Category Archives: Travel
You will have no doubt seen the recent news coverage of the terrible flooding in Bangkok and in Central and Northern parts of Thailand.
This has certainly been a hot topic on Phuket related social media sites and it seems that many of you who have already booked your holiday to Phuket, or are planning a holiday in Phuket, are very worried about whether it is safe for you to travel to Thailand.
If you are currently faced with this predicament, then I would like to put your mind at ease straight away and say that Phuket is completely unaffected by the floods and if you are planning to travel to Phuket via Bangkok, then Suvarnabhumi International Airport is also completely unaffected and has been operating as normal since the flooding crisis began.
As the flood waters finally begin to subside, the tourism industry across Thailand is counting the costs of this devastation. It is vital now that tourists and people planning to travel to the kingdom gain a renewed confidence in Thailand as a world class, safe tourist destination and help the industry recover after another key season is disrupted by extraneous circumstances.
If you are still concerned whether it is safe to travel to Phuket or not, then I urge you to consider this before making any changes to your plans. The distance between the affected areas and Phuket is approx 800 km. That is roughly the same distance as between Paris and Barcelona and Im sure it wouldn’t cross your mind to cancel a holiday in one city if trouble flared up in the other.
If Phuket was completely unaffected by the flooding, then why wasn’t this message communicated effectively to a global audience you may ask? Well, the reason for this is that a great many factors contributed to the confusion surrounding which areas of Thailand were actually affected as the floods waters began to surge. These included: “the scale, severity, size and speed of the unfolding crisis “; inadequate flood prevention measures that couldn’t cope with the water run off; the response time of a new Thai Government still hungover from the recent elections triumph and the inevitable sensationalized news reporting and ensuing over zealous world government travel warnings.
The fact remains that while misinformation was being widely reported around the world and as governments rolled out their blanket travel advisories, Phuket remained completely open for business as usual throughout the entire crisis.
There was clearly a dramatic failure by all parties concerned to get reliable, factual and geographically based information out to a global audience. Had communications been handled more effectively then is likely that the negative impact on tourism could have been contained. This current crisis has provided many notable case studies of a total failure of communication.
A number of Chinese Airlines made the ill-informed decision back in early November to cancel all flights into Bangkok, after mistakingly assuming both airports in Bangkok were flooded. I find it remarkable that key decision makers hadn’t been informed that Bangkok’s Main International ‘Suvarnabhumi’ Airport was completely unaffected by the floods.
They, like the rest of the world, will have seen sensationalized images like those of a flooded Don Muang Airport (see above top) played on a continuous 24 hours news loop with the caption ‘Bangkok Airport Closed’, without any real attempt to distinguish the facts. Bangkok and by default Thailand was off limits.
Tourists, it seems, have followed suit, with reports stating that Suvarnabhumi Airport has seen a 25% drop in the number of tourist arrivals in November against last year, despite the airport continuing to operate as normal throughout the whole flooding crisis.
So, while it is understandable that tourists are concerned about travel to Thailand, please rest assured that Phuket is very much open for business and aside from the affects of lower than expected tourist arrivals, remains completely unaffected by the flooding crisis.
In an age of social media and real time communications, there is surely the propensity for all stakeholders to communicate efficiently and effectively and to strive to compartmentalize a crisis to only the affected areas therefore minimising any further damage to a country in crisis.
To check out the latest Tourism Situation in Thailand you can visit www.thailandtourismupdate.com or if you are travelling to Phuket you can post questions or concerns on these popular Phuket Facebook Pages
Has media reporting of the flooding crisis and government issued travels warnings made you think twice about visiting Thailand?
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These days, when parting with our hard earned holiday cash, our expectations have been colossally elevated by the sheer abundance of choices and alternatives out there. We demand that our holiday delivers and below are some very good reasons why a holiday in Phuket could prove to be an unrivaled travel experience that not only exceeds your expectations, but smashes them into oblivion.
