea till a point where our feet barely touched the sea bed and battled a few waves there. I say ‘adventurous’ because none of us knew how to swim and it was our first beach holiday. After a few wins and many loses, a huge wave came along, which totally engulfed us and lifted our feet off the ground. It took us a while to regain balance and get over the taste of extremely salty sea water and the burning sensation on our face (which was probably due to salty water touching the sun screened face). After this experience we better sense prevailed and we remained mostly near the shores.

We have had a lot of beach holidays after this one but haven’t seen such powerful waves anywhere yet.

Look at the wave-not your regular serene beach

We lounged on the chairs, walked along the beach, ran….sometimes towards and sometimes away from the waves, politely refused the tattoo making offers, watched people being flown in the sky over the water with their para-gliding instructor, had a good laugh on seeing others battling waves, tried many unsuccessful attempts to capture this experience and finally made peace with the fact that camera couldn’t do it.

A noticeable thing was that though there were many vendors on the beach, none pestered us much to buy anything once we signaled that we were not interested. It’s a small thing but sometimes it has the power to make or break an experience.

Pranav, who till now avoided getting wet and was enjoying in the sand, was now trying to get rid of the sand from his feet and complained that it was all because we forced him to remove his footwear. We tried to reason with him that this was a beach and it’s alright to have sand in your feet….but he remained grumpy. We cajoled him to go near the water to wash his feet and he ended up having fun in the water. Our next big task was to coax him out.

Search for Vegetarian Food

We returned back to the hotel and had a pretty hard time getting rid of all that beach sand. We were quite hungry by now and our next agenda was to search for some vegetarian food.

We went out to hire a tuk-tuk (colored van like vehicles which can be hired off the road) to search for a restaurant. As we struggled to explain the tuk-tuk waala where to take us, I spotted a board saying ‘Indian Food’! We excused ourselves (the tuk-tuk wala also seemed happy to get rid of a customer who did not know where to go) and went inside to have a look at the Indian restaurant. The beautiful ambiance with traditional Indian decorations and famous bollywood songs playing was a total surprise and bliss!

The hotel staff included many thai ladies who joined their hands every time they came to take our order, to serve our food or even before accepting the bill payment. (The greeting in Thailand is very similar to the Indian Namaste.) It did not seem tacky at all, rather came across as a very natural action for them and it did cross our minds that we in India do not really use this gesture often these days.

We did check out other Indian restaurants when we came across them during our stay but nothing came close to it. So, ‘Tantra’ became our favorite food haunt for the entire duration of our stay. It was 2 minutes from our hotel, operated till midnight, had wonderful ambience, great food and very hospitable staff.

The Booking Lady

On our way back to hotel, we stopped at a street shop which organized tours. We had read about a cultural show in Phuket called Fantasea. As soon as we mentioned this to the Thai lady at the counter, she typed some figures on her big calculator and showed us the price. We were unprepared and were unsure whether to accept or bargain. Immediately, she asked us to type our price. We then typed a lower price (of course!). She again typed some numbers and finally we all agreed.

The Booking Lady

She then hurriedly talked to someone on phone as if fixing up something, asked for the payment, handed us a paper (supposedly receipt) and asked us to be ready at 7:30 pm to be picked up. Umm…so quickly…without any exchange of some questions and answers, some ifs and buts ….we having lived in Delhi for long, were a bit skeptical at this quick close of deal, but went with it nonetheless as we realized that she could understand only very basic English.

Finally, everything turned out great and ‘Kai’ was going to be the booking lady for all our trips and shows in Phuket and typing numbers on calculator was going to be our mode of bargaining and agreeing for prices.

The Phuket Fantasea

We were picked up from our hotel by a van and reached within 20 minutes at the Fantasea venue. I knew that it is a cultural theme park with a stage show but had also read that it was quite touristy….so did not know what to expect.

It turned out to be super impressive with dazzling lights, very artistically done shops and statues. Many artisans were making the candles and other crafts sitting beside their shops. We later felt, it could have been a good idea to arrive little early to enjoy all this at a less hurried pace.

An artisan at work

The show itself was held in an indoor stadium and the seats were allotted with the tickets. The entrance for the show was highly impressive…..it looked magical and we were sure to have a good time!

