The Thai Diaries: Phuket (2/6)

20th January 2018

map of southern Thailand islands
Planned like a military exercise: the 5-point plan of attack

For this particular island-hopping adventure we fly directly into Phuket from Gatwick for three nights, then a two-hour ferry to Phi Phi for three nights, then another ferry to Koh Lanta for three nights, then a ferry to Krabi for – yes, you guessed it – three nights. Then it’s on to Phang Nga (Pang Ahhh) for a night in the jungle followed by one final night back in Phuket before our Saturday morning flight home. So it’s a circular anti-clockwise island tour planned solely by Yours Truly with a little bit of helpful input from my good mates Google, (this link gives you £15 off) and We’re away for fifteen days: two direct 12-hour flights, three ferries, six hotels (all three or four stars and great reviews). Sound pricey? Nah! The entire trip has cost us less than £750 each. A weekend in Ibiza costs more than that. Sweet, huh? I’ll write a separate blog post about how to bag the best holiday bargains later…

So, the flight to Phuket is deemed a success by both De Mama and myself, having met the major qualifying criteria that I judge airlines by, which are a). air stewards smiling genuinely, rather than plastering on a lipsticked grimace whilst cursing their customers ventriloquist-style to one another and thinking we’re either too dumb or drunk on the drinks trolley offerings to notice. Which brings me nicely to point b). liberal application of free wines and spirits to aforementioned customers, served with a cheeky wink rather than a jobsworth’s calculation of alcohol measured to 3 decimal points of a cubic millilitre, and c) sufficient legroom for a six-footer like myself, without having to pay an arm and a leg for an emergency exit seat, or saw off an arm and a leg in order to fit in a regular one. Nice one Tui – you did good.

Tui aeroplane on the runway
Don’t be fooled by the London sun – it’s bloody freezing

Stepping off the plane at 7am, we’re hit by a wall of humid heat. It’s as though we’ve stuck our heads into a furnace; we’re wearing our winter-in-London woollies and are instantly sweating like pigs at a disco. Once inside the terminal building, it’s clear we’re going to be here for a while: poker-faced customs officials are painstakingly photographing each person and slowly sorting visas (which are issued for thirty days upon arrival – no need to arrange prior to travel from the UK – which is handy, at least). Less handy is the fact that several planes have come in at once; humans of every flavour and ethnic origin are shedding clothes like we’re at the International Strip Polka Championships. It’s clear we’ll be here for the duration. Ninety minutes later and we’re finally through. I clap eyes on my GBF (Gay Best Friend) Luke in the arrivals hall – he’s just flown in from Kuala Lumpur – grab our bags from the carousel and the three amigos are finally ready to rock and roll.

Our hotel is called Swiss Villas Panoramic, and there’s a teeny clue in the title: in order to get those ‘panoramic’ views they boast about on the website, it is obviously very high up. Which is great…but not exactly ideal when the minibus drops us off at the bottom of the steps and we have to haul our baggage plus our jetlagged asses up a gazillion tiny steps in the blistering heat. Wearing jeans. And thick flight socks. My ears are popping more from the climb up to the hotel than the flight take-off. I need one of De Mama’s boiled sweets for the ascent. We are greeted at the top by our hosts with a ‘welcome drink’ as promised – which is very welcome indeed, seeing as we’re red-faced and gasping for breath like three (unfit) fish out of water.

The most we can muster is a swim in the rooftop pool, a melanin-awakening sunbathing sesh accompanied by the first of many outdoor Thai green curries and an ice cold Chang (or three), then it’s time to catch some much-needed zeds.

Thai green curry
I love a mean Thai green

Much later, we wake in darkness. Looking out of our little villa over Phuket, we can now appreciate just why they decided to build the place at such altitude: the view is breathtaking. Thousands of twinkling lights from the district’s many buildings adorn the night sky like diamonds, and there’s a light breeze at this height which takes some of the humidity from the air. Up here it’s still like having a hairdryer aimed at your face, but it’s set to medium rather than hot; a welcome relief after an energy-sapping day of unaccustomed heat for us squid-skinned Brits.