The Initial Consensus
Your initial perception of Phuket as a travel and tourism destination will be shaped through hours spent surfing travel review sites & social networks, keying in google searches and the heavily influential tips and recommendations from your social circle. This conditional filtering of the limitless supply of available information will ultimately sway your choice of whether Phuket is the travel destination for you.
In a general sense, every travel destination comes with a pre-conceived label attached, compounded and defined by millions upon millions of online, user generated experiences. As Thailand’s largest and most developed Island, Phuket is largely perceived as being the most touristy, overcrowding and expensive holiday destination in the kingdom, with over 52,000 reviews on Tripadvisor alone helping to establish this perception.
Having lived in Phuket for the last 2 years of my life, my perceptions of this stunning part of the world as a travel & tourism destination have naturally evolved from this initial consensus and a new kind of filter emerges applying a new level of clarity and understanding to the vast abundance of readily available information.
One way in which my perception has evolved is that I am more aware of the Phuket that exists away from the main beach resorts such as Patong, Karon, Kata, Surin & Kamala. I am more aware of the ‘Greater Phuket’ Province, as well as neighbouring provinces such as Phang Nga and Krabi. I have discovered that Phuket as a tourist destination should not to be treated as in island in isolation.
The incredible places to experience in the greater Phuket province and surrounding provinces are all easily accessible, even during a 10-14 nights vacation and can comfortably be reached without eating too much into your holiday relaxation time. This makes Phuket a rich and diverse travel destination and provides an experience that few other holiday destinations can compete with.
- Similan Islands
- James Bond Island
- Phuket’s Off Shore Islands (Coral, Raya, Bon, Koh Khai, Naka)
- Khao Sok National Park
- Top 10 Memorable Activities in Phuket
Island Hopping has long held a fascination and pre-occupation for travellers to South East Asia. In the Andaman Sea, travellors to Phuket are blessed with islands & beaches such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Raya Island and Railay Beach, Krabi all within a few hours by boat, so that you can gain that feeling of ‘travelling around SE Asia’ even under tight time constraints.
A major draw to Phuket and part of the reason for it’s huge popularity is it’s International airport, the second busiest in the whole of Thailand after Bangkok. This means that you can book your flights in and out of Phuket and after spending some time relaxing at one of Phuket’s world class beach resorts, spend a few days on any number of stunning island destinations to add an entirely different perspective to your overall Phuket holiday experience.
Have you combined a holiday to Phuket with other nearby island destinations ?
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You’ve all experienced the post-holiday blues at some point, despairing at the very thought of returning home and going back to the ‘same old same old‘ routine. Some of you may have even made an on the spot decision to continue your holiday indefinitely.
Good on you! My decision to take an ‘extended leave of absence’ from the UK happened in an instant, but the actual ‘doing of it’ took over 12 months to materialize.
This decision was made on a sticky evening in the town of Kuah in Langkawi, Malaysia, as the clouds drifting slowly across the breathtaking mountain backdrop.
This was January 2009 and the end of an amazing 3 week ‘blowout’ in SE Asia.
We celebrated the run-up to New Year in Langkawi, staying at our ex-pat friend’s apartment, and living like Rock Star Royalty.
New Year’s Eve at Little Lylia’s Chill out Bar, Pantai Cenang was immense and once we regained consciousness, we embarked upon a land and sea mission up to Had Yuan, Koh Phangnan, Thailand for 10 more days of serious relaxation and partying.
Now we had returned to where it all began, Langkawi, and I had just made up my mind on a decision that had been gaining momentum as the trip progressed.
Conversations with my ex-pat mate and witnessing first-hand the experiences a life in Langkawi could offer made it clear to me that Se Asia presented possibilities, such possibilities as:
1. Dining like a King Every Single Night of the week
Since we had arrived there all we had done was go out for the most amazing seafood, chinese and malay dishes, all night long and the bill would come to about 10 GBP per head.
