With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Never Try to Impress Teenagers

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 30, 2018

January 23rd – 30th, 2018

Mark and the Markettes

This little one-week trip to Phuket taught me 3 very valuable lessons, which I will share with you. They are:

  1. Sometimes, it is best to use the system that is already in place rather than to carve your own path. The key is to know when that is. When traveling in Thailand 99% of the time, it’s best not to break out on your own unless you got baht to burn.
  2. Don’t stress yourself out trying to impress teenagers. It is a futile and thankless endeavor.
  3. If you want to see a lot of stuff quickly (while sucking down more Pepsi in one day than you’ve consumed in the past 5 years) do a day trip with a tour company.

Part 1: Use the system that’s already in place.

When Mark and I arrived to Thailand on January 1st, we did so by flying into Phuket. We chose to enter through Phuket over Bangkok because it’s a lot closer to Koh Tao. I thought it would be a quick hop, skip, and jump to the island where we would spend the next few months.

We were wrong. To go from Phuket to Koh Tao is not a quick or easy thing. If everything goes as it should a trip from Phuket to Koh Tao is a 4.5 hour bus ride, a 20 minute wait, then a 4 hour boat ride. But things hardly ever go as they should.

A few days before we got to Thailand, Mark bought a Phuket to Koh Tao ticket online. The company might have stated everything we needed to know on their website, but the ticket as printed had very little information on it. And, Mark couldn’t remember anything. The only instructions were to go to the Phuket public bus station #2, which we did. Once there we were given stickers to wear on our chests and told to come back at 9:00am. Coming in from Malta via Istanbul we landed at the Phuket airport at 3:00am and we were at the bus station by 6:00am.

This ticket was, what I call, a point A to point B ticket, which I will refer to as an AB ticket from now on. There is no explanation as to how many buses, boats, or trains, you will take with this ticket. All you are given is a time (which Mark forgot), a place where you will leave, a place where you will end up, and sometimes a guess at the time you will end up there. There are no guarantees other than you will get to the ultimate destination sometime today, or tomorrow depending on the ticket.

The rest of our first day in Thailand was spend being herded around, with many other backpackers, from bus to boat to boat to boat… We were always waiting for the next leg of our journey, not really sure when we would leave or how long the next ride would take. It was hot and miserable.

We took a few different boats because some boat somewhere was cancelled. (Or maybe we missed it…) So by the time we got to Koh Tao it was 10:00pm. It took us a long time to go such a short distance.

So, a couple weeks later, when we needed to go back to Phuket, Mark didn’t want to deal with that. Instead of getting a Koh Tao to Phuket AB ticket, Mark just bought a ticket from Koh Tao to Chumphon on the first boat of the day. It left at 6:00am. From there we would take the fastest or next bus or train to Phuket. Instead of waiting around for a planned bus or train, we would be fully in charge of our own fate.

Things did not work out well. After landing at the dock in Chumphon, we asked about the next bus and train heading to the general Phuket area. (Nothing from Chumphon actually goes to Phuket.) The next bus left in 5 hours and the next train left in 2. So, we went to the train station.

We bought our tickets and then walked to a nearby mall for lunch and entertainment. Then we headed back to the station 15 minutes before the train was schedule to arrive. We sat there and waited, and waited, and waited. It was one and a half hours late.

Remember, the train doesn’t go to Phuket. It only goes half way there. We had to get off at a town called Ban Thung Pho. The trains in Thailand only go north or south. If you want to go east or west, you need to get a bus. Phuket is unfortunately south-west of Koh Tao.

We did know this already. We even checked to make sure that there were public buses from Ban Thung Pho to Phuket that ran regularly through out the day. But, when we got to Ban Thung Pho, with our train being an hour and a half late, we missed the last bus by 20 minutes. Rather than spend the night in this little town, we paid about 100USD on a taxi to take us to our hotel in Phuket.

One of the stickers you get when you buy a ticket to Koh Tao

Whether you get an AB ticket or you travel independently in Thailand you will always have to wait. Buses, trains, and boats will be late. Things get cancelled. But, if you get the AB ticket, when something is late or cancelled it is someone else’s problem. If you are traveling independently, you will have to find yourself another bus or get a hotel or something… But with an AB ticket, someone else will worry about that. And, they are far better equipped to do so.

Conclusion: When your Thai trip includes multiple transfers, get a point A to point B ticket.

Part 2: Teenagers are not impressed

Look at the photos in the collage above. Nice, huh? We saw some amazing stuff in a 7 day period. But it wasn’t enough to hold the attention of 2 teenagers for very long.

Lets start with the hotel. It was super nice. It was a 3 bed room apartment that was one of the nicest places Mark and I have stayed in during our trip. It came with a huge pool that was shaped in a giant cross. There were also two other smaller pools in case you didn’t like being in that much water. There was a gym too. And, a tiny, tiny sauna that’s not worth mentioning…

What the kids enjoyed the most about the hotel wasn’t any of the pools. It wasn’t the gym. It wasn’t any of the balconies with views of the big pool. It was the sofa. They parked themselves on that sofa and never wanted to leave. They would have been happy spending the whole week eating Shin ramen and playing their gem quest games on their phones while sitting on that black leather sofa.

