Pro Tip: Travel to Thailand in the Offseason

We awoke at 6 a.m. after having very restless sleep. Doug’s Benedryl just made him drowsy and Lynn kept recalling things that they were supposed to have done but forgot. Things like checking to see if Bangkok’s airport train runs this early in the morning or applying for our Cambodia visas. We were able to pack and shower in 30 minutes while simultaneously confirming that the train was still an option.

We checked out and flagged down a cab to drive us the 5 miles to the airport link train. Doug provided instruction to our driver and we started on our way. We both giggled when we realized that our driver was bobbing his head to some quality Garth Brooks tunes. Prior to this ride Doug and I had only walked this route so we started to have minor concerns when our driver made some extra turns south. We both assumed this was due to his knowledge of the traffic in the area, but a short while later, about 50 baht in, he pointed to the railway station and said “Trian station.” Oops. Doug had told him Phyiathai train station when we first got in the car, not realizing that the driver would default to the rail station over the airport link station. After a few exclaimed “Oh my god!” from the driver we got it all clarified with a good chuckle and continued another 30 baht in distance to our intended destination. A quick 30 minute airport train ride later we arrived at Bangkok’s airport.

We found our Bangkok Airways check-in counter and handed off our checked bags to their crew. This is also where we learned that Phuket is pronounced Poo-ket not Foo-ket, as our counter lady informed us, when Lynn incorrectly pronounced it when letting her know where we were headed. After another unsuccessful attempt to find a Jetstar ticket purchasing window and learning the hard way that certain Thai banks have outlandish withdrawal fees (don’t worry our bank refunds us) we breezed through security where it was time to find some breakfast.

But first, we spotted a pharmacy. Last night we had the intention of running by one to pick up sunscreen before we reached the overpriced beach, but it completely slipped our mind with all the mango sticky rice distractions. So, Doug took advantage of this opportunity to weigh the options and eventually settled on 175 ml of water resistant 30 SPF Nivea sunscreen since we’ll be beaching in 6 of the next 7 countries we visit. Lynn also took advantage of this opportunity to do some restocking of her own (contact solution).

Now it was on to breakfast. Bangkok probably has the best selection of dining options of all the airports we’ve visited thus far, but boy were prices inflated. Most individual meals cost at least as much as what we were spending together in Bangkok. We had our most expensive meal to date in Thailand with Doug’s McDonald’s breakfast combo and Lynn’s omelet with tea. And it turns out that we could have completely avoided this scenario as well because, as we discovered 5 minutes later, Bangkok Airways provides a guest lounge to all customers including economy and that lounge features breakfast snacks, sandwiches, popcorn, juice, coffee, and tea. Well shoot. But at least now we know because we’ll be flying their planes 2 more times while we’re here.

Bangkok Airways gets better though. On our 1 hour flight from takeoff to landing we even received a light meal, juice, coffee, and tea and were treated to a delightful promo video featuring airline attendees singing and doing coordinated dancing. Not too shabby. Our only 1st world annoyance was not being able to listen to our podcasts on takeoff and landing because they ask you to remove your headphones.

When we arrived and had collected our baggage we noticed a sign indicating what the maximum taxi fare from the airport to various places around Phuket would be. For our town, Kata, it was capped at 1000 baht. First observation: this is much, much cheaper than our hotel quoted us at 1960 baht. Second observation: the shared minibus was much, much cheaper than this at 200 baht per person. I’m sure you can guess what we chose. The minibus had seats for 10 and they don’t leave until butts are in each of those seats so we had to wait for 15 minutes or so before we could leave. The driver packed us in and made 5 stops before dropping us off at the Kata Beach Resort, our hotel we had booked on the cheap thanks to agoda.com.

We checked in, unpacked, had a slight rest, then we were off to find some lunch but not before touring the resort grounds. The hotel is quite lovely with two pools and has direct access to the beach on which it sits. But, boy do they gouge you. Their drinks are upwards of 300 baht each. This was quite startling to us after what we’ve been paying throughout the rest of our trip. Oh and free wifi means free wifi in the lobby. If you want wifi in your rooms its 150 baht per hour. Luckily we are thrifty little buggars and know how to work around the system – more to come on that later. Walking down the main strip of town, we noticed that 99.99999% of restaurants cater to the masses with their fare containing Thai, Italian, American, Irish, Russian, and even Swedish options. Not our preferred choice of dining we defaulted to TripAdvisor which led us to a Thai restaurant in the less touristy part of town. Doug ordered more curry (medium spicy) and Lynn ordered fried noodles with chicken (spicy spicy). Doug’s showed up and the heat was perfect whereas Lynn had to add some more chili vinegar to her’s.  Both hit the spot but the prices dismayed us even more.

It seems as though we were going to have to be creative with our budget, but this did not discourage us. Breakfast is free – check. Lunch could be put together from cheap items at the local 7/11 or Family Mart – check. Dinner we could suffer paying more money for – check. Oh and pool side beverages could be covered by sneaking our own liquor into the hotel and combining it with the fresh fruit juices from street vendors – check and check. While not particularly excited about eating tuna from a can for many days straight we were willing to do what was necessary to work within the budget. Since we had had a late lunch we chose dinner to be the ‘cheap’ meal of the day and stocked up on crackers, tuna, Pringles, cashews, and dried jackfruit. We also picked up the cheapest rum we could find and two delicious fresh passionfruit juices from the handy dandy street vendor across from our hotel. And thanks to our day packs we could bring it all in the resort without anyone being the wiser. Take that hotel.

Lynn waiting patiently for our fruit juices.
Lynn waiting patiently for our fruit juices.

We both added some rum to our passionfruit juices only to be reminded of our college days and realizing that our tolerance of poor quality has withered with time. But we are determined to stick with the budget. Grabbing our drinks we headed to the lobby to upload the previous day’s post and proceed to get annoyed with the wifi quality once again. I know we shouldn’t be complaining. We are on a beach in Thailand – get over the wifi already. So, we took our own advice, put on our bathing suits, and got in the warm, clear water for some swimming as the sun was setting and storm clouds were beginning to roll in.

The view from our resort.
The view from our resort.

With the view from the water we were able to see that there were quite a few beach restaurants next to our hotel and we thought we should them check out to see how they compared to our experience thus far. Easily enough they each had posted their menus out on the beach so we took a look at each as we walked. Yup, our hotel is definitely gouging us because we were able to once again find reasonable prices for food and drinks. Yee haw. It looks like we don’t have to give more business to our 7/11 friends.

With rain clouds and lightning rolling in, we hopped in the pool for a quick rinse and headed to our room for our 7/11 dinner and to watch more episodes of The Americans before retiring to bed.

Dinner!
Dinner!

Daily Walking Mileage: 8.2 miles

Fun Facts:

  • Thais seem to have a better grasp of English than any other country we have visited thus far. Our cab driver could communicate with us and at least 1 person from every restaurant or food stand we’ve come across can speak very good English.
  • There is a Vegetarian Festival happening in Phuket Town while we are around. The festival is meant to help provide good health and peace of mind as members of the Chinese community abstain from meat and other stimulants. We may or may not try to attend.
  • Doug has a serious tan line that we are going to try to remedy on Phuket.
The tan line.
The tan line.

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