If I had to be honest, I struggled to come up with a solid start to this blog post. No matter what I wrote, memories of my speeches in front of my entire high school cohort rushed back to me. I lost count at the number of times I was asked to talk about a particular event in front of my school, let alone the number of hours I spent trying to write a unique, intelligent sounding speech. The thesaurus became my best friend and if I was to be talking with someone else, they would have no complaints when I was giving myself the longer parts to read. I love public speaking, okay? Anyway, everything I wrote just reminded me of standing up on stage, behind the black lectern that had my school’s name capitalised in some fancy gold font with over a thousand students and teachers looking up at me.

Back to the point, at the beginning of March, I headed off to Thailand. I would be staying in Phuket, more specifically Kata Beach, for around 9 days before coming home. Words I would use to describe it? An adventure. An experience. Something that everyone should see and do at least once in their lives. I was lucky in the sense that we went with my uncle who had been there dozens of times and knew the place inside out and all the right people.

Now I have to say, personally I was never really interested in travelling to Asia but I decided this time around, why not? It would be a relaxing getaway before getting to the hustle and bustle of reality and a chance to say “I’ve been there, done that!”. It would be a chance to create unique memories and experience things that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to experience.

 

We arrived late Wednesday night after travelling all day. It was about an hour and 15 minutes from the airport to the hotel, but that was quite an eye-opening and entertaining first 75 minutes on Phuket ground. Our taxi driver was quite literally the Thai Eddie Murphy with the things he was saying and it made me realise that by the end of the trip, I would have sore ab muscles from laughing so much. As we drove through the streets, I got to have my first look at Phuket life. It was basically my first look at what it’s like to live in a developing country. People lived in shacks and rundown houses and there were more mopeds and motorcycles than cars. Traffic rules? What are they? Another thing I instantly noticed was the immense respect Thai people have for religion and their late King. There were countless shrines everywhere remembering the King and they weren’t shabby little memorials either. They were pure works of art. It’s something we don’t see much in Australia.

I was going to give you a run-down of what I did day by day, but then I realised that could get a little bit boring so I decided to split it up into different sections.

The hotel:

We stayed at the Sugar Marina Resort- Fashion in Kata Beach and I have to say, it exceeded my expectations. I had already seen photos of the place and I was super excited about staying there, but there was still a little part of me saying it seemed too good to be true. I had stayed at places before that weren’t all that they hyped up to be but Sugar Marina Resort- Fashion… this was something else. From the amazingly kind staff to the cleanliness and classiness of the rooms to the fact that the room I stayed in quite literally stepped out into the pool. There was a gate on the balcony that you could open and just jump into the pool. It was amazing and allowed excellent Snapchat story material. Also, I should probably add that the hotel was hardly 100 metres away from the beach- you basically just walk out, cross the road and you’re there. It’s a great location and you have everything you need within a short distance- food, supplies, beach, shops, pharmacies- everything.

In addition, the hotel had a restaurant that was specifically for breakfast. It was a buffet styled brekky and it has something for everyone. I’m a fussy eater as is, but I’m the worst at breakfast. Yet, I had no issues with the food there. There were so many options and it filled me up. It’s definitely on the list of highlights for the hotel. To be honest, I don’t think I could fault the hotel for anything.

What I did:

Obviously I spent a lot of time at the beach and pool, duh. Thank you for stating the obvious. As you’ve already read, the pool was pretty snazzy but the beach, the beach was something in itself. A lot of people hear Phuket and instantly think of Patong and it’s often murky waters. Kata Beach has no such issue. The water was crystal clear and it was warm. For the first few days, the ocean was flat so you hardly had any issues with things floating in from the sea. Every morning, you wanted to wake up early because otherwise if you didn’t, you would miss the chance for an early morning walk when it’s not too hot (it got really hot too, just saying). Being the water baby I am, I spent most of my time in the water. I’ve never quite gotten the point of sunbaking but that’s just me. Besides, apparently you have more of a chance of getting tanned when you’re in the water?


Phuket isn’t all just beach, beach, beach. There are a number of other things I did whilst there, including going to the Night Market. Basically every Saturday and Sunday, there was a night market where there were countless stalls selling everything you could possibly imagine. I shopped til I dropped that night, buying a heap of t-shirts, a new pair of shoes, some make-up, a speaker and a present for my brother, two hats amongst other things. I witnessed the art of bartering where although I found it entertaining, part of me felt bad for those who had their prices dropped below the lowest price they would offer. People in Phuket work for almost nothing, and yet some people wanted to pay them less. They need the money much more than I do (and probably ever will). Another thing that broke my heart at the Night Market was the fact that there was an animal section. And I’m not just saying like an animal pen where kids could play with the animals. I’m saying like a section for pet shops. There were so many animals from dogs, rabbits, cats, ducks and so forth caged up there. Personally, I was struggling with the heat and the stuffiness and the chaos of the place- I couldn’t even start to imagine what it would have been like for those animals. Part of me wanted to go in and have a look, but I just couldn’t. Morally, I couldn’t. On a lighter note, there’s something for everyone there and it’s all good to barter, but don’t push it. I hate using the word but you’re seriously privileged in comparison to the people selling you the things there. There are still plenty of amazing products available, which is why it’s good to not pack too much on the way there.

