Phuket – Free & Lazy. Travel Tips

April 2018

Since there were no cheaper long haul air fare compared to last year (2017), we took a short Free & Lazy vacation to Phuket. We’ve been to Phuket when our kids were toddlers and then again when they were teenagers. This time around, it’s just me & wife.

Flight time from Kuala Lumpur is less than 90 minutes and you’ll be required to submit a Thai immigration card at passport control upon arrival. You can get this card at your departing airport, inside your flight or at Phuket airport itself. We’ve no itinerary coming to Phuket as we’ve covered most major attractions before thus, it’s just a lazy walk around town and the shopping malls.

Thai immigartion card

Two part Thai immigration card.

SIM Card
Rarely do we require a local SIM card as we rely mostly on off-line maps for directions. However we’ve read reviews of some hotels in Phuket having bad wifi connections. This could present a problem if we couldn’t connect to WhatsApp, Facetime or e-mail. Since the cost of a 8 day unlimited data package (+THB100 air time) cost less than a fifth of what you’ll incur in London, it’s no brainer getting one.

You can book online here and collect it at the arrival exit of Phuket airport. Just look-out for a card displaying your name with the provider logo, you don’t have to look for a counter or an outlet. So convenient. We chose ‘Happy Tourist’ SIM card from the provider, ‘dtac TriNet’. Although I’ve problem activating the line, once the phone was switched-off and on again, you know everything works as a flurry of sms comes in from the provider.

Happy Tourist SIM card

8 day unlimited data, ‘Happy Tourist ‘ SIM card by ‘dtac Trinet’, pre-cut into mini, micro & nano size.

Phuket airport arrival exit

Phuket airport arrival exit (r). Look-out for your name card on the railings.

Transport to/from Patong/airport
In Phuket, we stayed in Patong, an area well-known for its beach. There are various transport options getting into Patong and back to the airport. There are airport buses, shared mini vans, metered taxis and airport shuttle to suit varying budgets. Not wanting the hassle of public transport, we opted for an airport transfer. You can book online here, here, or here. Similar to picking up your SIM card, look-out for a card displaying your name and the provider logo as you exit arrival hall. In our case, the guy in-charge of our SIM card is also the guy handling our transportation, albeit from two different provider.

PhuketShuttle.com airport transfer

PhuketShuttle.com airport transfer.

Pimnara Boutique Hotel, Patong
Hotel arrangements has been made through hotels.com and we’ve booked Pimnara Boutique Hotel as it’s situated right in Jungceylon, a shopping mall … true to our aim of Free & Lazy. It’s situated in an adjoining two-block building flanked by restaurants, fast food outlets, food kiosks and eateries. Opposite is another adjoining building, housing Robinson’s Department Store, Big C supermarket and more shops. The Jungceylon complex is large enough to keep you busy a couple of days. We’ll review Pimnara Boutique Hotel in the next posting.

Pimnara Boutique Hotel, Patong

Pimnara Boutique Hotel, Patong.

Halal Food
Muslim visitors will easily find halal eateries around Patong area. Plentiful compared to our previous visits. You’ll find local, western as well as arabic halal food for your choosing. They are scattered all over Patong notably at Soi (road) Sansabai and closeby Holiday Inn Resort fronting Soi Thanon Ratuthit Songroipi. If you are staying at Pimnara Hotel, there is a halal Shawarma Express stall nearby as well as 3 more stalls in Jungceylon food court. We’ll list the halal stalls/restaurants in later posting.

Shawarma Express halal stall.      

Attractions Within Sultanahmet, Istanbul

October 2017

Most of your favorite attractions in Istanbul would most likely be located within the Sultanahmet vicinity and are within walking distances. Choosing a hotel close to this area makes sense as you’ll save on transport cost. You’ll find lots of hotels to suit your budget in Sultanahmet and the tram that runs through it makes traveling around Istanbul convenient.

The major attractions in Sultanahmet are :
1. The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)
2. The Hippodrome
3. Colourful Building
4. Arasta Bazaar
5. Topkapi Palace
6. Hagia Sophia
7. Basilica Cistern
8. Gulhane Park

The attractions are listed in a sequence that will avoid uphill walk. Get off the at the Sultanahmet tram stop for your first attraction, The Blue Mosque a short walk away. The last attraction, Gulhane Park will be a downhill walk from Basilica Cistern. If you intend to do your visit in reverse order, the walk from Gulhane Park to Basilica Cistern will be a taxing uphill walk, let alone if you have to push a wheelchair.

(The famous Grand Bazaar is a brisk seven minutes slight uphill walk from Sultanahmet tram stop or you can take the tram and get off one stop ahead at Cemberlitas).

Attractions in Sultanahmet area

Attractions in Sultanahmet area. Click to enlarge.

1. Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)
Alighting from your tram at Sultanahmet tram stop, walk across Sultan Ahmet Square to The Blue Mosque, your first attraction. Do bear in mind that you will be visiting a mosque and you should be properly attired. Being a working mosque, non-Muslims will not be allowed to enter before or after the start of prayers. Visit this site for visiting hours for non-Muslims.

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)

The Blue Mosque as seen from across Sultanahmet Park.

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)

Entrance into the Mosque from the inner courtyard.

