It’s been a long, long time since I’ve visited Phuket. In my memory, it was always this over-touristy town that doesn’t have much personality but is still fairly enjoyable. But as with any well-established holiday destination, there’s plenty of choices for accommodation and activities, enabling visitors to tailor a variety of experiences. This time around, 18 of us (I know right) converged here to celebrate Ade’s 30th birthday, and the trip’s itinerary was packed with pretty exciting stuff thanks to Priya and her organising committee. So even though the destination was rather predictable, I still had a bloody good time! Here’s what made it amazing…

1. Head to Kamala Beach

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Meet Jenny, the resident pup.

Stay away from Patong Beach at all costs! We drove past it and it’s still the same old cheap, tasteless, touristy nonsense. Unless it’s your first time in Asia or Thailand, I wouldn’t recommend it at all. Stay at Kamala Beach instead, which is a rustic, languid village that’s much less populated. It doesn’t have as much choices for nightlife and restaurants as Patong, but it’s sure less sleazy and a whole lot more relaxing.

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And check out the killer sunset at this beach!

2. Pick a villa with a killer infinity pool

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All of us were packed into the gigantic Bann Chang Thai villa sourced from Airbnb. It’s a good place for huge groups as it has spacious common areas for dining and lounging, including an infinity pool that looks out into the nearby mountains. We spent most of our time there, laughing, drinking, and talking shit. A pity that it’s located in a private residential area, so loud parties after 11pm are prohibited. And while there are some jaw-droppingly gorgeous bedrooms in the villa, half of them were rather dated, and doesn’t justify the SGD120/night price tag for each person. But, that’s coming from a Singaporean who has experienced quite a few villas around Southeast Asia. The Europeans thought it was a stunning accommodation.

3. Visit Elephants

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So glad Priya suggested we drop by the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket! I’ve always wanted to visit elephant rescues. If you’re considering this, please don’t be put off by the SGD100 price tag. I know it’s a hefty cost, but a lot of funds are needed to feed these rescue elephants and keep them safe and happy. I loved every bit of the experience, feeding, petting, bathing, and playing in the mud with these gentle giants. It’s also the first time that I’ve seen an elephant sucking its own trunk (bottom right picture) like how a toddler sucks his thumb! Too cute.

4. Go diving

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The King Cruiser wreck stole the show with a wonderful display of white and purple living corals, which was home to many clown fish families and a giant puffer fish. The reef dive at Shark Point was another crowd-pleaser. I’m not the best at remembering which type of fish I saw — I’m a happy diver as  long as the visibility is good, as I just love kicking back, floating around, and enjoying the warm waters while swimming among colourful little fish. More footage to come when I find the time to edit the video clips!

5. Get on a Junk

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We spent one hot, hot afternoon out at sea on this boat that’s almost as fabulous as us. Had a real sweet time lounging out on the deck, and then watching the surreal sunset over the horizon. Our white-and-gold theme photographed so well too!

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There was a quick stop at a deserted island, where we could snorkel around and enjoy the private beach. The waters were cool and clear, making it a very nice dip after roasting in the searing afternoon heat.

6. Eat at Lillo Island

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We loved Lillo Island so much we kept going back for more. It’s located along Kamala Beach, and serves the best Thai food in the vicinity. I was too damn hungry and greedy each time we came here, so I only took a picture of my favourite dish there — Pad See Ew (seafood kway teow). It’s on the sweet side, and this oily plate of carbs was incredibly satisfying. Everything else we ordered was great too: pineapple rice, morning glory, basil chicken, clams, friend calamari, steamed fish… I’m sure everything else they have on their menu is authentic and tasty.

7. Dress Up

Ade picked a tribal theme for her birthday dinner, and everyone turned up in such colourful outfits! I’m usually very lazy with these dressing up parties, but at least the photos turned out great and the effort was worth it. Hah. Aren’t we fab?

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Some very lovely portraits by Yosh.

All in all, an amazing holiday with incredible people that turned a B-grade destination ace.

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