Tigers, elephants, and white sandy beaches O MY!Thailand. I think of exotic beaches, Eat Pray Love(the movie), thai food (yum), and elephants. It was all those things minus the movie but add the tigers!
We arrived in Phuket (pronounced poo-ket) late in the night. It was an hour drive to our hotel in Patong Beach. We planned on just picking up a taxi to our hotel and when we got there and that is exactly what we did. I will talk about cost of taxis later to give you a ball park idea on costs of taxis. We checked into out hotel which was located in downtown Patong Beach. Where you could here the night clubs through the night. If I were to go back to Thailand I would stay in Kata Beach. Much quieter, quaint, beach town south of Patong about 20min and much more family oriented. I'm not a big clubber but if you are Patong is your place! (See my *disclaimer at the end of the post for my opinion.)
Our first day in Thailand we wanted to get a feeling for the area and decided to do our beach excursion the second day. We had the hotel call for a taxi to take a us to Tiger Kingdom (info HERE) right when they opened. The hotel said it would be 600Baht ($18.50) to take us there and back which was about a 15min drive there. So we waited for our taxi and it was more like a personal driver. There wasn't any taxi signs on his car or anything. We got in and met Berm (Bem). What we thought was just going to be a round trip from our hotel turned out to him driving us the whole ENTIRE day. He was awesome!
Anyway, Tiger Kingdom. Go in the morning! Less crowded. It was organized and very clean. We picked our package and headed to the tigers. There is a TV screen for each area of the tigers and they are separated based on size. We picked to see the cubs and giant full grown tigers. We waited about 20-30 mins and there was lots of sitting areas to watch the tigers. Most people didn't sit though because they were watching the other people interact with the tigers. Because of bacteria you can transfer from other tigers to the cubs you HAVE to see the cubs first if you are seeing them. So when our time was finally up we washed our hands and put on some facility sandals and headed into the stall. We actually ordered our packages separately so that we could go in as pairs and spend more time with the tigers. It could get kinda crowded in the stall if you have more than two of you plus a trainer and two tigers. So they actually started us with the small tigers which was really nice and then were lead into the cubs area. All in the same stall but separated but a small fence that was only like 2ft tall. It was so much fun and a bit intimidating. I kept getting in trouble because I would pet behind their ears or want to hold their little faces because they are so CUTE and you can't do that. It's basically the shoulder blades downs for obvious reasons. We played with them and tried to get pictures and we got a few good ones. Some people have asked me since I got back if I thought the tigers were drugged. NOT AT ALL. One of the main reasons I think this has been successful is because the tigers are bred in captivity. They are born at this place and grow up with human interaction from the moment they come out of the womb. The trainers seem to genuinely care about them as well. AND they are CATS! Cats sleep a lot and are lazy and then for like 10 mins of the day they do something funny and that's about it. They're not dogs that are just going to come over and jump all over and try to lick you to death. When we hung out with the full grown tigers it was crazy! They are massive and honestly all your thinking to yourself is... what if... but after a second went by I was like we're fine and got cozy with the tiger :) Overall, Tiger Kingdom was a great experience and that is something I would definitely do again every time I go there!
I almost forgot to mention that there was a Go Kart place right next to the Tiger Kingdom and we told our driver we wanted to try it out and he asked if would try the place across the street. It's kinda hidden and you can't see it off the main road but he said the track was better and so we went. It's called Phuket Kart Speedway and they have about six different karts you can choose from all based on the amount of power you want. My dad and I got the second to fastest kart and it was insane!!!! In my family some of us have lead foots ;) It was unreal how fast you could go and when I spun out the first and only time I was scared after that! So GO here!!! We loved it I wanted to go back there later that day and do it again! After reading some opinions about Patong speedway next to Tiger Kingdom they are more for beginners and are only one stroke karts as opposed to Phuket Speedway which are two stroke karts which I guess are fast! They also have beginner karts too. Find info about Phuket Speedway HERE.
After this we went a grabbed lunch and headed to Patong beach to get some sun. It was beautiful and something you can't pass up. The majority of the tourist population was Australian and the culture of Thailand is you can tan nude anywhere, at least every beach we went to was like that. The water was warm and clear and I could have probably spent the whole day at the beach.
We then drove to Kata beach where I had told the driver there was an elephant trekking place I wanted to go to and when we got there I saw baby elephants chained up on the side of the road :( and I was literally distraught about it. Thinking dang it we just drove here and this is not the place I researched and had great reviews and I didn't communicate with the driver well enough. I was SO relieved when I told my parents I wanted to leave because it just looked shady and this was not the place I had on our itinerary and they said OKAY no problem (Thank you for not getting mad at me!!!!). So I looked at our details and told the driver I wanted to go to Kok Chang. Which thankfully was just five minutes back in the direction we came from. We pulled up and I was automatically jumping for joy when they didn't have their baby elephants chained up on the side of the road. The people were so nice and it wasn't crowded at all. You don't need to call ahead they just fit you in when they can. And they have a 20,30, and 50min trek. We did the 30min but I'm pretty sure we at least were out there for 60min. Our guide was awesome! At first he seemed a little grumpy but he lightened up and was so much fun. There were times where I thought... are we actually going to go up this mountain? I see no trail, and it's pretty hilly. But the elephant was insane it just kept walking on up. Once we hit the scenic half (beach view) our guide got off and took our camera and started taking pictures. In fact he never got back on! The last 20-30min he just cruised out in front, behind, and to the side of us taking pictures the whole time! He loved taking pictures and he worked the camera pretty dang well! He could tell the elephant commands to do a certain pose and it was so fun! After we were done we had brought bananas and fed them to the elephants. So if you're in this area go to Kok Chang Safari it will be a once in a life time. Details can be found HERE.
