JBR Phuket 19th Dec 2008 to 1st Jan 2009
19th Dec 2008 Flew Perth-Singapore-Phuket as per schedule. ;-)
First night at Merlin Beach Resort (just south of Patong beach)– excellent facilities (pools/restaurants etc) Taxi into Patong (hotel taxi 300BHT..walk across road to taxi/tuctuc queue..200BHT..lesson learned).
Bangla Road hot, noisy, sleazy, vibrant (big culture shock..terrific).
Lots of opportunities to get involved in time share deals if you’re dumb enough to stop and chat (which I was...once).
Cruise on Suwan Macha (4 days/3 nights cruise)
This was worth the airfare alone.....
Excellent trip from start to finish. We were lucky in that only one other couple (honeymooners Jon & Heloise) had booked for this trip so instead of a possible maximum of 10 passengers there were only four of us. Lifestyles of the rich and famous......... Jon & Heloise were good company so the social side was very pleasant.......we followed the itinerary below. .which delivers on everything stated...and more.....
Highlights were EVERYTHING!!!! Crew of 3 looked after us in all respects. Food excellent. Excursions for sightseeing, snorkelling etc were well organised and a good mix of casual RnR, isolated locations and doing the touristy bits.
Cruising between the islands was so relaxing and putting the junk rig sails up and cruising along was superb.
The cabins are quite small and would be stifling on a hot still night, but we were lucky as we had almost continuous sea breezes to provide some air movement. There are cabin fans but they are too noisy to use whilst trying to sleep. We all agreed that a full passenger list of 10 people would be too crowded. 6 would be comfortable. 8-10 probably only workable if it was a group who knew each other. Toilet/shower setup is functional (pump flush toilet) and kept immaculately clean by the crew.
This is a T shirt and thongs (feet type) environment and not for the 5 star brigade in respect of the accommodation (dining on deck in a secluded bay with excellent food, good company and the odd beer and vino is a six star experience). For anyone wanting a rewarding break this trip is highly recommended.
Saturday: Phuket - Phang Nga (D)
Transfer from hotel to the embarkation pier, Suwan Macha departs from the pier at 14:00 hrs. Set a course through the towering islands of Phang Nga Bay and a tour to the ever-popular James Bond Island. Back onboard, you’ll anchor in time for a postcard sunset. Dinner and over night on board Suwan Macha at anchor.
Sunday: Phang Nga – Krabi (B, L, D)
Enjoy breakfast on deck, then tour the unique Sea Gypsy Village and a spectacular ride amongst the mangroves and hidden lagoons. Spend the afternoon in the clear green waters of Krabi or take to a deserted white sand beach to enjoy your own private sun-bathing. Sunset is yours to enjoy on deck with a succulent feast of Thai cuisine. Night on board.
Monday: Krabi - Phi Phi Island (B, L, D)
After breakfast, cruise the islands between Krabi and Phi Phi with more snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing before going ashore to explore Phi Phi Island. After dinner on board, sit back and enjoy the peacefulness of the night in a secluded bay.
Tuesday: Phi Phi – Phuket (B, L)
After breakfast onboard, travel to Phi Phi Lay and explore the Maya Bay Cave (made famous by the film The Beach). Then back ashore Phi Phi for lunch and cruise back to Phuket by high-speed ferry. Transfer to hotel and arrive at 18.00.
Returned to Merlin Beach Resort for remaining 9 nights of holiday.
26th Richard & Megumi’s BBQ and Bar Outing – a group of 8 + R&M had a great night out. Pick up and travel arrangement through Richard went like clockwork.
All You Can Eat BBQ Dinner at Mamma's & Pappa's – My expectation was that the food would take second place to the socialising opportunity with fellow travelers and residents but this outing scores highly on both counts. I’m generally wary of “all you can eat” deals as they tend to be more quantity, less quality affairs, not so at this BBQ. The food was above average and the ribs were outstanding. Good food, cold beer and a chance to get to know other travelers. A great start to the evening.
Sunshine Bar – As this was new territory for us and having read the discussion on the forum about suitability for children we were unsure of what was about to unfold. Other than a lot of fun there was nothing sleazy about the event. There were no travellers kids present in our group (17yo being the youngest).
