TF Flashback: Time To Revisit Thailand To Travel Around Phuket, Bangkok & Ayutthaya (2008)

This trip to Thailand really helped to reinvent my impression of a country I hadn’t given much of a chance on a brief trip to Bangkok en-route to Australia in 2001. On that occasion I just wanted to get to the latter so didn’t have any interest in Thailand and so looked on it quite negatively with my young and inexperienced travel eyes.

Regular snowboarding trips with my best American friend Ethan were a fairly regular occurrence around 2007 and 2008 but I’d never given much thought to travelling overseas together as I was just so used to doing that alone. However, when he expressed an interest in us going to Thailand together I was keen. By that time, I had become a much regular traveller having been to the likes of India, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines so was ready to give Thailand a proper chance to impress me.

In May 2008, we met up at Bangkok Airport (he had arrived a day before me) and flew to Phuket late at night. On arrival in Phuket town we checked into the On On Hotel which played the part of the rundown Khao San Road guesthouse in ‘The Beach‘ (2000) starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Our ridiculously cheap room (£3) was absolutely huge and allowed us to re-enact a few scenes from the movie which kept us amused!

We moved on to Phi Phi island the next day for three nights. Amateur kick boxing, a ladyboy dance show, a sunset lookout view, a beachside fire performance, Thai food, beer and a couple of Thai massages were on the menu and before you raise your eyebrows I can assure you that the latter was all legitimate.

One day we took a boat tour with the most famous location being Maya Bay which was used as the secret beach in the aforementioned movie. Whereas Leonardo and Co. had it all to themselves, we had to share it with thousands of other day-trippers and a fleet of boats docked in the bay. As beautiful as it was, time there was too short for us to really savour the moment.


Snorkelling at Shark Point was next on the agenda and quite an experience in terms of swimming through a swarm of fish constantly knocking on our masks.

We also did some kayaking and jumping off the side of the boat from a great height.

Our final port of call was Monkey Beach which could only be accessed by kayak from the boat, and after a short wait the monkeys suddenly appeared from nowhere and the tourist hoards gathered round to watch them eating everything and anything given to them as well as some stuff which wasn’t!

Our final day on Phi Phi was spent lounging around on the beach trying not to get sunburned but fearing there wasn’t an activity of any real substance on the days itinerary we decided to have another go at wakeboarding having first done it in Tokyo the previous  summer. Like that time, I failed to get on my feet the first two attempts but then I finally got it and started to cut through the rough waves.


Patong Beach back in Phuket was next and an action-packed place in terms of beach activity and nightlife including the well-known sex industry which the country is famed for. We started off with jet-skiing and swimming in the sea that first afternoon before hitting the main strip at night for a few drinks. Surprisingly the first bar we hit (chosen for the real cheap drinks) was fairly normal with no girls pressuring you to get them drinks or ahem buy them for the night!

We did a tour the following day which ticked elephant trekking off our things to be done list.

That was part of a rafting tour which was improved, in my opinion, by the torrential downpour at the start of the journey. It was fun rafting down the river, and knocking into the many other rafts made it more exciting.

What was thrilling was standing up and riding on the back of the truck which could never be done in the first world for concerns over safety. The waterfall jumping at Tone Pariwat  was also a bonus in terms of being way better than I imagined it ever would be.

On the way back to Patong we stopped off at Suwankuha Temple which is famous for the many monkeys present outside the temple and cave. It was okay once but annoying when we returned there on the following days tour. Sandwiched in between visits on the night was something very cultural and what nearly everyone asks about when you mention Thailand!

I am of course referring to a ping pong show and for those unaware I am not talking about a table tennis game! It seems like these seedy little places cater for curious tourists like us who want to say they’ve seen it. The place we went to was pretty grim and the girls dancing round the poles were anything but sexy and seemed bored (most likely they were tired) as the show rotated every 15 minutes or so which is about as long as each customer stays for.

We didn’t see girls firing out ping pong balls but we did see displays involving cigarettes, ping pong balls being placed on bottles and a poor bird which left the world for a moment before emerging seconds later unscathed from its temporary shelter. Anyway, I am sure you get the idea! It was something which had to be done I guess but certainly wasn’t as exciting as we may have hoped.

Something both Ethan and I had been looking forward to visiting was Khao Ping Gan to view James Bond Island which was given its name after it was used as Scaramanga’s lair in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ (1974). Once again the problem with tours is that you’re sometimes hurried a bit too much which certainly felt like the case on this island where we had to basically just snap away on our cameras without time to really take it all in.

James Bond Island is the main thing used in promoting the tour but the supporting itinerary was also quite interesting with a visit to a Muslim fishing village at Panyee Island, canoeing, bamboo rafting and walking through the caves of Tham Pung Chang.

We flew to Bangkok in the morning and took a taxi straight to Khao San Road where we checked into about the first place we saw; another fairly run-down but inevitably cheap backpackers. Once we’d had some Thai lunch we went to the likes of Wat Po, Wat Phra Kaeuw and Wat Arun via a mix of boat and tuk-tuk. Chatuchak Weekend Market rounded off the day.

Ethan left really early on my final day so I was alone which felt a bit strange at first. I took a taxi to the nearest train station and then, after a few cock-ups on the train, I eventually got to my first destination which was Lingam Shrine; a small garden playing home to hundreds of d*cks!

Bangkok Railway Station was next where I bought a ticket to the historical city Ayutthaya which was two hours north and only cost me £0.25! I took a ferry across the river and hired a bicycle for the day and rode around the streets which was an experience in itself though nothing compared to what it would be like to do in Bangkok! It was nice to have the freedom to go where I wanted in a city featuring many holy ruins.


That brought the curtain down on an eventful trip to Thailand, and it made me want to return again to explore some other parts which I eventually did in 2013 and 2016.

Click here to read ‘Thailand Filming Locations – The Beach (2000)’

Click here to read ‘Thailand 2008 Pt I – Phuket: Ko Phi Phi’

Click here to read ‘Thailand 2008 Pt II – Phuket: Patong’

Click here to read ‘Thailand 2008 Pt III – Bangkok’

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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