Originally, I had planned for Phuket to be the relaxing part of our vacation. I was thinking a resort with its own beach and everything on-site so that we wouldn’t have to leave if we didn’t want to. The only thing I would schedule was a boat tour of the Phi Phi Islands, which had been on my bucket list for years…
To my surprise, it was Chuck who stated his preference to be more “in the thick of things,” especially since we would be spending New Year’s in Phuket. We ended up booking the Burasari Resort in Patong, which is truly the South Beach (Miami) of the region: lively, crowded, and a tad on the trashy side. Luckily, Burasari provided an oasis of relative peace amidst all the chaos!
Our first day in Phuket was all about my bucket list: that boat tour of the Phi Phi Islands. I made a reservation with the #2 tour company (according to TripAdvisor), Phuket Sail Tours, which touted smaller groups and earlier arrivals/departures to the islands to avoid the major crowds. However, given that late December is peak tourist season in Thailand, there were still quite a few crowds, but I appreciated the efforts made by the group to keep our experience as intimate as possible.
The ride was absolutely wild! We were on open sea, and for a while were tossed about like dolls. Luckily, I had taken some dramamine and was able to keep my stomach from lurching too severely. It was gorgeous out, and I truly didn’t mind. I got a good chuckle as the tour guide instructed us to hang on… “We have to survive!!” he shouted in his unique, Aussie-Thai accented English.
Our first stop was Maya Bay, where Leo DiCaprio’s (or DiCapitulo, as our tour guide pronounced it) movie The Beach was filmed. We were given time to explore the island, get in the water, and take photos. We then ventured to Pileh Lagoon, where we were able to jump right off the boat into the most beautiful blue water. It was surprisingly chilly, but felt good once my body adjusted. After snorkeling at another spot nearby, where I swam through schools of colorful fish that tickled as they rushed past me, we stopped at Koh Phi Phi Don, where 7 people had been killed in the 2006 tsunami 😦 Clearly, it’s an island for rich people, but we enjoyed a delicious lunch there and had time to walk around. We visited a herd of macaque monkeys and fed them bananas and berries from the boat (they can apparently get a bit feisty, so we were not allowed to interact with them beyond that) and then relaxed on Bamboo Island and enjoyed one last snorkel excursion at Mosquito Island (where I saw a sinister looking eel and a squid!)
Although I wish we had had more time at a place like Bamboo Island, it was a truly beautiful day!
The next day was New Year’s Eve-Eve. Chuck had the insight to recommend we party that night, rather than on New Year’s Eve itself, which was also the night before traveling back to Japan (we had a January 1 departure date.) I admitted that he was probably right, so we ventured out for a raucous good time. Ultimately, we ended up on Bangla Road, where little circular hut-bars are stationed, equipped with a full bar and a sound system powered by YouTube. I controlled the music all night!
At first, we had trouble getting people to join us, but eventually a lively group of South Africans joined our group, and we had so much fun together. They taught me a classy South African waltz… I taught them the Wobble 🙂
Yes, there is video evidence. No, I will not be posting it here!
The next day was rough, I’m not going to lie. But we slept, ate, and spent some time at Patong Beach. Patong Beach was ultimately too much for us, so we returned to the resort for more relaxing pool time. We gussied up and prepared for the resort’s NYE dinner. I loved how it was decked out with balloons!
Chuck still wasn’t feeling well, so we actually took a nap and set our alarms for 11 pm. Lame, I know, but that’s what going too hard at 30 does to you! We awoke in time to join the crowds down at Patong Beach, where I was eager to participate in the sky lantern festival. Beautiful small hot air balloons made of paper (with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended) were already floating through the night sky, carrying the New Year wishes of thousands of souls watching below.
Amateur fireworks were going off in all directions, which put Chuck on edge, but it added to the celebratory and slightly reckless atmosphere at Patong. We purchased a balloon and released it together into the night sky, watching with anxiety and near-dismay as it faltered and struggled to stay afloat. Luckily, our lantern did not crash into the ocean, but it had a few close calls, and I would have been utterly devastated if it didn’t make it! I am not all that superstitious, but I would have fretted for 2016 if our lantern had crashed and burned…
Based on our lantern’s journey, I anticipate a challenging, but ultimately successful, 2016 🙂
We spent the first day of 2016 doing some last minute shopping, eating, resting poolside, and prepping for our long flight home (Phuket, to Bangkok, to Hong Kong, to Okinawa!)
I loved Thailand and definitely consider it among my favorite trips. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along 🙂