At Places like Wonderland, a Local Seafood restaurant in Kuah Town, the quality and price of the dishes was quite simply unreal.
Not only that, you could bring you own booze just paying for the price of the mixers at the restaurant. A trip to the ‘duty free off licence’ meant you could get seriously sozzled for another 2 GBP per head.
2. Smoothing away the rough edges with the Cool Beach Nightlife
You won’t find a more chilled out beach life than on Cenang. Sometimes it seems like no one’s running the show, so if you bothered about little things like your food turning up you may be dissapointed. But you will meet some colourful characters that take laid back to a whole new level.
3. Living amidst Breathtaking Natural Scenery
Langkawi is one of the world’s most beautiful archipelagos and is made up of 99 islands on the west coast of Malaysia, close to the border with Thailand. The best place to view this splendor is with a bird’s eye view from the viewing decks and sky-bridge, some 700m above sea level courtesy of a hair-raising ride in a cable car.
4. I haven’t even got to the Powdery White Sand Beaches and warm clear waters yet.
Cenang Beach has the most impossibly white and powdery sand, the kind where whole days can be lost just enjoying the sensation of it between your toes.
I am sure we’ve all felt like this at the end of a fantastic holiday, but these possibilities were playing on my mind, there was something more to this, there was a definate desire to break the chain of monotony in my life and go out there and experience something else.
Maybe you feel like I did back then, something a little bit more serious than the post holiday blues, of no real desire to go back to your life at home.
If you do, then my advice is to give it some serious thought, look at all the options. It took me a full year of living back in the UK before I finally did something about it. A full year of weighing up the pro’s and cons, considering whether it was just an extended break of a couple of months that I needed or a clean break entirely.
Even then, I wasn’t completely sure and I made the final decision whilst back on a 4-week holiday in Haad Juan, Thailand.
I decided once again, that this was not a long enough break for me and once I had made my final decision, the wheels were firmly in motion and there was no turning back … I went home, tied up all the loose ends and was back out in Asia within 30 days …
If you would like to know more about what life is like for an expat in SE Asia then please feel free to leave a comment or you can contact me directly via Facebook or Twitter at the addresses below.
Being English Gentleman of Leisure
we purchased a 7 day entry pass for the the Angkor Archeological Park. Most people buy a 1 or 3 day pass, but we wanted to take in the temples and ruins at a more relaxed pace, slow it down a little. Turns out, it’s a full time job due to the sheer number of historically important and impressive sites that archeologists have uncovered in the Siem Reap area over the last 100 or so years.
As I write this it is 7am and we are waiting for our Tuk Tuk driver to take us for 2 hours down a bumpy, dust track to visit a temple ruin that has been claimed by the jungle (Beng Melea).
Back in England, few eyebrows were raised when I rolled into work at 9.40am every morning, so this feels like the middle of the night to me. The tourist guides tell you Angkor Wat is the heart and soul of cambodian people, however members of the older generation would disagree. They have no interest in seeing Angkor Wat and on a number of occasions we have heard people say “Why do I care about stone? I want food. The heart and soul of Cambodian people is not Angkor Wat. It is just in trying to survive.
Fortunately, I will never begin to comprehend the attrocities that the Khmer Rouge committed against it’s own people. At The Killing Fields Genocide Memorial close to the capital city Phnom Penh an inscription in the exhibition there reads:
“The method of masacre which the clique of Pol Pot Criminals was carried upon the innocent people of Kampuchea cannot be described fully and clearly in words because the invention of this killing method was strangely cruel so it is difficult for us to determine who they are for. They have the human form, but, their hearts are demon’s hearts”.
The aftermath of this darkness is haunting and I can feel it thick in the air where ever I go. When it comes to genocide, if Hitler and Stalin et al were neuro-surgeons, Pol pot and his Khmer Rouge were back street abortionists.
