There is nothing quite akin to the pleasure of stumbling upon an incredible new destination completely by accident, and with the amount of research I indulge myself in, it’s a rare find to be completely blindsided by somewhere. But tucked away just out of view of Phuket International Airport, I was delighted by Naiyang Beach.
After a number of years of travel in and out of Thailand, I had never before ventured to the Southern corners. Visions of relentless Tuk Tuk drivers and over-crowded, over-priced tourist nightclubs pervaded, and many plans ended up changed. Permanently scarred by a rough and budget whirlwind visit to Kuta Beach Bali a number years ago, I’d been in no hurry to repeat.
I have no doubts that parts of Phuket Island, most notably Patong Beach, are more like the Phuket I was imagining. Despite having lived in Thailand before, coming to the South felt like discovering an entirely new country where I got to reimagine an entirely new side to a country I am hopelessly in love with.
Research, however, is not exactly how I stumbled upon Naiyang. We were simply seeking a quiet place, close to the airport to rest our heads after a day of flying. Nai Yang is right next to the airport, and one of those rarities in Southeast Asia – laid back, small-town, gorgeous beach, exceptional food and plenty of sandy spots to watch the sunset.
Phuket island spans 576 square kilometres and is made up of the largest island in Thailand, as well as 32 smaller islands fringes with Andaman Sea shorelines.
A night was well spent in Naiyang paddling in the clear waters and looking for a tasty meal. After wandering past the decidedly more tourist-orientated seafood joints, we found ourselves at the end of the ane, sitting in a small restaurant looking out to a karaoke bar. Over the fence led further afield to derelict condos and overgrown scrub. The super friendly lady with excellent English served up one of the best tom kah gai’s I’ve had to date. The visit was delightful, and far too short.
The next morning it was time to make our way toward our final destination of Ao Nang, a trip we had to take via Phuket Town. We opted for the cheap and easy government bus to get there. It took a little bit of research to understand this bus system – one that seems to be kept just a little out of reach from tourists. For a start, you can only catch it from the domestic terminal, meaning that any international arrivals will not instinctively see it, and will instead be whisked away into the chariot of a completely overpriced taxi or tour bus service. It took around an hour of driving through gorgeous little Thai villages and tropical forests before we reached our destination: Bus Station #1 in the heart of Phuket town.
Much like Phuket region itself, Phuket town was somewhere I had very little previous knowledge of. In fact, simply the word Phuket conjured up images of drunk teenagers of the Australian persuasion and relentless touts pawing at my wallet. And, much like in Naiyang, I was horribly mistaken. Once again, Phuket town is the central hub – it is a place to transit out to the islands and party beaches of the region. Phuket Town is absolutely charming. We found an abundance of excellent, cheap food and interesting markets to walk about, the accommodation was affordable and we scored a spot right next to the bus station, all ready to depart again tomorrow enroute to Krabi.