Every night is a Saturday night in Kata beach. It’s a very tourist centric hub and the atmosphere is vibrant. It’s also quite a family friendly place too, so you’re pretty safe there. I mean, I went to 7-11 at 11:30pm…I couldn’t do that in Melbourne. Most nights, we would go out for dinner and then go for a leisurely (5 kilometre) stroll from Kata to Karon and then back. One night, we caught a tuk tuk back which is a must when you’re there. Some of the tuk tuks were decked out with a speaker system and accompanied with lights circling the speakers. It would have been heaven for my brother. There were so many restaurants and bars there, many with live performances. We would often walk past the Lana Bar and the guy singing had the most amazing voice. I genuinely reckon that if he went on The Voice, he would make the finals, if not win it. Many of the live performers had beautiful voices, but this guy by far, had my favourite. Something else that I reckon someone should start up in Melbourne are cocktail combi vans. Basically, people would get a combi van and turn it into a bar. Music would be blasting from the speakers whilst they’d make you cocktails. There were a number of them sporadically placed throughout the Kata beach strip and I think they would be a fabulous and quirky idea here in Melbourne, especially along the coast. And if cocktails are your thing, they’re not expensive and come in a range of sizes. There’s the usual size…and then a bucket, jumbo and tank. Yes, you heard that right. I’m not kidding. Just check out the photo.

 

Yes, that bucket is filled with the cocktail of your choice upon request.

 

We also went and checked out a couple of the sights around Phuket, including Big Buddha and the Chalong temples. It was fascinating to experience and see such important parts of another culture and the views that accompanied it were phenomenal. When in Phuket, I would suggest you visit these particular places just to see the immense respect and admiration the Thai people have for Buddhism. The Chalong temples were stunning in regards to the fine details in its design. The artistry was mind-blowing and it’s something you really need to see for yourself to see how special it really is.

 

Another thing we did was drive along the coast line through Kata-Karon, Hat Nai Han and Rawai. We stopped at a couple of beaches to get some amazing photos and also stopped at the viewpoint. The views there were stunning with the mix of the mountains and the sea. It was serene and a sight to remember. We dropped by Patong and no joke, almost every accent I heard was Australian. Everywhere I turned there was something Aussie and although I actually found that pretty cool, I also thought that I didn’t come to another country just to go to Australian places. Although, it is good to know there are places in Thailand that show the footy – just in case I’m there during the footy season. Anyway, that’s not the point.




I found myself spending a lot of time at one of the massage parlours right next to the hotel called Kata Big Rock massage. The staff were so friendly and welcomed you with open arms- and most importantly they were good at what they did. On the first night, my friend and I asked my uncle what a gentle, “Blue Mountains hotel ad”- like, soft massage would be. He insisted a Thai massage and trusting his word, we decided that’s what we would get. Nekminnut as we’re laying on the table there, I start to feel someone’s knees digging into the bottom of my feet and then with their hands, they started to climb up my legs, pressing down on the muscles. Within ten minutes, I had someone standing on my back. Yeah, so much for “gentle”. Despite the initial surprise and the few moments where I could barely breathe, it was a pretty nice massage- especially for the injury prone, tensed up person like me. I particularly found the most painful parts to be when they were working on my back and side, especially the parts I’ve had the most problems with recently. And yes, everyone should get a Thai massage if they can. They’re amazing. I also got a manicure, pedicure and a foot scrub which was something rare for me considering I don’t do that here in Melbourne.

Within the time frame I had, I didn’t get the chance to explore every part of Thailand, but there’s so much more to see and do if you’re the more adventurous type.

The Food:

If there’s something to do with food that has changed since being in Phuket, it’s my love for fresh coconut water. After finally realising it tasted divine, I would walk to the lady that sold the fresh coconuts every day…sometimes twice or three times and get myself a fresh coconut. It was the most refreshing and tasty thing and the stuff in plastic has nothing on the real thing. There are so many health benefits that come from coconut water too, which leads me onto the fact that when you’re in Phuket, chances are, you’ll probably eat much healthier than you do back home.

The main restaurant we went to was Kitchen 44. It was an authentic Thai restaurant that still had plenty of Western options (which was good for me considering I’m a fussy eater). The food was fantastic and overall, you just knew that you were in good hands there. No matter what you order, it’d taste remarkable and there’d be no issue with food poisoning.

Now, I’m one of those people who’s really skeptical about street food. But, there was one guy who made meat skewers outside one of the 7-11 stores and he was a guaranteed safe eat. After we got back from the night market, we bought a couple and then sat on the balcony back at the hotel room, devouring them. They were fresh, tasty and addictive.

