Just returned from Phuket. Had 10 awesome days of weather, with a small rainstorm as we landed, and then bright sunny days around 31 degrees C every day.
We stayed initially for 7 days at the Merlin Beach Resort just outside Patong. We had booked a Pool Access Room and had it guaranteed by our agent here in AUS. ** WARNING WARNING ** Despite the guarantee from the resort, when we arrived our room would not be available for 2 days (we had 7 nights at Merlin Beach). I had read about this happening on TA, but was assured it couldnt happen to us. WELL IT BLOODY WELL DID ! We were offered 3 full dinners and free cocktails in spite of the problem. If this happens to you, don't take the coupons.. simply get a refund on your extra room charges when you get home. The Buffet dinners at the resort at CRAP ! We still had coupons left when we left as we couldnt stomach the food. We spoke to at least FIVE other people that had the same experience. The resort gets hold of you, and then simply fobs you off when you arrive... what else can you do ? MOVE ? This was by far the worst part of the whole trip, and really put us in a bad mood. The Merlin Beach Resort REALLY needs to come clean with their policy on these pool access rooms. THEY SIMPLY SHOULD NOT OVERBOOK !
Now.. back to the good parts.
We enjoyed a couple of beach massages on the Northern end of the beach for 300Bhat, and they were simply sensational. Head to Toe, and the best value hour of our lives. We also managed to get most taxi trips to and from the resort for 200Baht rather than the advertised 300 that the Tuk Tuk Mafia wanted. We only paid 300 late at night coming home from Patong.
The resort itself, when we managed to get into our assigned room was superb. The pool access is simply the best way to utilise the magnificent pools. There is nothing like slipping out of your room and into the pool, rather than race down to grab a beach chair. Many people had towels on them by 8am. Happy hour on Tuesday in the pool bar from 4pm till 6pm saw the Aussies REALLY taking advantage of the half price drinks. It was a good session and we met some great people. The bulk of the resort was taken up by Swedes on what looked like Package Holidays. They even had their own Scandinavian entertainment lined up at night. In fact the bulk of the tourists we saw at this time of year were Scandinavians, and a lot of the smaller food places, especially around Karon Beach seemed to be owned or managed by Swedes.
NOW... a HUGE HUGE plug for Jenny and Geoff from SIMBA SEA TRIPS ! Thanks to TA we chose these guys over the rest of the tours to Phang Nga Bay, and what a bloody good decision that was ! Only 15 of us on their magnificent speed boat, tons of food, drinks and a great captain and deckhand. Jenny and Geoff made sure EVERYONE had a ball, and they made a point of chatting and getting to know us all. They run a very very tight outfit, and they make sure you don't get caught up in huge crowds of people. They really take the time to explain everything, and the walking tour of the village at Ko Panyi is a highlight. We put 4 or 5 other couples onto them after we had done the trip, and I am sure they won't regret it. next time we hit Phuket, we are booking Simba for the Phi Phi islands trip for sure ! Thanks guys, we know you read the forum, and we cannot extend enough thanks for one of the highlights of our trip !
We also did a cooking school at PUMS that has been mentioned here. Our suggestion is to do the 3 course class and not the 4. We did get to walk around the markets, but the heat in the middle of the day was daunting. The markets are a good 15 min from the place you do your classes, and we were over it by then. Also... its too hard to eat 4 dishes each !!!
Another great thing to do, and another highlight for us.
We also booked a driver suggested through Cathy and Garrys pages. We used MAI, who now has a brand new 4WD car with leather etc... His details Mai's phone number is +66 841 134 809. NUCH his wife answers the phone and is very helpful. We had a full day with MAI for 1500Baht and that was a full 8 hours. We went to Kok Chang Elephant Camp (The Gibbons were absent though), all the lookouts, Cape Promthepe, the fishing Village, Central Festival, Phuket Town shopping and we also managed to get to KRU SUWIT restaurant as suggested by a few others. That was a bit dissapointing to us though. The prices were double what we expected and there was a very limited choice of food ! The seafood prices were the same or more as we were offered in up market places in Patong. I am thinking if you went with a local, you may get better prices. The choice though was limiting, and we were a tad dissapointed. The trip there and back by longtail, and the general ambience of eating on a floating lump of foam and wood cannot be beaten though ! It was along day for us, and we had a ball, and we would reccomend MAI to anyone who needs a knowledgable driver.
We moved to the KataThani Resort at Kata Noi for our last 2 nights, and had been told it was a great 'couples' resort and smaller than MB. That was so wrong.... the resort was HUGE and was full of kids at this time of year. The beach is stunning, and probably the best we saw on Phuket, and the ability to walk over the road to a whole choice of restaurants and mini marts is great. We ate our last dinner at the resort and it was superb, but pricey by normal Phuket standards. The level of service at the KataTjani was better than MB, but you paid for it. The MB had better pools, but the beach sucked. Kata had limited shopping, but was a closer Tuk Tuk ride than Patong... so you have to weigh up the pros and cons. The wife preffered MB.. I liked Kata Thani better.
HINTS AND TIPS...
1.) a HUGE plug for a Greek place we found in Kata. Off Kata road turn into the Alley with CASADEL SOL hotel at the very end. There is an optical shop on the corner. Go down the SOI and on the right is the GREEK ISLANDS restaurant. OMG the food was superb and cheap ! Best Greek we have eaten anywhere (and my wife is Cypriot). The owner and chef are Greek.
2.) In the JungCeylon Shopping centre in Patong, right out the back, in the big alcove with the food places is an Italian place.... Once again, hard to beat anywhere we have ever eaten Italian. Can't remeber the name, but look for the Hogs Breath and walk back 50m
3.) The cheapest T-Shirts we got were in the BANAAN BAZAAR right behind JungCeylon at 150Baht. Most vendors started at 350Baht and came down from there.
4.) Make sure you have a Banana Pancake from a street stall. I had 3 in one day. YUMMY
5.) Bangla Road doesnt really get into 'PARTY MODE' till at least 11pm, so don't bother going until then. The Tiger Bar on Soi Bangla had 1000 people in it the Friday we went out, we've never seen such a party atmosphere !
6.) The Red Bulls - the ones in the tiny medicince bottles are GREAT if you feel a bit tired. I swear they are twice as strong as the cans we have back here !
I'll add bits and pieces as I thing about them, but thats a good start.
We can't wait to get back there now.
OH.. and Patong still stinks in parts ! They need to upgrade the system methinks :)