a travel blog on Bangkok, Thailand and beyond

Phuket before Phuket Sandbox

In terms of travel, just like almost everyone in Thailand, I spent most time travelling virtually through my old photos. And looking back it was quite hard to believe that my last Phuket trip was more than half a year ago. And it was one of my last trips before the second, third and fourth COVID-19 waves in Thailand.

On July 1, 2021, despite the spike of new cases, Thailand decided to open the country by launching Phuket Sandbox. To be short, vaccinated international visitors can travel to Phuket and wandering around on the island within 14 days without any quarantine. Well, unless you got infected, you need to stay in ASQ/ALQ hotels. The government said they will cancel everything if they found more than 90 positive cases within one week. So far the sandbox has done quite well… just may be because there are so few travellers going in. (Latest update on 6 August 2021: the sandbox is closed already.)

Back when I was a magazine lifestyle writer, I went to Phuket quite often. I’m not a big fan of this island, because as a Thai who don’t drive, it was quite hard to get around if you are not in the old town area. The airport is far, taxis are very pricey and most places are quite far apart. Phuket seems to be friendlier when I had my personal driver around. We had fun hopping from place to place, finding some nice food to eat and bars to chill.

Last year on November, we chose Phuket for our company’s outing trip (because we cannot go abroad) and had a great fun trying new things. Cruises used to be beyond affordable for most Thais, but during that time we were able to get a COVID rate, which is really cheaper. Same as the hotel and restaurants. One good thing about Phuket is that it is a semi-local destination. While famous local restaurants (like Go Benz Khao Tom Heang or Khrua Ohm) were still packed, places for tourists started to die out. Patong area was deserted. I feel sorry for them. But I feel sorry for our country too. The wrong vaccination policy has brought us this far.

Anyway, if you are planning to go to Phuket soon, I hope my list below will be useful.

Phuket travel tips
Where to stay
  • Twinpalms Phuket Resort on Surin Beach. It is not by the beach (there’s a road in between) but it is near enough that you can walk. Surin beach is a quiet beach, perfect for morning jogging. Don’t forget to go to the viewpoint nearby. The hotel was a bit run down but comfy enough. I really like the big balcony. The pool is open 24/7 and if you stay on the ground floor, the pool is just a few steps away from your room and personal balcony.
  • Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa on Mai Khao Beach. We spent the last night by ourselves here. It is quite far from the city center so it is very private. The room was cosy enough. Breakfast was amazing! (one of the best I’ve tried so far). Spa was great too. The beach is walkable.
Where to eat
  • Nitan Phuket we chose this place because I know the owner and want to support her and it was great. Nitan offers fine-dining experience (fine food with fine wines). The chef is Thai and although the food looks really modern, the taste is really Thai. It is located in Choeng Thale area.
  • Mor Mu Dong Phuket (Michelin Bib Gourmand) if you want something really, really local, I recommend Mor Mu Dong in Chalong. Be careful if you don’t eat spicy because some dishes are really spicy (even for Thais).
  • Jee Liew Rice Noodles in Thalang. If you are a fan of rice noodles like me, you will love Jee Liew. They pair the rice noodles with endless homegrown local vegetables, boiled eggs and fried pork and chicken. In Phuket and Southern Thailand, they eat rice noodles for breakfast, but here they serve until the afternoon.
  • Khrua Ohm or Ohm Phuket (Michelin Bib Gourmand) in Kathu. We tried this place for the first time and it was great enough. Khrua Ohm offers a mixture of Thai-Chinese food and seafood. Reservation is needed if you want a big table because the place is quite small.
  • Ko Ang Seafood in old town area. We went there for many times already. Perfect for dinner after a long day. Seafood is really fresh and the taste is great.
Where to chill
  • Bobop Live Music Bar & Restaurant in old town area (Takuapa Road). We used to have one jazz bar we like but it was gone. So when our friend recommended this place, I gave it a try (with determination that we drove for almost one hour from Renaissance to this place) and we love it here. It is great to be there early so you get best seats as the place will be packed when the live band is on. The vibes were so amazing that we forgot COVID for a moment.