How to Have the Worst Day Ever in Phuket (and How to Turn it Around)

You would think that two travel bloggers traveling together would have everything down to a science, but on our first trip together, Mike and I seem to be working hard to prove that this is not the case. It seems that no matter how much experience you have, pitfalls, errors and just dumb luck always throws itself in your path.

This was particularly true of our first full day of traveling alone together. Having been to Thailand before, Mike told me (correctly) that Phuket is really not that nice of a place and we should minimize our time there. The plan was to spend one day exploring the island via motorbike, spend the night, then head out to Ko Phi Phi in the morning. What followed can only be described as one really rough day:

Steps for a Perfect Bad Day

  1. Take an overnight bus from Bangkok to Phucket. Sleep maybe 1/13 of the trip and spend the rest of the night counting headlights in the dark.
  2. Arrive in Phucket at the peak of high season with no accommodations. Walk about a kilometer in the searing heat with your bloated backpack slowly cutting off your air supply. Phuket hotels are plentiful, but all seem to be entirely booked. Finally find a guest house with vacancies and a fair price. Marvel that it’s actually pretty nice.
  3. Upon arriving in your room, drop your backpack on the floor, shattering a bottle of red wine inside. You bought that wine in Hunter Valley, Australia and lugged it around for an entire month- you were planning to drink it tonight. Watch in disbelief as seemingly endless amounts of wine seep through the entire contents of your pack. Resist the urge to burst into tears as you empty everything you own onto the bathroom floor while Michael frantically mops up the disaster zone.
  4. Accidentally lock passports and wallet in a broken, practically impenetrable safe. Force management to come open.
  5. Successfully rent motorbike for just 200 baht. Realize motorbiking is actually super fun in an I-could-smash-my-skull-at-any-moment kind of way. Drive for maybe half an hour- get as far as Patong Beach and promptly be pulled over by a terminally grumpy policeman who demands loudly in Thai to see drivers license. Realize your boyfriend left his license in the guesthouse for safe keeping. Watch cop confiscate bike.

  6. Walk a rough kilometer, past scores of prostitution bars and harassing tuk tuk drivers to police station. Watch policeman leisurely eat his lunch before dealing with you. Pay no-license fin of 300 baht ($10). Walk a kilometer back to beach to bail out the motorbike.
  7. Bike back to guesthouse to retrieve license and realize that somehow you’ve again locked it in the impenetrable broken safe. Give up on life.

And how to turn it around:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Get owner (who now thinks you are a moron) to come unlock the safe. Retrieve license.
  3. Get back on the bike. Take a new route this time; a random turn off the main highway that leads you to a street completely absent of tourists and full of local Thai going about their business. It’s peaceful here, and interesting.
  4. Eventually find your way up a very large hill at a lookout point where you can see this:

  5. Watch your first Thai sunset over Phrom Thep beach.
  6. Stop for dinner at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the harbor. Eat spicy curry and drink out of coconuts.
  7. Drink a beer. Realize that your boyfriend and you survived your first absolutely disastrous day of travel together without murdering each other. Think maybe things weren’t so bad after all.

Looking back on the day none of the things that happened were all that bad (even the red wine spill-most everything survived unscathed) but when you are there in the moment it feels as if the world is ending piece by piece. It’s important to be able to step back and make the right choices to keep the day, or the trip, from becoming a total wash. So much of getting through the day, in travel or back at home, is how we choose to react to the curve balls thrown our way.

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68 Responses to How to Have the Worst Day Ever in Phuket (and How to Turn it Around)

  1. Anthony January 9, 2011 at 12:43 PM #

    Oh my GOD! Glad to see that you still have your sense of humour after that and it turned out nice for you both in the end.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 8:51 AM #

      Days like that all you can do is have a sense of humor!

  2. Cam January 9, 2011 at 1:11 PM #

    Now that’s an adventure! Don’t you love how most Thai police officers are only after the tourist dollar? At least you turned the day around… and now you have a great travel story to tell!
    I was pick-pocketed by a prostitute in Bangkok, which wasn’t funny at the time, and now its become one of my best travel stories – well worth the 2,000 baht that was lost.

  3. The good old Thai police! You can actually negotiate on the price of the fine for future reference. I once got clamped in Bangkok for parking on the wrong side of the road. When I got to the police station I tried asking for a discount (300 Baht fine) and to my huge surprise, he knocked 100B off the price!
    Getting off the Tourist trail is always the way to go in Thailand. The locals are so helpful. Even if they don’t speak English, they will do their best to help you out. Enjoy the rest of the trip, and email me if you need any advice about the rest of Thailand.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 8:58 AM #

      that is awesome! I don’t think that the police officer we dealed with was much in the mood to strike a deal though…

  4. Virtual GDBK January 9, 2011 at 2:26 PM #

    Hey. This sounds like a classic day in Phuket! The first time I went there, I sprained my ankle so bad I couldn’t walk for 4 days, and the second time fell deathly ill for what felt like the whole trip. Neither of these instances Phuket’s fault, exactly, but for me the place is cursed….. Thank goodness there are so many other wonderful Thai islands, there’s really no reason to go here……. !!