We then stopped at Kata Beach because we were right next to it, had some time to spare, and it was ranked #4 beach in Thailand on trip advisor. Definitely pretty and I loved the area. If I make it back to Thailand I am staying here.
Last stop for the day Mookda Spa. Perfect way to end a busy day. For $70 you can get a 2-hour whatever you want deal. Massage, facial, legs, mani/pedi, etc... I'm not big on massages but I do love facials and having my feet rubbed (usually only by my husband though). It was amazing and the environment was relaxing. This facility is completely outdoor there is no real building. The people were so nice and warm. Our driver picked this place out and he did a great job. The drivers also get perks for taking you to places. After the spa we had our driver drop us off at the downtown area to walk around and get some dinner and then we just headed back to our hotel.
Our driver was with us from about 9:30am to 9pm and drove us all around the area as far as an hour away from our hotel. He charged us $50 (1600 Baht)... That is nothing!!! Especially since the hotel told us it would be $20 just for Tiger Kingdom and that was only 15min away! So if you're looking for a driver in Phuket call Berm his number is 080-5387016. He didn't have an e-mail but I would use skype to make the call if you really wanted to nail down your plans or just wait tell you get there.
Day Two: We did a beach excursion to the Phi Phi Islands ( pronounced Pee-Pee). We wanted small group size, a speed boat, and great reviews. So we went with Phuket Sail Tours, info found HERE. THEY picked us up at 6:50am from out hotel which seems really early, but because of the time difference you will not have a problem getting up. It took about an hour to get the dock which was on the other side of the island. The van they picked us up in was clean and had AC. Our departure time was delayed because they picked up the wrong two people or the two people claimed to be someone they weren't. But it was minor in the scheme of things. We headed out by 8:30am and since we left 30min late we would arrive home 30min late which was 4:30pm. It took about an hour by speedboat to get to the islands. Our first stop was the picturesque Phi Phi Beach. I suppose we hit this up first before everyone else gets there because as we were leaving the ferry boats showed up and they carry like 500 people. Thank goodness we got hang out there for a while and leave before the masses showed up and this is not a big beach. I mean really it's tiny but beautiful. We then headed to a few other bays where we just jumped off the boat and swam around or snorkeled. Our guide was funny he would throw bananas at us in the water and the fish love bananas and they would swarm you!! It was crazy! We then hit up a small beach village where they had lunch on the beach waiting for us and it was traditional thai food. It was great. We hung out at the beach for a while and then headed out for some more swimming/ snorkeling and I decided to just lie out in the front of the boat and work on my tan and enjoy everything. Our last stop was a small island that you could walk around in 15min and was surrounded by crystal clear water.
Overall the tour was great. I had a hard time understanding our guide sometimes but he was nice. They had tons of food and drinks on the boat for free so if you ever got hungry you could just grab something. They had fresh fruit and some local fruit to try as well all of which was delicious. They had chicken wings which were SO good hah and water, and coke, and sprite, and juice, etc... This was definitely a huge plus for me :) Our boat had 17 people on it that day and it seats 30. They try to stick to groups no more than 20 and I really enjoyed this because you weren't just a number and they genuinely cared that you have a good time. I believe it was about $80/ person for the day and everything was included (snorkel gear, snacks, drinks, lunch, pick-up and drop-off to your hotel). If you were in Hawaii and wanted to take a speedboat to Lanai or something it would probably be at least $300-$400 per person. To take just the ferry to get to Lanai and back is $60. So in Thailand the activities are very affordable, worth it and your money goes much further.
Loved Thailand maybe I'll go back there someday but I have it checked off now and there is still so many other places to explore :)
Real quick Bangkok. We were only here for a day and I wasn't too impressed. But I thought I should at least mention it. It feels more like a business city rather than a tourist city. We did supposedly go to the worlds largest outdoor market, saw the temple of dawn (Wat Aran), and saw the reclining buddha. At the market, Chanel and I sat down under this tent where the sweetest old woman was making muslim food in front of you. AHMAZING! We order one of everything and loved everything and ordered a second round. I would go back there just so I could eat there! My parents ate another tent a few slots down and they said they had the best chicken of their life and told us we missed out haha while we were telling them at the same time they missed out on our food too! Also, if you look up a place to eat in Bangkok with a view of the temple of dawn make sure you check when then review was last updated! Because we went looking for a place for 1.5 hours that did no exisit and then decided to sit down at the resturant that supposedly replaced it called ... DO NOT GO THERE! It was awful. The view was pretty but our food was awful. WE literally could not eat it and had to leave... and then we stopped at Swenson's and got ice cream for dinner hah. That was Bangkok.
*Disclaimer: But to be real honest walking around Patong at night is... degenerate. It's not pretty, clean, or good for kids. And I'm not saying if it's not those things then it's degenerate. When you walk by the girl holding flyers for you know what... and wonder if she is old enough to even be 14 I have a problem with that. The reality is that Thailand is the number one sex tourism destination in the world and you can tell. I did a research project on this particular topic in college with a group of people along with medical tourism. So to actually witness the statistics and see it for my self was pretty interesting and true to what we found just from using the internet and other resources. It's really a beautiful place but it could be paradise if it didn't lack in a few areas.