Thursday 8 December 2016

Roz Purcell's Thailand: 10 reasons to put Phuket on your travel list

Little Black Book

Roz Purcell

Published 04/02/2016 | 06:47

Roz Purcell in Thailand (composite image).
Roz Purcell in Thailand (composite image).
A taste of Thailand. Photo: Roz Purcell
Tourists join dancing on stage with ladyboys at the Chiang Mai Cabaret show in 2012. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
The floating market at Damnoen Saduak, Thailand. Photo: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images
Roz Purcell cooks up in Thailand
Roz and her sister Rachel in Thailand.
Roz at her Thai cooking class
Roz explores the markets in Thailand
Elephant trekking in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Long Boats, The Beach, Phuket, Thailand
Roz relaxes on the beach in Thailand

Phuket offers the best of Thailand in one glorious place, says model and food blogger Roz Purcell.

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I know I'm not the first Irish person to head to Thailand.

I know I'm not the first to gush about it either. But there's so much about this place that draws us shivering cold Irish in, from backpackers to foodies and adventurers to anyone in need of good old-fashioned R&R. This destination has everything.

It took me a while to discover that. For years, I was caught in a cycle of visiting the same places every year merely out of comfort. At 25, I thought I'd missed my chance of island-hopping and full moon parties, but I was wrong.

Breaking that cycle has led to the greatest holiday of them all.

Lots of people who visit Thailand spend time travelling around, but this is a long way to go to be a nomad... particularly if your trip is short.

That's why I decided to base our trip in Phuket - it's Thailand's biggest island, but it's still small (49km2), diverse and easy to get around.

Yes, it can be tatty. But here are lots of day trips available, you can party in places like Patong, Phuket town and Phi Phi, and you can embrace the wondrous nature if you go west or south of Phuket to Rawai or Cape Panwa. It's the best of all worlds!

1. For the weather

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Us Irish love talking about the weather, it wasn’t until I was in Thailand I realised just how Irish I am. I commented on the great weather at every opportunity.

Locals advise that anytime between November and February is best to dodge the rain and soak up the Vitamin D. Even on cloudy days there was a need for factor 50..

One thing I have to mention is the type of heat. it wasn’t clammy humid heat; it was very dry with a cool breeze. Pretty perfect right?

2. For your taste buds

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Of course the topic of food was going to crop up at some stage throughout this article. Being a huge foodie, I was in my element.

Exploring the markets with rows of fresh fish, curry pastes and woks on the go is a brilliant experience. The best food I ate was from the side stalls that I would never have imagined eating from and put to shame fast food outlets in the western world!

Definitely take a cooking course during your stay - in fact I did two! It's a great way to take home some culture and continue living and embracing the holiday long after it ends. It's also nice to have some proper Pad Thai Gung, Tom Kha Gai and curry pastes on your repertoire... the perfect excuse to bring up your adventures over dinner!

3. For your bank account

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The money situation was a huge pull factor for us.

I understand getting to Thailand is the expensive part, but once you make it (and stay money smart), you'll arrive home without the ‘fear’ of checking your bank account.

The most expensive part are the excursions and day trips, which came to approximately 2,500 baht (€63) a pop, but when you think how much you are getting for that - a driver who picks you at your hotel, a speed boat to multiple islands, lunch, fresh fruit, tour guides all for seven hours! – it’s a pretty good deal. 

The street food is unquestionably cheap for how good it tastes (60-100 baht or €1.50-€2.50), and the all important fresh coconut that streamed through our news feeds of holidays snaps will set you back only 30-40 baht (80c-€1).

A massage (well, a one-hour foot rub) cost around 300 baht (€7.50).

4. For your waistline

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Being active is always a priority for me, and I like to keep up my routine when away - it means I can eat more ice-cream.

Thankfully, activities are everywhere in Thailand, from open water swimming to surfing, yoga, Muay Thai (kickboxing) and hiking. You wont go home feeling like you need to detoxify yourself of holiday pounds!

Being really keen to immerse myself in the culture, I took on some Muay Thai sessions, its definitely an experience and one I would recommend if you like to push yourself! But if that’s not your thing, you can still get a bit of Muay Thai boxing in by attending a match. They're held most weekends in Patong and were a real highlight for us.

5. For the people

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The gentle nature of the Thai people made this trip for me.

I was very inquisitive about their mannerisms, and couldn’t believe how calm and friendly they remained - even when faced with a rude tourist or conflict.

Locals explained to me that their upbringing is centered around remaining calm and not worrying about the future - negative thoughts are discouraged and there’s never a Plan ‘B’, as Plan ‘A’ would always work.

I found it a refreshing attitude - I truly believe that being around this type of positivity for a period of time is contagious.

6. For Your mind

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Walking on the beach barefoot, surrounded by miles of clear blue ocean - it does something for your mind. The freedom, the carefree nature and spirit of the place and people will leave you coming home with no woes or worries.

There are countless ways to help you relax on your stay - not least the massages, which are literally within every 50 meters (they are the Starbucks of Thailand!).

However, I will suggest in opting for something other than a traditional Thai massage which I found out is heavily physical and spine-crackling!

Breathing is taking very seriously as part of life and there are multiple breathing classes and yoga schools to take part in during your stay, a nice way to unwind after a day of snorkeling or swimming.

7. For island-hopping

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Growing up, did you ever dream of that island with clear blue water and a single palm tree? Well, it exists. And there are lots of them.

On our day trips in Thailand, we got to explore both deserted tropical islands and the most touristy ones (Phi phi, Phang na bay, Maya Bay Beach). The islands are beautiful, but sailing between them is an experience to treasure.

Try andamanadventures.com or hire a traditional long tail boat!

8. For the Ladyboys

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Thai ladyboys could teach us a lot here in Ireland. These are a confident group of people who embrace their individuality.

There are numerous PG-rated shows scattered across Patong, and nothing sums them up like the welcome notice: ‘You will arrive relaxed and leave feeling confused, as these women are more than a man than you’ll ever be and more of a woman’.

I can confirm that they truly were!

In general, ladyboys are hugely accepted in Thai society and there is no point made about their differentiation, something every society could learn from.

9. For your timeline

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The blue skies, endless beaches and thick jungles are the ultimate backdrop to your holiday snaps. For any one who loves a good Instagram, Thailand offers the perfect light - a vital criteria for any blogger or selfie lover.

Even the Thai people themselves appreciate the importance of a memorable picture and never miss an opportunity to snap you! On excursions they have a dedicated camera man and a videographer following your every move, so they really catch all the best moments even under the water! So, spruce up those profile pictures!

10. For nature

This may annoy some people, but waking up to tropical birds singing or monkeys screeching really lets you embrace nature.

From fish to elephants, animals are all over Thailand! There are multiple scuba diving schools, snorkeling for the less brave and elephant orphanages. On most of the one-day island trips there is allocated snorkeling time in the clear blue seas where you will see some of the most colorful fish, and only baby sharks - I swear!

We also visited an elephant orphanage where you can get up close with the larger than life creatures, learning about their way of life and the tribe who look after their welfare.

I did have one negative encounter with an animal though - that was lizard who snuck into my room and bunked up for the rest of my stay.

Who knew lizards could be so loud?

NB: For the best hotel deals in Thailand, see hotels.independent.ie.

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