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:01 AM #

      ouch! yeah, I kind of get the feeling not a lot good happens there.

  5. Cailin January 9, 2011 at 2:50 PM #

    That is one intense day!!!! I’m glad you guys survived it and am excited to hear more about your travels together! 🙂

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:06 AM #

      Thanks Cailin! if we survived this day I think we’ll probably make it ok!

  6. Gray January 9, 2011 at 2:59 PM #

    This is the truth of travel: Sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes they go right. I’m amazed nothing was ruined by the red wine. That’s luck!

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:07 AM #

      Yup- i think usually about 70% wrong and 30% right in my experience.

  7. happyfamilytravels January 9, 2011 at 4:06 PM #

    Way to turn it around!! Although, I almost cried when I read #3 on the Bad Day list!!!

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:07 AM #

      Oh beleive me, I cried for both of us!

  8. Abby January 9, 2011 at 5:05 PM #

    Awww I’m so glad your trip turned around — I actually had a blast in Phuket. I may or may not have cried when your red wine was spilled… OMG. You two are so cute — I can’t wait to read more about your trip!

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:14 AM #

      Thanks! Yeah that was pretty damn tragic.

  9. Rebecca January 9, 2011 at 5:57 PM #

    Oh no, that IS a bad day! But the best thing to take with you when travelling – your sense of humour! Plus, you can write a post about it later!

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:14 AM #

      that was pretty much my thought all day “at least it will make a good blog post!”

  10. Christine January 9, 2011 at 6:26 PM #

    So rough! I can just imagine breaking the bottle of wine–one of those things that’s so awful that you want to cry and laugh at the same time. But it’s all about attitude–and when it’s that bad, it can only get better! Much better to start off a trip on a bad note and watch it improve than the other way around 🙂

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:16 AM #

      Yeah, we’ve got nowhere to go but up from here!

  11. Candice January 9, 2011 at 8:47 PM #

    Hehe okay that does sound pretty unfortunate, but damn, that sunset totally makes up for it.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:16 AM #

      Yeah it’s kind of hard to argue with that…

  12. Caroline in the City January 9, 2011 at 9:10 PM #

    That SUCKS but I’m glad you were able to turn it into a great day! I know it’s difficult.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:17 AM #

      Yeah sometimes taking the optimistic route is a tough choice. Usually pays off though!

  13. Jamie in Phuket January 9, 2011 at 10:14 PM #

    The turn it around part sounds better. I have lived in Phuket for more than 10 years and still enjoy taking the back roads. That view is great, isn’t it? The road you took is on the west side of Panwa Cape, one of my favourite parts of Phuket – and one of our favourite restaurants is close by, a little place called ‘the Beach Bar’. Renting a scooter in Phuket – good idea if you are comfortable riding one in unpredictable traffic.


    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:25 AM #

      Oh how cool that you recognize it! I’m sure if you live in Phuket there’s a lot to see and discover that one day just can’t cover.

  14. Michael January 9, 2011 at 10:51 PM #

    That view and sunset are the perfect remedy for a stressful morning!

  15. Lauren Fritsky January 10, 2011 at 2:42 AM #

    Oh Steph, this is quite the story, and the way in which you told it–succinctly and simply–is perfect. At least you and Mike know you can still hang after a day like that.

  16. Mike January 10, 2011 at 3:50 AM #

    Wow! Sounds like one bad day. Glad it turned around. This just makes for great stories for when you return. I remember being chased by the police in Spain, later getting lost in Spain for two hours, and many more “adventures”.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:27 AM #

      yeah, its all for a good story!

  17. Poi January 10, 2011 at 8:20 AM #

    That’s one hell of a day, glad it tunred round but a shame about the wine!

  18. Dan Thompson January 10, 2011 at 9:15 AM #

    Ah ha, so this is why you were in the police station! LOL Crappy start to a day… glad it got better!


    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:29 AM #

      all is revealed!

  19. ehalvey January 10, 2011 at 10:14 AM #

    Wow! That is quite a day. I’m glad it all ended well!

  20. Andi January 10, 2011 at 11:25 AM #

    Love love love this post!!! I think happiness is totally in our control. You could have gone to bed pissed off and upset, but look you turned the situation around and it ended up having a gorgeous ending.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:29 AM #

      I feel the same exact way- it’s all about how we react to stuff.

  21. Garreth Lodge January 10, 2011 at 11:34 AM #

    Wow, what a crazy day but I have to say I do not envy you one bit as you’re out there on your adventure and I’ve got another 5 months+ to wait! Sunset looks incredible!

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:31 AM #

      Yeah these will be your ups and downs soon enough!