Despite the continued poverty of the Cambodian people, a tourism industry has sprung up over the last decade and Angkor Wat is the Pin up Boy of Cambodian Temples, a beast of architectual endeavor. Whilst it is undoubtably impressive in size and grandeur, for me it is surpassed by the truly magical qualities of a couple of the other temples and ruins that left me completely awestruck.
I was blown away by Ta Prohm (the Tree Temple used in Tomb Raider)
and even more so by Beng Melea, which felt like discovering a lost ancient civilisation swallowed by the jungle. The whole experience was like a massive game of Lara Croft, clambering over ruins pursued by local kids (who may or may not have been packing darts with poisoned tips) whilst continuously dropping Indiana Jones quotes with Dave.
Having a seven day pass to the temples allowed us to spend time hunting down Japenese and Korean girls (hitting them with our best English Gentleman’s Japenese/Korean pick up lines) and to have an interesting discussion with a flute playing South American guy, about shifting world power, the imminant collapse of the American dollar and a new world order. All this in a small room surrounded by 40 buddah carvings in a quiet minor temple off the beaten track a bit.
A few days in Siem Reap visiting the temples and ruins can leave you with the impression that the country is developing and business is booming. Sadly that is not the case. Many of the older generation that survived the genocide are damaged beyond reprieve. Some of the younger generation are beginning to pick up the pieces and find a voice for change, but any grievences with the corruption and abuse of power by the government (many of the senior officials being former Khmer Rouge) are only whispers as to shout loudly would likely land you in a hole in a field.
To give you an idea of how corrupt the government is over here, they have called upon the services of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is currently exiled in Dubai awaiting trial in Thailand for stealing from his own people. Asking Thaksin to become economic advisor to your country is like asking a wealthy businessman with a repuation for human rights attrocities to take over your football club. Nothing in Cambodia makes much sense.
However, many of the young people we have met have less political aspirations and a sheer drive and determination to drag themselves out of poverty. One girl we met wanted to be a journalist, but had wisely decided on a less dangerous career path. Whilst us English Gentleman were busy taking a leisurely stroll around ancient ruins perusing over women, films, music and the philosophies of the east and west, this girl was up at 4am everyday making breakfast for her family, before starting work at 6am for a 13 hour shift in a hotel then straight to school in the evening to study business and English. As the Older generation state, the heart and soul of Cambodian people is not in stone or the pure madness and evil of it’s harrowing past. The heart and soul of Cambodian people is in survival and only the younger generations determination for change and to make a brighter future for themselves will allow this to happen.
I very nearly did miss the Similan Islands, the alarm call was 5.20am and I was up drinking cocktails with friends until after 3am. Fortunately, I scrambled out of bed and miraculously had the foresight to pack my stuff the night before. I crept onto the mini-bus and promptly fell asleep, waking up only when we reached the the dive shop in Khao Lak some 2 plus hours later.
For a day trip, there was a fair amount of traveling involved for a few hours of pure pleasure, but had I missed this tour I would have missed out on one of the greatest privilages I have had in my entire life. You know that feeling when you genuinely feel privileged to be somewhere? Well, that’s how I felt about the Similan Islands.
Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t think twice about the travel time and be sure that you make that alarm call.
1. Snorkelling and Diving
The Similan Islands enjoy National Park status, so the snorkeling was pretty special. I didn’t dive on this occasion, but this is one of the world’s most renowned dive sites so you won’t be dissapointed. The Similan Islands are open from October until May when the national park shuts down for the Monsoon Season, so make sure to check first that tours are still running. I wanted to go last year, but just missed out.
I booked a one day snorkeling and island tour, but there are a number of different options including one day dive packages, live aboard, padi open water courses and snorkeling with over night camping.
When we arrived, I was feeling pretty hung over from the night before , but I don’t think there is any better way to spend your time than snorkeling and find this actually serves as a remarkably good remedy.