Magical Fantasea entrance

During this theatrical live show, which lasted an hour, we did not even want to blink. The play of lights, the costumes, the music, the extravagant sets, the acts…everything was just awesome. There were hundreds of performers. We could not predict where the next act is going to be. …someone was dropping from the sky, others were popping from within the stage, and artists were flying from above our head. There were elephants and fireworks and acrobatics. We had never before seen a cultural show of such grand scale.

When the trapeze artists, dressed in white, in the pitch dark stadium, were performing acrobatics right above our heads, Pranav asked me few times, very innocently  – ‘ mumma, ya sach mein hai ya dream hai ? (Is this real or a dream!)’ . That says it all…it was magical.

We slept that day with dreams in our eyes!

***

14 Comments

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Shubhra

    Amazing Account :-)

    I really enjoy your sharp and fun-filled observations in between:

    “I suspect that she wanted to drown us ;-)”,

    “did not understand this reverse advertising elsewhere people would have claimed their hotel to be on the beach”

    was now trying to get rid of the sand from his feet and complained that it was all because we forced him to remove his footwear.”

    Its a very interesting account. Will read the others soon. Keep writing, I am sure there would be many readers like me who would be interested in reading more and more from you.

    And yes, information about vegetarian restaurants for pure veg readers would be of great help.

  • Nandan says:

    Shubhra – Welcome to Ghumakkar.

    Never been to Thailand . Your post gives a very nice and complete info-set about Patong, very useful. I am sure there would be non-Indian restaurant to get good veg food, no ?

    • shubhra sethia says:

      Thanks Nandan.
      The staple Thai food is Rice. So one can definitely find rice and a vegetarian curry at most of the places. But if you are a strict vegetarian you need to be more specific and careful because sometimes even in Veg. curry they use fish sauce and shrimp paste.

      As we were doing day trips on our second and third day in Phuket, our lunch was organised by the tours on board (will write about them in next posts). So, we did not have enough time to search for other options and stuck to Tantra for our dinners.

      In fact, we had a lot of Thai food during another visit to Bangkok.They generally use lemon grass in the curry which is simply amazing and a must try. Another must try is mango with sticky rice as a dessert.

  • Deepaks says:

    Great post and great images. Congrats.

  • Asish K Das says:

    Great blog. Very natural, candid description. Thoroughly enjoyed. Could have mentioned the cost factor for the benefit of willing travelers.

    • shubhra says:

      Thanks Asish.

      Valid point, I will include the costs wherever possible in next posts.

      For the current one : Fantasea show was I guess 1000 Baht per person (including pickup, excluding buffet dinner) = 40SGD = around 1400 INR. The printed price was higher than this. We could bargain for less because August was a low season for tourism as it is a wet time.

      Fun on beach is free ;-) (but you need to pay for hiring beach chairs according to the number of hours).

  • shubhra says:

    Thanks Vibha,
    In Thailand, I have also been to Bangkok where shopping is like religion. You just can’t escape it…! But in Phuket shopping is more of the souvenir kinds… !

  • Vibha says:

    Nice post Shubhra.

    I have seen Thailand…And by that I mean I have seen its airport which in itself is magnificient. Though the airport itself looks more like a shopping mall, the fact that it is right on the sea shore is awesome. For a while I thought we were going to land on water.

    Thanks for sharing and, yes, Welcome to Ghumakkar. :)

  • Nisha says:

    Nice account, Shubhra. Reminded me of my time there. :)

    Phuket is one place like ‘shadi ka laddu’ . You would want to go there & at the same time wished you’d have skipped it. Because of the commercialization, it has become popular but way to crowded. I couldn’t stand it for more than 2 days.

    In southern Thailand I preferred Krabi over it.

    And yeah, bargaining happens using calculator w/o opening your mouth. :D I love to do that. :)

    • shubhra says:

      Agreed….and this is true for most of the beautiful places…they do tend to become commercialized. Having said that…it cannot take away the beauty of the place !! We did day trips from Phuket to Phi Phi which was beautiful…will write later about it…!

  • maheh semwal says:

    Let me have the opportunity to leave a first comment on your first post on Ghumakkar.

    I liked the way you have written the post, your way of writing a post is different than others.

    keep traveling , keep sharing.

    • shubhra says:

      Thanks Mahesh, I have been a passive reader for long and have read many of your posts. it seems I made some mistake in the writing style because I wanted it to be a series…neways ..there is more to come from Phuket.

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