Oofta! Adjusting to life after vacation hasn’t been easy, but I think I’m finally back on track. Now that I’m back in the Wisconsin chill, I’m reminiscing real hard on those 90 degree Thai days. Can someone please slap me for complaining that it was too hot while I was there?
I’m so excited to be sharing my adventures through Phuket, Thailand today! After experiencing foggy rainy days in Hanoi and Halong Bay, Kevin and I were so ready to see the sun in Phuket. We stayed for three nights and four days at the Centara Blue Marine Resort and Spa. The resort was enormous and absolutely beautiful. There are three different pools on the property, yes THREE.
Our favorite pool area was on rooftop where there was an infinity pool that basically melted into the ocean view. There was also a pool bar here, though we found the drinks were definitely more expensive than the ones we could find outside of the resort.
It was still warm enough at night to spend time at the pool and we definitely took advantage of this. It was quiet and peaceful at night. Though I have to admit, the mosquitos weren’t the nicest.
swim suit: Hollister
The resort has great views of the ocean because the it’s built high up on a hill. If you stay here, be ready to take a lot of stairs to your room every day! Kevin and I love staying active so we welcomed the mini workout every time we went back to our room to work off all the food we were eating!
While we certainly enjoyed spending time on the resort laying by the pool, we knew there were adventures to be had outside of the hotel! Luckily, the resort is just minutes away from restaurants, street food, and beaches. We honestly never had to take out a map. We just picked a direction to start walking and away we went.
One of my favorite spots along the streets was a line of street food vendors. They’d all unpack their carts in the late afternoon and serve fresh, delicious Thai food. My favorite vendor was a juice stand, where I was able to select any fruits to blend into a smoothie. I stood there watching as the woman peeled and cut a fresh mango and pineapple, added water and ice, and blended the perfect amount to fill the top of a plastic cup.
It was so delicious, I went back to her three more times throughout the week, picking different fruits to try each time. The best part is that each drink costed about $2. Bye, $7 Jamba Juice smoothies that are filled with artificial sugars…
My gosh, the food. Kevin and I could not stop eating here. We were in Thai food heaven. I loved just walking by the food vendors and just randomly picking what looked good, even if we didn’t entirely know what it was.
All of the food vendors also brought little plastic chairs and tables where you could sit behind the food stand to enjoy your purchases. Some of our favorite food experiences happened here. You can’t beat cheap, Authentic Thai food with an ocean view, even when you’re eating hot noodle soup in 90 degree weather!
Poor Kevin was just trying to eat while I kept taking videos of him. Hey, he’s got to embrace the life of a blog boyfriend now. Sorry, dude.
We also ended up eating at some sit-down restaurants we discovered while walking around. One thing you HAVE to try here is pineapple fried rice. Most places will serve it to you inside an actual pineapple.
We loved Phuket for two reasons: the food and the beaches. I’ve already made myself drool by uploading all these food pictures, so let’s move on to the beaches!
swim suit: Shein
We didn’t get time to explore a ton of beaches – so we stuck to the ones close to our resort. Right across from Centara Blue Marine is a small beach with food vendors nearby, and a nice area to swim.
Just a twenty minute walk away is Patong Beach – one of Phuket’s largest beach scenes. There is where you go for night life, water sports, and best of all: people-watching.
Patong beach is still hoppin’ at night! Kevin and I stayed here to watch the beautiful sunset and had fun with a little photo shoot!
swim suit: Shein
Time for some real talk. When we booked the vacation months ago, we also booked an elephant trek and white water rafting excursion with Sea Land Camp. To be completely honest, I was apprehensive about going. About a month before our trip I started seeing random articles on my Facebook newsfeed about Southeast Asian elephant trekking businesses and the inhumane practices of training in an elephant to be fit for the tourism industry. These articles cautioned you to stay away from any elephant trek business in Southeast Asia and instead visit elephant sanctuaries where you might find rescued elephants being rehabilitated.
I tried my best to find reliable, unbiased sources that would give me a clear answer as to how I should approach my booked elephant trek. Should I still go? This proved tough, as opinions about elephant tourism are divided and trekking business practices vary greatly. While the scary videos of elephant abuse are the stories that become viral, I learned through my research that there are definitely humane ways to train elephants for trekking as long as the facilities are adequate and the mahouts (elephant trainers) are well-educated.