Sometimes I go on energetic pursuits after all manner of amazing looking tropical fish, but I especially like wearing a life jacket and just floating along looking at any fish that catch my attention. Magical and so relaxing !!! Wearing a life jacket also means you can avoid nasty sunburn on your back, although you still need to be put suntan lotion on exposed parts of your body, as the water is so crystal clear it acts like a magnifying glass.
There were plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and the Pro Dive Team were serious professionals who knew all the top spots.
2. Swimming & beaches
The beaches and crystal clear waters of the Similan Islands are text book perfection. I floated on my back in the warm waters staring up at the sun for an unhealthy amount of time and buried my feet in the soft white sand, which I seem to find very relaxing also. The Similan Islands were a seriously tranquil, peaceful place, quite the dream state and every second in the paradise felt like the best I will likely spend in my lifetime.
3. Natural Beauty
In some parts of the Similan islands, I felt like I was on another planet. The Natural Beauty was otherworldly and I felt like I had stepped in to a CGI movie with George Lucas or James Cameron at the helm, dreaming up their versions of paradise in other galaxies.
4. Camping Overnight
If I had more time away from my job in Phuket, then I would have loved to stay overnight on the Similan Islands, to prolong my time in this magical place and stay in one of these kick ass camouflage tents next to the beach.
This surely must be classed as one of the worlds greatest camp sites and this utopian paradise had a tranquil atmosphere that despite increased tourism to the area felt like it would remain this way for a long time for the privileged few.
There are 2 viewpoints on the islands that we visited (islands 8 and 9) both providing absolutely breathtaking views. The first is an easy trek with bountiful rewards
but reaching the second is a mission. Getting up to this viewpoint is unbelievably good fun, equal parts climbing and rock climbing along wooden walkways, hoisting yourself up rock faces by rope, over felled trees, under felled trees, squeezing through cracks in rock formations up muddy slopes, but at the end of it the pay off is spectacular.
After my day of adventure, I slept most of the bus journey back to Phuket and woke up as we reached my condominium. This gave the strange sense that I might have dreamt the whole thing, but I am happy with that, as if it was a dream, it would have looked a whole lot like the Similan islands.
I booked this tour through Phuket Travel Company in Patong and I think you will tell I was impressed. 5/5
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It’s not like you really need a reason, but if you can’t quite handle the taste of the all action, ‘assault-on-the-senses’ flavour of Patong, then Karon Beach is a milder alternative and an ideal resort for your holiday in Phuket.
Popular with families, ex-pats and couples the world over, it is easy to see why Karon Beach enjoys such a famous reputation. If you’re still unsure then my top 5 reasons below will show you the light on why Karon Beach is the tropical paradise holiday you’ve always dreamed of.
1. Easy Access to over 3km of Uncrowded Beach
Phuket is blessed with literally miles upon miles of white sand beaches, so what makes Karon Beach any different from the rest? Well Plenty actually. I lived in Karon Beach for a while when I first arrived in Phuket and every day I enjoyed long, uninterrupted walks along this vast expanse of white sand, listening to my i-pod in total awe of my surroundings.
On smaller, more crowded beaches, I have attempted similar walks and given up after forever tripping over sunbathers lay in the swell along the shoreline.
What is so special about Karon Beach for me is that it is accessible to everyone. To enjoy a long walk along a deserted beach such as Mai Khao in the north of Phuket, you have to have deep pockets and be staying at one of the International Chain Resorts, or for mere mortals, endure a long journey there by car.
Karon Beach never feels overcrowded and can conjure up feelings of solitude, yet the other sunbathers dotted along the shoreline provide a reassuring and safe atmosphere.
It is this mixture of solitude and habitation that makes Karon Beach so unique. Resorts such as our Thavorn Palm Beach Resort are separated from the beach by a small single track road, so if you are staying here, it is literally a stones throw from the soft white sands. When you are on the beach however, the low-rise nature of the resort set back from the shores, leaves you with the magnificent sense of being alone with nature’s majesty.