Mark’s cousin asked us to help her. She wanted this vacation to be a fun time for the kids. She wanted her children to have an adventure they would look back on and reminisce. Mark had lots of ideas. He was happy to plan lots of fun stuff for them to see and do.

Our hotel was a 10 minute walk from the beach. So, on their first morning in Phuket, we took the kids to the beach. They begrudgingly went and got into the water. “It’s too cold,” they shrieked in Korean. So we splashed one with water and dunked the other. When they weren’t laughing they were screaming. I think that’s how you know teenagers are having a good time.

The familial resemblance is in the hat.

After an hour, they were hungry. So we took them to the nearest fancy restaurant by the beach. The restaurant was a bit snooty. They made us rinse off the sand and salt water. We had to awkwardly wait outside the restaurant until we were dry to their satisfaction. And, they made everyone put shirts on. There was no sitting in just your swim suit at this place. I thought this was a bit much for a restaurant that was essentially a pavilion on the beach; a beach that is popular with swimmers.

So, imagine this: We’re at a fancy beach-side restaurant after only an hour of swimming. We’re having a good time and I’m looking forward to getting back into the water. The beach was really nice. One of the kids ask in Korean, “Can we go home now?”

So, we went home.

The next day Mark’s cousin wanted to go shopping. So, we took them to a really nice mall a tuk-tuk ride away from the hotel. It was not too far from another nice beach, so I figured we would go swimming afterwards. We spent about 2 or 3 hours at the mall then we went to a fancy restaurant for lunch. “Okay kids, are you ready to go swimming?” their mom asked in Korean after we had all finished the meal.

They weren’t. They were tired. They wanted to go home. So we did.

Mark and I tried out all the pools at the hotel. We spent the afternoon swimming while the kids sat on the sofa playing games on their phone.

Part 3: Group Tours

The next day we took them on a group tour of the Phi Phi islands. I would not recommend this type of tour group to most people. The whole day you’re herded on and off the boat going from site to site to site around the Phi Phi islands. You don’t get to stay in any spot for too long.

Mark, his cousin and I, had been to Koh Phi Phi before. We’ve seen everything we wanted to see. It was about the kids. Since they never wanted to do anything for longer than an hour, this drive by tour was perfect. We stopped at a beach, were given cookies and Pepsi, and sent off to swim wherever we could fit. (The beach was pretty crowded.) Before the kids could get bored, it was time to go.

We stopped at a spot in the ocean. We were given cookies and Pepsi, and then we jumped off the boat. We snorkeled around looking at fish. Before the kids could get bored, it was time to go.

They did give us more than just coconuts for lunch.

We had lunch at some beach. We didn’t have time to swim there but, we stayed just long enough for the kids to ask about going home.

We went to two or three more beaches. We were given more cookies and Pepsi, and left to swim where we liked. We would swim for less than an hour at each place. By this time, the kids would ask about going home as we got off the boat. “Last?” they asked at each stop.

Viking Bay

Of course, we could not just go home. We were at the mercy of the tour schedule. They kept asking, “When, when?”  The poor kids had to suffer through Viking Bay and Maya Beach not knowing when they could go home.

That night we took them to a very fancy restaurant. The photo above is the hallway downstairs of the restaurant. The place had a very beautiful view of the beach, but since we went there at night, we couldn’t see anything.

The kids had a nice time. One of them even tried a dish he had never had before. Up until this point they had been eating mostly pizzas, hamburgers, generic Asian food like fried rice that one could easily get in Korea. But the dish he ordered, was the most amazing version of that dish I had ever tried.

At restaurants the kids would usually order “safe” foods; things they knew they would like. Mark, his cousin, and I would order riskier dishes; things that looked interesting or stuff we thought the kids would like but would never order themselves. Then everyone would try a little bit of everyone’s meal and judge whose was the best.

The dish the boy got was called Tom Kha Gai. It’s a coconut base soup with meat and vegetables. The menus came in only Thai, English, or photo. Meaning, when he ordered the dish, he chose it from a photo, not from reading a description. So he had no idea what he was going to get.

He tasted his soup and declared it “delicious chicken soup”. Mark tried the soup and declared it “yummy pineapple soup”. Mark’s cousin dipped her spoon in the soup and said it was “good carrot soup”. The sister took a sip and thought in Korean “It’s pretty good for shrimp soup”. I had a sample and called it “great grape soup”. This soup had everything in it. It’s like the leftover soup Mark and I used to make at home, except we always stopped at fruit. But at this restaurant, they tossed grapes, lychees, pineapples, and raisins in the soup. The odd thing was, it worked. The soup was delicious!

