It all still feels like a dream. A dream filled with turquoise waters, mango smoothies & adventures around one of the most beautiful counties I’ve ever laid eyes on– THAILAND! I’m so excited to be sharing my 10 day journey to Phuket, Koh Sok National Park, and Koh Yao Yai. Let’s start from the beginning…
Let me start by saying that I think I’m a rare breed who loves doing travel research. I’m happy to sit for hours with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and pour through travel blogs & reviews & online forums (which is why it’s important to me that I pay it forward and create a post of my own for anyone hoping to travel to Thailand one day!). When talking about dream vacation destinations with my boyfriend, Mike, Thailand was at the top of both of our lists. What I didn’t realize when I started my research is how many destinations there are to visit within Thailand… it can be overwhelming for sure to try to narrow it down to a 10 day trip. Luckily, Mike had an insider scoop from friends who live in Thailand who told us this time of year was a good time to visit the southern part, so that is where we narrowed our scope. But I already know I would love to go back someday to visit the northern part of the country!
Once we knew we wanted to focus on the southern part of Thailand, we ended up choosing 3 destinations to spend 3 days at a piece. It allowed us to settle in and get to know an area, but also maximize our time getting to see multiple places. The three different destinations were all SO different, it was a perfect mix of relaxation & adventure!
Our trip started in San Francisco after attending a wedding in Northern CA. We flew EVA Airlines there– which neither of us had ever heard of, but we had a great overall experience. We had a 13 hour flight to Taipei, a 4 hour to flight to Bangkok, then a 1 hour flight to Phuket.
The thing no one tells you about Phuket is that within the island, there are lots of little beach towns to choose from. Some are more quiet, some are more full of nightlife. We chose Kata Beach on the west side of the island for the first three days of our trip because it was a middle ground– not the quietest, but not the biggest party scene. And that proved to be true.
GETTING THERE & STAYING THERE
Where We Stayed: The Galleri by Katathani
In Thailand, we found that transportation arranged through the hotel was always about the same price (or in some cases cheaper) than getting a Taxi or using the Grab app (Uber equivalent). So we had transportation waiting for us at the airport (my first time ever arriving to an airport with someone holding a sign with my name on it!). Our taxi ride down to Kata beach was about an hour drive (Phuket is a sneaky big island).
Our hotel had great views, a breakfast buffet, and an infinity pool (complete with a pool bar with killer mojitos & mai tais). This hotel does sit a little outside of town, which gives you a nice quiet atmosphere, but what we didn’t know is that it sits on a giant hill. So the walk to the beach & into the town of Kata wasn’t so bad, but the walk back up the big hill was no. joke. Overall though, definitely a hotel I would recommend! Especially considering you can score a room with a view of the ocean & a balcony complete with a soaking tub for about $100/night.
WHAT TO DO IN KATA
The next three days we decided to venture north of Phuket to Khao Sok National Park. It wasn’t a particularly easy or cheap part of our trip, but you guys– OH. SO. WORTH. IT.
Getting up to Khao Sok National Park was a relatively unplanned part of our trip. After researching online, there are options to be picked up in Phuket as part of a tour group, go to Khao Sok, then be transported back… but it felt a little cookie cutter to us, and the adventure & unknown is half the fun, right?! So we ended up paying for a taxi from Kata beach to Khao Sok, which was about a 3 hour drive. We were skeptical that a taxi driver would drive us that far, but the front desk of our hotel assured us it would be no problem so we called a taxi using the Grab app, and it ended up costing us about $115. This taxi ride holds a special place in my heart from this trip because we had a wonderful older drive named Noi, who taught us Thai phrases, told us cool little tidbits about Thailand, and was just an all-around joy for our long trek. This drive also allowed us to see rural Thailand, where it’s not so touristy.
Night 1: Khaosok Boutique Camps
We booked Khaosok Boutique Camps using AirBnB. This little “resort” is a bunch of permanent tents in the middle of the Thai jungle. We made it just in time for sunset and dinner. This place was amazing because it was so quiet & peaceful like you hope for when you’re camping (not to mention the spiders & geckos you have to try to keep out of your tent), but also let’s be real– you still had the amenities of a hotel, like AC at night, a private bathroom, and an on-site restaurant.
