Sorry I’ve been slacking on the blog lately. While it’s been fun reliving our vacation with these recap posts, it takes a ton of time to sit down and actually write them – plus edit the photos! I promise I’ll try to get the rest of the posts up soon!
With that, are y’all ready for Part 2 of my Asia vacation recap? I’m picking up today with highlights from our time in Singapore and our first day in Phuket, Thailand. We covered a lot of ground in Phuket, so I think I’ll have to break it into two. If you missed my recap of our first 3 days in Bali, you can catch up here.
We spent only one full day in Singapore, so we squeezed in as much as we could. Our first stop was the Gardens by the Bay, a huge park right on the water. There are three main areas: the Supertree Grove, Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. The Supertree Grove is the craziest thing I’ve seen. It’s a series of these huge tree-like structures that are actually vertical gardens – they look like they came straight out of the movie Avatar. The trees are anywhere from 80 to 160 feet tall, and you can take an elevator up to a suspended walkway that runs from tree to tree.
We also stopped in the Cloud Forest, which is sort of like a bio-dome with all kinds of lush flowers and plants. It also boasts the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, standing 115 feet tall. It’s basically an educational exhibit to show you what actual cloud forests are like (which I totally didn’t know existed). We breezed through, since we had plenty more to pack in that day.
Across from the Gardens by the Bay is the Marina Bay Sands hotel. The architecture of this hotel is insane; it sort of looks like the pi symbol (π). We went up the bar on the 57th floor to grab a beer and check out the skyline. Apparently the hotel also has a bananas outdoor infinity pool on the roof, but sadly we didn’t get to indulge.
From there, we headed to the famous Maxwell Road Hawker Centre for lunch, which is in the middle of Singapore’s Chinatown. The Hawker Centre is made up of dozens upon dozens of street food venders, and has been featured on all sorts of travel shows. Even Anthony Bourdain has dined there! We were given a recommendation to stop at a vendor called Tian Tian for their famous “chicken rice” – which is as straightforward as it sounds: chicken, rice, a light gravy, a side of cucumbers and chili sauce. It was good, but not the most spectacular thing we ate on our trip.
We rounded our day in Singapore with a quick trip to Sentosa Island, which is a total tourist trap (I mean, it has a Universal Studios. ‘Nuff said.) But, you can take an aerial cable car to get there and it gives a nice view of the skyline. To cap off the night, we grabbed dinner with one of the hub’s friends who lives there (at a Mexican restaurant, of all places), took a river boat cruise to check out the skyline at night, then wandered around the trendy Clarke Quay neighborhood.
The next morning, we squeezed in a little early morning pool time at our hotel’s rooftop infinity pool (not nearly as bananas as Marina Bay Sands, but still cool), then headed to the airport for our flight to Phuket.
We got to our hotel in Phuket in the late afternoon, leaving us a little time to hit the beach before dinner. We stayed on Mai Khao beach, which is a very remote and quiet beach. The sand stretched as far as we could see, and we were maybe two of 10 people on the beach. It was easily one of the prettiest, quietest beaches I’ve been to.
Our first full day in Phuket was my favorite day of the entire trip. We booked a speedboat cruise to take us around Phang Nga Bay. The shuttle picked us up bright and early and took us to a marina on the east side of the island, where we boarded a boat with three other couples and headed out for the day.
When I think of Thailand, I always think of the pictures of massive islands jutting out from crystal blue water, and that’s exactly what we saw. Our first stop was on one of those islands — called Phanak Island. We anchored on the shore, and our guide handed each of us a flashlight before leading us to the entrance of a cave carved into the cliff right on the beach. We navigated through probably 30 yards of cave—wading through water that was nearly up to my knees in some areas—before exiting into this crazy mangrove lagoon in the middle of the island. He explained you can only visit the lagoon during low tide … and if you stay too long, you can get trapped in there – in 7 feet of water, no less! That’s pretty much all it took to convince us all to stop snapping photos and head back to the boat. FYI: Mangrove trees are ridiculously strong, despite looking like they could snap in half … if you don’t believe me, check out the pic below of the hubs doing chin-ups on one of the branches!
After our cave exploration, we cruised along the ocean enjoying the scenery before arriving at our next stop. From the boat, we hopped into canoes with some expert Thai paddlers, who took us on a little canoe trip through a mangrove forest. They pointed out the mudskippers and Fiddler crabs–which have one really large, colorful claw–that bury themselves in the mucky “mudflats” that the mangrove trees are rooted in. After about a half hour of canoeing, we headed back to the boat.
Our next stop was a quick photo opp at James Bond Island, which is definitely one of Phuket’s most well-known and most-photographed tourist stops. The island was featured in “The Man with the Golden Gun,” thus how it got its nickname (sorry for the TERRIBLE YouTube link … it was the best I could find). We didn’t get to go onto the island, but our driver at least stopped the engine as we cruised by so we could take some pics.
For a mid-day stop, we visited Koh Panyee, which is a Muslim fishing village built entirely on stilts. Most of the island itself is made up of huge vertical cliffs, so when the village was founded 200 years ago, they chose to build everything on stilts in the shallow water at the base of the cliffs. Our guide told us there are now 1,400 people living there, and they’ve built up shops, restaurants, a mosque, a school – and even a floating soccer “stadium” (i.e. a floating platform with goal lines and a couple of nets). We ate an insanely delicious lunch with our fellow speedboat passengers, then got a quick tour of the village and did some shopping. It was pretty incredible to see how the villagers live. Granted, they did have satellite TV, so it can’t be THAT bad!
With full bellies, we embarked on the longest leg of the day’s ride—a 45 minute cruise—to get to our final stop: the island of Koh Lahding, which is part of the Hong Islands off of Krabi, Thailand. We stopped at a secluded, picturesque little cove with beautiful blue-green water and traditional Thai longboats tied up on the shore. Our guide gave us an hour for snorkeling and beach time. I’m not the best snorkeler … I get a little panicky having to breathe through a tube and look straight down into the water. So I let the hubs handle all the underwater fish photos while I sunned on the beach and enjoyed the gloriously warm water.
Once our hour was up, we boarded the boat and headed back to the marina, where we were shuttled back to our hotel. That evening, we met up with some good friends of ours from Chicago who also happened to be vacationing in Phuket. It’s a surreal experience to be thousands of miles from home and seeing familiar faces! They stopped by our hotel for drinks and dinner, and we had blast catching up with them.
Our second full day in Phuket was equally as action-packed, so rather than make you keep reading today, I’ll share a separate recap in the very near future (I promise!). Check back soon to see the rest of our Phuket adventure!