This was a magical time. After a year and a half of very little travelling, I was finally able return to Asia and resume my adventures!
A long journey
I had plans to travel to Thailand in March 2021, but the quarantine stopped me. I was required to spend 2 weeks in a hotel room. This was unimaginable for me - I can't spend even a day without going outside! I would've gone crazy.
So, I decided to wait until this was no longer required.
Fast forward to late September 2021. It finally happened: the Sandbox was introduced. Vaccinated travels could enter Thailand without having to quarantine! Just spend 7 days in Phuket, and then you're free to travel anywhere in the country.
I immediately called the embassy and started the process of getting a visa.
It took nearly a month to sort out everything - but I got all the documents I needed.
And on the 14th of November 2021, I got on a flight to Phuket!
I can't describe how happy I was to be on that plane. A long haul flight, Qatar Airlines (I always fly with them to Asia), transferring at the Doha airport - all of this felt incredibly exciting! My old nomadic life was finally coming back!
Arriving in Phuket and entering Thailand
I slept well on the plane. I woke up and opened my eyes to this:
It may not look that exciting - but it made me cry. We were flying over Phang Nga. We were about to land in Thailand!!
I had not made it yet. I had to clear immigration and be admitted into the country.
Also, I had to do a PCR test. If that came out positive, I would have to spend 10 days in a hospital (even if I didn't have any symptoms) and pay out of pocket. It could get expensive!
So obviously I was quite nervous.
Luckily, clearing immigration was fast and straightforward.
I got my documents checked, my passport stamped, and a PCR test done. Then I was out of the airport!
A taxi was waiting for me to take me to my SHA hotel, where I had to stay in my room and wait for the PCR test results.
While driving through Phuket, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting it to be overdeveloped, touristy. I didn't think I would like it. But it was actually green and full of nature! And it seemed very quiet and calm without the tourists.
Soon I arrived at my hotel. I had splurged on a nice room. I was quite happy with it. There as a nice working area too.
I passed out on the nice bed almost immediately. I was exhausted from the flight.
I woke up a few hours later to an email that my PCR test was.... negative!! Yes!
I was free to leave my room now! It was already dark, and was tired and jetlagged, but I went on a walk. I couldn't wait to start exploring!
I sat on a small beach in front of my hotel. It was 28C. There was a banana roti stand nearby. I was in Thailand. I still couldn't believe I was here. I was holding back happy tears.
Then I went back to my hotel and passed out again.
The next day I woke up and had an amazing tropical breakfast at my hotel.
Then I went to explore!
I was staying near Patong. That would normally be packed with tourists, but today it looked like this:
Beautiful white sand beaches, mostly empty and calm.
I walked along the whole beach, stopping to go in the water and relax on the sand. I had lots of fun and enjoyed the sun, and the beautiful views!
Everything still felt like a dream.
Exploring an empty Phuket
The next morning I walked to a little motorbike rental place next to my hotel, and rented a Scoopy. I was so happy to be on a scooter again!!
I spent the day driving around and exploring.
It was rainy, but beautiful.
I finished the day with amazing street food: Tom Yum soup, mango sticky rice, and an orange juice with ginger.
I barely saw any people today. It felt so calm. I loved the tranquility.
Definitely not something I would expect from Phuket, but I was really enjoying it.
Exploring the south
I spent the following days exploring the island on my scooter.
The roads were nice and big, and mostly empty. I loved it. I could drive for hours.
I was alone the whole time, and I was enjoying it a lot. Just me, the roads, the empty beaches, the nature, the nice views.
First I explored the south.
I went to Ya Nui beach and I immediately loved it. A small beach that felt like a pirate hideaway. I sat here drinking coconuts, snorkelled, tanned, and just enjoyed the place a lot.
I also checked out the view from Prompthep cape.
I had lunch in a café which became an instant favourite: Home Grain. I came back here many times. It was also good to work from.
And I ended the day with a beautiful sunset at Karon beach.
Exploring the north
The next day I drove north.
I visited Surin beach and Banana beach. They were both beautiful. I drank coconuts, played in the waves, collected pretty flowers, met happy beach dogs, ate a banana pancake, and relaxed a lot. Perfect day.
I also found a sweet treehouse cafe, where I relaxed after the beach with a nice mango smoothie.
Extending my stay in Phuket
My 7 days in the SHA hotel were about to be over.
Originally, I had planned to go to Koh Phangan next. But it was rainy season there. Every day, I was watching videos of non-stop rain, and the island getting almost flooded.
So I changed my plans, and decided to stay in Phuket.
I loved how calm it is. I knew that soon the tourists would start coming back, and all this would change. I would never see Phuket so empty and quiet again.
Also, I had to work.
So I booked an Airbnb in the south of the island.
Daily life in Rawai
I spent the next 3 weeks living in a condo in Rawai.
My balcony had a nice view of the beach in front. Every morning I had my coffee here while watching the sunrise.
I ate lots of tropical fruit, which I bought from the local vendors near my house. It's one of my favourite things to when I'm in the tropics.
I also found a nice supermarket where I could buy healthy food and cook at home.
I spent my mornings at Ya Nui and Nai Harn, snorkeling and enjoying the beach.
I worked in the afternoons, on European time.
Whenever I could, I watched the sunset at the beach!
It was a quiet and happy life.
On Sundays, I went to the night market in Phuket Town.
I loved the lively atmosphere - there were lots of stalls selling all kinds of food, clothes, souvenirs, trinkets. There were also performers and live music.
Kayaking at Ya Nui
As I mentioned before, Ya Nui quickly became one of my favourite beaches.
There were kayaks for rent here. One morning, I rented one and kayaked to the tiny island nearby.
This island was so small, it only had one very little beach. I pulled the kayak out there and climbed the rocks around it. Then I went snorkelling in the water and saw tons of parrotfish. A fun little adventure.
Driving up to the Big Buddha
On my last day in Phuket, I did a fun little trip to the Big Buddha.
The Buddha statue itself was nice, but not that impressive.
I really enjoyed the drive there, and the surroundings.
There were beautiful views over the entire island.
I also made some lovely feline friends here :)
I finished the day with a beautiful sunset at Promthep cape, and then dinner in a cute little restaurant at Ya Nui beach :)
Some closing thoughts
I really enjoyed the quiet and relaxing month I spent alone in Phuket.
I loved the empty beaches and all the nature.
It was also great for getting a lot of work done in the evenings.
I came back to Phuket 3 months later, and it had changed completely. The tourists had returned, everything was open and full of people again. This is good and I'm happy for the local businesses.
However, I'm also very happy and grateful that I was able to see an empty Phuket without tourists.
It was an amazing start to my Thailand adventure :)