Night 2: 500 Rai Floating Resort
This adventure was probably my favorite of the entire trip. I had read so much online about these overwater bungalows in Khao Sok, but had a really hard time narrowing down which one to choose. We went to Thailand knowing we wanted to book one, but it wasn’t set in stone until a last minute deal came up for the 500 Rai Floating Resort. It was getting to this place that was quite the adventure…
The nice woman working at the boutique camps asked us where we were staying next and when she realized we had no real plan on how we would get from point A to point B, she helped set up transportation for us. We ended up taking a shuttle from the boutique camp, then got handed over from one shuttle to another (just hoping that our destination didn’t get lost in translation), and lo and behold ended up at the 500 Rai headquarters. They have a meeting point for all guests where you check in, and then get shuttled to the lake from there. Once you get to the docks of the lake, it’s about an hour and a half ride on a longtail boat out to the floating bungalows. The lake is the most beautiful shade of turquoise you’ve ever seen and the water is so clean! The resort itself has an onsite restaurant (we loved the food & drinks!) and is made up of a bunch of these bungalows. Each one has its own porch & bamboo dock with kayaks to use. The entire 24 hours we were here, Mike & I kept looking at each other and asking, “Is this actually real life right now?” It was that incredible.
After Koh Sok, we needed to make our way back down to Phuket to catch a boat to our final destination: Koh Yao Yai. A quiet island off the eastern coast of Phuket sounded like a pretty great way to end our trip. We booked transportation back to Phuket through 500 Rai, and they delivered us to our pit stop in Pa Klok (a town in Phuket). We needed to catch a boat at Ao Po Marina the following morning, so we decided to grab a cheap place nearby for the night. Turns out, this place was surprisingly awesome. We stayed at Supalai Resort for $60 and it had a gorgeous ocean view, a beautiful pool & a solid on-site restaurant.
One of the hardest parts of planning this trip was narrowing down which island to go to. There are SO many options! The Phi Phi islands are the most popular, but there was a lot of chatter online about it being super crowded and its most popular destination, Maya Bay (featured in the movie The Beach), recently closed because it got too overrun. Mike’s friend recommended Koh Yao Noi to us, which eventually led us to discover its sister island, Koh Yao Yai and the Santhiya Resort. This place you guys… it’s heaven on earth.
There aren’t many resorts on Koh Yao Yai, so once we knew we wanted to go there, choosing Santhiya was an easy choice. It’s a luxury resort for the price of most standard hotels in the US. Our first stop was their meeting point at Ao Po Marina. From there, the hotel is about a 20 minute speedboat ride away. The resort sits on the western side of the island, but somehow you get beautiful sunsets and sunrises (I told you, this place is magical). We chose to really go all out our last few nights, and got an ocean view villa with our own infinity pool. Boujee? Oh yes. Worth it? Absolutely, because anywhere else in the room this villa of this caliber would cost a whole lot more.
I really can’t say enough good things about Santhiya– it was well run with super friendly staff, it was very clean, we loved the food, they have a beautiful beach with plenty of chairs & lounging options, a great spa… I could go on & on. The one complaint I read about online ahead of time was everything being really expensive. It definitely was more expensive than other places we travelled, but really it was just like paying prices that are similar to the US. If you wanted to cut back on costs, you could walk down the beach from the resort and eat at other restaurants that are farther down the beach. We considered doing excursions from Koh Yao Yai (we ended up loving the place so much, we just opted to stay put & relax) but the options the hotels offers are very expensive. If you stay here and want to adventure around, I’d recommend looking into other excursion companies that are based on the island.
On our last day in Thailand, we took a boat from Koh Yao Yai back to Phuket and had arranged transportation through Santhiya to our next stop. Our flight home left in the middle of the night, so we decided to get a super cheap place to act as a home base for the day and to get a few hours of sleep before we flew out. We went to Moonlight Cottage, which is in a pretty rural & non-touristy part of Phuket. The innkeeper didn’t speak any English (the first time we encountered that throughout the whole trip) but we were still able to communicate that we wanted to head into the little down to grab dinner, and he ended up bringing us to a local restaurant in a tuk tuk (think of a motorbike with seats attached). It was one of those experiences you could have never planned out, but was such a fun final adventure to the trip.
To see videos from our Thailand trip, head over to my Instagram account and click on the Thailand icon!
If you need me, I’ll be over here daydreaming about my next adventure…