Sadia and Ahsan, explor­ing the islands

By Fareeha Qay­oom

T

hai­land is one of the most vis­ited coun­tries in Asia, 11 mil­lion vis­i­tors annu­ally, because of its acces­si­bil­ity and exten­sive tourism infra­struc­ture. In Thai­land, you’ll find fab­u­lous archi­tec­ture, beau­ti­ful beaches and islands, inex­pen­sive shop­ping, fan­tas­tic food, exotic ancient ruins — and all the ameni­ties as well. The bal­ance between com­fort and excite­ment is near per­fect. Unfor­tu­nately, the tsunamis that struck South­east Asia in Decem­ber 2004 dealt a seri­ous blow to Thailand’s tourism infra­struc­ture: The wide­spread dam­age to coastal areas in south­ern Thai­land took the lives of more tourists than Thais. The hardest-hit regions were Phang-Nga, Phuket and Krabi provinces, includ­ing pop­u­lar resort areas in Phuket and Phi Phi Island. In addi­tion, many small fish­ing vil­lages were com­pletely destroyed.

Sadia Lone, Photo cour­tesy of Sadia

Sadia had a great time in Phuket, luck­ily before the dis­as­ter struck. Speak­ing about her hol­i­day brings a rem­i­nis­cent smile to her face. “The first thing that hits you over the plane is the beau­ti­ful blue ocean. And the next thing that you see is the extreme clean­li­ness. It’s all very proper and very orga­nized.”

“There is no direct flight to Phuket. There is three to four hours lay­over at the Bangkok air­port. You need to change ter­mi­nals and pick up your flight for Phuket from the Bangkok air­port. The plane jour­ney is about four to five hours give or take. I don’t rec­om­mend shop­ping at the Bangkok air­port though, it’s quite expen­sive.”

Sadia and her hus­band did some for­ward plan­ning right at the start of their travel. “We looked for the hotel over the inter­net, read up on Thai­land before embark­ing on our jour­ney. We also took a bunch of maps with us which proved use­ful. We had hired a travel agent who made all the flight arrange­ments for us. We stayed at the Hol­i­day Inn. This proved to be a good choice as it’s quite cen­tral and suited our needs per­fectly. We wanted to be in the mid­dle of the city.”

“We hired a motor bike and went explor­ing Phuket and the neigh­bor­ing islands on our own,” says Sadia. “It was fun. Hir­ing a motor­bike proved to be another good deci­sion as we were mobile and ended up sav­ing a lot of money on trans­porta­tion.”

Sadia and her hus­ban Ahsan, enjoy­ing the nightlife

Sadia and her hus­band spent most of their stay at Patong. “Everything’s there. Ocean, sea sports, restau­rants, clubs, bars…we ended up spend­ing most of our hol­i­day at Patong. It was very crowded. It was also fun and relax­ing. We also explored Kata beach, Krabi and Phi Phi Island. We used to take off right after break­fast and spent most of the day on the road. We took a tour of the Phi Phi Island before it was destroyed by the Tsunami. We went snor­kel­ing. It was inter­est­ing but I was very scared. My hus­band had a good time. We were plan­ning to do a bit of para­sail­ing but the tim­ings were a bit of a clash so we didn’t do it in the end.”

Sadia and her hus­band also spent their time explor­ing Andaman Beach on Phuket. “It was so depress­ing. It’s very big, very beau­ti­ful and very deserted. It looked aban­doned – I didn’t see a sin­gle soul over there. All the major five start hotels are there includ­ing the Banyan tree hotel resort. The beach had white sands though.”

The high­light of Sadia’s hol­i­day was the mas­sage. “Their mas­sage is out of this world. It’s very relax­ing.

It was so good that I spaced out for a bit.”

Sadia loved the buf­fet break­fast at the Hol­i­day Inn. “The hotel had the most amaz­ing buf­fet break­fast on offer. There were so many choices.”

Sadia on their hire motor­bike

Sadia not only loved the food at break­fast, she was equally impressed with lunch and din­ner cuisines. “We loved the food. The por­tions were pretty big but the food was not at all heavy. Eat­ing all that food doesn’t make you sick. My hus­band tried most of the sea food dishes on offer. He had crabs, shrimps, and Sea food plat­ter, in fact he tried every­thing. I had Thai cur­ries and rice mostly. The atmos­phere in most restau­rants and road side food bars is good. The restau­rants don’t stay open past mid­night – how­ever, there are many road side café’s and eat­ing places. The food is equally good over there and they stay open till the early hours of the morn­ing.”

Speak­ing of the nightlife at Phuket, Sadia says, “It was an eye opener for me. We explored a bit of the city at night. There are street pubs, Go Go bars, disco’s and clubs. I saw a lot of weird stuff. For exam­ple, I had never seen such a huge gath­er­ing of trans­ves­tites at a sin­gle place before! I had a photo taken with one guy who looked so like a woman that you couldn’t tell he was not. I didn’t see very young women over there despite the pop­u­lar rumor. We even went to a strip club to see what the hype was all about. I was totally dis­gusted. I didn’t like the place at all.”

Shop­ping is sub­stan­dard in Phuket and Bangkok accord­ing to Sadia even in the high end stores. “I only bought local crafts, carv­ings and typ­i­cal tourist sou­venirs. Shop­ping in Bangkok was very expen­sive. High-end designer labels are more expen­sive than Dubai, even Lon­don. Off the rack, didn’t see any nice mate­ri­als. Shop­ping in USA and UK is more fun since you find good stuff in mod­er­ate price points too. Size lim­i­ta­tion is one prob­lem. Lan­guage bar­rier is another. I had a bit of row on the last day of my visit with one of the shop keep­ers. He forcibly tried to take my old bracelet from me that I was try­ing to match up with a neck­lace from his shop. I guess he thought I had stolen it or some­thing. We had a big scene. I totally lost my cool and ended up call­ing him all kinds of names in Urdu at the top of my voice. My hus­band stepped in and saved the day.”

Ahsan Snorkling away

Ahsan Snor­kel­ing away

Sadia thinks hol­i­day in Thai­land is easy on the purse and gives you a chance to truly relax and have a great time. “How many times can you go to expen­sive places for a hol­i­day? We spent four nights and five days in Phuket – it cost us only hun­dred and fif­teen thou­sand for the tick­ets and the hotel stay. The food, trans­port, enter­tain­ment and shop­ping expenses were extra. Hol­i­day in Thai­land is eco­nom­i­cal, you get to visit a for­eign place, do a bit of sight­see­ing, relax on one of the most beau­ti­ful white sanded beaches, laze around in your deck chair, take a stroll along the seashore, read a book. If you feel a quick energy burst, you can explore the ocean, go para­sail­ing, or hire a boat and go fish­ing and snor­kel­ing around the coast. If that sounds too ener­getic, you can have a pedi­cure or a mas­sage under the shade of the tree, or just relax and sip your fresh coconut… what else do you need?” ■

This arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in the print edi­tion of “The Knit-Xtyle Fash­ion Review,” (Tkfr), issue 12, Octo­ber 2005


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Phuket: a great hol­i­day in the sun, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 rat­ings