An adventure to Thailand… that’s what my friends of 30 years were proposing. Well ok, go on then.
Choosing the destinations and experiences to plump for was the hardest part. Before setting foot in the ‘land of smiles’ I knew there was fun and laughter to be had at every turn. We decided that we wanted to have a trip of contrasts; beach and pool relaxation, alongside first / only time experiences.
My travel companions, Lisa and Carolyn, had been to Bangkok previously, and ideally we wanted this to be a trip of ‘firsts’, so we agreed that our gateway into Thailand would be Phuket. A perfect mix of beach, rainforest, mountain and nightlife – an island in the Andaman Sea, the promise of stunning scenery was realised.
We stayed at Merlin Beach Resort. This property was the perfect home for our four nights in this special part of the world – the rooms were spacious, modern and comfortable, the pool area was expansive (and the swim up bar – bargain!), and the private beach topped it off nicely. I felt as though we were in the right place to be able to access all we wanted to in Phuket.
Phuket calls itself ‘Asia’s most popular beach destination’, I can see why the name has stuck. Even though they weren’t on our ‘to do’ list particularly, the snorkelling and diving opportunities are immense, with surrounding islands just a boat ride away.
We had to take the opportunity to visit James Bond Island aka Phang Nga Bay (take a look at Netflights.com’s latest TV ad to see why this was a must!), which we visited on a long tail boat, before heading to the aptly named Monkey Temple!
We headed to Patong for a wild night out, seeing and hearing sights and sounds like never before… and, after a couple of Changs and cocktails, took a tuk tuk back to our hotel at the end of the evening.
Our remaining days in Phuket were spent soaking up the sun at Merlin Beach Resort, enjoying the live music in the evening and heading to the spa to get ourselves ready for the next part of our adventure… heading into the wild, to meet elephants!
Our Elephant Hills transfer picked us up bright and early, and the Phuket to Khao Sok mini-bus journey (taking around 3.5 hours) flew by, as we took in the changing scenery and had a power nap. We arrived at Elephant Hills – a luxury tented jungle camp – and after checking out our tent, enjoyed a delicious lunch… signalled by the sound of a gong.
It was then time to meet the elephants – we had an incredible experience; watching them play in their ‘swimming pool’, washing them down afterwards, and then preparing and feeding them their lunch (well part of it… elephants put away over 100kg of fruits and vegetation every day). This was such a special experience, and it was so lovely to see how much the mahouts and other staff love and care for these amazing creatures – they were just so enormous, but gentle.
We then headed to the river, and hopped in our canoes to find out more about the surrounding areas from the boatman who kindly paddled us to where the bus was waiting to take us back to camp.
Then it was ‘rest and refresh’ time, before a really lovely evening spent in the camp with the other guests, who were all fab people. We watched an interesting documentary about elephants (what else?!) and then were enchanted by children from a local school who came into the camp and performed traditional dances for us. We then enjoyed a Thai cooking demonstration, before the gong sounded again and we enjoyed our evening meal. There is such a great atmosphere in the camp, as everyone is talking about their adventures from the day, and the bar is open for those who want to enjoy a beer (or something stronger).
The next morning (and our final morning, as we were just staying for one night) was trek time! We ventured out into the jungle with our expert guide, and had a great time learning and laughing. The scenery is just stunning. We also managed to squeeze in bit of pool time, which was great and just what we needed before we hopped in our transfer and headed to our next destination, Khao Lak (taking around 1.5 hours).
Here we’d chosen to stay at Khao Lak Merlin Resort – and it was perfect for us. The resort is sprawling and nature-focused, with lots of greenery and a beautiful beach. The rooms here were lovely – spacious, contemporary and comfortable. We enjoyed spending time at the pool (and once again, the swim up bar became our favourite hangout) and on the beach, but we also had a couple of great evenings just walking around the area chatting to the locals, looking at the ornate shrines and enjoying the hospitality and the very welcoming bars and cafes that line the road.
The following day we had booked in for a Thai cooking class, and this exceeded all of our expectations! The chef and his team were so welcoming, and kitted us out with a recipe book and apron… so at least we looked as though we knew what we were doing. We got to grips with three Thai recipes, and of course, enjoyed sampling our handy work after each course. We made spring rolls, spicy prawn soup and beef in oyster sauce – delicious (even if I do say so myself).
As our trip was coming to an end, relaxation was the order of our remaining time and the beach bar was a great choice from which to enjoy lovely cocktails and amazing views. Cheers. Sà-wàd-dee
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