Our Experience in Phuket, Thailand
By now, you all should know about my hatred for busy city life. For that reason, I wanted nothing to do with taking the family to Bangkok. When I think of Bangkok, I imagine the bazillion scooters hustling down the roads in every direction making it a Frogger-type game just to cross the road. No thanks. I might be wrong in my judgements, but I wasn’t going to take the risk with my littles. That can be an experiment for Brandon and I someday.
So, we immediately went to the island of Phuket and after traveling Europe, we were beyond ready to take is SLOW and be lazy on the beaches! My first impression was what I had imagined – poor country full of sweet people. I was a little shocked, though, observing the driving habits. I saw whole families fit onto one scooter. I saw 20+ people squeeze into the back of a pick-up truck, forcing most of them to stand up and only hang onto each other. I saw babies sitting on driver’s laps. The sight humbled me. A lot, actually. I couldn’t help but think how American moms harshly judge each other for how car seats are buckled while this was happening in Thailand. The fact of the matter is this: a baby with any type of buckle is blessed. A single buckle is a lot safer than sitting between your parents on a scooter without a helmet. (I don’t bring this up to start debates on carseat buckles! Just know how blessed you are.)
The water on the islands off Phuket are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Some of it was so green and clear that it looked like a swimming pool. We visited some amazing beaches!!
My boys are completely obsessed with water just like their daddy! My 6 year old learned how to snorkel right away and would spend his days out searching for sealife for 2-3 hours at a time with my husband! He never ran out of energy or excitement! He’s always been fascinated with the ocean and I loved watching his passion expand as he experienced his new hobby.
My baby (he’s 2, but he’s my youngest, so the title remains) was a handful to say the least. haha As soon as he got his goggles on, he wanted to be under the water searching for fish! We were all impressed with how quickly he learned how to kick, use his arms, and hold his breath. He was a natural! The reason I said he was a handful is because he didn’t want any help and thought he could handle the deeper waters all on his own. The little stinker!
While the boys were busy exploring the water, my sweet girl and I were perfectly content on the beach. I’m so glad my boys can entertain my husband in the water while my daughter enjoys laying and playing on the beach with me! The truth is…she’s terrified of fish! haha She’ll tiptoe in the water and frantically gaze around watching for any movement. The thought of something touching her leg in the water freaks her out. I don’t blame her – I was the same way when I was little, so I sympathize her fears. We’ll just remain as beach babes until she feels more comfortable!
Besides the beaches, there are other fun stuff to do in Thailand. We saw signs for ziplines, circus shows, and tiger parks where you can actually hang out and cuddle with tigers! You have to go see the Big Buddha, which sits on a mountain and you can see it from a distance if you’re on the southern coast. On the way up there, we stopped and fed a cute baby elephant! You can’t go to Thailand without having an encounter with a sweet elephant, right?!
There are also a couple good malls on Phuket. The best one is Jungceylon Mall. There are a ton of restaurants, an awesome spa, bowling alley, movie theater, and a phenomenal kid play place! Make sure you get some yummy ice cream from Swensen’s!
Brandon and I ended up renting a scooter on one of our dates and it only cost us about $6USD/day! After all, you can’t get the full Thailand experience without being scared to death on a defenseless little bike. Right?! I was scared for the first 20 minutes, but ended up riding without even holding on. Brandon learned the ways of the scooter pretty quickly and kept a safe distance away from the other vehicles. We had a couple issues with the scooter, but it wasn’t hard to find scooter repair shops. The repairmen were very friendly and good at their jobs. Renting the scooter was a little risky, but it was my favorite part of our visit!
Here is what you should know about Phuket…
You have to take speedboats to the best beaches.
There are several small islands that surround Phuket and that’s where all the amazing beaches are. I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of a bummer. The beaches on Phuket are okay, but nothing like the beaches that you HAVE to see at places like Phi Phi Le, Phi Phi Don, Coral Island, Raya Island, etc. The boat rides are anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours and each company is so different.
Van Taxis are EVERYWHERE.
Anywhere else in the world, it is a pain to get taxis big enough for our crew. I assumed we’d have the same problem in Thailand, but I was wrong. We never walked more than a few steps without being able to get a nice comfortable van taxi! In fact, I’ve only seen a handful of car taxis. Most of them are vans and they have very comfortable leather seats that recline, cold air, tinted windows…the whole sh’bang! We found a great guy to be our main driver for our entire trip, which is easy to arrange since they all hand out their business cards. They also tell you the price before the trip, so you know exactly how much it will cost you!
Almost everyone speaks some English. Communication was so much easier than I thought! Their language is in different characters than our alphabet, so reading their language by sounding it out wasn’t an option. We only ran into a couple people that couldn’t understand what we were saying, but there was always someone around that jumped in to translate for us.
Thailand NEEDS tourism. Understand that Thai people do whatever they have to to support their families. All along the roads, people set up their little “scooter shops” to sell what they can. Women might offer you a massage while you’re relaxing on the beach, someone might ask if you’d like a henna tattoo, someone might offer a fresh coconut. Be kind and remember they’re just trying to make a living. Don’t be a punk and try to negotiate a lower price (unless you’re obviously getting screwed) because 9 times out of 10, the prices are already very reasonable.
Thai people loooooooooove children.
Don’t be surprised when (when, not if) a sweet Thai person shakes your child’s hand, hugs them, takes pictures with them, calls their friends over to come see your child, or even picks them up! They genuinely care about children and love seeing their smiles. Anywhere else in the world, it would be border-line creepy, but it is part of Thai culture. My two year old has loved all the attention and will now shake their hand even without their invitation! He’s getting his minutes of fame here in Thailand!
Thailand is no secret. People come from all over the world to visit Phuket and it’s bittersweet. Thailand really depends on tourism to survive, so I’m thankful that tourists are helping the Thai people; however, don’t expect the private quiet beaches you see in the brochures. Once the boats start arriving at the beaches, they don’t slow down!
American food is available! We found more american food in the grocery stores than we found anywhere in Europe! For example, my family looooooves JIF Peanut Butter. We never found it anywhere in Europe, but found it at our first grocery store in Thailand! We also found things like Campbell’s Soup and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. American restaurants could be found in the malls. Of course there was McDonald’s, but there was also Pizza Hut, Subway, and KFC!