I decided to take my wife somewhere amazing for our 18th wedding anniversary. Someplace we’ve never been before so it would be a new and exciting adventure alone (sans kids). This will actually be the first time we’ve been away without the kids in 5 years, and only the 2nd time in the 18 years we’ve been married! After gazing at the world map for some time and changing my mind a few times on European destinations I was drawn towards the other side of the map – Asia. Neither of us had been to this part of the world before, so why not dive right in? But where? There are many destinations in Asia where we could find adventure; in fact the entire continent was new to us, so we really could start anywhere! After researching many possible destinations (my favorite hobby and one I tend to spend a lot of time on) I decided on Phuket, Thailand.
If you’ve never heard of Phuket, and don’t know what there is to do there and why I would pick it for an anniversary vacation destination, allow me to enlighten you.
For starters, Phuket is not pronounced as you might imagine. It is not pronounced “Foo – ket” as many would normally pronounce it since it starts with a “Ph”. The correct pronunciation is “Poo-ket”, though the P is slightly softened and the K can sort of sound like a G in some instances. Also the final T is not hard. Easy right? It’s actually not as confusing as it sounds, and once you arrive in Phuket, you’ll immediately start to learn some of the Thai linguistics. But as a general rule, words that start with “Ph” are not pronounced as an “F” but simply as a “P”. Remember this, and you’re already ahead of most.
So where is Phuket exactly and why would one choose to travel there?
Both are great questions. Phuket is located in southwest Thailand, and is technically an island although connected by bridge to the mainland. The map below shows its exact location. Phuket is known to many Easterners as being a tropical paradise and top vacation destination. While not too many Americans venture to this part of the world, it’s extremely popular with Europeans, Australians, and especially Asians! Apparently Asians love this place! Charity and I were shocked that on a fully loaded Boeing 777 from Seoul, South Korea to Phuket, we were the only 2 non-Asians on the entire flight! While this didn’t bother us, it definitely made for an interesting experience! (If you like the smell of Asian food, this is the flight for you!)
So why as an American would you travel here? I’ll answer this with a list of reasons, and then I’ll expand upon each one.
- Natural Beauty
- Thai Culture
- Affordable Accommodations
- Romantic Resorts
- International Food
Many come to Phuket for its natural beauty. World renowned beaches, which are famous for their stunning beauty, are plentiful here. White sand and crystal clear waters are just part of their beauty. Giant boulders which climb out of turquoise lagoons, long tail boats with local Thai fishermen, and lush tropical foliage which surrounds it all form such a surreal setting, you’d think you were in a movie. It was no wonder Hollywood chose this location to portray the secret island paradise in the 1999 film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio! While the beach portrayed in the movie is actually on the Phi Phi Islands (Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh island), it is easily reached from Phuket and there are daily tours that take eager tourists to visit (We went ourselves).
There are literally hundreds of beaches surrounding the Phuket area on the many neighboring islands, and over 30 alone on the island of Phuket itself! Looking at the photos above can give you a sense of just how beautiful these beaches can be. But there are also beaches specifically for various types of people and lifestyles.
Maya Bay a.k.a. “The Beach” from the 1999 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Looking for a party beach? Look no further than Patong Beach on the island of Phuket. This is the place to be if you’re looking for a crowded beach for people watching and for nightlife and the never ending party scene. Soi Bangla (Bangla Road) is the home many of the islands best clubs and bars.
A family beach more your style? Kata beach is very popular with families due to its spectacular palm tree lined beach, excellent restaurants, and lively but not over-the-top night life. Kata beach also features many resort accommodations very close to the beach with an abundance of shops to browse through.
Looking to snorkel or dive? Phuket has numerous places to do so, with an abundance of tropical reefs for snorkelers and divers to enjoy. Karon beach is one popular holiday favorite for this kind of activity. The southern end has excellent snorkeling and even dive spots for those wanting to view life under water. The beach is incredibly large – the 3nd longest in Phuket and also very wide, therefore if you prefer a non-crowded beach, this is also an excellent choice!
How about deserted or secret beaches for privacy? Phuket has these too! While some of these are a little harder to get to (obviously why they can be deserted or near deserted), they aren’t impossible to reach, and their stunning beauty is still apparent. Some of these include Ao Sane Beach, Ao Yon Beach, Banana Beach, Nui Beach, and Yae Beach.
We knew going to Thailand we would experience some Thai culture, we just didn’t realize how that culture would make a significant difference in our overall experience.
Upon arriving at our resort, we were greeted immediately by friendly staff members who all performed the custom thai greeting, the wai. This is when you press your palms together with your hands raised to your chest or nose level and your head is slightly bowed. It was very nice. Soft instrumental music of Thailand was playing in the background and the air smelled of jasmine and incense. The staff even rang the “gong” to announce our arrival. The experience was something else. Our bags were taken from us (to be taken to our private villa) and a staff member placed floral bands upon our wrists as yet another welcome.
Although this experience could have been unique to our resort, the people themselves, their mannerisms, and their kindness were authentic and genuine. Throughout our stay whenever we approached a staff member whether they were a customer service representative or a grounds keeper, they all greeted us with the utmost respect and kindness. Even the security guard stopped in his tracks and saluted me when I passed!
Leaving the resort was no different. Everywhere we went we were treated like royalty. Tour guides, store clerks, and even gas station attendants were courteous and respectful. While you can find some exquisite vacation destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico, nothing came close to the cultural experience we received in Thailand. It made the 20 hours of flying here well worth it in our opinions.
