Where to start.
We stayed at the Centara Karon and our review of the hotel can be found in the Hotels review section. We opted not to hire a moped and therefore were restricted in our movements and only really saw the Karon beach area and also Patong Beach area.
Karon is much quieter than I was expecting but this was a good thing as we were able to chill out and relax and yet still have plenty of choice of restaurants, bars and shopping.
The beach is large bay with plenty of sun beds and brollys available 2 beds and a brolly are 200bt per day. There are also various shacks along the beach selling drinks and they also have links to restaurants and will bring food to your snubbed as required. The sea was warm calm and lovely to dip in and out off when the sun got too much. Beware of jellyfish in the sea there are some big buggers with large tentacles. Snorkelling in the sea is pretty pointless you might see some small sand fish and possibly a crab here or there but thats it. In the early morning or in the evening when its cooler but before it gets dark it’s great to walk along the sea front good to chill out and do some people watching.
Plenty of choice of restaurants to choose from in Karon. Our favourite by a country mile was Bamboo Kitchen. It had excellent food large selection of Thai dishes, superb ambience and brilliant staff. Everytime we ate there we never failed to be impressed. As an additional bonus Bamboo Kitchen offer a 20% off voucher next time you dine there if you meal is more than 900bt. We also ate at Red Onion again excellent food friendly staff but more of a Cafe feel to it and lacked the ambience of Bamboo Kitchen. The same can be said for Mr Tong.
To give an idea of prices Bamboo Kitchen was in the region of 850bt to 1100bt (£16-21) depending on drinks/cocktails ordered or if fresh seafood dish was ordered. Generally this included the 20% off voucher for returning customers, a shared starter platter, 2 main dishes from Thai menu, 2 desserts 1 / 2beers 1 / 2 glasses of house wine.
Similarly at Red Onion 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 desserts, same as above for drinks in the region of 700bt to 850bt (£13-16)
Also worth visiting is the Karon Sunshine Guesthouse where they have the cutest little puppy called Lucky we always popped in for a drink and or the best Irish Coffee in Karon after dinner.
Also remember that there is more to Karon than the strip directly outside the hotel. If you walk to the sea front you will find many more cafes and restaurants. At the roundabout if you turn left and walk along the road toward the movenpick hotel there is a large variety including Vitaporn which was a lovely family run restaurant
Plenty to choose from take your pick all have offers on.
Tuk Tuk prices are fixed they do not barter and hence why they are called the Tuk Tuk mafia they stick together and the price of a trip into Patong is 300bt or to Kata 200bt. take it or leave it.
Local to the hotel is a small undercover market near the skylight bar this has some copy designer gear along with various souvenirs and home wares stuff like duvet covers etc. At the end is a small painting studio with some lovely artwork to buy. It’s small but plenty to choose from and the name of the game barter but barter with a smile. T-Shirts vary non branded 150bt, branded 200+bt, Polo necks branded 200 if you barter hard and it’s raining if not 250bt is more common, leather copy bags mulberry good quality 1400bt barter hard, jimmy choo poor quality 1200-1400bt.
There are also various stands dotted around havanahs flip flops 200bt etc
There is also a much larger market if you turn left at the roundabout and walk down the beach road for around 10 minutes passed movenpick hotel there is a larger market on the left. Similar prices some people start very high so I went very low others can’t be bothered and decide to give a fairer starting price usually much more difficult to barter with.
Great gifts to take home for souvenirs are the soap carvings, very intricate and excellent gifts can barter and probably get them for 80bt for a large one.
Suits are available from one of the 100 tailors but I was not interested so just smile and say no thank you oh and if your from England you will probably get them trying to shake hands and saying lovely jubbly guvnor its their ploy as soon as you shake hands they wont let go.
There are numerous tour booths dotted around all offer the same trips but they can vary in price almost doubling in some instances. We did 2 trips which I will talk about in more detail further on.
Trips which looked good but we were unhappy with were the elephant trekking and the Phuket zoo, I know it’s a personal preference and seeing elephants used by locals to move harvest is fine but seeing them chained to the side of a road as a beaten tourist attraction to me is wrong therefore we would not do this trip however I am not here to judge others who have and people we spoke too said it was wonderful.
Similar for the zoo I am a huge fan of big cats and see zoos as a great conservation tool but seeing tigers chained and defeated used as photo trophies does nothing for me.
Patong beach is a large sandy stretch of coast with lots of water sport activities including water play areas with climbing walls and slides etc. Plenty of sunbeds and brollys same as Karon.
During the day there are many snacks bars aswell as the western chains Mc D’s starbucks Burger king etc. Along the beach road there are loads of shops selling a variety of copy designer gear ranging from pants to bags and watches as with Karon bartering is the name of the game.
At night patong comes alive and the main strip Bangla road is alive with neon. Bar after bar after bar and many many go go girl shows and adult ping pong shows etc, good to walk down and see but not sure if I would like that every night when going out for a stroll.
