Let’s just get one thing straight right away. You pronounce the name of that town “POO-GET”. Seriously, are we in middle school here or what?
For reals now. After our blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stop in Cambodia, we had one more place to explore before heading back to our oasis house in Chiang Mai. Phuket is in the south of Thailand and is one of the most well-known tourist places in the country. We knew it deserved a visit, and it was on the water. We love water! But while researching Airbnbs, Dan was not finding a lot of options that fit our extreme need for space, WiFi and A/C. So he said “we’re doing something different, it’s a surprise”.
Anxiety and surprises don’t really go hand in hand, but we have been married for over 20 years so at some point I guess I’ll have to trust him. So we showed up at the airport from Cambodia and haggled for a taxi for a while. We were quoted $60 for a taxi to our hotel, which you can almost see from the airport. No gracias. We settled on $30 and in the end discovered that our hotel might be very close to the airport but the road to take to get there takes you WAY around it. But $30 was still ridiculous.
Well, Dan came through for us on the surprise. He used miles from our credit card and booked 5 nights at Grand West Sands Resort. This resort’s crown jewel was the waterpark that was literally right in the center. As in, you watched the people float by in the lazy river while you were checking in at the front desk. We love waterparks! Our whole family is in their happy place at waterparks. Zoe was very excited. Haley wanted to know if she had her own room. All I wanted to know was how long the lazy river was because that’s where I was going to be.
The Sherman’s need for space dictated that we need the VILLA kind of space, not just a normal room. Our villa had a full kitchen, a ginormous master bedroom and bathroom, a private pool, a casita-like other bedroom and bathroom completely unattached (like, literally you walk outside in the rain to go to bed) and all of this sitting about 50 feet from the beach. But it gets better: we also had a view of the airport, or the very edge of it. Who else here likes to watch planes land and take off? I am not the only one. Holy cow I loved it. Periodically you could hear the roar and see the plane literally within about 3 seconds from liftoff. I got to know which airlines had bigger planes and therefore took off later down the runway. Die hard fans can watch the video tour of our villa here.
But enough with the airplanes. We had a great time at this resort. But of course there were a few noteworthy discoveries. We learned that they do not subscribe to the Mexican Resort method of all-inclusive meal plans. They charged more for one meal in the restaurant than we usually pay for 4 meals at a Thai restaurant. Laundry prices were equally exorbitant. As in, the prices were designed for people who literally just stumbled off a plane and had no idea of the exchange rate, much like the taxi prices. Dan and I are not easily fooled by the hotel laundry scam so we gathered up our laundry, which was piling up at this point after all the sweating in Cambodia, and left the girls in the villa. Travelling with older kids is blissful in that you can leave them home alone in most cases. They always say that they need to be excused from the family errands so they can focus on homeschool. Born yesterday, I was not.
Anyway, Dan and I decided to step outside the gates of the resort and find our own laundry and a grocery store. It felt a bit like a prison break but once we were on the outside of the gate we noticed a few restaurants that would be good alternatives for dinner. I also had a list of foods we would get at the store that would sustain us well enough for the week. It’s pretty much a permanent list on my phone because we are almost always shopping for “1 week of groceries”. It’s like a new math word problem: You have a family of 4 who has picky eating habits, you have a kitchen without so much as a grain of salt. You need meals for a week, with the minimum amount of over-buying, very little cooking, but the maximum amount of nutrition. What do you buy? Answer: chicken nuggets.
Anyway, we looked into getting a taxi to some major mall where there are always grocery stores. We were shocked by what we learned. The nearest major store was about 20 km away and GrabTaxi and Uber were charging $25 to get there. AND we’d have to wait about 15 minutes for them to even come pick us up! When Grab and Uber charge that, you know it’s legit. So it’s starting to dawn on us that we are pretty much isolated out here on the tip of Phuket and at the mercy of a long and expensive taxi ride, or limited to what we can find nearby.
But we FSO (figure sh!t out)… we are the Shermanos and FSO is what we do. First goal: get rid of these bags of laundry. We ask at the nearest restaurant where we can take our laundry. They point down the road. Oh good, at least they did not laugh and suggest a 20-minute Uber ride! So we walked down the road and eventually found a restaurant that advertised laundry services. Way to maximize your profits! We gave her our massive piles and she quoted us a price that was equivalent to washing about two shirts at the resort. OK, success!
Next goal: groceries. Dan needs his Coke Light! Allison needs cream for her coffee! The youngest needs sugary midnight snacks or she will “literally die!”. So we ask Nice Laundry Lady where we can get groceries. She suggests 7-11. Uh, no. Think bigger, Nice Laundry Lady. She says the nearest grocery store is 20 km away, but there’s a slightly smaller option about 3 km away. OK, so we ask her how to find a taxi. She says there are no taxis around here, but she’s got to pick up a few items for the restaurant so she’ll take us. How nice is this lady?? So we hop in and off we go. She says she’ll wait for us and take us back when we are done, but we know she only needs a few things. So Dan and I divide and conquer and we fly through the store trying to get what we need to sustain us, or at least get through the night. Turns out this store is barely bigger than a 7-11 so we didn’t have a lot of options. Plus it caters to the locals so it did not have brands we’re familiar with that would make our shopping quicker and easier. This is my idea of extreme pressure but I’m up for the challenge. Once I found cream for my coffee, nothing else mattered I was happy. We got a few things but felt like we had to get going since Nice Laundry Lady was waiting for us. So we paid and hopped back in her car and she took us back. At this point, I reminded Dan of his scoffing when I packed the extra backpack in our luggage. But now that it’s filled with his Coke Light and is easier to carry heavy stuff in than those horribly wasteful plastic bags, he has to see the value in packing bags in our bags, right? My arm is almost long enough to pat my own back.