Overall experience:

Overall, it was a pretty amazing trip. I learnt a lot about different cultures and I learnt a lot about myself too. Would I go back? Yes. Would I be more prepared? Yes. Despite my irritating heat rush and my struggles with jet lag and anxiety, the trip was outstanding. For me, I know a place is good when despite the negatives, you still want to go back there. The people there were some of the kindest and warming individuals I’ve ever met and they make the holiday that much better. From the taxi drivers to the hotel staff to the people on the street, it’s inspiring how despite the struggles they go through just to put food on the table and get their families by, they still have the strength to put on the biggest smiles you’ve probably ever seen to make sure you’re having the time of your life. Our taxi driver (that my uncle almost always goes to) and his wife (who’s also a taxi driver and who drove us to the airport) only get to see their son twice a year if they’re lucky. Yet, they were two of the nicest and coolest people I’ve ever met. The saddest thing is, many of these people working in the tourist industry often have similar stories and that in itself is enough to make me want to go back and visit.

 

 

Holiday booked. Suitcases packed. In-flight entertainment checked. Excitement bubbling within you. You cannot wait to embark on your next adventure but then it hits you. There’s one thing that stands between you and your destination. It’s a nuisance but that’s just how the world. This nuisance, also known as distance, usually forces you to fly from one city to another. When you put it into perspective though, flying is much better than prior modes of international transport. I struggle enough on planes- I couldn’t imagine myself spending days, weeks or months on a ship. Nevertheless, those hours you spend on the plane can be a real nightmare filled with sore muscles and bones, ears doing weird things, your digestive system not cooperating and your mind trying to do whatever it can to prevent you from becoming insane. Depending where you’re going, the number of hours you spend in that pressurised cabin that flies above the clouds can vary from less than an hour to 15 hours. I think there are some flights that are longer than that, but I’m not game to try those out. Generally, most people only have one flight- a direct one from where they start to their final destination. Us Aussies though (and those making the trip Down Under) often need at least one or two stopovers if we want to get to most places.

For example, when I went to Croatia in 2015, I had a 14 hour flight from Melbourne to Doha and then after the drama, I had another 6 hour flight to Munich and then a further 2 hour flight to Split. That was just on the way there and didn’t include any waiting around. On the trip to Thailand, it was a 7 hour and 50 minute flight from Melbourne to Singapore, and then another hour and a half from Singapore to Phuket. On the way back, it was just the 8 hour flight from Phuket to Melbourne. I can already hear some of you still murmuring to yourself “just”.

Sometimes you have those flights that are super quick, others seem like they take forever (and take the lasting bit of sanity you have with it too). A struggle many of us have is what in the world to put in your carry ons and all things related to how to keep yourself preoccupied whilst flying. Hence, I’ve decided a good way to start my Thai travel series is to create the list of items I put in my carry on for Thailand.

I bought myself a decent sized backpack, having learnt from my trip to Croatia the strain a shoulder bag places on your shoulders, back and neck. I don’t know if I was more sore from sitting on a plane for 13 hours or from the bag. Probably everything to be honest. That’s usually the way with me. I also pack a lot of items, so I need as much space and comfort as possible.

I chucked in a hat (specifically my Red Sox baseball cap), which was basically in case my hair was that atrocious from the flight I could cover it and make myself seem sporty. I also bought myself an eye mask which I ended up not using but oh well. It had pug eyes on it too. Normal people pack a book or maybe buy one or two magazines. Me? I put in three books. Yes, three books. And not tiny ones either. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Paris for One by Jojo Moyes. Born to be riled by Jeremy Clarkson. In true Monique fashion, I got asked on the way back whether I had a book in my bag because they weren’t sure what the box shaped item was. Books are always useful to keep you occupied, unless you’re me who didn’t end up reading anything on any of my flights. Actually, I just watched movies and TV shows. I also brought notebooks and pens just in case I was in a writing mood. Of course though, I wasn’t.

I packed a bunch of makeup essentials, including moisturisers, lip balm and wipes. I also packed hand sanitiser. You can never be to hygienic or determined to take care of your skin.

After my first trip, I was grateful that I did a Pinterest search for tips on what to pack in your carry on. One of these particular tips was to pack in a spare pair of undies and a t-shirt. This was put to good use when we got stuck in Doha for 18 hours and helped me feel a little bit more refreshed and ready to take on the next leg of the flight.

Finally, I also chucked in a couple of snacks. Muesli bars, protein bars and jelly beans were my go to. Muesli bars are healthy and light. Protein bars are well, they have stuff in them that are apparently good for you and the ones I had with me were my favourites and filled me up enough to get through the flight. As for the jelly beans, I find they help with sugars and give me some energy when I’m feeling a bit bleh.

So I hope this has helped you in some way or another when you’re packing for your flight. Let me know what you think and comment what your carry on essentials are!