Phuket, a small island to the west of mainland Thailand that promises something for everyone. It has beautiful beaches, bustling night life and tons of activities and excursions during the day.
We stayed at the 5 star boutique resort, Indigo Pearl. As exotic as its name, Indigo Pearl is a boutique hotel, located north of the island on Nai Yang beach. This industrial chick hotel is designed and constructed to pay tribute to Phuket's tin mining past.
Verdict on the Hotel:
Rooms: Well appointed rooms. Each room class has its own unique theme. However, the building housing the rooms feels like an old apartment complex.
Beach: The hotel does not have its own private beach. But Nai Yang beach (best beach on the island in my opinion) is separated from the hotel by a narrow street. It is a beautiful beach lagoon with tranquil waters and small family restaurants along the beach. Hotel has a cabana and beach chairs for guests with full bar service.
Beware, you have to cross the entire hotel grounds on foot to get to the beach.
Food: Food at the hotel was nothing to write home about. The breakfast spread was rather modest for a 5 star resort. We had dinner at the bespoke Black Ginger restaurant, and again the food was nothing to rave about.
Spa: is modest in its decor and also in its prices which are a steal. Spa menu is extensive with a choice of massages, wraps and scrubs. However, the therapists were very sweet and professional.
Spa consists of the ground floor guest rooms converted into treatment rooms. This was a bit of a let down for us.
Activities on the island:
Transport: Before you embark on any activities, either use the hotel cars ( they can get very pricey if you use them regularly) or rent a car. A week's rent should set you back about 250$ from Avis for a small car. You can get one from the airport or ask the hotel to help arrange one. The island is easy to navigate around and one full tank of gas will take you all over the island. While driving is a bit hairy sometimes, it is much, much safer than the death traps that are the tuk tuks.
Boat excursions: We had the hotel help us arrange a trip to Phi Phi island for about $40 a head. It was a group trip where the tour company picked us up from the hotel in a bus and dropped us off at its pier. From there we took a boat to James bond island, Koh Phi Phi, kayaking and snorkeling. While I wouldn't at all call it a luxury boat ($40 afterall), it was clean and safe. The activities were very well organized and everyone had fun. The trip ended with a lunch organized at a fishermen's village. With its narrow, dark alleys the village reminded me of the movie Waterworld. Nevertheless, is was a very quaint little village which offered some good exploration and fantastic photo opportunities. This was a full day trip
Kathu Waterfalls: easy to get to by car with plenty of parking spaces. Be ready for a 30 minute trek in the steamy rainforest to get to the waterfalls. The falls themselves aren't very big but the scenery around them makes for a good picture. And the treck to the waterfall with log crossings make you feel like Indiana Jones.
Pearl Farms and Factories: tourist trap. Unless you really know your pearls and their prices, you will be conned.
Cashew Factory: Fun place to go. It has a huge shop selling every cashew flavor you can think of. And several cashew products.
Mom Tri's Boathouse: a must try Thai Restaurant. A bit upscale but with great food, great colonial ambience. Everything we ordered impressed us. Reservation is recommended.
Sunset Point: Undoubtedly the best point to watch sunset on the island. It is famous so it does get crowded so plan to get there a bit early for a good spot.
Cycling Tour: Part of the hotel activity menu. We were accompanied by an absolute gem of a guide who along the journey introduced us to the local fruits like Durian and Mangosteen, taught us a bit about rice farming and rubber trees and introduced us to a peculiar plant called Nya Hup. A plant that curls and hides the moment you touch it (yes I know, you are thinking Avatar). This was the highlight of our trip. It was like our personal tour to all things Phuket.
Shopping and Patong: this is the most lively part of the island. Tons of shopping (bargain or be conned), also a good place if you want knock offs, dozens of bars line the street with very lively atmosphere. Go go girls at the bars are a bit of an annoyance but if you are there for a good atmosphere and cheap drinks then you will have fun regardless.
Reflecting on the beauty of the island, its people, its culture and relaxed way of life and understood why so many people who had gone there as tourists had ended up staying there for good. I felt like joining them. I didn't wan't to leave.