On the ride back to the laundromat/restaurant/ad-hoc taxi stand, I suggested to Dan that we order a few food items from Nice Laundry Lady’s restaurant. Not only is it nice to support such a kind person, but we needed food! So we ordered a bunch of fried rice and some other items to go and we watched the Asian version of “The Voice” while we waited. I find it funny that Dan and I do errands together now. When did we ever do errands together in Arizona? Hunting and gathering was solidly my role in the USA. But now that we are traveling we tend to do them together. Maybe it’s because he’s usually the only driver, or because there are times that I will drown in my own tears when I am faced with a brand new grocery store, an empty kitchen, and decisions. I’m not sure I can ever go back to grocery shopping solo. Dan probably doesn’t want me to. He keeps costs down by questioning everything I put in the cart. Hmmm… now that I think about it, I miss grocery shopping without supervision!
We finished the evening eating our carry-out Thai food, playing in the villa pool and counting up how much it will cost to go to the waterpark. Turns out the waterpark isn’t even included in the cost of the room (which is something like $350 a night if you were to actually pay for it, which we did not). For a family of 4 to go to the water park it was $105 a day. These are not Thai prices! But we are here so you do what you gotta do. We decided that our strategy would be to eat at Laundry Restaurant every day of our stay. She was only a short walk away, it was good food and the entire meal was less than 1 lunch at the hotel restaurant. Oh, one good thing about the hotel was that a substantial breakfast – that was open until 10:30 – was included in the room. They were strict about not taking food out of the restaurant but at least I could rouse the chillins out of bed around 10:15 am and march them down to the restaurant and get them to eat a big meal. This breakfast inclusion did not make up for the fact that they gave us single-use plastic water bottles every day because they said the tap water was not OK to drink. Really? You couldn’t find any bottle or water filter that could do this better than a bunch of 16-ounce water bottles, every day? I had a few choice words on Trip Advisor for them when we were done with our stay. That’ll show ’em.
Zoe got the family up military-style early the next day, determined to get our money’s worth out of this waterpark. We showed up around 10 a.m., when they opened (did anyone catch how I called that “early”?), got our wristbands, towels, and lockers and proceeded to test out every slide and every meter of the lazy river. It was a great day. There was a little rain at times, but it was not cold. You could see airplanes taking off all day, there were no lines for any rides and the park was small enough that you could separate from your family and easily find them again, even if you didn’t want to. Zoe tried desperately to find some other kids staying at the resort who she could befriend for the week, but it was low season and pickings were slim. Who needs friends when you have a family this fun, though!
We enjoyed our time at this resort, but I don’t really recommend the place if you are paying actual money for it. There is much better value for your money out there. But for what we were paying and for what we wanted, it was great. We ended up with a bit of a routine. Wake, eat the breakfast until you’re stuffed, waterpark with a light snack (their food was awesome and actually pretty cheap and the kids loved the corn dogs), go back to villa to clean up, walk to the prison gates and escape through hole in fence (kidding, it only felt like that under the piercing gaze of the guards and awkwardly smiling hotel staff), eat at cheap and tasty Thai restaurant, return to villa and relax. We ate at the same Thai restaurant four nights in a row. The lady was probably about to name her next child after us. Incidentally, this is NOT the Nice Laundry Lady Restaurant. We were going to continue at Nice Laundry Lady Restaurant but when we went back to pick up our laundry the restaurant part was closed, so we ambled across the street to another restaurant. Other Thai Restaurant owner was so happy at said ambling since we kept coming back! She had a huge menu variety and we usually ordered extra to have in the villa. It was a great system. Who needs chicken nuggets when you have this great restaurant!
We could not handle the sun of the waterpark all 5 days so one day we took the taxi into the main part of Phuket and checked out the mall and the night market. We managed to see a movie in a fancy schmancy theater (wherein we DID get blindsided with the cost of tickets… but let’s not talk about that, shall we?). We went to every conceivable clothing store and Haley tried on about 1,453 swimsuits until she found one that was good. She tested it out at the waterpark the next day. Dan also got some new swim threads for himself since his old ones fit him about 30 lbs ago. We also begged him to finally buy a swim shirt to save on sunscreen breaks.
We really enjoyed our high-life living at Grand Wallet Emptying West Sands Near The Airport. The last two nights of our stay in Phuket we moved into a small hotel in the center of town in order to check out the scene and to use as a staging area for our day of hopping islands. So stay tuned… we’re not done with our updates from Phuket.