We have arrived in Thailand. Almost two weeks ago. Up until now the humidity, the ocean, the surfing and the food had my full attention. Lazing around in the sun, taking a dip in the pool right outside our bungalow, taking a 5 minute stroll to the beach and discovering the different street food vendors around the corner kept me occupied.
From the minute we set food on Thai ground we have loved it here. I feel reminded of South Africa and I know this place is for me. After arriving with over an hour delay in the evening we made our way through Phuket International Airport, looking for a ride to Kata Beach, where we’d be staying 12 nights. Right out of the plane we threw one of our initial resolutions overboard and had booked a guided tour to Phi Phi Island before even knowing what was happening. In our defense – we were tired and the tour came with a free Taxi ride to the Hotel. So it was actually a good deal, right? Right? Well, looking back I am still not sure what got into us, but what’s done is done. And the trip to Phi Phi was actually quite beautiful.
It takes 1 hour to reach Kata Beach from Phuket Airport. The taxi ride took us southward on the east side of the island and included a stop at a travel agency where the driver had to “ask for directions” to find our hotel. Conveniently, one of his colleagues stood by already to hop into the car and start a sales pitch on all the different tours and attractions you could possibly think of. After receiving brochure and brochure we finally managed to convince her that we won’t be booking any more tours just yet and our ride to Kata could continue.
It must have been around 10 pm when we finally made it to Rico’s Bungalows. Annnnd…….there was noone there. The reception desk was as deserted as the rest of the place. After some helpless “hello, anybody there?”, Kutloano finally managed to find somebody on night duty, who gave us the key to our bungalow. The excitement about arriving couldn’t keep us up any longer though. After 2 days with only little sleep we were out.
We rose early the morning after our arrival. Excitement can turn the sleepiest person into a early riser. All we wanted to do was explore and finally get a glimpse of this country that we read about so much. We decided on a walk along the beach. Marvelling the warm water, its turquoise colour and the overall tropical scene, my attention was caught by two people heading into the water – carrying a surf board. Initially, I hadn’t planned to go surfing right away, but I couldn’t hold myself back.
Looking back I’m glad I got on a board right away. As it turned out, the rest of our stay didn’t have good waves in store for me. If you are headed to Kata Beach wanting to surf and you have the good fortune of getting some decent waves, don’t hire boards from the guys in the far south of the beach. Rather head a bit further north talong Kata Beach. There’s a little surf shop with some nice guys who are more than happy to rent a board to you. From my experience the boards there are in better condition. It’s 150 Baht for 1 hour surf board rental. The guys further south tried to charge 200 Baht.
After my little surf adventure we decided to check out some more travel agencies and compare prices for guided tours. First stop was a nice looking shop with friendly service (and not too pushy). The price for a Phang Nga Bay tour here was already 200 Baht less than our friend from the taxi ride the night before had offered. We continued looking anyway.
After a delicious lunch (where Kutloano stuck to a Burger, while I decided to try a Thai salad) we saw the smaller travel agents who had set up their desks (literally desks) between other store fronts. Here we immediately got an offer for the same tour for another 300 Baht discount. After some more haggling and the agent calling her boss, we even got the speed boat tour for almost the same price she initially wanted to charge for the big boat tour. Negotiating and comparing prices really pays off. And travelling in low season is probably a big part of this as everybody is desperate for business.
While we were still negotiating and deciding whether or not to book the tour to Phang Nga Bay the excitement got the best of me. I couldn’t wait to explore the surroundings. As I already mentioned we ended up booking the Phang Nga Bay by speedboat and had already booked a tour to the Phi Phi Islands by big boat, which we decided to confirm for the following day.
Booking a guided tour when you first arrive in Thailand seems like a good idea and we certainly enjoyed both tours we did. After having been in Thailand for a few days though we started feeling like doing trips on our own would be loads more interesting as you won’t have to stick to a set schedule. That being said, next time we’ll definitely do that, but there are no regrets about the packaged tours we did. We got to see beautiful islands, snorkel on Phi Phi Ley, canoe on Hong Island and swim on Naka Island.
Read more about our tours:
I love sunsets. Doesn’t everyone? So, that same day we headed out again in the evening to see and capture how the sun slowly sinks below the horizon in the distance. As it was cloudy, the sunset was even more unique.
Kata Street Food
Before our trip we did a lot of reading. I’m “Mrs. Research” when it comes to soaking everything up about a new destination. Nothing gets me more excited than researching a place I’m soon going to visit. During my research I repeatedly heard about the amazing Thai street food. As I started a low-carb diet a few weeks before coming to Thailand, I was delighted to see the many street food vendors selling all sorts of meat on sticks. Chicken, pork, beef. Some even had prawns, fish and a variety of sausages on offer. I guess that doesn’t really count as proper Thai street food. Kutloano had the honours and tried a chicken Pad Thai and liked it very much. Which is saying quite a lot, as he is usually not into unknown food.
As we soon noticed that the restaurants around Kata Beach were amazingly overpriced, we stuck to street food and fresh fruits mainly. There are Mini Marts and 7/11’s every few meters along the main road where you can easily find all the essentials. We recommend not to go for the European brands and food items you know. They are ridiculously overpriced. We stuck to bread, eggs and cold meat. And at least once a day I went around the corner to our favourite street food guy to get some freshly braaied (ehem, grilled) meat and salad.
You can find a street food carts on any corner anywhere. They move around – so they might be there one day and not the next. But you won’t struggle to find someone to sell you food. The carts are mobile and mostly attached to a motorbike. If you see one driving along the road just look hungry and they’ll stop for you 😉
The meat they sell is grilled already, but they will put it on the grill for you again to heat it up. Their salads are freshly prepared right in front of your eyes and they are incredibly lekker – with peanuts, cabbage and tomatoes.
Apart from meat on sticks, you’ll find fresh fruit, pancake and Thai food vendors. What you won’t find however, are vegetables. Neither in supermarkets nor on the streets.
Kata Fresh Market
As I said, I am on a low carb diet. So I needed my vegetables. From one of the fruit vendors we were told to check out the market which turned out to be exactly the right advice.
Kata Fresh Market is open on Mondays and Thursdays. It’s full name is Mae Somitch Fresh Market and it’s located on Patak Road, but you can also access it from a connecting road between Kata Road and Patak Road. You’ll find a Sushi place called Red Snapper across the street.
The market doesn’t just offer fresh vegetables, but anything you could think of. There’s clothes, meats, prepared food, teas, coffee, souvenirs, jewellery and fruits. I have to admit, it reminded me of the Czech market that I often used to visit at home. Walk between the stalls and stand and inhale the scents of the variety of foods that is prepared right in front of your eyes. I had forgotten to bring my camera, so I can only showcase some cell phone pictures that we took.
If you are planning to visit you should be prepared for a few really hot hours. We were basically dripping after the 2 hours or so that we ventured through the market. And we were quite successful – souvenirs, gifts for friends and family at home and fresh vegetable that lasted us until our departure the next Monday.
With a heavy heart we said goodbye to Kata Beach and Phuket on Monday morning. At 1 pm our Bangkok Air flight departed to Samui Airport. A 50 minutes flight and 5 minutes taxi ride later we were sitting at Bangrak Pier, waiting for our ferry to depart to Koh Phangan, which will be features in “Our Thailand Trip – Part 3”.