Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Trip Report 14 Part 2: Ko Phuket, Hilton Phuket Arcadia, Thai Smile (HKT-BKK, C)

The ride from the airport was actually very long, I knew Ko Phuket was a big island but I don't think I had appreciated how big, nor had I appreciated the amount of traffic. The transfer took just under an hour. I would say that it gave an interesting view point on the development of Thailand, but that would be rubbish, I was in full zombie mode by then. The advantage of booking a transfer with the hotel is that you don't have to go to the Welcome Pavilion but are driven directly to the Andaman Lobby.

Check-in was a bit of a faff, but essentially after about 15 minutes, it was my room was not ready and I'd probably have to wait a couple of hours. That's fine, I was somewhat before check-in time. So I was packed off to the Panorama Lounge in a different building, which was again fine where I was welcomed by a lovely lady who provided me with black coffee, some biscuits and an ash tray for the balcony. A bit of WiFi and I was well away and I didn't have to wait a couple of hours, in less than an hour, I was given the keys to Andaman B Room 851.

The only problem I had with this was that I was expected to find my own way there, which in a big resort hotel with several blocks could have been a bit of a challenge. Luckily things are fairly well signposted. I was quite surprised when I got there, for my five night stay I had been upgraded to a large suite with two balconies. It really was quite a lovely room

And as you can see, I had a fairly cracking sea view as well. Have received luggage and tipped like a millionaire (no notes smaller than 500 Baht - eek), managed to obtain a couple of plug adaptors and an ashtray I was all set up apart from room supplies, but those could wait a little while, the first priority was to unpack and the second was to have a very lengthy shower. After that, I took in the view, tried to get used to the heat and then decided to have a short power nap, after all it was the equivalent of seven am in the morning. Having done that I went on a short expedition up along the beach to the Karon traffic circle and then back along the road after gathering supplies.

The four full days on Ko Phuket were meant as a battery recharge and that's basically what I did. I had planned to spend some time on the beach, however the often heavy showers made lengthy sunbathing impossible and I came back looking like a drowned rat on one occasion. I generally spent the mornings walking, one day down to Kata, one day around the back of the hotel and one day up into the hills. I would then spend the afternoon writing parts of Azure and the evenings hunting down a decent dinner and a couple of beers. I did find the constant cries of "massage" annoying, as I did the extremely persistent Tailors and the local taxi/tuk-tuk mafia.

I took two expeditions out, one to Patong which I absolutely, utterly hated and kicked on the head after about two hours. The pester level there was horrific and the place just seemed like a sleaze pit, not that I have anything against sleaze pits, but this wasn't my sort of sleaze pit. I had originally thought of staying there at the BYO Lofts, I am very glad I didn't, I would probably have a different impression of Thailand. The other was a hotel organised one to a Thai Cooking Class, this was quite fun, but I'm not sure it was worth the money for me. I know much of the basics of Oriental cooking and this class was perhaps just a bit too basic for me. Still fun tho.

As for Food and Drink, I didn't lounge hog, in fact I only used the lounge for breakfast on two mornings when my nearest brekkie venue was rammed. The advantage of being Diamond was that I could have brekkie at about four places, so I usually picked the nearest which was the enormous buffet. I wasn't that impressed with it, the selection was just that bit too big, the staff seemed unable to cope when full and the quality was a little under par especially in the bakery dept (however, poor bread appears to be a Thai flaw everywhere). I ate mainly Thai food, with a couple of "seafood" meals and one Indian, I had two meals in the hotel Thai resto on my first night and my last night for strategic reasons of timing. I generally ate a big lunch and a smaller dinner and mainly ate out at cheaper looking places which didn't have signs in Russian.

As for the room, it was great, housekeeping were excellent and the bed was so comfy that I slept better than I have done for some time. The shower was good, the bathroom had enough room for even my collection of potions, pills and draughts and the a/c worked very well without being too noisy. The only slight problem were the neighbours, Boris and Natasha, Boris liked to get drunk and argue with Natasha late at night and he would usually end the argument with what sounded like a slap. Not the hotels fault.

Would I stay there again. Maybe, it is massively big and impersonal, you do have to walk a way to find anything that isn't  another hotel, but it is nice and quiet and the service is decent. I might however try the Doubletree Surin Beach next time, Surin Beach looks like it is even quieter and might suit me even more.

Anyway, compared to the reviews on Trip Advisor, check out was a breeze and it was back in the hotel car to the airport, the journey back seemed a little quicker than the journey there and there was soon plenty of time to waste at Phuket Airport. The slight problem is there isn't a lot do to at Phuket Airport, there is a small Thai Airways lounge, it had nice seats and a small serve yourself bar, there was some fresh fruit, some desperately pallid sandwiches (I'm afraid this is a Thai feature) and some taro and custard pastries. Whilst I may criticise Thai bread as being weak, crust incapable things. Cake and pastries are usually better, the taro and custard pastries were not bad at all. Anyway, after a visit to the smoking area, it was time to board. Now this flight was operated by Thai Smile, who are sort of the low cost end of Thai with a bunch of 320's and a nice little peach uniform. However, they still have a Business Class in a sort of Euro style. The crew also appeared to be going for the Thai Diversity award, there was a very pretty girl (who was tall, glam and had a hint of an adam's apple), a girl in a man's uniform, a lost looking chap and a grimly efficient senior mama who managed to hold them all together. English skills, umm, low. Willingness high. A box meal was served, it was unmemorable.

Arrival at the Big Mango was roughly on time, the bags took rather a long time to come out, by which time I had organised my limo to the hotel through the AOT booth, nipped outside, had a fag and found the damn things still weren't coming off. Into the Merc and then off to brave the legendary traffic on Sukhumvit Road.

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