We have a small business in the South of China but live in Wisconsin most of the year. I am trying to take my 25 year old daughter and 22 year old son to Thailand for a couple of weeks. We had a bad experience there a few years ago (read my warning on taxi vs rentacar), and I want to finally get to see something in Thailand besides the inside of a hospital room for a month.
I was thinking about staying in Phuket but maybe hopping to the Koh Samui Renaissance for a few days, too. I like the nature and outdoor activities, but will tolerate the city for a couple of days. I was wondering if January was good time to try both locations and what kind of transportation is best between the two. Is Samui or Phuket the nicer spot? Is the weather OK in both that time of year?
The rest of us want to snorkel and/or scuba dive, but my husband loves just lying around on the beach and taking a dip now and then, so the beach by the hotel or resort would have to be swimmable.
Also, I want to be able to fit the four of us in one place comfortably but still have access to all the facilities of the resort and spa, including the pools. I noticed that one Marriot resort in Phuket with villas says it has access, but the other does not.
Which one is in the better spot?
I thought we would do Bangkok or a day or two first. What do you think?
I would tell you that any time can be a good time in Phuket. If you want the beach to be convenient you have to stay at the Phuket Beach club (PBC). Mai Khao (MK)does not have a beach, it uses the Phuket Beach Club beach. To get to the beach from MK you have to walk a fair distance or call for the cart to coem pick you up. Not a big deal, but far less convenient.
In Phuket, December/January are the coolest months, but you never know what the temperature will be. We have been there in January when the night temps never went below 80 and also been there when the day temps were barely in the low 70's. Your best bet is to go in late February through April. March and April are the hottest months, but great times for the beach and diving. The rainy season can start as early as early May and last until end of Sept or early Oct. The beach at that time is OK for laying around, but not for swimming. The rip tides or undertow make the ocean pretty much unswimmable from June to September (they post red flags and don't allow swimming then).
There are pools at both PBC and MK. Three at PBC, including the rather quiet north pool, the very long center pool and the upscale south pool (with a eim up bar).
Yo fit 4 people comfortably you will have to either rent a villa (they are all 2 bedrooms) or get two hotel rooms. The villas are great. It sounds like you have been to Phuket before, but don't know if you were at the PBC - it is far from the night life and very quiet. We like that a lot, but some people want to be in the thick of the night life - you are almost an hours drive from Patong beach.
We go snorkeling and our son goes diving in Phuket a couple of times a year. It doesn't matter when you go - unless the rain or wind is really bad, the boats go out - just to differnt parts of the surrounding area.
The beach front at Koh Samui at the Renaissance is a bay and is very shallow. In fact when we were there in July you could go almost all the way out to the rocky breakfront (hundreds of yards) and be in less than a couple of feet of water. There are great beaches in Koh Samui, but you will need to go to town or elsewhere to get to them - they are not at the Renaissance. Well actually the beach at the hotel is fine, but the swimming is not great.
We love Bangkok and have almost always stayed at the JW there. It is one of the best Marriotts in the world in our opinion. Service is great and convenient to the skytrain. Taxi's are plentiful. The Reosrt and Spa in Bangkok gets great reviews and we have visited there, but never stayed. Very nice and usually less expensive than the JW. It is a little less convenient because you need to take the Marriott water taxi across the river for easier transportation. We also have stayed at the Courtyard and it is a very nice Courtyard, but not nearly as nice as the JW. I think it takes more that 2 days to visit Bangkok and all the great things there. I personally would spend a week in Phuket (relaxing, swimming, and diving), a couple days in Koh Samui (for the diving and snorkeling), and 4-5 days in Bangkok (for sigthseeing and shopping) if you have 2 weeks. Make sure you are in Bangkok on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday for the weekend market at Chatuchak if you want a shopping experience. One caution, March and April are hot - espeically in Bangkok!