Next time you strike out for a longer vacation, don’t book anything ahead of time.
The Caribbean gets the most attention as the island destination of choice for American’s. The South Pacific get’s the nod for that perfect Polynesian dreaminess that reminds us of the black and white movies and war time romances. What happened to Asia? Many adventurous travellers have found their way to the beaches of Southeast Asia and can’t believe the beauty. Have you ever watched, “The Beach” with Leonardo? They shot that on location my friends. Pure stress free heaven placed in white sand and blue water.
I am a warm weather, island seeking, rum drinking, bikini making fool and I love Thailand. It is where I have my Conch Republic Bikinis made. Been more than fifteen times in the past few years. On one of my longer stays I rented a house in Phuket, an island on the southwestern coast in the Andaman Sea. What I got for my money is one of the greatest scores in the real estate sense I’ve ever achieved.
Think Thailand is too far away or such a different culture that it isn’t worth making the effort? Wrong. It is a long flight. Fair enough. From New York you’re looking at around 24 hours of travel. What’s wrong with that? It’s a good time to read, watch movies, sleep and generally unplug from the world. I love the journey as much as the vacation. Culture got you scared? Forget about it. The Thai people are amongst the friendliest I’ve ever met in my more than 50 countries visited.
So you decide that you’re going to the beaches of Thailand and because it’s so damn far away you’ll stay for three weeks. That’s a lot of hotel nights. Vacation is about chilling and getting into a slow speed routine. A nice rental house can be a great solution. It sounds expensive though doesn’t it? What if the place sucks? What if, what if.
The biggest rule I’m going to give you is risk and reward. If you are afraid of the downside, the huge upside will never materialize. It’s not philosophy here just truth my friends. So how did I score such a sweet pad? I’ll tell you.
When I landed in Phuket I had no plans and no house. This is the first rule to scoring big. I had a super cheap hotel that I found by walking in to the front desk and negotiating. Next, I bought a local SIM chip for my phone so I had a local number. Step three? Stop for a beer and some good food and relax. Don’t work too hard on this for goodness sake. When you are rested up, remember you have a twelve-hour time change and your body is a bit whacked out, hit the real estate rental offices and pick up the English newspaper and tabloids. The newspaper and tabloids are in every English speaking restaurant and bar. Start dialing.
I found three amazing homes. In the end I settled on a place called Sai-Taan. The house was recently finished and the new owner had just filled it with furniture and art. It is a beautiful home. He intended to rent it when he was home in London but hadn’t gotten far enough along to effect the marketing of the property. He simply listed it with an English speaking agent and went back to the UK.
When you show up ready to negotiate for hotels or anything that is perishable, in this case time, you often have the upper hand. We paid $4,000 for the month, which works out to $132 per day for four people or $33 a day each. In return we lived in a beautiful pad with a center courtyard pool, outdoor private showers for each room, a guest house, pool bar, and maid who also cooked for us. A grand slam if you ask me!
We were two minutes to the beach, one minute to ride elephants and one minute to our local favorite Thai restaurant. We rented a car for $500 for the month and got around the island very easily. The best part was we had so much extra room we invited friends and family to join us making it a bigger party.
What we avoided by taking the risk of showing up empty handed was paying too much. Also, we did not commit to a place that was not as nice as we wanted or in poor location. We also got to comparison shop and negotiate. For the last week we stayed at Sai-Taan we bartered photography for an additional week. The owner, Mark made a beautiful website with our images which he uses now to market this house at Sai-Tann.com.
If you are interested in visiting Phuket you will enjoy great scuba diving. Underwater visibility is often over 60 feet or more. Sea life is abundant and the water is warm. If you don’t dive you can get certified there for a great price. All of my training was by an awesome English chick that hated her accounting job in London.
There are also fun sea kayaking trips into the heart of islands that are hollow in the middle and can only be reached by laying on your back in your kayak and pulling yourself through a cave. Fun! You can also head off the island and experience the jungle and ride elephants.
Next time you strike out for a longer vacation or time away, just go. You’ll figure it out when you get there and be that much better off for it. And remember there are a lot of islands and beaches to visit all over the world. Just pull out your globe. Find that fat part called the equator. Spin it around and drop you finger on it. You may love your new discovery.
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