Travel Trade Journal
From White Coral Sands to the City of Angels
What does it take for a sojourn to be a memorable one? Is it the luxurious stays, or the exuberant getaways, is it the sumptuous cuisine or the exceptional people we meet, or is it the religious respite or perhaps the breath-taking sights? One would gladly say, it’s the medley of all that makes for a memorable retreat and that’s when I picture ‘Phuket’ and ‘Bangkok’ in my mind for they are truly a package of all. While the former is considered one of the finest beach destinations on the planet, famous for its beautiful palm-fringed beaches, the latter is the largerthan-life capital city of Thailand, popular for its magnificent Buddhist temples, world-class shopping hubs, skyscrapers, and rooftop bars. From a little-known idyllic town, Thailand’s lush and mountainous island, Phuket has become a modern and bustling hub for tourists, and Bangkok with its blend of traditional and modernity continues to lure us all. So, when the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), New Delhi hosted a FAM trip to Phuket and Bangkok, I was elated and why, let me walk you through my journey!
It was when I exchanged smiles with my fellow journalists at the Delhi IGI airport that I realised the excitement was mutual and it’s only going to snowball from there on. From Delhi, we flew to Bangkok. Up in the sky, the journey was all about getting to know my fellow writers, who were thankfully intrepid travellers like me, believing that some of the most stunning and breathtaking views of this planet can be seen from planes, so we all ‘clicked’ instantly. In the back of our minds, however, each of us secretly wondered in curiosity about what Phuket and Bangkok had to offer?
On landing in Bangkok, the Suvarnabhumi Airport was huge and expressive. The aura, cheerful noise, and happy faces made the layover bearable and joyful. In no time, we geared up to take our next flight to Phuket!
Upon reaching Phuket, we first checked in and took complete comfort in the pool view room of the elegant Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa. It was located at the mellow Nai Yang Beach. Post settling in, I almost succumbed to a short nap and the effect of the calming breeze from the white sandy beach was to blame.
A few relaxing hours later, we were just in time for lunch at the exquisite Big Fish restaurant in Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa. The freshest seafood and traditional Thai dishes here would make you go slow with every bite so you can savor the taste of each to the fullest. I personally went ahead with Fresh Prawn Spring Rolls, Pumpkin Soup, Spaghetti Chicken Bolognese, Pizza Nai Yang Seafood accompanied with Classic Chicken Caesar Salad, and needless to say, it was divine! Freshly caught seafood is not hard to come by in Phuket: from an open-air beachfront restaurant to a local eatery hidden in plain sight, the options are ample to tantalise your taste buds. I was glad to have experienced the best at Big Fish restaurant.
Even when coming to Phuket was a whole new relaxing feeling on its own, an extra dose of rejuvenation was something that acted as serendipity as we indulged in a soothing spa experience at the Oasis Spa. And just like they say, it truly felt like restoration of mind, body, and soul. The skilled massage therapists administered unique massage treatments to meet my needs. At that time, I felt like they knew me as a person, for they could hear my body clearer than I could, a truly rare experience and a perfect start to my sojourn. The time after the spa experience went into taking a stroll around the hotel and embracing my mere presence of being in the lovely destination of Phuket.
The dinner that evening was an absolute delight at the Suay Restaurant.
However, a special mention to the desserts, because how many times do we get to see the most mouth-watering desserts being prepared right in front of us? Rarely, right? Suay made all so usual for us as desserts like the signature side table flambe Thai banana homemade coffee ice cream and Bomb Alaska were brought right to my table and were prepared on-spot.
On the second day, we left for Bang Rong, a great experience for those interested to learn more about local communities in Phuket. Bang Rong Community is involved in managing community-based tourism with a group of villages where they all make a living out of natural resources and local culture. They engage in artisanal fisheries and farming and host visitors for activities connected to the environment and culture. We got to learn about agriculture and fishing life. Painting Pateh bags was a super fun experience! We learned how to slice Pineapples and also learned about making the famous Thai sweet dish - Kanam Ko, which are sugar dumplings with coconut. This was followed by lunch at a floating restaurant. Owing to the unfortunate rains, we couldn’t go for rubber harvesting and coconut picking, but there is always a next time!
Post the Bang Rong tour, around noon, we witnessed the opening ceremony of Thailand’s leading B2B travel industry show, the ‘Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) 2022’ at the Angsana Laguna Phuket beachfront resort that is set within the world-renowned integrated resort of the Laguna Phuket. The venue felt great and so did the event. The event focused on the country’s change towards stronger, more sustainable, and more responsible tourism growth. It was indeed enlightening!