  22. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World January 10, 2011 at 12:28 PM #

    Wow, what a day….glad it all ended well. Sucks about the wine 🙁 hopefully soon (if not already) you can look back on that day and have a great laugh about everything that happened.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:32 AM #

      Seriously- all I can do is laugh now!

  23. Matt January 10, 2011 at 2:36 PM #

    Wow — I would have lost it at the wine. Loosing wine. Not cool.

    Sounds like a relatively painless get-out-of-jail-free situation with the bike, though I can feel your pain! I had to bribe a Balinese police officer with 300,000 Indonesian Rupiahs (about $30) after getting pulled over without a international drivers license.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:32 AM #

      Man, it was really GOOD wine too! $20 a bottle wine! So sad.

  24. Kyle January 10, 2011 at 3:20 PM #

    I’m sorry to laugh about your misery, but this post was absolutely hilarious! I think every traveler has one of those days at some point or another 🙂

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:33 AM #

      I serve it up for your amusement! You’re welcome.

  25. Katherina January 10, 2011 at 4:56 PM #

    Now that’s what I call self-control. I would have definitely bursted into tears on the red wine spillover.
    I’m happy it did come out as a nice day – and it’s a funny story to tell your grand-children some day!

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:33 AM #

      I’m all about racking up the good stories.

  26. Andrew Murray January 10, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

    I think I would have blown a gasket and headed for the nearest bar! Way to go for keeping your cool. I’m glad you managed to turn your day around and put together an entertaining story for the rest of us to enjoy 🙂

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:33 AM #

      I seriously needed a beer by the end of that day.

  27. Brooke, WhyGo Australia January 10, 2011 at 9:14 PM #

    Oh, days like that are awful, but at least it ended on a high note!! 🙂

  28. Audrey January 11, 2011 at 9:47 AM #

    Just think, you’ve gotten the bad luck behind you for your travels. We left our driver’s license to rent our motorbike on Koh Samui – had no idea that police in Thailand actually stop people for that. Hmmm….

    I think the bottle of wine breaking is probably the most tragic thing for me, especially as wine is so expensive and often really bad in Thailand.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:36 AM #

      Yeah, we had no idea baout the license thing- I think the cops must make a killing on it!

  29. Dee January 11, 2011 at 4:36 PM #

    It was days like this during my own rtw adventures that changed my life. You really learned how to cope with what the world throws at you during long term travel.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:38 AM #

      Yeah, it definitely shapes your outlook on life.

  30. Rebecca January 11, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

    Ohmigod, the wine breaking would have sent me to tears!!!

    But great outlook on everything. A great story you will roll your eyes at (and thankfully already are!) when you are home.

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:38 AM #

      Everyone in the comments is just devastated about the wine! Glad we all have our priorities right.

  31. joshywashington January 11, 2011 at 10:16 PM #

    I got a few stories about cops and motorbikes…come to seattle and we will swap horrors!

    • Steph January 12, 2011 at 9:39 AM #

      deal! Love Seattle, haven’t been back in ages.

  32. Dina January 15, 2011 at 5:06 PM #

    Hilarious story! That’s a lot of bad lucks trapped within a day. I can imagine that having wine spill in a backpack that we use to keep everything we have, can be disastrous. So you guys apparently didn’t need driving license to rent the bike? wow!

    • Steph January 17, 2011 at 2:34 AM #

      Nope- just a passport to make sure you don’t steal it.

  33. Alex January 18, 2011 at 9:28 PM #

    Ummmm…. I didn’t even KNOW you had to carry a license in Thailand (though that sounds a bit silly now that I write it).

    While I can’t be sure I can almost guarantee that for the two months I spent on Koh Tao my (now) boyfriend never carried one- we were shoe and helmetless after all. Don’t tell my mum.

    • Steph January 23, 2011 at 1:23 AM #

      Yeah I’m SURE this is only an issue in very touristy places- hasn’t happened ot us since.

  34. Amy January 27, 2011 at 2:19 AM #

    Funny how things turn out sometimes! It could have been a lot worse! I love it when things don’t go as you planned but turn out beautifully! 🙂

    • Steph January 31, 2011 at 7:42 AM #

      Yeah, I really lucked out this time!

  35. Lilian May 10, 2011 at 3:07 PM #

    A silver lining in every cloud indeed!

  36. Lawrence Michaels August 22, 2013 at 11:27 AM #

    Good to see that you flipped your bad luck around. You are absolutely right about the motorcycles, they are super dangerous. Most people visiting here have their first accident within the first week.

  37. lol March 2, 2014 at 12:03 AM #

    You don’t seem to bright… sorry for writing it.

    • Steph March 2, 2014 at 11:04 AM #

      That’s okay, you don’t seem very nice.

  38. Emily July 15, 2014 at 2:34 PM #

    Hey there! I’m curious – have you been to Krabi? I’ve heard in ways that it is the “new Phuket” – less over touristy and developed. Your story made me laugh – I will be traveling with my boyfriend as well and stumbled on your blog doing research, but I love that you could turn your day around!


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