Swiss Villas Panoramic Phuket
Swiss Villas Panoramic…run by a Swiss dude, obvs

We have a cheeky drink at the bar before heading out to explore Patong. The district’s main ‘walking street’ is Bangla Road: an intoxicating blend of blaring music, dancing ‘girls’ (some with giveaway bulging Adam’s apples and a five o’clock shadow) winding and a-grinding round poles, bars, restaurants and shops. It has a distinct flavour of the Khao San Road, which any traveller worth their salt will be familiar with – compulsory backpacker-circuit stuff.

Patong Beach sign at the entrance to Bangla Road
Bangla Road: the entrance to the mayhem

Slightly shell-shocked and jetlagged, we slide into the seats in a randomly-chosen restaurant and select a set menu for three, for convenience. It arrives on segmented school dinner-style trays and we tuck in hungrily. Within seconds, red-hot chilli juice has hit the back of my throat and I proceed to choke almost to death for the next half hour, much to the bemusement of the proprietor. A tourist clutching their throat and writhing about in agony in full view of passers-by browsing the menu outside is hardly good for business, is it? I guzzle down water by frantically upending the bottle like a marathon runner at mile twenty-five and attempt to stifle my agony. Red-faced and eyes bulging for the second time that day, I concede defeat and head home to bed – even the fact that Sven Vath is headlining at the Illuzion nightclub a few doors down doesn’t tempt me. Whaat?! I know, I know: I’m getting O.L.D.


21st January 2018

We wake up refreshed and excited, the entire two-week adventure stretching ahead of us. You just can’t beat those First Day Feels (FDFs); the ones you get when you’ve successfully shrugged off the monotony of the rat-race and life feels full of endless possibilities. And in Thailand those possibilities are even more endless than anywhere else. Why? Because they are CHEAP. Maaannn are they cheap. To a Westerner, everything is just so goddamn, ridiculously, laughably, cheap. You wanna feel like a millionaire, even just for a little while? The answer…is South. East. Asia, my friend. I keep expecting them to get the memo and create a two-currency system or something, like in Cuba (which I visited last year). The Cubans have one currency for the locals…and another for fleecing wealthy foreigners. Clever, huh? But no, Thailand and the surrounding countries are still dirt cheap. Huzzah! Compared to the absolute rip-off central that is London, Thailand is a skinflint’s wet dream. You can buy an entire main meal, including drink and dessert, for the price of your morning coffee at Starbucks (other equally-overpriced coffee chains are also available). Hence why this newly-unemployed ‘writer’ (I still feel like a fraud describing myself as a writer without mentally adding an asterisked explanation – or at the very least inverted commas) has chosen this holiday destination. It was a no-brainer.

Anyway, I digress. We inhale the breakfast buffet, which has been lovingly handmade by the proud Swiss owner right down to the jam and muesli (well, it would’ve been rude not to, right?) before heading out to find the nearest massage shop.

Did I mention it was cheap here? An hour-long, full body massage, including clicking of every knuckle and walking barefoot up and down your spine (believe me, no muscle is left unturned), costs the princely sum of…drum roll please…five pounds. Yes, that’s right folks: an hour of bending, twisting and face-pulling as the Thai ladies fold your body into positions not even found in the Karma Sutra (Contortionists Edition), costs a single crisp five pound note. 250 baht. In London, that exact same hour is gonna set you back around fifteen times that amount. And these women don’t mess about; a Thai massage is like a strenuous workout. Not that I would know what one of those feels like, granted. I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a gym. Needless to say, I don’t need a Happy Ending to bounce out of there an hour later with a Cheshire Cat grin plastered on my boat race. Fully limbered up, it’s time to hit the beach.