Thailand is one of the most affordable places to travel if you’re looking to get the most for your money in an exotic tropical locale. While hotels and resorts can vary significantly in price, there are plenty of really nice places that are incredibly low cost and affordable by all.
Just how affordable is affordable? How about $19 a night? Yes, I’m being serious and that is 19 US Dollars a night for the room at the 4-star resort shown below. There is NO catch.
How can hotels like this be this cheap you may wonder? That’s an excellent question I asked myself when researching places to stay. The answer may leave you thinking “Oh, there’s the catch!”, but let me explain further.
The climate in Thailand is unlike the climate in the Caribbean, or other tropical destinations on “this side” of the world. Like most resort destinations in the tropics, there are high seasons and low seasons. Thailand’s high season is officially from November to February where the country sees sunny skies and hardly any rain. Expect resort prices to be much higher during this period. The low season, or “rainy season” is officially May to October, where rainy days are much more common, though not a sure thing. That is, while the rainy season does get a whole lot more rain on average than the high season, sunny and beautiful days can still be found during this time frame.
Charity and I traveled here in August, which is in the heart of the rainy season, and we had excellent weather for our 4 days in Thailand. It rained some, but it wasn’t a complete washout and we thoroughly enjoyed our experience, and we saved a lot by traveling at this time as well!
If you are looking for a tropical paradise but want to stay somewhere with an incredible romantic feel to it. Look no further than Phuket. This was the primary reason I chose this location as our anniversary vacation destination, besides all the reasons mentioned above.
Phuket has dozens of exquisite 5-star resorts with private pool villas. In fact, I’ve never seen so many choices in one location before. While the prices of these vary based on the options you want, you can score a romantic private pool villa in the low season for as little as $57 a night!
While of course if you want beach side access, a view of the Andaman Sea, or other bells and whistles the price can increase dramatically, however you will not be without choices in Phuket. In fact, with so many choices, it seemed to take us forever to narrow down on our final selection. Eventually we selected the Anantara Mai Khao Villas which we highly recommend.
We chose this resort for its location which was north of the airport and away from the busier areas of Phuket like Patong Beach. While some people love the party-like atmosphere and bustling nightlife, we wanted peace, quiet, and serenity. And we found it at the Anantara Villas in the Mai Khao area of Phuket. It was everything we expected and more.
The room was simply incredible. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was like we were wisped away to our own private paradise on some remote location on the planet reserved for just the two of us. The details of the room were amazing. We never wanted to leave.
The resort grounds were immaculate and well taken care of, and the main infinity pool was never crowded. It was wonderful.
While our resort was exactly what we were looking for, Phuket has many other very romantic and extremely unique places you can stay. Check out some of the below pictures of a couple of these very bizarre and cool looking places!
When traveling to Thailand, most would expect you to not have much of a selection of food choices. This is far from the truth. Besides Thai food, which there is plenty of, there are many international cuisines from just about anywhere you want! Whether you like Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or Indian food, Phuket has it. Not too keen on Asian food? No problem. There are plenty of American restaurants featuring every day regulars such as gourmet burgers and fries to barbecue chicken wings! Like European food? You can find this too! Charity and I even found an Irish restaurant and treated our selves to Bangers and Mash and Cottage Pie in Thailand!
Our resort catered to many nationalities, therefore you could find a varying selection of items on the menu. One day at the pool we tried an assortment of barbecue chicken wings, fried calamari, and spring rolls! They were all delicious!
The breakfast buffet was incredibly interesting. You could find literally almost anything you wanted on it. From bacon and eggs, to roasted tomato’s with Parmesan cheese (amazing by the way), to fried rice, won-tons, and sushi! I tried a selection of things, including an awesome waffle covered in Nutella, white chocolate chips, and a glazed banana! It was delicious! They also had a crazy selection of juices. Orange, mango, tomato, carrot, pineapple, even watermelon! I had the mango. Very tasty!
If you do want to experience Thai food while in Thailand, and have never had it before, please note that Thai food can be very spicy, and I mean VERY spicy. The soup below had only 1 pepper marked next to it on the menu where 3 peppers meant maximum spiciness, and this could easily hospitalize some people. Our lips were on fire! The main entrees weren’t quite as spicy, but still had some flare to them so be careful – especially if you have stomach issues.
Ok this last part is a joke. People don’t travel to Thailand for 7-Elevens, or at least none that I know of. However, before traveling here I read somewhere that there are more 7-Elevens in Thailand then there are Starbucks in Seattle. I laughed naturally, but it wasn’t until I arrived here that I realized this was no lie! There are 7-Elevens everywhere! In downtown crowded areas, sometimes there are 2 on a block! The Thai sure do love 7-Eleven!
So, while not a reason to visit Thailand, this is actually really handy for grabbing snacks and drinks to bring back to your room to avoid high mini-fridge prices resorts will charge you for missing items. The 7-Elevens here also will have plug adapters if you forget to bring one with you. Good to know!
So there you have it! Many good reasons on why you should plan a trip to Phuket, Thailand! I can go on much longer, but this article would become a novel. If you enjoyed reading it, I thank you, and if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below. If you’re interested in reading more about Phuket to get further information about this wonderful destination, check out this post. As I have mentioned before, I personally love planning travel and researching all destinations so if you are thinking about planning a trip to Thailand, or even somewhere else and need assistance, drop me a line. I would love to help you realize your travel dreams!
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