I have been to Phuket numerous of times and frankly I’ve never stayed on any of its outlying islands. This time round, I had the opportunity to visit one of the Starwood Group’s properties, The Naka Ialand.
Located just off the eastern coast of Phuket, The Naka Island is perfectly poised along the southern portion of Naka Yai Island. To get there, simply arrange for a speedboat pick up from the Ao Po Grand Marina.
Once you arrive at the pier, you are immediately picked up by the resort’s buggy and transferred to your villa for check-in. I love in-room check-in. No queues, no crowds, just you and the resort’s staff. The route to the villa was serene and was well greeted by passing staff. We checked into the Tropical Pool Villa and lucky for us, our villa was one of the villas that had the sea view.
Each of the Tropical Pool Villas comes with your own private pool & sala, an open-air bathroom and if you’re not afraid of mosquitoes, an outdoor soaking tub. Coming from Singapore, I hate mosquitoes; therefore I didn’t take the risk of getting them biting me by willingly soaking myself bare-naked in the outdoor tub. But it’s definitely a romantic sight at night, when the housekeeping comes in to turn down the villa.
After resting our feet for a while, we headed to the Z Bar to catch our first island sunset and pre-dinner drinks. Z Bar specializes in custom cocktails and offers enticing Asian style tapas and a stunning view of the surrounding island vistas.
We then headed off to dinner at My Grill. My Grill focuses on fresh seafood and premier steaks, all deliciously prepared with a southern Thai twist. The restaurant only opens for dinner and offers the view of the infinite seascape.
Naka Island’s Chef de Cuisine does a mean grilled steak. We started off with a portion of salad and ordered the restaurant’s two specialties. It’s steak and codfish. Both items were cooked to perfection. The steak simply melts in your mouth and the fish was fresh and sweet. Dinner was perfect and we simply couldn’t wait to try more of his dishes.
Less than 50 minutes by taxi from the airport and the magic of this island has already cast its spell on me. Normally I need a day or two to unwind after I arrive to a holiday destination, but on this occasion, the metamorphosis from stress-head to not a care in the world, occurred in the ride from the airport to my hotel.
The beauty of Phuket is that it’s only approximately 8hrs flying time from Sydney. Of course this figure varies depending on which location you are flying from.
As I write this blog, I am outside my room adjacent to a magnificent 50 meter pool. From the end of the pool to Patong Beach is only 2 meters. It is mid morning and I have already walked the beach which allows me to have breakfast with a clear conscience, read the paper and contemplate a swim in the pool or a dip in the sparkling Adaman Sea.
Patong beach early in the morning is a beehive of activity. Coloured umbrellas are being erected in military precision, in ready for the influx of international guests who will make Patong Beach their home for the day. The sun is shining, the temperature is a balmy 26 degrees Celsius. Life is good.
HOTEL OF THE MONTH…..LA FLORA PATONG
I am staying at the La Flora Resort Patong on Patong Beach, which is the busiest and main area in Phuket. Hotel Le Flora Resort Patong is simply magnificent…….five star excellence.
There are more beautiful and peaceful areas to stay in Phuket. But for me, to be so close to the vibrant energy of Patong Beach, with everything available at your doorstep, is what I came for. Yet, when you enter Hotel Flora, the eclectic energy of the main street and town simply disappears.
Hotel La Flora Patong is a world class luxury boutique hotel and has a variety of stylish designed accommodation ranging from excellent to simply sublime.
“The La Flora Resort Patong is the only luxury boutique resort in the central Patong area that offers pool villas”.
The cuisine available in the Hotel is world class and the rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking Patong Beach is breathtaking.
I have to mention the staff, they were so professional and their attention to detail is just another reason that makes this hotel so affordable and exceptional.
The Hotel Flora is a few steps to the beach and 2 minutes away from Patong’s pulsating, raunchy and exciting entertainment/restaurant precinct and only 1 minute away from shopping and my favourite Asian pastime……. Massage!!!!
