As my SouthEast Asia itinerary came together, I found myself with a few open days at the end of my trip. As much as I would have loved to explore some of the more remote islands like Koh Tao or Koh Samui, I wanted an airport with easy access to Hong Kong for my flight home. So I settled on Phuket, despite the reputation as a hard partying super touristy island. I didn’t have much in the way of expectations, other than a few days at the spa/pool after 10 days of heavy touristing. While I originally planned to do nothing but relax in Phuket, that plan didn’t last long once I read about Viator’s Phang Nga Bay Sea Cave tour. OK, one more long day of activities and then I’ll relax!
I chose the Westin Siray Bay for my visit. I’m a big fan of Westin hotels, and found a great pre-paid rate of about $93 per night ($110 with taxes and fees…still a bargain!) I flew to Phuket from Cambodia (via Bangkok) and landed around 8pm on a Wednesday night. The hotel offered an airport car service, a bit pricey at $35 each way, but well worth it given my evening arrival and the 45 minute drive. Upon arrival, I was upgraded to a 2 room suite, complete with two balconies! (My favorite hotel feature is a balcony!)
The Phang Nga Bay tour started at noon, and included hotel pickup (a huge bonus as my resort was about an hour away from everything on the island!) This gave me time to order up a fresh room service breakfast to enjoy on my balcony. I already miss the orange juice in Thailand, which is apparently tangerine juice…so yummy!
Upon arrival at the marina, we were funneled through a small shop for last minute purchases like soda, sunscreen or souvenirs. We were then split into two groups of 50 and assigned to our boat.
Lunch was served as we set sail, and each group was assigned a guide. As a solo traveler, I was paired up with a solo woman from Australia, and our guide, Alex. After lunch was served, we arrived at our first kayaking spot. Most of the kayaking would focus on islands with caves leading to interior lakes, or hongs. Upon paddling into a dark cave (sometimes having to lie down in the boat to avoid conking our heads) the walls would then open up to a beautiful oasis.
We saw plenty of monkeys on the shores as well, and unlike Cambodia, they did not want anything to do with us. I’m sure they are used to the traffic, but it was nice that they weren’t begging for food or water.
After a few kayak outings within the islands of Phang Nga Bay, we had some downtime while the crew prepared dinner. Some of us swam, while others attempted a foot race on the slippery kayaks strung together.
After dinner, it was time to pair up again with our guide and make our krathong. The krathong is a decorated basket or crown that is adorned with candles and set afloat while making a wish, typically during the Thai holiday of Loi Krathong in November. The base of the krathong was formed by a banana stalk and then decorated with banana leaves and various flowers. While I’m not usually big on arts and crafts, the ritual of floating them after dark was pretty special. It was also fun to hear and see the guides get competitive about the best looking krathong. My new Aussie friend and I agreed, we had one of the best guides on the boat!
As the sun set, we got our krathong ready and got back into the kayaks one more time. We grouped up with two other boats in a nearby cave to light our krathong, make a wish and float them away. (In the normal ceremony, they do just float away, however with so many tourists partaking, it was necessary to re-collect our krathongs after a while)
After this, Alex took us to a more secluded area to see the bio-luminescent plankton and even a few glowing jellyfish. Something I’d always wanted to see and something I’ll just have to keep in memory as it wasn’t possible to photograph it. Finally, we had about an hour ride from Phang Nga Bay back to the marina, and then my car was waiting to take me back to the Westin. It was a long day and a late night (for me!) but an unforgettable experience!
Finally, the next day, my last in Phuket, I would get my much anticipated down time. I had no agenda, other than to explore the different pool areas of the Westin. Sadly, I was so relaxed that I only made it to 2 of the 3 pools!
I spent most of the day at the Horizon pool, including a poolside lunch.
By the time I got to the beach, the tide had gone out, so I skipped on ahead to the Prego pool for the rest of the afternoon.
My last night in Phuket was extremely chill – room service and reading. I know, I’m a total nerd, but I can’t resist room service and a good book!
So, I can’t say I actually saw any of Phuket itself, but this was a great way to wind down from a very active vacation. The Westin was great for this type of visit – if you wanted to do more activities, you might want to stay in a more populated area, but as far as resorts go, I loved it. The one downside to Phuket that I noticed was a return to Western prices – even a crappy sandwich at the airport cost $18!
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