Bittersweet Memories of Phuket

Siam Beach, Phuket

September 2010. I remember vividly how thrilled I was to go to Phuket for the first time. It was an unplanned trip and it was actually a surprise. I was living in Hong Kong at that time and my boyfriend (ex) was travelling in Thailand and Vietnam before heading back to Australia so he bought me a plane ticket to go and see him in Phuket. Little did I know it would be the last time I would be seeing him.

I was so excited because I will be in one of the most beautiful paradise in Asia with him. 

We haven’t seen each other for almost 6 weeks so imagine how my heart jumped when I saw him again. I couldn’t be any happier. Not only I was looking forward spending time with him but also exploring Phuket. He rented a motorbike for us to use in getting around the island. I have never ridden one and boy it was very cool! There are more motorbikes there than actual cars or taxis so I think it is mostly convenient to rent a motorbike to get to places.

Most of the beaches are close to each other so we went beach-hopping, played with the big waves. It was high tide at that time so we didn't swim as the waves were too strong. I was really impressed how pristine the beaches in Phuket are especially the pure, white sand they have. No wonder a lot of people go there every day. My favourite is Kata Beach where we got to watch the sunset together.

Karon Beach

Siam Beach- Interesting way to get down here by hiking. There were concrete steps that made it easier.

Siam Beach has a lot of rock formations

Sunset at Kata Beach

We even got to feed baby elephants! We visited the Butterfly Garden. We had dinner by the beach, watched the fireworks and fire dance performed by the locals. It was the perfect romantic-movie-like getaway.

As I head back to Hong Kong, I wasn't sad at all. I was happy to be in this beautiful paradise and take back all the sweet memories with me. It was in a way a beautiful way to part ways with him.


Six months after, I had to go back to Phuket by myself. I was supposed to be travelling with friends but they cancelled and I have already tried to rebook my ticket three times, trying to ask some friends to join me because I didn't want to go alone. Luckily, my younger brother was travelling to Bangkok with his officemates and good thing my flight to Phuket was actually via Bangkok (HK-BKK/BKK-PHUKET). So I decided to join them in Bangkok and head off to Phuket after 2 days.

It was raining when I landed and it seemed the weather was accompanying my lonely heart for this trip. It was an emotional torture for me to go back to a place where I’ve last been with my ex-boyfriend. Bittersweet. We have broken up a few weeks before my second trip to Phuket due to hardships and all the drama that comes with the long distance relationship. I guess anyone who has been there can relate. I actually thought of just cancelling the trip but I was glad I didn’t.

I have travelled alone before but this trip I guess was the loneliest. I try not to see the same places I've seen with him so I don't remember. I just try not to remember. I tried different things that I never thought I would do when I was with him. I met good people along the way and hear their own sad stories. Suddenly, the same place can look differently when you are sad. The same sunset I have watched with him suddenly just becomes an ordinary one, the fireworks don't seem to have that same spark, the waves suddenly become calm and quiet.

First thing I did arriving at my hotel was to look for any activity I can do to be occupied. I told myself I won't be wallowing over a heart break in a beautiful place like this. I have to try to heal somehow. And as they said, the cure for any kind of pain is salt - sea, sweat or tears. I chose the sea.

So I signed up for a whole day island hopping tour. 

I woke up very early the next day because I didn't want to miss my ride. It seems like too that the weather has been one with me on that day - the sun was out and the sky was so clear. It was indeed a lovely weather to do island hopping. I was one of the first few passengers to be on board. As the driver drove around to different hotels, picking up guests that were on the same day trip as mine, I noticed that I was the only one going solo. Couples and more couples started to fill the van. I was feeling awkward, stupid and alone. I was telling myself it was the "greatest idea” to surround myself with happily in love couples when I was trying to move on. Just great. Just what I needed. But how was I supposed to know? I thought there were other solo travellers whom I can be friends with?

Arriving at the port, we waited for a while before we board the speedboat that will take us island hopping. I was a bit relieved when I saw there were still a lot of other groups (most probably from other travel companies) who are doing the island hopping too. So as soon as we got off from the van, I separated myself from the group of honeymooners and found myself sitting on the waiting area. I scanned the room to see if there were other solo travellers like me. But fate was either playing with me or really trying to help me in a good way because all I saw were more couples and families. Great!

It really didn't bother me at first that I was island hopping by myself. I kept telling myself that it is OK to be alone sometimes and that I could still have fun. Mind over matter. Self-talk. I only had myself to convince anyway. You know that feeling on the first day of school and you enter the classroom already filled with other students and you try to scan the room for familiar faces that you can sit beside with? That's exactly how I felt boarding the speedboat but only this time, I didn't know any one of them. So I decided to sit in between two couples. The younger Asian ones were on my right and to my left were a group of Caucasian couples who then later I found out were from Australia. 