The next day, we took a walking tour around the old Phuket town. We witnessed the Sino-Portuguese style shophouses on each side of the streets, small and colorful shops, some excellent local Thai restaurants, and a lot of young coffee shops that have opened lately. Walking around town also gave me a chance to visit both Thai temples and colorful Chinese shrines, as well as a couple of museums and some beautiful old mansions. For a time being, I kept my eyes still and took a slow, holistic glimpse of it from the outside. However, due to the limited time, I couldn’t experience the cafe from inside but again, as they say, there is always a next time!
On our return from the walk, we became a part of the Networking Dinner by the Phuket Tourist Association at Andamanda, Phuket’s largest amusement water park which offered wholesome entertainment, and mouthwatering delicacies in a lavish buffet that it was almost impossible to decide what treats to try. Besides everything, I am still in complete awe of this artsy café, Aungku Phuket.
Here we were, on the last day at Phuket, experiencing the exceptional Thai Cooking class at Yenjai Restaurant by Master Chef Yenjai. There would
have been no better way than that to have known and understood the culture of Thailand with Chef Yenjai’s cooking style. Her patience, her attention to detail, her brilliant demo, and the precision she offered all added up to give us the ohso-tasty ‘Tom Yum Goong’- a type of hot and sour Thai soup! I was glad when Chef Yenjai tasted my version of it, she went ‘Waoooowwww,’ which eventually became my favorite takeaway from the experience.
Upon reaching Bangkok, I savored the most delectable Indian food at Indus, a Michelin-plated restaurant that I would highly recommend to someone looking for authentic Mughlai-style Indian cuisine in Bangkok. The ambience was like a treat to the eyes- Rajasthani frames in the doorways, subtle lighting, and lounge music set the mood for the night. With the delicious Hara Bhara Kabab, Papdi Chaat, my beloved Chicken Tikka, Tandoori Broccoli, Rogan Gosht and Rasmalai, Firni, my heart felt fuller than my stomach and I was so satiated. My highest vote, however, would go to Tandoori Broccoli, a must-have! We then left Indus and checked into the Oriental Residence Bangkok and spent the night amidst the beautiful ambience with outstanding service.
We were in Bangkok now and couldn’t wait to make the most of our last two days in Thailand. So the next morning, we went out to explore the capital city on a hop-on hop-off bus tour which was a double-decker Thai Bus Food Tour. As the bus cruised around the old quarter of Bangkok, passing through some significant landmarks including China town, the giant swing, the golden mount, the democracy monument, the grand palace, and beautiful temples, we enjoyed a dining course that was delicately selected from many famous local restaurants being served. Pad Thai Noodles and my forever favorite, Mango sticky rice were delicious out of the lot. Our tour guide enlightened us with interesting information about the attractions we passed and the dishes we ate.
A few hours later on the same day, we experienced the Mahanakhon Skywalk as we stood on Bangkok’s glass tray, built at a height of 314 meters and 78 floors, above ground level. Recognised as Thailand’s tallest building, it offered a birds-eye view of the beautiful skyline below. An adrenaline rush flew through my veins as I looked straight through the transparent walkway beneath my feet, it was scary and breath-taking beyond words.
There’s no denying that Bangkok is home to a plethora of shopping centers and malls. But, if I talk about the true epicentre of luxury brands, the mention of the majestic ICONSIAM cannot be missed. ICONSIAM has been the city’s haven for the leading luxury brands - Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton, and many more enough to awaken the shopaholic in me.
To my heart’s content, the best detour was the magnificent luxury-designed cruise journey, one of the best excursions by Chao Phraya River. The night view was surreal. The view of Rama VIII Bridge glittering with lights is etched in my mind. Yet the aroma from the lavish buffet distracted me for a while and a few minutes later, I was still enjoying the mesmerising night view as before but this time in the company of many mouth-watering kinds of seafood.
On our way to the airport, we visited the Central Village, an outdoor outlet shopping destination, which was located close to the airport. Featuring over 300 international and local Thai brands, Central Village caters to every shopper, with family-friendly amenities and exclusive savings of up to 70 per cent off.
To summarise Phuket and Bangkok, I would say there were times that convinced me to put down my smartphone as the breath-taking views were best when seen from the naked eye, and at the same time, there was a strong irresistible urge to capture every moment with uninterrupted, limitless clicking. “Am I making sense” - I wondered, on my flight back to Delhi.