Since there was nothing to watch on TV due to the passing of the Thai king, we slept quite early. Hence we also woke up early. When our stomach started calling, we went to the restaurant for breakfast.
We thought we were going for breakfast early, however, the restaurant was already quite packed with hotel guests. Occupancy rate was quite high for this popular hotel located in the middle of Patong. So the restaurant was a little noisy.
We managed to be seated and regular coffee was served to us. But the restaurant staff were very busy and hardly had time for small chats like the day before. They were obviously rather stressed up with tourists from certain countries.
We went to collect our food and surprisingly, we found the breakfast spread here better than what we had over at Novotel Kata Avista Resort. The variety and quality of food here were very good. We went to get food a few rounds, a little each time to sample the food here.
After many of the noisy tourists left the restaurant, one of the staff asked whether we would like to have some special coffee. We were of course delighted and we requested for mocha to wash down the wonderful breakfast we had just moments ago.
Shuttle Bus to Patong Beach
Back in our room after the sumptuous breakfast, we rested for a while and made ourselves comfortable. We would be heading out to Patong Beach for some shopping. Near to 10 am, we went to the lobby. Grand Mercure Hotel provides regular shuttle service to Patong Beach and Jungceylon Mall as well as Central Festival in Phuket Town.
Our last trip to Phuket was two years ago. So we were waiting for Jetstar to launch another round of sales for this destination. We managed to purchase cheap return tickets to Phuket for under $75 for October. Our intention was to get away for two nights to chill out in Phuket to shop and dine. Our flights details were as follows:
Singapore to Phuket8.20 am to 9.10 am
Phuket to Singapore 10.00 pm to 12.50 am
This flight timings gave us three full days to enjoy Phuket while we spent only two nights on hotel accommodations. Hence, besides offering us opportunity to chill out at 5-star hotels, we would have sufficient occasion to do some shopping as well. We won’t be heading out for island hopping tours this time for our short stay.
The AccorGroup’s Super Sales event also happened to coincide with Jetstar Sales. So on the same day we booked our flights, we also booked a one night stay at Kata Beach and another night stay over at Patong Beach. For Kata Beach, we booked a suite room package from Novotel Phuket Kata Avista Resort And Spa and for Patong Beach, we booked Grand Mercure Phuket Patong. Both accommodations are 5-star hotels and cost slightly over $100 each night during the super sales event.
For airport transfers, we contacted Phuket SRC Tours via whatsapp. Transfer from Phuket Airport to Kata Beach cost 700 THB and returning to the airport from Patong Beach cost 600 THB. This agent is pretty efficient and their transfer charges are among the lowest. We find them very reliable and their service has been very good. The contact number for Phuket SRC Tours is +66 86 270 7585.
Singapore to Phuket
Our air tickets and hotels were booked in August. October came so quickly. We arrived at Changi Airport rather early before 6.30 am. Since we had already done our web check in, we cleared immigration, had a quick breakfast over at McDonalds at Terminal 2 and then went to the boarding gate at Terminal 1 to wait for our flight to Phuket. Not long after, we were called to board our flight and soon on our way to Phuket. We landed on schedule.
After clearing immigration, we exited the departure hall to look for our driver from Phuket SRC Tours. This airport in Phuket is very new. We were told it was just opened less than a month ago upon our arrival. Once outside the terminal building, travel agents and drivers from hotels were all lined up holding cards and papers with names of arriving visitors. It was pretty chaotic. Continue reading 3 Days 2 Nights Phuket Vacation→
We woke up rather late deliberately in order to eat a full late breakfast before heading to the airport for our flight to KLIA first and then continued with the connecting flight back home.
The breakfast was great and apparently, the hotel changed some of the Asian dishes everyday and so it was not so boring having to eat the same type of food everyday. We did have more than our usual share for breakfast and then went back to our room to get ready to check out.
On the way back to our room, we explored and looked around this artistic hotel one last time as we probably would not return the next time we visit Phuket.
As we were more or less packed and ready to check out, we still had the luxury of time to watch TV while waiting for Mr. Chai’s driver to come and pick us up for the airport at 11 am. Closer to our appointed time, we went to reception to return our keys and settled our bill. It took less than 5 minutes and we were done.
Actually, the driver was already at the hotel and so we simply hopped on to the car and were on our way to the airport. This time, he did not send a big luxurious van but a good size salon car which was more than sufficient for the two of us. So we arrived at the airport in good time and paid the driver 600 THB. Then we dropped our baggage with MAS counter staff and went on to wait for our flight after immigration clearance.
Our flight out was uneventful and like the previous fight to Phuket, we were served sandwich on board again. After arriving KLIA, we had about 3 hours of time before our next flight back to Singapore. So we spent some time exploring the airport and went over to the other terminal where there were more shops and restaurants.