The speedboat ride took around 20-30 minutes before we reached our first stop. We didn't get off the boat on most of it actually. On the bumpy ride, I kept covering my face for the splashes of water when the Caucasian couples noticed me. I guess they were wondering why I kept covering my face when we will all be eventually wet. But they were actually wondering if I was travelling alone and so they couldn't help but to ask. So I muttered a shy "yes." Either they admired my bravery or they pity me, but I was thankful they offered me to join them. I was thinking of saying no because I just wanted to have a quiet time by myself. It didn't bother me until I thought this is actually a good opportunity to meet other people and hey who's going to take my photos? I was selfish I know. But honestly, I am thankful for these wonderful people who made me part of their group even for just a short period of time.

The sky was so clear on that morning so you can really see how green and blue the colours of the waters are under the sparkling sun. We had our lunch at Maya Beach and did snorkelling at Phi Phi Islands. I am not a good swimmer. I was excited and afraid at the same time. But good thing, the Aussie couples were with me and was checking up on me from time to time so I felt more comfortable. There was not much fish to see in this snorkelling trip so I was a bit disappointed.

Maya Beach

New found Aussie friends posing with our tour guide

After lunch, we just relaxed and had some cocktails by the beach. I got to talk with one my new found friends. She asked about me - on what I do for a living and why I was travelling alone. I was a bit conscious on how much should I share about myself to a total stranger. I wasn't used to just meeting people randomly and felt the need to share my innermost thoughts and feelings. But then she started opening up about their trip. She said she and her husband filed for a divorce but they wanted to try it out again so they decided to go to Thailand and rekindle the spark. She said it was a bit tough but then the trip is helping them somehow to make one of the most crucial decisions of their lives. After hearing what she said, I felt a bit embarrassed about my own heartache story and thought if I should even share it with her. It was simply not even close in comparison to the degree of what they were going through. They are married. It is a lifetime commitment. What I had was a 18-month relationship with a guy who I thought was going to be “the one” but just turn out to be just another one. I think she sensed I wanted to share something too but I was hesitant so she politely asked. I told her about my recent break up story and about how this trip was actually a bit hard for me given the fact that we have last been together in Phuket.  For some unusual reasons, I actually felt a bit better after telling my story to her, who is not a stranger any more. It was like I have been carrying something heavy on this trip and suddenly it has been lifted off from me and I felt this great sense of relief. She actually said that she thinks the earth was in some sort of platonic plate movement at that time that actually affected most of the people’s relationships.  It was the first time I have ever heard of that theory but I actually kind of wanted to believe it. You know when sometimes you can’t get a sense of what has just happened in your life, what went wrong, was it anyone’s fault at all? You just try to find some reasoning beyond what is presented to you and you try to cling on some kind of thought that it was the Universe who conspired it all.

After that we headed back to the port and called it a day. We parted ways and exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch. I only heard from them twice and after that I am not sure if they have patched things up. I hope they did.

The next day, I had not arranged any activities to do. I just decided to walk down to the beach and eat there. Karon Beach was only a 10 minute-walk away from the hotel I was staying in.

I only had a magazine, a book, a camera and a sunblock to accompany me. I wanted to cry - cry because the view was just too beautiful to be seen alone. Because I was alone and lonely.

After having a nap and eaten my lunch, I decided to check out Patong Beach. It was really loud in there, a lot of bars. This is definitely not the right beach to relax. There were a lot of water activities too like para sailing, jet skiing, etc. I rented a beach chair and a beach umbrella and found a perfect spot to just lay down and watch other people do their own activities. This beach is too busy and crowded to read a book or relax, you'll easily get distracted. There were a lot of locals trying to sell you different stuffs. I ended up getting a henna tattoo. This beach was a good distraction to my loneliness.

Patong Beach
Patong Beach

Patong Beach

This was my last day in Phuket. A part of me wanted to stay longer because I didn't want to go back to Hong Kong just yet. It was my lowest moment of desperation - trying to be in a place where you can't see anything that would remind you of a broken heart. I thought about a lot of things. I thought mostly about him. I was missing him and I was missing the opportunity to explore more of Phuket. So I think Phuket was a bittersweet trip. 

It took a lot of time to heal and finally say I am OK. And I really believe that by travelling by yourself, you get to discover a lot of things about you that you can't easily figure out when you are surrounded by a sea of people. Travelling alone makes you think clearly and gives you time to deal with your emotions. A different environment gives you a different perspective about the things you are dealing with in your life.

I truly believe that I was meant to travel alone back to Phuket to deal with this fully  by myself and having met that couple was arranged for me to realise that I am never alone in this kind of battle. That other people too are experiencing the same, if not, even extreme level of hurt. That another heartbreak is just part of the journey and there are still a lot of other things to look forward to, a lot of places to see and a lot of things in my life that I should feel blessed about having. A lost love didn’t actually made me weak, it made me stronger.  And that if I ever felt lost again, I would go back to travelling to find my way back. Travelling heals. And I will always have Phuket to thank for this experience and the realisations I had that I am definitely sure I wouldn’t had had I not went back to Phuket.
Sunset at Kata Beach