2. The Hippodrome
Exiting The Blue Mosque, head left for The Hippodrome. These are two columns of tall ‘pillars’ one being the ‘Obelisk of Theodosius’ and the other ‘Walled Obelisk’. In-between, you find the ‘Serpent Column’.

The Hippodrome

Walled Obelisk

The Hippodrome

The first of the two pillars you’ll reach coming from the Blue Mosque – Obelisk of Theodosius

3. Colourful Building
Not far from the Hippodrome walking towards Arasta Bazaar, you’ll see these colourful building. I’m not sure what this is but you’ll see a restaurant besides it, with the dining area extending well behind this multi coloured facade. Nice to have selfies here.

Colourful building

A restaurant is to the right. It’s dining area extending well behind the multi coloured facade.

From another angle.

4. Arasta Bazaar
Walking straight on from the colourful building, will take you to Arasta Bazaar. As the name implies, it’s a bazaar – a rather less visited, less crowded bazaar. Prices are a little on the high side here and varieties aren’t that varied. Wouldn’t miss much if you skipped this.

Arasta Bazaar

One of the entrances to Arasta Bazaar.

Arasta Bazaar

A rather ‘high-end’ bazaar feeling here.

5. Topkapi Palace
Exiting Arasta Bazaar from the other end, head for Topkapi Palace 1st courtyard entrance, about 450m away. This is one of Istanbul’s main attraction with lots and lots of visitors during peak season. You’ll be well advised to get online tickets if you intend to go in.

Topkapi Palace.

It’s another 400m to this 2nd courtyard entrance into the palace grounds.

Topkapi Palace

Palace building inside the complex.

6. Hagia Sophia
Another main attraction of Istanbul is Hagia Sophia. As with Topkapi Palace, the ticket crowd can be maddening at Hagia Sophia. Obtaining online tickets is a clever option.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia from the outside.

Hagia Sophia

View of the ground floor from the upper terrace.

7. Basilica Cistern
Across the road from Hagia Sophia is Basilica Cistern, an underground chamber capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water. Although this is a lesser attraction, crowd do build up at times. Unfortunately, you would not be able to get online tickets for Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Pillars inside Basilica Cistern.

Basilica Cistern

One of the two Medusa heads inside Basilica Cistern.

8. Gulhane Park
If you are visiting Istanbul in April through May, do pay a visit to Gulhane Park to see the beautiful tulips. The park isn’t too big, thus you get to see varieties of tulips but not get overwhelmed. A lot of benches in the park for you to rest. No entrance fees to enter.

Gulhane Park

The multi coloured tulips in Gulhane Park.

Gulhane Park

Black tulips in Gulhane Park.

Night pictures of Sultanahmet attractions. Due to the close proximity of our hotel, Star Holiday Hotel, we can choose what time to photograph these attractions.

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque).

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia.

The ‘Serpent Column’ of The Hippodrome in-between Obelisk of Theodosius and Walled Obelisk.

Topkapi Palace & Hagia Sophia Online Ticket

October 2017

Save your energy, time & frustration. Get online e-tickets for Topkapi Palace & Hagia Sophia here. Avoid the madding crowd at Hagia Sophia and the slightly busy Topkapi Palace ticket office. With your e-tickets, just proceed to the entrance turnstile to scan your e-tickets and enter right away.

If you are unlucky to be visiting these attractions during peak season, believe me, you would not want to stand in line for tickets to Hagia Sophia. The crowd outside will also give an indication how’s it’s going to be inside.


credit:reiendaa.blogspot.com

credit:artphototravel.net

Steps to purchase your online tickets are detailed below. It’s a pity this site do not sell online tickets for Basilica Cistern, an attraction just across the street from Hagia Sophia, all within walking distance of each other located around Sultanahmet area.

STEP 1
1. Click the arrow key for the drop-down option box and select which attraction (only one) you wish to visit.
2. Select quantity of tickets required.
3. Click the ‘Add To Cart’ button.
If you require tickets for other attractions, repeat steps 1 – 3.
4. Click ‘Next’.

 

STEP 2
On the 2nd page, you are required to fill the shipping address. DON’T WORRY, nothing is sent to that address. Your e-tickets will be e-mailed to you. Leave blank for ‘Your Citizenship No’. You can use your hotel’s address for the address box. Once everything is filled up, click “Save & Next’.

 

STEP 3
Page 3 will display summary of your e-ticket order. If every thing is in order, click ‘Go To Purchase’.

 

STEP 4
The 4th page will request for your credit card information. Once duly filled, click ‘Purchase’.

Upon successful payment, you’ll receive an e-mail of your transaction detail with an attachment for you to print your e-ticket. Cut out your ticket and bring it along during your visit to the said attraction. Although nowhere on the website nor on the ticket mentioned of expiry date, we were made to understand it is valid for 1 year from the date of issuance.

All tickets are issued under one name. Back in 2014 (tripadvisor) there were fury as only the named person with corresponding ID were allowed to enter but on the ticket officer’s discretion, the others were later allowed to enter as well. For my instance in October 2017, no ID checks were made. Me & wife simply scanned the QR code at the turnstile and went in. No hassle.

If you want peace of mind, you could purchase the e-tickets under different names. This would involve multiple purchase transactions.

e-ticket for Topkapi Palace.

e-ticket for Topkapi Palace.