As we start what we hope will be our final countdown to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic here in Thailand, some of us will be looking for our final getaways to enjoy our adopted country, whilst we still have the beaches and hotels all to ourselves. But before you look to escape our City of Angels for our usual haunts, have you thought of a Phuket staycation?
Phuket I love you. In 2020 I visited Phuket travelling solo, as a couple and with friends. Every time I leave, the yearn to return gets stronger.
As the second wave introduced further travel restrictions around Thailand, we remained in Phuket where my husband and I had been holidaying for Christmas. The island has been deathly quiet, the local expat community launched #onephuket to support those helping feed islanders in need. It’s been grim times for many in Phuket and the surrounding islands.
A handful of hoteliers, unwilling to re close their hotels in such desperate times, remained steadfastly committed to keeping their doors open,
‘If we close we lose money, if we open we lose money,
but at least we have jobs’
This letter is a testament and a thank you to the hotel industry staff from gardening to the General Managers who, with a decimated tourism industry turned up day after day to greet a handful of guests. Their determination to ‘keep calm and carry on,’ and to provide an outstanding guest experience, when a number of hotels were forced to close their doors some never to reopen, has been a bright light in our continuing Corona virus days, here in Phuket.
I see your pain, I have witnessed your struggle to operate shorthanded of staff, serving food in restaurants and running hotels without your managerial staff. I have seen jobs lost and I hear salaries have been reduced. I’ve seen the empty streets, your empty resorts and rooms with your pillows out for airing awaiting the tourists to return…
Since living in Phuket, I witnessed you stripped bare without your tourist friends. I’ve seen how amazing you are. I’ve stayed in your world class hotels, wandered your incredible empty beaches, swam in your crystal blue sea and eaten in your Michelin awarded restaurants.
I loved as well a whole host of less grand but equally memorable Phuket experiences. Like arriving on Kata beach a few hours after a Super Mum turtle laid her eggs – the first time in twenty years! Or wandering at sunset along a tranquil Patong beach.
First some hard talk. Phuket you feel like the popular girl at school who never had to try too hard. You were beautiful, with incredible beaches and people who flocked to you from all over the world. You mingled with ease with this crowd, you were multi-lingual and you had been educated at the best Swiss hotel management schools. You cooked the best food and you were known to put on a great party. You were popular for a reason, you are friggin’ awesome!
When Covid hit, none of your international friends who adored you could get to you and you were left all alone. The problem was that none of your local acquaintances were that interested. The popular girl of Phuket never had us on her Christmas card list, telling us how we must join her and how wonderful she was. Oh no, she directed all her marketing at her rich friends overseas.
Some of us remembered Phuket from our teenage party ‘Let’s go to Thailand’ years, it was Phuket and the Patpong ping pong show that stick in my mind from the 1980s. Later in the 1990s and 2000s we returned with our kids and found the family friendly side of Thailand. How many of us have photos with our children and the baby elephant at Laguna Phuket? I know, I know, we wouldn’t encourage that now, but that was then…
We may have ventured back to Phuket when we arrived to live as Expats in the Land of Smiles. But generally we found that your prices were high and your taxis never gave us a ‘local price’. Our indignant few words of Thai never helped either; you wanted real foreigners with deep pockets! For decades, your beaches were packed with party going internationals and quite frankly we live here, and when we holiday we’re not going where the tourists go!
Phuket I wish you had told us more about yourself before. We never ever knew how amazing you are for the couples and friends market! All those things that make you incredible have always been there underneath the layers of tourist hordes. You are still the beautiful lass that became popular for a reason.
For the past three months, we have enjoyed a hither too unseen Phuket, and I’ve been visiting for forty years. Over the course of the year 2020 I visited three times, I did the same for Chiang Mai and Koh Samui, but Phuket has somehow attracted me to linger.
During our staycationing we have stayed at many Phuket resorts and hotels and we will keep going. You are all that is acknowledged below. This letter is for you! You are doing an amazing job in difficult circumstances. These are the experiences and memories I absolutely treasure from my time with you.
North Phuket (close to the Airport)
Nai Yang Beach – The Slate, you win the award for the most fun, artsy, luxurious and romantic resort with wow upon wow. We loved all the features Bill Bensley designed into your resort, based on Phuket’s old tin mine industry. Our dinner at your Michelin Plate awarded Black Ginger restaurant and stunning setting will linger with us forever.