I knew that Sea Land Camp did not operate as an elephant rehabilitation center, but their website didn’t contain any information as to how they treat the elephants. I even called to see if I could cancel the booking, but the excursion was non-refundable. I made the decision to go to Sea Land Camp, ask lots of questions, and check it out for myself.
I’m able report back mostly good news. First of all, the elephants have their own home off-site. Our guide explained that the elephants come to the tourist camp during the day to work and go off to their own sanctuary after hours. Second, the guide apologized to us and told the group that he would have to change up our itinerary and split us up to do multiple rounds of the elephant riding, as one of the elephants was sick. It was encouraging to know that they weren’t making a sick elephant work and opted to inconvenience the tourists instead. Third, the elephant ride wasn’t very long. Though I enjoyed every second of the fifteen minute ride, I was happy knowing that the elephants weren’t expected to bring tourists on long, strenuous trails.
One red flag – the mahouts carried bull hooks. Though I never saw them use the bull hooks, my research tells me that they are used as negative reinforcement in training and can be psychologically and physically harmful. I’ll admit this weighed on my mind a bit.
One other red flag – the elephants had chairs on their backs for tourists’ comfort. While I did get to ride on the elephant’s neck, which is safer for the elephant, Kevin had to ride on the chair which may cause blisters and strain on an elephant’s back.
Despite these two red flags, I felt overall, Sea Land Camp was a healthy business that cared for the welfare of the elephants. However, if I would have done my research before booking the trip, I think I would have picked a different elephant experience – one that I could have been 100% confident about its ethical animal welfare practices.
Despite all this, I managed to enjoy my time with the elephant as much as I could while I was there. In fact, I was in absolute elephant heaven. He was majestic, adorable, and silly all at the same time. I loved when the elephant would grab random branches to eat while we were on the trail. The little spikey hairs sticking out of his head were fun to play with as I rubbed my hands on his rough skin.
One of my favorite parts was getting to feed the elephant bananas after the ride. He would open his mouth for me to put a banana in his fleshy, toothless mouth. But if I was too slow, he would just take the banana with his trunk and do it himself!
At one point, there were no more bananas left in my basket, but he kept motioning to his mouth with his trunk to signal that he wanted more.
“Sorry!” I said. “I don’t have anymore!” But he wouldn’t take no for an answer, and instead went for the other bananas sitting on the table behind me.
My advice to you about elephant experiences – research before you book! If I had it my way, I would have waited until I could visit an educational elephant sanctuary where you can interact with elephants under definite ethical circumstances and have educational sessions about these beautiful creatures. Unfortunately none of these sanctuaries were close enough to Phuket to make the trip. Sea Land Camp was already a two hour drive away from our resort in Phuket. If you end up visiting the mainland of Thailand, there are some great elephant sanctuaries by Chiang Mai that have rave reviews.
Beyond elephant riding, Sea Land Camp also offers white water rafting and a trip to a waterfall. The white water rafting is fun, but you’re not going through true rapids. Our guide showed us a dam that controls the water level of the river and they create artificial rapids when the tourists come. Regardless, it was a fun ride and no matter how hard you try, you will get wet! Bring a swim suit! I wish I could have taken pictures, but we were advised against bringing any cameras that were not water proof. Good call.
Next up: the waterfall! You hike only about 100 meters to get here and it’s a beautiful site. I LOVE how it’s not overly crowded with tourists and you’re able to swim and explore in peace.
Kevin was brave enough to go up to the waterfall and chill under the falling waters. I, however have seen Jurassic Park (The Lost World) too many times and know that lurking beneath waterfalls is a surefire way to get eaten by a T-Rex . Truthfully I’m just a baby and didn’t want to get pummeled by the heavy water.
Lunch at Sea Land Camp was DELICIOUS. I feel like most tourist excursions serve crappy buffet food like burgers and fries – things they think Westerners love to eat (eye roll). But here, we got to eat authentic Thai food served to us at a picnic table outside!
All in all, Sea Land Camp was a beautiful place packed with a fun-filled day of experiences. When it comes to elephant tourism, I urge you to do your own research and visit an elephant sanctuary if you can, especially if you’re visiting multiple parts of Thailand!
And that’s all for Phuket, folks! I wish we had more time to see the mainland, but it unfortunately did not fit into our itinerary. I know there’s so much to see and do in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and other parts of Thailand. But we had our jobs to get back to. Hey, gotta pay for vacation somehow right?
Got any suggestions for our next big vacation? We don’t have one booked yet, but I always get antsy staying in Wisconsin for too long at a time! Where should I go next?