As the sun sets in Phuket, the main entertainment street, Bangla Road is shut off to vehicles and explodes in a plethora of loud music, beer bars, go go bars and dancing girls. Well, not all are dancing girls. What initially may appear to be beautiful sexy ladies in stunning evening gowns, big hair, gyrating to loud music on the street and draped in feather boas and costume jewellery, actually turn out to be not as “lady like” as they appear.
Welcome to the main “drag” of Phuket.
Top 10 best things to do in Phuket
1. Beaches, swimming, board sailing, jet skiing and para sailing.
2. Island tours.
3. Go Karting.
4. Day and night trips to Phi Phi Island and Krabi.
5. Temple Tours and a visit to the Big Buddha.
6. Restaurants (ranging from street carts and stalls to 5 star international restaurants).
7. Scuba diving courses and or snorkeling.
8. Massage (foot and body) Approx $10AUS for 60mins of bliss.
9. Cabaret Shows “Fantasea”….incredible entertainment which includes elephants, trapeze artists, comedians and much more.
10. Thai Boxing (Muay Thai)…International and local fights.
Phuket is unlike any other holiday destination in Thailand. It is colourful and has an incredible energy. Walking around town and the beach at night, where the markets and food stalls are, there is an amazing buzz and the smell of beautiful Asian food wafts through the air.
I have to be honest, there was one problem I had while I was wandering the markets and food stalls and that was what to eat. The variety of food is endless and all of it is so beautiful. The problem I encountered was to try not to eat to much. I failed, not only is the food so moorish its amazingly cheap.
I love Phuket and once you have been here, you will want to keep coming back.
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Always travel with a small first aid kit which should include band aids, antiseptic cream, eye wash, tweezers and a small constricting bandage for any sprains that may occur on your travels, and always have some insect repellant that contains deet.
Its also wise to have a course of antibiotics and some medication for an upset stomach.
Ensure when in Asia that tap water is never consumed. Only bottled water to be drank at all times, also when cleaning teeth bottled water must be used.
At the time of writing this blog $1AUS =30 THAI BAHT
Go- Go Girls, Girlie Bars, Beer Bars… yes there are some. Ok, there are more than some. OK, RIGHT there are lots and lots and unfortunately Pattaya suffers from this reputation. The reality; there is so much more to this seaside town than meets the eye. Peel away ‘the reputation’ and you will find a thriving seaside holiday resort that caters for thousands of visitors each year from all corners of the globe.
Go down to the beach on a morning walk and Pattaya is alive with activity. Multi coloured beach umbrellas each with their own deckchairs are being placed along the beach in preparation for the throng of tourists who will invade the beach for the day. Unfortunately, the beach is slowly being eroded, but it will not stop the hundreds of erected umbrellas ready for the day’s crowd. Tour leaders and guides are busy organizing their parties to be ferried out to pontoons to start the early morning shift of parasailing. They all get ferried out from boats moored off the main beach. Look out to sea and tourists can be seen parasailing overhead all day.
Amongst all of this action, hawkers are trying frantically to sell their wares which include sunglasses, hats, drinks, food and anything they can sell to tourists who look unprepared for the morning parasailing expedition.
(Pattaya Beach is always busy and crowded, but if you want a quieter family friendly beach, which is wider and has whiter sand, is Jomtien beach which is four kilometers away from Pattayas main drag. Jomtien town still has lots of hotels, restaurants and bars and markets but the pace is not as hectic as Pattaya. More info on Jomtien coming soon…)
Women with baskets of food and small food carts are everywhere, getting ready to serve hungry locals and tourists. My favourite cart is always out on the street, early morning or late at night and that is the cart ladened with fresh fruit. You can buy water melon, rock melon, pineapple, papaya and many other varieties of local fruit. It is peeled, cut, sliced and bagged for as little as 10Bhat (30centsAus) a serve.
Fresh corn is also being cooked on most streets. It’s a country filled with food and smiles.
The variety of food is endless; restaurants of every international cuisine are available. All budgets are catered for. But my favourite restaurant (and they are all over Pattaya) are the ones that serve you a sumptuous Thai meal for around 70 Baht and that is equivalent on today’s rate of just over $2Aus.
