“You want me to ride a what?”
“uhhhh huh…have you driven one of these before?”
“What if we fall?”
“What if we crash?”
And so began the never-ending “what if” questions I began to ask my boyfriend before I finally agreed to let him drive us around Phuket, Thailand on a motorbike.
Mind you, the last time I was on any motorbike/motorcycle of any kind, was when I was 6 years old in Colorado and my Uncle John drove me on his from their house to the end of the driveway. That’s it. I feel much more safe in my Honda automatic CRV with four doors, four windows and heavy exterior! Alas however, Eddie somehow magically convinced me that this was a great idea. It was also EXTREMELY cheap (350 Baht=10.6 USD for the day).
I was skeptical, terrified and pretty sure we wouldn’t make it through the day at first, but it ended up being one of the greatest decisions we had throughout the whole trip. I hopped on back, held on tight and off we went!
One of the best things about renting a motorbike and driving yourself is the fact that you can stop ANYWHERE. (Warning: Probably not the best idea to yell STOP!!! as loud as you can to your driver when you see something exciting. I was scolded with a very firm “Hillary don’t scare me like that!” when I yelled at Eddie to stop because I saw an elephant. Whoops.
The other great thing about traveling this way is that you can make your own agenda. You can bypass things you don’t want to see and can stop and find hidden gems. That’s exactly what we wanted to do. We were able to see over 6 different beaches within 6 hours and find beautiful places that were not in our tour book or located on our map.
Karon Viewpoint and Beach
The beach itself was stunning and our favorite beach of the day. I cannot get over the colors of the waters here in Thailand. No pictures or video can replicate it and no words can accurately describe it.
The most surprising thing about all these beaches were that they were TOPLESS! In all my travels thus far I’ve never been to a clothing optional beach. The best thing was the day before I left for Thailand, my dear old dad told me not to wear “skimpy” bikinis since people in Thailand were very conservative. Wrong dad! The other piece of info I got from a fellow traveller I met on the beach? “Watch out for the women walking around in the G-strings. They’re the Russians. And their husbands are in the mafia. And the mafia controls Phuket.” NOTED!
Although this view of Patong is gorgeous, the actual beach itself was not all that impressive. While Patong is one of the most well-known beach areas in Phuket, it was polluted and way too crowded for our taste. Great night life however and lots of outdoor festivals and markets. definitely a place for the 18-30 crowd if you want to party in Thailand. The local motto of Patong, “mai pen rai” which translates into “Don’t worry, be happy” certainly fits!
This is my favorite hidden spot that Eddie and I found all day! It’s not even located on any of the maps that we had but is a small coral beach area we found while biking. It doesn’t have enough sand space to sunbathe and the water is filled with corals and seashells so also not the best for swimming, but we saw tons of snorkelers there! Definitely a must see if you can find your way to it!
Laem Sing Beach
Another amazing secret gem! This beach is completely hidden by palm trees and giant boulders. You have to go down these MASSIVE steps to make it to the beach area…I mean MASSIVE…thick, wide crooked not fun steps, but it’s worth it when you get down there! This beach is made both for the laid back tourists and party expats. There’s a few bars and restaurants right on the beach alone with great music and lots of laughter. This beach area however doesn’t seem to keen on safety–parasailing and jet skies were taking off from the same area that people were swimming in! It didn’t seem to matter however since everyone was having so much fun and enjoying the beautiful scenery and laid back vibe.
Rawai Beach is the one beach that we saw on our trip where you can still see the after effects of the 2004 Tsunami. This beach is not made for swimmers or sunbathers, but rather the whole shoreline is filled with boats and is very much a “working” area.
Nai Harn Beach
Nai Harn beach is where our hotel was located and is an amazing small town. The beach, once again, was beautiful and not very crowded (but topless!) and had plenty of seafood and western restaurants located on their small strip. Sunsets there were incredible.
Nai Harn luckily hasn’t been overtaken by big hotels, new fancy restaurants, etc due to the fact that Wat Nai Harn Temple is located 100 yards behind the beach. I want to say this with complete respect in mind, but this is the creepiest Temple I’ve ever been to. It seemed almost abandoned, litter everywhere and random smoke fires seeming to appear from nowhere. Apparently it was rebuilt some years ago and is still active, but we saw almost no sign of life there.
All in all? Eddie was right and renting a motorbike for the day was an incredible idea.
Tips for first time motorbike riders
Hold on TIGHT!
Wear a helmet-NO EXCEPTIONS
If the driver leans slightly to the right or left, lean slightly with him
Do not yell STOP unless it is an emergency
Watch out for the local Thai police–they will ticket you for not having an international license
DO NOT DRIVE DURING RUSH HOUR 5pm-7pm (SCARIEST PART OF MY DAY)
If you’re driving after dark, make SURE you know where you’re going (We got lost for approx 3 hours at the end of our trip)
If you have overprotective parents, tell them about renting a motorbike AFTER you have already done so