Surprisingly while exploring the airport, I received a message via whatsapp from Mr. Chai to thank me for using his services and asked if everything was fine. Indeed, his customer service was excellent and though we had already left the country he did not fail to keep up with customers and sending good wishes for our safe trip home. Such responsible travel agents are hard to come by. Anyone who wish to use Phuket SRC Travel service may contact Mr. Chai’s mobile number at +66 86 270 7585. His website is Phuket SRC Travel.
As I was still very full after that huge breakfast and also had eaten sandwich on board the flight, I couldn’t eat anymore but my wife ordered a bowl of porridge and that settled our dinner. In fact we had eaten too much while in Phuket and it was time to regulate back to normal. After that we went back to the new terminal, bought some Belgium chocolates that were on sale and then proceeded to board our final flight home.
Before long, we could see the unmistakable skyline of Singapore from our plane’s window. Touching down at Changi Airport was sweet. Undoubtedly, this was yet another short but rejuvenating break for us and while in the taxi, we looked forward to meeting our children back home.
We got up early and went for breakfast because the tour operator would send someone to pick us up around 8 am. It was so early that the restaurant was empty when we were there and so we chose a convenient table and helped ourselves with the buffet spread. We were spoilt for choice with the food available but we went for only one round of helping and that was all we would want to take. We still had a day out at sea and we didn’t want to become victims of our own making for over eating and spoiling our day’s outing at sea.
Not long after returning to our room after breakfast, hotel staff called to inform us the tour agent was already there waiting for us. We were not late but he came too early for us. He would then move on to other hotels to pick up other tourists for this day trip. This agent also doubled as the driver. He asked for our tour voucher but we didn’t have one as we booked our tour over the phone. After clearing up the tour reservation issue, we made our way to other hotels to pick up other tourists and went on to the tour office to take the boat tour to James Bond Island. One of the tourists seemed to be unwell and he even vomited into a plastic bag while travelling in the van. This made the journey a little unpleasant for everyone. So we were right not to over eat for breakfast to keep ourselves in shape for the day activity.
After about an hour, we arrived at the office of the tour operator at Ao Po Pier. We alighted and were made to wait for other minibuses to ferry more tourists to this office which served as an assembly point. Tourists may use the toilets over there and purchase food and drinks. Some tourists bought water-tight plastic bags or covers for their phones and cameras to protect them from the elements while out at sea.
Finally, we were told to move out towards the long pier to board one of the many boats heading out to different destinations. It seemed there were only two types of tours operating out from here. One is the James Bond Island tour and the other is the Phi Phi Island tour.
Once on board and sailing out to Phang-Nga Bay, the staff on board briefed us on safety matters and the tour itinerary for the day. Drinking water and can drinks were freely available as well as some fruits.
There was nothing much to do while we sailed to our destination so we simply enjoyed the cruise and admired the distant lands, rock formations and islands standing out of the water. Some tourists also took the opportunity to suntan while others took pictures with all sorts of pose and even with the imitation pose of the old movie Titanic. The tourists on board came from many different countries and usually stayed with their own crowds.
Lunch served on board was fine and of course we didn’t expect fine dinning. Food was buffet style and enough for everyone but might not be to everyone’s taste from such a diverse nationality of people. Vegetarians could eat non meat portions and for us who didn’t like seafood simply eat other dishes. Fresh fruits were available which was refreshing on such a hot day. Water and soft drinks could be taken from the icebox with plenty to spare so we need not bring our own water.
The boat took us to a few different islands and the main attraction was James Bond Island, made famous by the 1974 James Bond movie ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. To reach this island, we were required to transfer onto a smaller long tail boat to approach the small jetty on shore. The island was a little crowded with groups after groups of tourists coming and leaving to visit, and take pictures of the famous rock standing erect out of the water. There were some stores selling souvenirs and clothes as well as food and drinks.
We spent about 30 minutes here and went back to the big boat and sailed onto the next destination for canoeing and also canoeing into caves where there were bats residing there. We were also given time for canoeing and swimming at one of the beaches before we sailed back to Ao Po Pier to complete the day tour.
Once we arrived at the tour office, we again went back to the same van with the same driver to bring us back to our respective hotels in Patong Beach arriving near to 5 pm.
After a full day out at sea, a refreshing cold shower back in our room was a great first step to cool down. Feeling comfortable after a good shower, we went back to the Beehive Gallery Barestaurant for our cocktail drinks.
Another enchanting sunset greeted us while we sipped our unique fruit drinks as we sat on the lounges outside the restaurant next to the road watching the day scene fading into the distant horizon and watched Patong Beach area gradually light up.