For the best 100Bhat ($3Aus) breakfast in town, make your way to the area called ‘Soi Lengkee’ which is just a few streets back from the main beach where there is a little café/restaurant named ‘Juice’.
Of course, cheap breakfasts are available all over Pattaya, but for me ‘Juice’ has never failed to deliver delicious food.
Also in the same street are some cafes that organize golf days too. Golfers meet to have breakfast and get picked up in their mini buses to be taken away to any one of the fantastic golf courses that are available…
Every day, the mini bus takes you to a different golf course. The cost is amazingly cheap and each round of golf comes with a caddy who knows the course intimately.
The cost of a round of golf and hiring of clubs with a caddy included is very inexpensive.
There is so much to do in this thriving metropolis, but it is definitely not a town known for historical monuments or religious icons (although there are some). But if shopping for bargains, whether it is for clothing or souvenirs, eating, massage, manicures and pedicures, or… if zoos, aquariums and elephant villages and theme parks, pubs, clubs and variety shows are what you are looking for, then you are in the right town! There are some great new shopping malls, outdoor markets, indoor markets as well. Also, day and night markets are huge in this town. So, get ready to bargain (don’t go too hard on them!!) as bargaining is part of the Thailand shopping experience.
Pattaya also has the most massage establishments I have ever seen! Wherever you look and whatever street you are in, you are surrounded by them. I alternated on a daily basis; one day foot massage, next day body…. and at 300Bhat/$10Aus a massage you never want to leave Pattaya! Also manicures and pedicures for 150Bhat/$5Aus…. not too shabby.
Now for ultra excitement and fun I am going to mention the Go Karting. The carts are unbelievably fast and travel up to speeds of 80/90 kms. One word… exhilarating!
*There are two tracks available one is a full size track and a smaller one for beginners.
Pattaya has a harbor port where all tourists and dive boats leave from every day. It is teeming every morning with tourists boarding their vessels and awaiting to be transported to islands with beautiful white sand beaches and dive enthusiasts leaving for their daily adventures. The variety of areas to scuba dive is diverse and I have had many great scuba diving adventures leaving from this port.
One thing that intrigued me in Pattaya were tanks full of little fish which gorge on the dead skin of your feet. An unusual experience; you place your feet in a tank full of ravenous little fish as they feed on your dead skin. The reasoning is that it replenishes and revitalizes new cell growth and doesn’t hurt a bit!
Hotel of the month: Four Seasons Place
A few streets back from the beach is the luxurious boutique Hotel and serviced apartments ‘The Four Season’s Place.’
At first I wondered about the position of the Four Season’s Place, being situated in a very quite area of Pattaya, but soon realized that everything you need to see and do in this exciting town is only a few minutes away.
The Four Seasons is the one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in. The architecture and design of the building, furnishings and decor has an old world and luxurious feeling to it.
All suites are extremely spacious with pool/city views and private balconies. I was privileged to have stayed in a one bedroom suite which was 82sqm filled with French designer furniture and fitted out with an Italian designed kitchen….The fit out is exemplary.
The Hotel has a fitness centre with spa, cafes, bars and a pool that unfortunately does not bathe in sunshine all day, but exudes a beautiful ambiance. There is also an executive meeting room available for up to 20 persons.
This hotel is a hidden gem and the professional staff at the Four Seasons Place makes the visit here complete.
There is a wide variety of accommodation available to suit various budgets.
Food! Endless variety of restaurants, food carts, street vendors
Shopping: Malls, day & night markets
Zoos / Aquariums / Theme Parks
Take a stroll down ‘Walking Street’ and check out the Beer Bars and Gogo bars
Massages… foot and body
Motor bike hire
Very Important Safety Tip
When travelling overseas and you intend to hire a car or a motor bike,YOU MUSTobtain an international license before you leave Australia or whatever country you are from. The reason being is that if you have an accident, whether you are in the right or wrong, you will NOTbe covered for medical or hospital expenses even if you have travel insurance.
*NRMA is where you get your international driver’s license in Australia
If you require any more information on any of my TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS please Email me on: [email protected]