The bar entertainment team sustained a lively cabaret through the night. Delivered with great enthusiasm by the behind the bar entertainment team with a touch of irony the lyrics of the "I love you" "Go home now" "Send money" song say it all about some of the sleazy goings on observable in Patong..........a comic highlight.
Also, managed to climb the pole before the Fishermans Friend shots and cocktails took their toll. Had a play on the bongo drums (emptied the bar temporarily..too many critics around!!!!)
Mrs Flibble was caught on video doing the Macarena, (which she will take a long time to live down!!!!!!) with the behind the bar entertainment team.
Nice one Richard and Megumi!!!!!!!
Half Day Tour of Phuket – A good introduction to the island and key points of interest. The Big Buddha is a must see (how can you miss it, it is 45M high!!! ) Not a good place for camera batteries to run out and to discover the spares you bought the day before are not charged up. Our guide (Lotus) came to the rescue and has promised to send the photo’s to us. The main figure is essentially complete. It looks like this monument will be a significant world class attraction once the site is complete. It is already damned impressive.
Hong by Starlight – John Gray Tour
Deserves its top billing as a Must Do tour. From pick up to return everything ran smoothly and professionally. The tour was as advertised and faultless from the food to the kratong making and ceremony in the Hong at night.
White Water Rafting & Elephant Trekking (Sealand Tour)
Another success from pick up to drop off and all points in-between. Our tour coordinator Don (is good) provided a detailed introduction and even a song on the way up to the rafting site. Having done rafting in 2007 on the Padas River in Borneo we had high expectations of this trip. Water is released from a dam upstream to allow this activity to happen at this time of year. When the released water arrived all hell broke loose. There were rafts everywhere (other tours sharing the river). Dodgems in rafts!!!! In between the spinning, splashing, colliding, bumping and tumbling there was a brief rest stop.
The elephant trekking was next. We were whisked to the location and were astride an elephant before we knew it. Getting to sit in the drivers (mahout) position was a real thrill. Our elephant had a mind of its own and wanted to overtake the elephant in front which it did with a short gallop. It was like the rafting again, clinging on with EVERY bit of the anatomy available. Finally, feeding our mount at the end of the trip was a chance to see the trunk in action up close.
We were then whisked to the location for the waterfall swim. A beautiful location for a cool down before a late lunch. This trip maintained the high standards established on the previous ones.
New Years Eve at the Merlin Beach Resort (Mandatory Event!!!!)
This lead up to this caused some consternation as we would not have chosen to stay in the hotel for new years eve but after confirming we had already paid for the event in our “package” (5,260BHT ($A270) each!!!!) we went along. The setting in the grounds next to the beach was perfect. The hotel had set up tables with white table cloths, a large stage for the entertainment and LOADS of food which was very good (900 people being catered for) and the midnight fireworks display.
Overall, a good night but hellishly expensive as we found that drinks were NOT included in the price. The hotel charged 1,800BHT ($A90) for a bottle of Californian Cab Sav and 1,500BHT for a bottle of a run of the mill chardonnay. It was obvious that a lot of people (including us) “nursed” their drinks through the (6hr) event because of the outrageous prices. The constant reminders by the event compares to “order your champagne well before 12 o’clock” went down like a lead balloon. I did not see any champagne being delivered, not surprising at 2,700BHT for the “cheapest” bottle!!!!!!!!!
The overall cost for a family or group of 4 or more would be enough to purchase a time share apartment!!!!!! Perhaps the pricing is to discourage overindulgence!
I understand this scene is repeated at most hotels and is something avoided by more informed travelers. The feeling of being ripped off at this “Mandatory” event is the only sour note in an otherwise great holiday.
1st Jan 2009 Flew Phuket -Singapore- Perth as per schedule. ;-(
Thanks to all contributors for info provided on this site prior to our trip. We had a ball thanks to your recommendations and reviews.
Not so happy with the couple from Brisbane who I sat next to on the Phuket-Singapore flight. They were both coughing and sneezing and I now have a terrific head cold, thanks a bunch guys ;-(