Too many to mention along beach road is a wide variety serving seafood Thai and continental. The only restaurant I would comment on is the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe. We are a huge fan of hard rock and always think it makes a welcome change from local cuisine when away and loved the one in Sharm El Sheikh but sad to say that the new one in patong was poor. No atmosphere, bland food, dry food very very very expensive. A small glass of house wine, 1 small beer, onion rings, classic burger and chicken fajitas 1860bt (£37)
Plenty to choose from take your pick all have offers on. Check out Bangla Road
There were lots of small markets and streets with market stalls tucked away as you walk along beach road and or bangle road. Also don’t be alarmed if they say come to my secret shop as all appear shop keepers have another shop usually air conditioned room with no windows with many more designs. Beach road is full of shops tailors selling anything and everything during the day and at night.
At the top of bangle road you will find many more shops and stalls and if you turn right and walk towards the hard rock cafe you will see a large market called O Top. There is everything you could ever imagine here copy designer gear bags tailors bags massages restaurants, souvenir shops home ware shops etc.
Prices of stuff we either bought or bartered for but then didn’t buy were as follows
Games DS PS Wii 800bt
Copy designer jeans Armani etc 600bt
Copy designer undies 100bt
Copy designer leather bags Chloe jimmy Choo etc 1400-1500bt
Copy designer purse wallets 400-1000bt
Copy designer plastic/canvas bags Ed hardy etc 1200-1600bt
Non branded t-shirts 150bt
Non branded singlets (vests) 150bt
Mens branded t-shirts 300-500bt
Mens branded polo neck good quality Abercrombie and Fitch etc 400-500bt
Mens branded polo neck polo, burberry etc 250-400bt
Womens/mens Abercrombie hoodies good quality 1200bt
Copy designer watches 1000-1500bt depending on quality some looked very poor.
Copy designer sunglasses 300-800bt
Copy designer hats 300bt
Silk kimonos 350-500bt
Silk cushion covers 100bt each
Silk table runners 200-400bt
Popular brands seen in almost every shop Ed Hardy, Prada bags, Jimmy Choo bags, Mulberry bags, Juicy bags, Polo, Burberry, Some Abercrombie . As been mentioned before though these prices vary so pay what your happy paying check seems and buckles and buttons.
We did two trips which we booked through the booth in Karon near the diving center at the bottom by the roundabout, these were Simon Cabaret (lady boy show) and the Phi Phi and other island tour with Siam Sea Canoe.
Simon Cabaret in other booths was 700-1000bt each including transfers and VIP (means first 8 rows) we paid 600bt each inclusive of transfers and VIP status. It was a good show and very entertaining evening definitely worth seeing.
Phi Phi island trip was 2800bt each including transfers we paid 1100bt each inclusive of transfer. This trip was a real disappointment and for 1100bt (£22 each) it was still overpriced if i had paid full price I would have been exceptionally upset. You were treated as a number and there was no intimacy to the trip. You were shuttled on and off of the boat at the various destinations so quick due to amount of other boats offering the same tour. Our boat was a three engine speed boat and was full with cramped seating making it impossible to move around. From the whole trip there are three areas you really want to see and be able to spend some time on these are Maya bay, Monkey Island, and Phi Phi don.
Below is a brief outline of time spent in each stop. There was additional sightseeing at Viking cave etc enroute to the stops
• Maya bay soft white sand beautiful shallow water would like to have spent at least 1.5hr here, on our pre organised trip we spent 30 minutes by the time you get off the boat and been to the loo especially women who tend to queue it was time to board the boat and leave.
• Monkey island see the monkeys and feed them some banana get a photo and relax would like to spend 1hr here, on our pre organised trip we spent 15 minutes here which was far too little
• Phi Phi don where you stop for buffet lunch would like to spend 2.5hour here walk around and relax, on our pre organised trip we spent 1hr10min here so by the time you have eaten you had 20-30 minutes to walk around the island.
• Then the final stop was a small sand bank type island Khai Nai island here we spent nearly 2 hrs but what a surprise this isand was uninhabited and the bar and people offering ice creams etc all seemed to work with the boats. We was sold this as being a snorkelling paradise and relaxing part of the day, as a keen diver I would describe this as a dying/dead coral reef with little marine life besides sea urchins the boats show no care and the shallow reef that was once thriving is now completely dilapidated and broken and washed up onto the once white sand which makes it more like shale beach now. The visibility was poor due to boats churning up sediment and smashing the corals to pieces.
We have travelled to many places and really enjoy the boat trips which we do every time we are away and this one was by far the worst, you were treated as a number, there were no personal touches to the trip, it was rushed and poorly executed little regard to the damage caused by the boats to marine life. I would travel back to Thailand and I would look at boat trips but I would never book with Sian Sea Canoes again.
Exchange rate cash 53.21bt to the £
Exchange rate TC 54.32bt to the £ with a 30bt commission on each cheque.
Take small denomination notes 20bt 50bt for tips etc
To any first time travellers to thailand like we were we hope our experiences and reviews are helpfull and most important of all enjoy your trip.