2. Room to breath
There is a great sense of open space in Karon Beach, not only on the beach, but also in the areas of development. The resorts along the beach front maintain a refreshingly open and natural feel and have resisted the urge to cram every available space with rooms. They are generally low-rise, so your room is set amidst the beautiful, natural surroundings.
The development in the main area surrounding the north circle is less chaotic than in Patong and when walking through the bustling and lively streets, you never feel enclosed and are not constantly stepping aside for other people.
Those who have run the guantlet along the beach front in Patong, will know you can cover at least three times the distance through constant side stepping of people, hawker stands and batmobile Tuk-Tuks.
3. Vibrant Nightlife.
Karon Beach is often referred to as ‘Patong’s Little Sister’, but whilst it has a lively nightlife scene with plenty of variety, I think this might be overstating it. Karon Beach has a quieter much more relaxed vibe of it’s own, with a bustling hive of activity along Patak road (near the north circle), and beach front restaurants, where you can relax and catch the stunning sunset views.
4. Sandwiched between Patong and Kata Beaches
Karon Beach has a prime location on the South-West coast of Phuket and is only a short distance from Patong to the north and Kata Beach to the south. In fact, Kata Beach is only separated from Karon by a headland and depending on where your staying, is within walking distance along the beach road.
The famous nightlife and entertainment capital of Patong is only a short Taxi or Tuk Tuk ride from Karon Beach and even if this is not somewhere you want to spend the entire duration of your holiday, it really is a fantastic night out and would be a shame to miss with it being virtually on your doorstep.
A Taxi or Tuk Tuk ride will set you back around 400 THB for the journey one way.
5. Great Base for exploring the south of the island
There are plenty of places to rent motorbikes along Karon Beach with a day’s rental costing around 300 THB.
Karon Beach is a world-class beach destination with diversity and flair that offers a special and memorable holiday experience to all who stay there. For more info, join us at our Facebook page Friends of Thavorn or contact me via my details below
Phuket is a mountainous island with many stunning vantage points to catch a glimpse of one of natures’ truly spectacular sights. The Andaman Sea from up high, resembles a shiny, shimmering, perfectly flat Emerald disk, which blazes like liquid gold at sunset. It is a calming, even spiritual experience that can reset your perspective on life. Below is my guide to the Top 6 Viewpoints from where you can witness the Andaman Sea and the beautiful islands surrounding Phuket in all their glory.
1. Phromthep Cape
The No.1 Viewpoint in Phuket will not come as any surprise, as Phromthep Cape is the most visited and photographed spot on the whole island and for good reason. Sure, it gets over-crowded close to sunset, but this is one truly iconic picture postcard not to be missed.
2. Windmill Viewpoint
It is a close call on the bragging rights for No.1 Sunset Viewpoint in Phuket and the iconic status of Phromthep Cape keeps it in top spot. This in no way diminishes the appeal of Windmill Viewpoint which is usually less crowded and offers a much more peaceful and magical ambience.
3. Three Beaches Viewpoint
4. Kho Khad Tower Views
This is a lesser known viewpoint on the way to Cape Panwa and offers spectacular 360 degrees panoramas from it’s mountain top tower.
5. Big Buddah
The 45m Tall Big Buddha can be viewed from most points in the south of the island and it gazes out from a prime vantage point on top of Buddha Mountain. The views on the way up are as spectacular as the view from the top, so make sure you take time to enjoy the vistas from all sides of the mountain.
6. Koh Sirey Temple
Around Sunset, Koh Sirey Temple is usually deserted, aside from from the numerous Golden Buddha statues, so you can enjoy the breathtaking vistas in a very peaceful and tranquil setting.
If you would like to know more about these viewpoints please feel free to leave a comment or you can contact me directly via Facebook or Twitter at the addresses below.