As for dinner, this time we went across the road over to Novotel Hotel located on the hill top to try out their food. Since the hotel is right on top of a steep hill, the hotel provides free buggy service to bring guests to the hotel lobby. The setting of the restaurant in Novotel is perfect which has an excellent view of the entire Patong Beach from one end to the other.
Wait staff at the restaurant were more than helpful and friendly and especially welcoming for us Accor members where we enjoy 50% discount dining for two persons. We loved their Thai red and green curry dishes and had a splendid time there enjoying our dinner overlooking Patong Beach area by night. With our dinner done, we got a ride down to the main road and walked back across the road to our hotel.
It had been a long day and was time for us to catch up with our children again back home via the phone. Our spacious room afforded us a very airy environment to relax our minds and rest our tired bodies after a full day of activities. The TV was another source of entertainment before bed time and soon we slipped into our dream world in the silence of the night.
We went to the NATAS Travel Fair in August to purchase travel insurance for the Northern Vietnam trip for our family in December and at the same time looked out for good deals but found none suitable. So we decided to do some research on DIY free and easy short trips for the last quarter of the year. To our surprise, from Skyscanner’s search engine, we found Malaysian Airlines had unbelievable airfares to many destinations. As we had already planned a long 8 Days 7 Nights trip to Vietnam for December, we were looking for shorter breaks preferably over the weekend.
Our search for Phuket came up to be $65 for a pair of return tickets, less than half of what we could get flying on a budget airline. We were redirected to the Tripsta site which we had never used before and so were naturally quite skeptical about the deal. Anyway we gave it a try and booked our flight to Phuket since all we could lose for the two of us was only S$130.
Hence flight details as follows:
Singapore to Kuala Lumpur: 11.05 am to 12.05 pm
Kuala Lumpur to Phuket: 1.05 pm to 1.20 pm
Phuket to Kuala Lumpur: 2.05 pm to 4.35 pm
Kuala Lumpur to Singapore: 7.25 pm to 8.25 pm
So the only inconvenience was to transit at KLIA which would make it longer to fly to Phuket. But for that kind of price for a pair of air tickets, we felt the little inconvenience was acceptable. Moreover, the flights came with 30 kg check in baggage. I supposed MAS was reeling from their tragic loss of two planes with the disappearance of MH 370 and the downing of MH 17 over Ukraine during the year, and the airline desperately needed to win back passengers.
Since this was just a short flight in the region and safety might not be that much of a factor of concern, we went ahead to book our flights to Phuket for October. The Tripsta’s site was very efficient and we received our flights booking confirmation and E-tickets very quickly via email. Since the deal was so good we decided to book a trip to Bangkok for November for about the same price as well.
As for hotel, we booked a 5 star boutique hotel at Patong Beach; The B Lay Tong Phuket – MGallery Collection under the Accor group of hotels, during a stay 3 pay 2 promotion. Cost for hotel stay for 3 nights was just under 8900 THB, around S$370 inclusive of breakfast.
We also did some search on day tours for Phuket as well as airport transfer to our hotel in Patong Beach. Phuket is notorious for its mafia taxi operators. Taxi fares are ridiculously expensive in Phuket but not so in their Thai capital in Bangkok. These operators are hard to regulate and taking a cab to Patong Beach can easily set you back 800 THB for that under an hour journey.
So we found Mr.Chai from Phuket SRC Travel and communicated with him in English via whatsapp. His tour company provides day tours around Phuket as well as airport transfer for only 600 THB to Patong Beach. So far, his airport transfer was the most reasonable in cost and his response to enquiry impressive. As we were travelling in October, which was towards the end of the raining season where hotel rates were still low, we took up his airport transfer service and would decide whether to take any day tours when we arrived in Phuket. With all ground work done, all we had to do was to pack and go when that day arrived.
Day 1 – Singapore to Phuket
As our flight out to KLIA for the first leg was 11.05 am, we reached Changi Airport after 8 am, dropped our check in luggage and went for breakfast at the McDonalds. We had a full meal as we didn’t expect MAS to really feed us during such short flights. Moreover, we would not have enough time for lunch at KLIA during the one hour transit to catch the next flight out to Phuket.
Soon we were on our way to KLIA after some delay due to heavy ground traffic at Changi Airport. We were a bit worried about our connecting flight to Phuket. When we arrived KLIA, we had to rush to catch our flight to Phuket and good thing the flight out was also at the same terminal. We were also not alone in this little rush as we found some other passengers from the same flight with us were also running to the departure gate for the same flight to Phuket. Once on board the plane, we switched to holiday mood looking forward to our short trip to unwind in Phuket. MAS served us sandwich snacks during the flight to Phuket which was nothing to shout about, but was enough to fill our stomach temporarily.