Samantha Walsh, Mum and Luke on Patong Beach
Patong Beach: like Piccadilly Circus in rush hour

People-watching on the sand is one of my favourite pastimes, and there’s a lot going on on Patong Beach: sellers touting their wares, couples cavorting, jet skis whizzing, and the smell of a thousand dishes mingling from the many restaurants, luring us up to the nearest one. We sip colourful Del Boy-esque cocktails and eat delicious Pad Thai, sprinkling the ground peanuts on top with a squirt of fresh lime, before heading back to sit by the pool.

cocktail and Pad Thai
cocktails and Pad Thai – delish!
cocktails on Patong beach
working our way through the cocktail menu

Feeling frazzled, we get ready to go out before a quick tequila shot at the bar with the Thai co-owner. My (sixty-five year old, usually teetotal) mum Pat gets carried away on the breeze of those FDFs, and spontaneously opts for an ignited B52 from the drinks menu….and almost spontaneously combusts as she sucks the liquid petrol up the straw.


Taking a few deep breaths, she regains her composure sufficiently for the steep walk back down to the town. Good girl! We opt for the more sophisticated surroundings of the Beyond Patong Sky Bar this evening, a rooftop bar located high above the chaos that is Patong at night, and sip our cocktails in an unusually civilised fashion. Then we have dinner nearby and book a cabana at Kudo Beach Club for the next day, hoping for a spot of pool-party action.

Beyond Patong
Beyond Patong
drinking cocktails at Beyond Patong Phuket
you can’t beat the first cocktail of the evening after a hard day’s sunworshipping
Samantha Walsh drinking a cocktail in a coconut at Beyond Patong Phuket
cocktails Del Boy would be proud of



22nd January

Kudo Beach Club is an upmarket establishment, Western in style: think large four-poster beds around a large slate-tiled pool, fluffy towels, house music, DJs – this place wouldn’t look out of place in Ibiza. Which is right up our Strasse. So we attempt to create a beachy-but-glam vibe with our attire (basically swimwear with makeup – and that may or may not include Luke), then position ourselves carefully on our private bed and try to look elegant. For about ten minutes. Then we make for the swim-up bar and start ploughing into the cocktails.

Samantha Walsh, Luke and De Mama at Kudo Beach Club Phuket
our spot for the day (ok, and night…)
Luke on a sun lounger with a cocktail in hand at Kudo Beach Club
It’s a hard life…

Well what did you expect? We’re British, it’s in our DNA. The minimum spend for a cabana is 2000 baht, about forty quid. This is actually quite a lot by Thai standards, but as I said, we’re Brits, so we don’t bat an eyelid and have achieved the spend by about…oooh…lunchtime. The sun is shining, the drinks are slipping down nicely and the choons being crooned are soothing our souls. By the time the DJ turns up mid-afternoon the place is buzzing…and so are we.

cocktails at Kudo Beach Club Phuket
Now there’s a view I’ll never tire of…
Samantha Walsh and Luke sipping cocktails in the pool at Kudo Phuket
Luke and I sample the wares
De Mama surrounded by drinks like the alkie she is…(jokes)
Luke in the pool at Kudo Beach Phuket
sausage factory: Luke (yellow cap) subtly checks out the talent

Enjoying the vibe and determined to get our money’s worth out of our cabana, we stay by the poolside until it’s late, pitch black, and they are literally tipping us off it. The bill is 5000 baht, about £35 each, which is an absolute bargain considering the amount of food and drink we’ve put away. If this was Europe it’d be five times that. We stop on the way home for a hearty bowl of noodle soup in our swimwear (well it’s still 33 degrees at 10pm and we’re too sozzled to be self-conscious so we figure “What the hell!”) before hitting the hay, for tomorrow we set sail for Phi Phi island…

Kudo Beach Club Phuket by night
Sunset and beyond: we have to be surgically removed from our cabana at the end of the evening
bowl of noodle soup
dinner tastes even better when it costs a quid


Published tomorrow: 

The Thai Diaries: Phi Phi (3/6)

Sam x

Sam’s other blogs:

If You Booze, You Lose
Costa Rica Chica 

Life: A Bird’s Eye View

No Emotional Thais: Sam Goes Solo
Mummy Mission
World Wide Walsh: Around the World in 180 Days
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