Phuket Travel Guide
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Ok, before anyone starts berating us for the unfair comparison of intra-European business class with what we found on our domestic sector between Bangkok and Phuket, hear us out. We know comparing a short-haul, single-aisle plane thatís flying, say, London to Rome, is pretty much guaranteed to come up short in the space and comfort department against the wide-body Airbus A330 Thai Airways used for our flight. We know the dynamics of the business class market in Europe are vastly different from domestic/regional Asia traffic.
But still, anyone who has forked over the substantial cost of a European business class ticket and found themselves with the "luxury" of exactly the same seats as in coach bar the empty seat in the middle, a curtain separating the cabin that might as well not be there looking at the amount of traffic that finds its way from said coach cabin to the forward washrooms, and a hardly inspiring "meal" service, will agree that it can be a bit of a lackluster experience. In contrast, there were lots of things to like on our short 1.5-hour hop from Thailandís capital to one of its main beach destinations.
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Before we launch into our review of this one-way Bangkok Airways flight from Thailand's Phuket International (HKT) to Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi (BKK), let us point you to the one-way flight that got us to Phuket in the first place, right here, on Nok Air.
While our Nok review is littered with pictures of the bird-painted airplanes and plenty of notes on the flight, this one won't be as detailed on account of the fact that we flew in the dark of night after scuba diving off Phuket for three straight days (yes, fellow divers, we did wait over 24 hours before flying, don't worry). Still, it was dark and we were crazy exhausted and bracing for what was the beginning of a 24-hour ordeal to get to back on US soil.
Booking our Bangkok flight was easy enoughright on BangkokAir.com, and we paid only the equivalent of $49 USD, purchasing the ticket about 1.5 weeks in advance. Searching the same route now, it looks like the web saver fares average 2390 THB ($76 USD), so keep your eyes on the site for specials.
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Don't knock Nok Air. Their planes may be painted like tropical birds, their flight attendants young enough to feel more like candy-stripers, and their hub airport of Bangkok's Don Mueang International empty enough to inspire more smirks than all that "we fly smiles" claiming they make, but our own flight on Nok was actually pretty great.
First off, a little background. Nok Air is a Thai low-cost airline that started up in 2004 and now runs routes out of Bangkok to a slew of popular vacation destinations typically no more than several hours' flight time away. View all their routes right here. Flights start around 1,300 THB ($41) on average, which even includes an in-flight snack and one free checked bag up to 30kg.
We hopped onboard, flying from Bangkok-Don Mueang to Phuket International, a 1.5-hour flight that cost us only around $51 USD total (and it was a last-minute booking).*
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As dedicated as we are to trying out the most local and unique foods for our Foreign Grocery Friday series, we also have a definite thing for investigating the fast food preferences of destinations. This usually involves stalking the pastry cases of Starbucks in Switzerland or snacking as the world's fanciest Taco Bell, but more likely we're around the corner squinting up at the menu boards of a McDonald's.
Hoping for some rice patties or other exotic offerings, we wandered into the Golden Arches in the Central Festival Mall in Phuket Town, Thailand. Instead we came face-to-face with the Samurai Pork Burger, a standard item on Thai McD's menus, and something that sounded safe to try.
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When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
Heading to a store and identifying the fruits of Southeast Asia can prove a workout for both Wikipedia and Google Image Search for your smartphone. It's like a game! That is, until you encounter one fruit that remains anonymous even with all the googling of "brownish fruit, sharkskin texture, thailand."
Thus, we turned to Twitter a few days ago to identify the above fruit, and several of our awesome followers @Jaunted recognized it immediately as Salak, or palm fruit, a plant native to Indonesia but grown through SE Asia. It also has varying names: Sala in Thailand, Salacca or Salak everywhere else.
Thailand... Are we nuts?! Nah: The airport trouble is over, and while politicians keep bickering in Bangkok, the rest of the country is ripe for exploration. Claire Duffett just spent two weeks in southwest Thailand sailing the Andaman Sea from Krabi to Phuket.
After Koh Phi Phi, we approached Phuket with trepidation. Surely, tourists literally spill into the ocean there, right? Well, not really, if you know where to go.
Let's be honest: We're pretty scared about bungee jumping. But there are a few reassuring facts about the Jungle Bungy in Phuket: It's over water, so we figure we've still got half a chance if our bungee cord breaks; it's cheap--first jump of the day is 2000 Baht ($55) and it gets heaps cheaper if you do multiple jumps; and it's safe because the boss jump master is a guy from New Zealand who totally knows his stuff.
So what can go wrong? Nothing apart from us losing our nerve, perhaps. Maybe the tandem bungee is for us, but they also offer a catapult bungee, backwards bungee and a water touch bungee.
For nervy jumpers like us the website is very reassuring about safety, and then they say that if we have any troubles, "We can give you a nudge if you like!" If you make it (if you jump, that is, not if you survive) you get a "Certificate of Courage." We'd display that proudly on our most prominent wall, we think.
Calling all meat-haters: The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is coming up from September 28 to October 7 and there won't be a beef steak or a deep-fried chicken wing in sight.
The Vegetarian Festival is a special time for some locals, who strictly observe a vegetarian (or for the extremists, vegan) diet to basically cleanse their souls. There are daily processions from various Chinese shrines around Phuket which are colorful and meat-free.
If you want to take part yourself there are a few rules you have to follow: As well as avoiding all meat dishes, you have to wear white, can't drink alcohol, can't have sex and must "behave physically and mentally." While this isn't exactly our idea of Thai holiday fun, there's surely something to be said for a purely vegetarian parade.
The wild card in VegNews' list of the "10 Best Veg Destinations in the World" is near the bottom: "Phuket Vegetarian Festival is not the kind of festival populated by gentle tree huggers in hemp pants playing djembes, doing yoga asanas and drinking spirulina smoothies. And it's not for the faint of heart. But it is a colorful event every vegetarian will want to attend, though perhaps not something every vegetarian will wish to participate in."
So we know what it's not, and we know it's colorful, and we know it's mandatory. Why so cagey? Could it have something to do with the copious amounts of repeatedly pierced body parts you're likely to see?