This year end, my family has spent our vacation to Phuket, Thailand. This Pearl of the Andaman Sea is the largest and most popular island in The Land Of Smiles, located to the west of Krabi.
We went there by AirAsia night flight. It is not only convenient to book the air tickets online, but also to check-in the flight using their web check-in service 14 days to few hours before the flight and print out the boarding pass for boarding.
However, if you want to travel with AirAsia, be prepared for the possibility of flight delay, and we did face the situation of flight delay on both our departure and returning flights.
When we arrived at Phuket International Airport, it was already close to 11pm.
Getting A Local Mobile Number
There is a counter in the airport arrival hall offering free mobile SIM card to arriving tourists, but the counter was already closed due to the late hour.
We ended up buying AIS One-2-Call SIM card at 7-Eleven and top up 50 bahts to it. After activation, I received several SMS telling me that I was given additional 35 bahts worth of talking time and also 20 free SMS. Not bad. The phone can get 3G network connection too, and I can always get HSDPA speed. Superb!
However, I turned off the phone's mobile network most of the time and manually turned it on when needed, as I think the bundled 3G connectivity could be as low as 50MB only. Anyhow, that is good enough for me to use Google Map and do some news syncing and WhatsApp texting on the road during the few days vacation.
In fact, we bought the SIM card mainly for the purpose of getting contacted with our travel agency. On our last day of stay in Phuket, we used up the remaining prepaid airtime by calling home to my parents.
Buying Tour Packages
The tourism industry in Phuket has a well systematic network to offer various tour packages to the visitors. You can easily find a tour agent counter at hotel lobby, and there are also many tour agent booths along the street.
You will notice that the packages sold by different agent are almost the same. Most of the packages include van shutter service for departing and returning to hotel. The van will go around several hotels to pick-up tourists who bought the same package, forming a tour group of around 10 people. Some packages include lunch at their designated location.
Our main itinerary was pre-arranged with Mayday Travel Phuket.
They offer slightly more competitive price for the packages than you can get at hotel lobby counter or booth on the street. They also have city tour and airport shutter service. We were shuttered from airport during arrival and few days later to airport for departure by their 7-seater 4WD.
We stayed at the 3-star Aspery Hotel in Patong Beach. Patong Beach is the most happening place for tourists in Phuket. Booking was done online with booking.com website. A Deluxe room with a king size bed and another single bed cost us RM2xx per night.
Located at the top floor of the hotel building, our room is spacious, modern looking, clean and tidy. It has a balcony with city and mountain view on the left, and limited sea view on the right. In front is swimming pool view of another higher class hotel. The sea view is limited as the beach is quite some distance away (about 200 meters), and the Nap Patong Hotel beside it also blocked some of the view.
The hotel has a relatively small swimming pool at top floor, good enough for some relaxation water play. I think the swmming pool used to have very nice sea view, but again now is blocked by the taller Nap Patong Hotel.
Anyhow, there is a higher platform built beside the pool enabling us to view the nice scenery around, including the Andaman Sea.
The room has an electronic safe box for us to keep our passports and some other belongings. There is a 32" LCD TV in the room with satellite TV channels, but all the channels speak in Thai and most don't have English subtitle.
There are plenty of electric socket points available in the room, but there is no plug converter for borrowing, and we have to buy one for 100 baht at the reception counter. With this, we can recharge our handphones, digital cameras and tablet.
WiFi is available to hotel guest free of charge, and password is given during check-in. I found the WiFi signal is stronger near the door, and slightly weak on the bed (middle of the room). There are also several PC with Internet near the hotel lobby provided to hotel guest free of charge.
The hotel breakfast is good. If you were to stay at Aspery Hotel, it is advisible to book the room with breakfast inclusive, as food around Patong area is pretty expensive and very likely to be more expensive than the hotel breakfast bundle. However, the breakfast prepared by Aspery Hotel is almost the same everyday. Not good if you are staying for more than 2 days as you will get bored with the same breakfast every morning.
I was told that Aspery Hotel has 2 buildings. The main building where we stayed at is located in strategic location in Patong Beach, while the new building is located some distance away in a less favourable location.
The beach is within walking distance from Aspery Hotel. There are many stalls along the beach, opened from evening till night, making it a lively bazaar. Closer to the shore are many beach chairs for rent. Phuket was badly hit by tsunami before, and now you can see signboard showing the direction to tsunami evacuation place along the beach.
Food in Patong is quite expensive. We found some good places for nice food with reasonable price.
The Joy's Cafe (green building) located very near to Aspery Hotel offers delicious Western and Thai food.
Samero's Icecream Paradise has nice icecream and gorgeous waitresses.
Number 6 Restaurant at the main street offers delicious dishes with cheap price, and is always full of people.
Emotion Massage is famous for its SPA and massage service at reasonable price.
The nightlife happening Bangla Road is full of bars, hot chicks, and tourists. Near to its junction is a big shopping center called Jungceylon. Near to Jungceylon Shopping Complex across the road is DJ Plaza Walking Street.
Simon Cabaret famous for ladyboys show is located further down the street.
The Songthaew waiting for passenger near Jungceylon wanted 200 bahts to send us back to Aspery Hotel. We ended up walking back.
Continue to Part 2...