After we touched down in Phuket Airport, it took us quite sometime to clear immigration. Once out of arrival hall, we found our driver holding my name on a card among the many meet-and-greet staff waiting for their guests. It was good to have someone waiting to pick us up instead of wasting time figuring out the transport arrangement to our hotel. The vehicle was a clean, big and nice van, in fact, quite luxurious with air-conditioning working very well. We were impressed. For 600 THB, this was indeed worth it; otherwise, we could be sitting in a small salon cab paying over 800 THB after much haggling with the driver for the transfer to our hotel.
In less than an hour, we arrived at our hotel. This driver, Mr. Bird, strange name but good guy, knew of short cuts through the traffic and as such, it did not take us too much time on the road. So we paid him 600 THB and made our way to check in to our hotel. Imagine! Phuket SRC Travel did not even make me pay a deposit for the airport transfer and simply operated on trust. Should we fail to turn up, they would have wasted their time. So I would continue to do business with them.
The hotel has a very arty-farty feel and staff dressed in casual resort style tee-shirts uniforms. Hotel lobby was bright, airy and welcoming. Check in was fast and very efficient. So with some excitement, we went to see what kind of room we were given.
Our room was big and bright, clean-cut minimalist design. King size bed was clean, firm and comfortable. There was also another good size daybed at the end by the windows. Bathroom with only rain shower cubicle and wash basin the modern design type came complete with toiletries.
Unfortunately, there were signs of wear and tear where the blinds to block the glass wall shower from the room were a little damaged and the shower door could not be properly closed. The bathroom floor was also a little slippery when wet. Other than those issues, all was well.
Comparing the standard of this hotel with other 5 star hotels under the Accor group like Sofitel and Pullman, we would prefer not to choose this hotel the next time. As we needed nothing else we rested in our room and watched TV for awhile.
It was supposed to be nearing the end of the raining season but it was surprisingly bright and hot when we arrived so it was a good time to hit the swimming pool. The pool is those infinity type where you could see the beach and watch sunset in the late afternoon. A part of the wall of the swimming pool is made of thick glass so others could see you swim a floor below near the lobby; it would be like swimming in an aquarium for public display and entertainment. Some may not like the idea while others may like this novelty where they can take pictures of their friends and family members swimming in the pool from the lobby glass wall.
We had a good relaxing swim and enjoyed the view of Patong Beach across the road. It was so peaceful that day and we were thankful it did not rain but smokers smoking at the pool spoilt our otherwise perfect first piece of activity in Patong. We understood it had been pouring the past few days before we arrived and were expecting a little dampener for our trip. But so far so good.
So after the swim, I contacted Mr. Chai via whatsapp to check with him regarding the weather for the next day. He assured me the weather should be fine and should the tour operator cancel the tour due to bad weather, there would be a 100% refund of fees. As such, we went ahead to book a day tour to James Bond Island with him for the next day.
As this was a last minute decision, we did not sign any documentation with him and did not pay for the tour upfront which cost 1100 THB per person. It was done over the phone based on trust. He sent me the booking details over to my phone and that was all. Notwithstanding, I don’t think Mr. Chai would entertain everyone this way, especially during peak seasons. Anyone who wish to use his service would have to negotiate with him and see if he could accommodate last minute bookings but preferably book tours with him in advance.
As we did not really have lunch that day, we went for an early dinner at the hotel’s artistic Beehive Gallery Barestaurant and at the same time have our welcome drinks. This hotel offers welcome cocktail drinks everyday for guests staying with them. The restaurant is like an art gallery and with all walls and ceiling painted with artworks of all sorts. Perhaps, those with an eye for arts could comment more on the artistic deco in a more meaningful way.
While having dinner at the restaurant by the road, we watched the glorious sunset moment and feasted on all its splendour of the picturesque skies on the far horizon of Patong Beach. Enjoying our meal including our refreshing cocktail drinks with such magnificent scenery was utmost satisfying to say the least.
After dinner, we went out for a stroll on the road along Patong Beach, enjoying the gentle breeze and observing whatever activities that were left of the day. We didn’t go very far and before reaching the famous or rather infamous Bangla Road, we turned back and returned to our hotel to enjoy our “artistic” hotel and room.
One good point about B Lay Tong Hotel is its location right on Patong Beach but further away from the crazy night life near Bangla Road. If the objective of a vacation is to relax and unwind, staying further away from the main actions in town merits serious consideration. Just on the right of the hotel is a 7-11 mini mart where we could stock up on water and other stuff.
It was a long day since we left home for the long flight due to transit at KLIA, so it was good to rest early to prepare for the full day trip out at sea the next day. It was also a good time to catch up with the children back home via whatsapp with the efficient wifi provided by the hotel. Finally, watching TV which had just sufficient international channels, and some light reading brought our first day to a close.