After a marathon 22-hours of travelling, we had finally arrived in Phuket and were ready to get to Patong. Here is a breakdown of our journey:
Johannesburg to Doha: 9 hours
Transfer in Doha: 2 hours
Doha to Chennai: 4.5 hours (re-routed due to medical emergency – see flight review here)
Parked on the tarmac in Chennai 2 hours
Chennai to Phuket: 4.5 hours
Crazy? Crazy worth it! We arrived in Phuket…. finally…. and as soon as we left the airport, the heat and humidity served as a welcome wake-up call. At first, it seemed uncomfortable, but we’re from South Africa, and our very own Durban is not too different, so a few minutes later and we were already acclimatised.
Aside from the climate (which we were totally prepared for), our first impression of Thailand began with the customs and security at the airport. The “Land of Smiles” as some call it, Thailand truly lived up to this caption. The welcome we received at the airport proved to be a sign of things to come. This is probably one of the reasons people love this place so much (other than the price and sheer beauty).
Once we left the airport, it wasn’t hard to find our pre-booked transfer. Since we were a group of 7, we had a minibus waiting for us, with the driver eagerly waiting for the “Adventure Guy Party” (That’s what the sign said – promise). I have to admit, seeing a Zola Budd (Local South African term to describe a mini bus taxi) was a wee bit comforting – weird right?
It’s way cheaper to pre-book your transfer before arriving in Phuket. We were a group of 7 and the transfer worked out to be less than ZAR70 per person. A taxi would have cost 4 times as much.
Our hotel was located in Patong, about 40km from the airport and it took exactly an hour. Needless to say, some basic math will tell you the average speed we drove. The roads are perfectly fine, but this small island doesn’t have huge, multi-lane motorways or freeways. Traffic wasn’t exactly at a standstill, but the hundreds of scooters make for an entertaining drive. It was quite late in the evening so we couldn’t exactly see much of the scenery in the dark.
We arrived at the hotel soon enough, and another warm welcome awaited. Once we checked in, we dropped the bags in the room and hastily headed out to try and get some chow. It’s now well over 24-hours since we had a proper meal.
We made our way down the main road of Patong and the smell…. whoa! If i told you that holding your breath doesn’t help, would that give you an idea? Truth being told, after a day or so, it doesn’t really bother you at all. It’s amazing how your body and senses just adapt when your heart & mind are focused on having a good time.
The odours we experienced were largely due to the variety of seafood on offer, fresh from the ocean (some still alive). The restaurants were lined up on this main road, and they were typically Thai, with a couple of Chinese themed places in between. Eventually we came across a place who’s menu vaguely resembled something we’re more accustomed to back home and in a jiffy our tikka chicken and naan bread were being prepared.
It was probably one of the best Tikka Chicken meals I’ve ever had (the only exception being Alhambra on Church Street, Mayfair). By the time we finished, it was closer to 1am and since dinner was so good, we felt we need to walk it off a bit.
And off we went to the infamous Bangla Road in Patong – a place we’ve heard a bit about, but not nearly enough to be prepared for what we found.