After a few days catching up with work and recovering from some minor jetlag, the team started to get out and about in Phuket. Looking at it now, there is a fairly heavy bias towards culinary experiences and I think everyone on our team would call themselves a proper foodie.
I remain a true believer that connecting through local food is the easiest and most fun way to truly discover a foreign culture, and so there's always at least one food tour or cookery class included pretty much wherever I travel.
Here's the Top 5 from my week.
Top 5 - Phuket Sandbox, part 2
1. Phuket Old Town food tour (above and below)
Our Phuket Town food tour with Pema our guide overran by 2 hours and we just didn't care, she was that engaging and fun. If our stomachs hadn't been fit to bursting towards the end I think she would have had us eating for another 2 hours at least. We learned about the Burmese influence in Phuket food, and tasted, curries, stir fries, drinks, ices, snacks, plus fruit and veg even I hadn't experienced before.
2. Anantara Layan Residences (above and below)
We visited the sister property to Anantara Mai Khao and were blown away by their villa residences. Our time at the whole resort was wonderful, but the villa or residence section definitely stole the show.
The 4 photos I've included are literally from just ONE Villa that can be configured for between 2 and 7 bedrooms. At it's largest iteration your accommodation in Thailand would be an astounding 28,000sq ft and include a movie theater, full gym, personal butler and an outside dining space and pool to die for.
Myself, Kendall, Shanna and Kanise have never seen anything close to it before.
3. Chef Pam (below)
It's always an interesting discussion and contrast when you have a trip that includes Michelin-star level cuisine and street food/beach shack exploring. Which is better? Personally, I appreciate both immensely, and the answer is ...do it all if you can.
Being the foodies that the entire J5Travel team are we could not resist experiencing a special dinner cooked by Thai celebrity Chef Pam at Anantara Layan Resort.
Trained at 3-star Michelin restaurant Jean-Georges in New York she has been both a judge and host of Top Chef Thailand and has studied the art of American BBQ. The latter was truly on display as our first 7 courses were all beef based...
4. Cookery class in Chalong (above)
Our instructor Karn (above) took us to the local market first to source the ingredients for the following dishes:
Tom Yam Kung soup, Phad Thai, Chicken Green Curry and what is rapidly becoming a J5Travel favorite, mango sticky rice.
Another meeting with someone who has barely been able to work for the last 20 months grounded us and makes you realize how much the world has been affected by these last 2 years. Yet here we are in Phuket, and the resilience we have seen here in Thailand is extraordinary. All 4 of the team here would say they are cooks, and we all banged out the dishes below with big grins on our faces and some insanely strong aromas heading up our nostrils.
5. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary (above and below)
It's very, very important to J5Travel that any animal experience that our clients experience on their trips is ethical and represents true sustainable tourism with a strong nod to conservation. Thailand is slowly coming around to that, but there are still far too many tourist traps that feature elephants that are not treated well at all.
It took a lot of research for us to comfortably book a half day at Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, and it is literally the only one on the island that we would recommend.
Focused on rescuing sick and disabled elderly elephants, aged 40+, the animals here don't look like the big, strong creatures we know and love but it's reassuring to know that they are truly being cared for and not exploited.
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