On the way back from England I met my boyfriend in Phuket.
We stayed on Karon Beach and I found the area very touristy compared to other parts of Asia that I had been to. We climbed to the top of Rang Hill for a view of Phuket and the lovely Chalong Bay. We also went to the Golden Jubilee Lighthouse and the brightly coloured Wat Chalong.
As is the way with a lot of tours in Asia, when we booked in for the elephant ride tour we had the obligatory visit to the shell museum on the way there and the cashew nut factory on the way back.
The elephant ride itself was a great experience. We had to climb a platform to get onto a seat on the elephants and we went on a walk through the jungle and up a hill. Back at the elephant orphanage the baby elephants put on a show- painting and playing soccer. It was cute and entertaining, but I hoped the animals weren’t being exploited.
Another day, we went on a kayak tour through sea caves in Phang Nga Bay. I was dubious at first as I am not the most sporty person, but was relieved to find that we each had our own personal paddler for the day. My guy was cheeky and funny and made the trip more enjoyable.
We went to Panak Kho Diamonds cave, Panak Island Bat cave and inside Kho Hong. It was a surreal experience to go through a dark cave and come out to what looked like a volcanic crater with the sunlight streaming in from the open air.
One night we went to the Phuket Fantasea show. It was very commercial with a buffet dinner included and a mandatory walk through the cultural village which was basically just lots of shops. The Palace of Elephants Theatre where the elephant show was presented was a pretty impressive, obviously manmade modern structure and you had to pay extra to get your photo with a tiger cub.
Heading back to Bangkok, we took a canal boat tour on the Chao Phraya River by Klong boat. I loved the white Wat Arun which seemed to rise out of the water from nowhere. We also went to the Thonburi snake farm which had a scary snake show and tigers and bears in cages that were too small.
We went to the Grand Palace with its gold Phra Siratana Chedi, the Temple of Emerald Buddha and impressive Chakri Maha Prasat Hall. I liked the snakes on the rooves of the temples.
In Bangkok, the thing to do was shop on Khao San Road, and so we did. We also went to one of the infamous ping pong shows where the entertainers looked more bored than I did.
Upon reflection, my first Thailand experience was probably coloured by the fact that I was angry with my boyfriend at the time (we broke up a few months later) and I was willing to give the country another go- perhaps by going to a different area.