All posts for the month February, 2023

Miles of sandy beach

From Naka island we returned to Phuket and then took a car to its northernmost point and over a bridge onto the Thai peninsula. An hour up the peninsula is the area known as Khao Lak, yet another part of Thailand blessed with miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches.

We once again found ourselves in a nice resort, though it was bigger than we like, and we tire of resort restaurants. But just steps down the beach was a nice string of little private, fairly rustic restaurants. So we had nearly all our lunches and dinners in these little places we love. I guess I could say that rustic little restaurants on sandy beaches is our happy place in Thailand.

One signature trait of these beach restaurants is that they tend to have pretty silly names. Our top choice among them was the place called “Be Friend.” And the runner up had the incredibly inauspicious name of “Andaman Seafood and Massage.”

Not a whole lot more to report from Khao Lak. Just five days of beach, reading, and cheap and delicious food at beach restaurants with silly names.

Getting ready for lunch at Andaman Seafood and Massage

Lunch at Be Friend

A wave coming in

Me out in the water that is always the perfect temperature

Yet another lunch at Be Friend

The perfect weather is sometimes briefly interrupted by a fast, powerful afternoon rainstorm. This is our little private pool under sheets of rain.

Jim ordered this beautiful fish one evening at Be Friend

One evening we were extra adventurous and took a jitney into town for dinner. I loved the crazy bright colors. No filters here!

Mark loved his lounger in the shallow part of the pool, with a view over the beach chairs and across to Phuket

Stop Two on our winter voyage around Thai beaches was Naka Island, a small island just off the east coast of Phuket (which is itself, of course, an island). If it seemed there was little to do on Phuket, one might expect there would be even less to do on a much smaller island. In fact, we did pretty well for five nights there.

The resort there was on the west side of the island, meaning you faced Phuket across a pretty modest channel. That meant the water was much calmer than an ocean-facing beach. Mark liked that; I was less impressed. And while the resort was very nice, the grounds were certainly not as lush as what we’d had on Phuket.

Speaking of things to love, on our first morning on Naka Island I went to the breakfast buffet and found … a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. How cool is that?!?

Still, there was plenty to like and plenty to do. Reading, eating, and swimming, of course, took most of our time. There was one little town on the island, just a 10- or 12-minute walk from the resort, with one little restaurant aimed at guests of the resort. The prices were probably no more than 20 percent that of resort prices and the food was every bit as good … or better. And these days I’m mobile enough that the walk was no issue for me.

Interestingly, Naka Island is a Muslim enclave in Thailand, which is 95 percent Buddhist. Somehow we managed to survive a lunch with neither pork nor wine. It can be done.

Mark and Jim enjoying their very local off-resort lunch

One oddity about our stay on Naka Island was that we timed it really badly regarding the tides, and every day we were there it got worse. Low tide would hit in early afternoon meaning that much of the day the beach was pretty ugly and not really worth swimming in. Given that the pool was nice, that wasn’t the worst problem we’ve ever faced.

From here we cross back onto Phuket and then head north up onto the mainland for another resort. Nothing to be unhappy about so far!

Mark on our walk to the nearby local village. We sometimes fear that staying at nice resorts we will miss these incredibly local experiences. Fortunately we still manage to get out and about.

Another view of our walk

On the other hand, the resort has some good food, too. I have to say, though, I don’t ever remember seeing a branded hamburger bun like this. I was impressed.

A highlight most nights was an after-dinner jaunt up to the Z Bar where they celebrated Happy Hour from 9:00 to 10:00 every night. That meant you could get two shots of rum or scotch for the price of one. In practice that meant you got a normal sized shot for a normal price. I’m OK with that.

Another shot across the pools, the beach chairs, and on to Phuket

I may be the only tourist in the world who rates resorts based on how easy it is to hang laundry out to dry. On that basis Naka Island was a total ten!

A picture from the boat ride from Phuket to Naka Island

And finally, there has to be a kitty picture, right? This cutie lives at the little lunch restaurant. She seemed quite well fed, but just in case I made sure she didn’t go hungry the day of our visit.

Mark at the pool. One thing we LOVED about the resort was the adults-only quiet pool. No cell phones, no pounding music. It was nice.

We’ve flown off to spend three weeks in Thailand. There’s really just one reason: we’re escaping the end of winter, and what better place than Thailand? Based on our somewhat more-than-modest world travels Thailand has among the best food, best beaches, and kindest, friendliest people in the world, all at bargain prices. So we’re spending three weeks on the beach here, not returning to New York until March.

One note about the flight over here. We flew Singapore Airlines from JFK to Singapore, connecting directly to Phuket. The JFK to Singapore leg, at 18 hours and 40 minutes schedule, is the longest flight in the world. There – another box checked off!

Our first stop, for four days, is the island of Phuket. We’ve been on the island before but always on the very southern part of the island where the city of Phuket and most of the people are. This time we’re way up at the northern tip of the island. Mostly just a few resorts and miles and miles and miles of beach. And that’s working out for us pretty well.

Lunch at a lovely resort a mile or two from ours. That counts as cultural travel on a vacation like this.

The resort we stayed at – a JW Marriott – is a beautiful property with really lush, tropical grounds. We’re not fans of really big resorts and this one is pretty darned big, but it was beautiful. Oddly though, we felt surprisingly distant from the beach, even though it’s a beachside resort. Presumably because of local laws (I’m just guessing but it’s as good a guess as any), there are no beach chairs or umbrellas on the beach. You can go down to swim and all that but for the most part you spend your days at the beautiful pools and just don’t go into the ocean that much. Thus you will note there are no pictures of the beach even though it was epically beautiful, just miles and miles of white sand.

That’s OK, though, as the pools were really beautiful. And the times I did go in the ocean were a little scary. There was nothing unusual about the surf but I’m still recovering from surgery on a couple toes and had a really hard time fighting the tide getting back to shore.

The quiet pool was really beautiful

And that’s it. Hours enjoying the pool, reading, recovering from jet lag. As for reading, I have my work cut out for me. I’ve been saving it up for a while until I had the time to really dig into it but I’ve started Edmund Morris’s magisterial three-volume biography of Teddy Roosevelt. The 2,400-or-so pages will keep me busy these weeks. And based on other experiences I’ve had I will for ever more connect Thailand with Roosevelt.

The one downside of staying in a place that’s mostly about the resorts is that there weren’t great off-resort food options, or at least many that we could get to with my still-limited mobility. (Note about recovery: I was still using the walking boot on the flight over, to make sure I could get around the airports and all that. By day three in Phuket, though, I was getting everywhere I needed without the boot so it stayed there when we moved on. YAY!) The food at the resort was OK, but we hope to pick it up a notch or two as we continue through the area.

On our last night we walked just a tiny bit up the beach to a little local restaurant that had pretty good Thai food. It wasn’t the kind of local restaurant we crave – it was clearly aimed at people like us staying at a resort but tired of resort food. It was good enough, though, and fun to sit on the beach in a decidedly low-key environment.

I had to get a picture of this kid who was bussing tables. I just loved the Classic t-shirt … with the Fuck You in big letters.

And since there are no photos of the beach, one more of our favorite quiet pool