But of course, in the middle of dessert the kids started begging once again for the one thing they really wanted. “Home?” asked one. “Home!” demanded the other.

So, we went home.

Sister – Remember all the fun we had on our trip to Thailand? / Brother – Oh, my favorite moment was going home from the restaurant.

The next day we took the kids to see a show. I’m not going to mention the name of it because it was both wonderful and awful at the same time. I have no photos of it, because photos weren’t allowed. When you go to watch the show, they make you put your phone and camera into a locker. The place is so crowded that putting your stuff in a locker could take a long time, so we all left our phones and cameras at home.

The place was magical. There were carnival games, groups of singers roaming the area. There was a fancy restaurant and many street food stalls. The place reminded me of a smaller version of Six Flags, but without any of the roller coasters.

But, there were some rides there… on elephants. There were long lines of people waiting to ride an elephant. To make the rides go faster, they put a lot of people on each elephant. The animals didn’t look happy.

We had really good seats for the show. There was singing, dancing, bad acting, and very good acrobatics. Everything was wonderful and then they paraded elephants on the stage. Mark looked into the eyes of a smaller, maybe teen-aged-sized elephant and he did not like what he saw. “She looks so sad. There were tears in her eyes. Those elephants should be in a field somewhere playing, not doing tricks.” Mark also thought that the small elephant’s eyes looked a bit glazed over, like she had been drugged.

It wasn’t just elephants. They had water buffaloes, goats, and chickens in one of the acts. It was just wrong. We did not expect animals to be a part of the show at all.

At the end of the show, I was in agreement with the kids. I wanted to go home.

After that, Mark found a way for the kids to have a better elephant experience. We took them to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The people there take in performing and working elephants and care for them. Here the elephants do not entertain. They do what they like, but we did get to feed them.

The kids enjoyed it here. I think it was their favorite thing on the whole trip. We could tell they really liked it too, because they went a whole 3 hours without asking about going home. They did ask eventually though.

The kids did have fun on the trip. They just had their own way of showing it. And we had fun with them. They were pretty easy-going. They would say they didn’t want to do this, go there, or eat stuff, but in the end they did do this, go there, and eat stuff. They did try everything that was offered to them. They just wanted to go home right after.

On the last day we had some adult swim. We left the kids at home on their beloved sofa and headed down to the beach. Mark and his cousin had some beers and I had some fruity drinks, then we went for a swim. We stayed out for a long time. There was no one around to remind us about going home.

They did enjoy the super cool Phuket tuk-tuks


Thailand
(ราชอาณาจักรไทย)
(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.
  • Visa laws change frequently.

Phone:

Data:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Scams & Dangers:

Notes:

  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (Phuket)

Basic Information

Website:

e-mail:

Cost:

  • 2,500 Baht/ Person
    • Includes the ride to and from your hotel & lunch

Hours:

  • Morning Visit
    • 06:30-07:30 hotel pick up
    • 13:30 Finish time
  • Afternoon Visit
    • 11.30 -12.00 hotel pick up
    • 17.00 Finish time

Notes:

  • Bring a swimming suit, sunblock, towel, bug spray, waterproof camera, etc.
  • Don’t bring anything you don’t want to get muddy or put it in your dry bag.

SeaStar

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • It depends on the package you get and what discounts you find to add on
  • It includes:
    • a hotel pick up and drop off from just about anywhere Phuket peninsula.
    • Breakfast snacks: unlimited juice, coffees, tea, toast, cookies, candy
      • It’s not a breakfast
    • Lunch
    • unlimited Pepsi and Pepsi products & water
    • unlimited cookies and snacks
    • some fruit

Hours:

  • It’s a whole day thing. We were picked up about 7:30 one morning and came back around 18:00~18:30…

Notes:

  • You pay extra to be in a smaller tour group, but is not really ever small.

Let’s say that 50 people sign up for a tour one day. Five pay for the super small tour making one group a 5-person group. Then 20 people pay for the middle sized group tour. They will be put into 2 groups with 10 people each. And the last 25 people buy the cheapest tickets, so they are put into the largest group with 25 people. So, technically there are 4 tour groups on 4 separate boats; one with 5 people, 2 with 10 people, and 1 with 25 people.

But, these boats all go to the same places at the same time. So, even if you’re in the most expensive and smallest tour group you will still be in a group with 50 other tourists whenever you’re not on your boat. And, the trip is not about the boat ride. You’re paying to see a few island beaches and to snorkel. BTW, snorkeling with 49 other people is very difficult. These are mostly novice snorkelers and they do not spread out. Swimmers were constantly kicking each other in the head.

There is a slight benefit to being in a smaller group out of the 50. The boat cannot leave a site until they have all their people. The bigger groups were always late leaving a site and late getting to the next site because they had more people to look for. On our trip the leaders of the bigger groups always started calling for their people to come back to the boat about 10 minutes before our group leader did. And we would always leave before them because it took so long for all their tourists to return to their boat.

Map:

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