Nai Yang Beach – Dewa, You win the prize for having the best and lushest gardens. We were so happy to make this one of our WFB working from the Beach home away from home staycations. Your apartment overlooking the pool gave us everything we needed. In your brilliantly run resort of apartments, villas and suites nothing was too much trouble.
Thalang – Trisara, You win my praise for being of the utmost elegance with your own private jetty and beach and Michelin Star restaurant PRU. Your pool and beachside area are absolutely stunners.
Naithon Beach – Pullman Arcadia, you win my gratitude for the incredible view over the beach, wonderful food and fantastic staff. Your hotel is effortlessly managed by your exceptional guest orientated staff who love to go all out to give them the best experience.
Mai Khao Beach – Renaissance Hotel, we love how popular your resort is and we’re not surprised, as your sales and marketing team are super responsive. Your lagoon rooms are lovely, your breakfast memorable and your activities program from Yogalates to bike riding around the lake wonderful.
Woo Gallery & Boutique Hotel: You are a winner for the best owners’ passion project brought to life! You are loved for lovingly restoring your historic storefront building and your Woo Gallery museum. You are fantastically located tight at the heart of old Phuket town.
Casa Blanca: You are a standout in the best for the solo female market. You have a great Phuket city location, new modern styled rooms. Here’s looking at you kid!
Memory on On On: You win the award for the steeped in history stay, go for this if you love history, you won’t get a better location.
Blue Monkey Boutique Hotel: You win for best elegant room with a fantastic bath, above a coffee shop. Your stylish, slightly out of the way location is worth finding, you are good value.
Bang Tao Beach – Banyan Tree Lagoon beach: You deserve the everyone is happy here award. This all pool villa luxury resort with spa, 40m swimming pool, lagoon access, close to Bang Tao beach, and with an award winning golf course – a perfect staycation for a golfer and his happy to be left alone wife!
Surin Beach – The Chava Resort, you win the best two bedroom apartment accolade. Your magnificent pool area opposite the lovely Surin Beach is always appreciated, as is your great coffee!
Kamala Beach – Intercontinental, you win the vibrancy award for being slap bang in the middle of the most lively night time action outside Phuket Town at Kamala beach. Your beachside rooms, your catering team and brilliant Sunday brunch and your activities program offered us a memorable stay.
Kata Beach – The Boathouse, You win my affections for the best food with a view. Your hotel is a firm favourite right on Kata Beach, with our favourite Executive Chef.
Kata Beach – Kata Rocks, You win the award for the ‘pinch me is my life for real?’ Staycation life doesn’t get any better than a stay at Kata Rocks, fun, exclusive and forever in my heart.
Nai Harn Beach – Nai Harn hotel you win our highest praise for the best value in a stunning location. Beautiful rooms overlooking our favourite beach.
Rawai Beach – Mangosteen Ayurvedic Resort & Spa, you win hands-down for your wonderful yoga retreat. Love your fabulous bungalow in pretty gardens with a choice of wellness programs.
Cape Panwa – Cape Panwa Hotel, you win our praise for your stylish, away from it all location in southern Phuket, two lovely pool areas and serene small but exclusive beachfront.
Ao Yon Beach – The Cove, wins the tiny hotel award, you take boutique to the extreme with only three rooms. You are quiet and remote, absolute beachfront, with a great bar and restaurant.
Khao Yao Yai and Khao Yao Noi
Paradise – Koh Yao Noi, wins the award for the prettiest beachfront and total Robinson Crusoe setting. Your pool villas are lovely.
Yes, this, like my Bangkok Love Letter, is a shameless plug and thank you to these hoteliers for wonderful staycations. We have been happy to support you, we know of your struggles without many guests. I know that we’ve been saying this for months but the end of the pandemic IS edging closer. Whether it is October 1st or even better July 1st for Phuket to reopen to vaccinated international visitors, the time is edging towards the return of tourism throngs to Phuket.
However, please don’t forget us domestic tourists who have fallen in love with you again and supported you when in need. Don’t hike your prices back up so that you are beyond our reach or interest. Now that your natural beauty has been unveiled, try to preserve it when the world returns to normal. This popular girl of Phuket can really have it all, both domestic and international guests, and we ALL will get the best of all worlds!
Little Wandering Wren is an International Travel Writer with her nest somewhere in Thailand. Her writing can be found at www.littlewanderingwren.com and all her staycations found on Instagram and Twitter @littlewanderingwren