This is what my dad affectionately tells Mum quite often (much to her annoyance) and probably has done since they met. “If your dad was a fisherman we would be spending two weeks in a fishermen’s village with the white beaches and the sunshine, and not with the mosquitoes.” When it comes to organising our trips to Thailand especially, as much as he loves the quirks and realness of rice-farm country life, the amazing landscape it inhibits; and it really is something to behold – the beaches of Siam possess a beauty that is simply incomparable.
Kim and I had never been this far south in Thailand before, but for Mum and Dad, it marked a glorious comeback; a return after thirty years. Whilst Dad likes to wind Mum up for not being the daughter of a fisherman, she in turn is partial to reminding him of their TWO anniversaries they must celebrate every year (one for their traditional Thai wedding, the other for the British registry); obviously expecting twice as many gifts/meals out/flowers as is customary.
This trip was therefore a little more significant for our family than the times before, since The Rents were celebrating their anniversary (or should I say one of them) at the very beach they shared their honeymoon 30 years ago, and even though they are, and will remain to be as corny as ever, their paradise hideaway is a tad different than before to say the least.
Google Phuket and you will find a vast catalogue of images portraying a coast that is so perfect and of untouched beauty that you could ever have imagined. The trouble is the amount of people who have done just that. Tourism in the area is booming, even after the tragedy that was the tsunami of 2004, Thailand maintains its industry in the south very well, to the point that the place has become spoilt a little. I don’t mean to sound negative or in any way ungrateful; Phuket is spectacular, and Kata beach, where we stayed, is still one to rival others – the only thing is that so many people have succumbed to its allure, and because of this it has become tainted somewhat. In actual fact, before arriving at our destination, Dad had read online that only recently, action had been taken to remove makeshift bars, parasols and deckchairs from Kata beach; so it had been even more inundated with tourists before we had even arrived. The intake of visitors from across the globe has created a good, reputable name for the south of Thailand, and through this, the rest of the country, which is great, but seeing the slight disappointment in Mum and Dad’s eyes on reminiscing prompted me to question what the now-booming destination was like in times gone by.
‘It’s changed so much.’
It was a little sad to see, and in all honesty, it made me miss Hua Hin, where we lived for a short while; it was becoming a little touristy, but not on the same level as Phuket, that it had changed completely.
Saying this, if you look close enough (or follow your stomach), you will find portals into the past; hidden gems in Phuket which took Mum and Dad straight back to their heyday. Two days into our seaside holiday, we came across The Kitchen Restaurant, which pretty much became home for the rest of our stay. Everything about this place is authentic, and to be honest, it started to feel more like eating with family than dining out; the cocktails were superb, the food even better (THEY HAD MANGO AND STICKY RICE AND THIS MEANS EVERYTHING) and the establishment itself is open air; the original Thai Kitchen. The atmosphere created by bamboo walls and a tin/thatched roof combined with the 80’s ex-pat playlist made for many an enjoyable evening. When Carabao’s ‘Made in Thailand’ played I thought the Rents were going to cry.
Apart from the excellent menu and outstanding hospitality, the Kitchen Restaurant offers cooking classes and tours, and even taxis guests to and from the restaurant provided they are staying within the local vicinity. I can’t express how grateful we were to the restaurant for not making us climb that damned hill to the hotel. #SAVED
My dad, being a bloke, made sure we looked for the nearest waterhole while strolling about on holiday. As we ambled through the town in 40 degrees (40 DEGREES, PEOPLE!), we stumbled upon a bar that emitted the same kind of vibes The Kitchen had; back to the old school, hippy, travellers-and-Thais-coming-together type atmosphere. There was bamboo on the walls, foreign coin within the tables and a man on a stool with an acoustic guitar.
Even though it has changed enormously by the sounds of it, Phuket still has its charm, and we all enjoyed our break by the beach (I think Mum was very content with being treated to many dinners out). Although super cringe, I loved seeing the Rents in their element, and because of this, part of me really wishes I could have seen them together at the time when the places I’ve mentioned were not hidden treasures on the island, but instead made up the majority of it.