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Help with Thailand trip- Bangkok and Phuket

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We are a group of four best friends...two couples (between 30-35). We are from India and we try and meet up for a trip at least once every year. We are planning a trip to Thailand in August end. We know it is bad weather...but this is the only time that would work with all our work commitments. We are hoping that good company would more than make up for the bad weather. Two of us would be traveling from London and and our friends would join us in India.

So far this is what we have worked out:

27th August - Delhi to Bangkok
28th August - Bangkok (early morning flight)

28th August - Morning flight to Phuket

28th - 1st September - Phuket

1st- 4th September - Bangkok

4th September - late night flight- Bangkok- Delhi

We are planning to do couple of day trips to Phang Nga and Phi Phi (weather permitting) and a Thai cookery class in Phuket.

Would really appreciate recommendations for the coking class. Couple of us are it would be really good if the cooking class offers veg options as well.

Another thing that we very badly need help with is the selection of resort in Phuket. We have been tearing my hair over it. Our budget is fairly modest and that is making it even more difficult to make a decision. We would ideally like to spend $100 - $115/ night (inclusive of breakfast).

Some of the resorts we have been looking at:

Katathani Beach Resort- Ideally we would have loved to stay here...however even the superior room is coming at around $150/night. Given that some of the reviews about the lowest category rooms are not so great...we are not very inclined to increase our budget...don't know if it would be worth it.

Other resorts under consideration

Metadee Resort: We are getting a very good deal on this. The reviews and pictures on trip advisor look good. The lowest category rooms (Pool View rooms) are well within our budget. We could move up to pool access rooms. However given that two of us can't doesn't make much sense. However if there is a significant difference between the quality of the rooms then we could do that.
Drawback:not close to the beach...

Merlin Beach Resort: We can barely get the lowest category room in this resort. The reviews are decent (though not as good as Metadee). The rooms do look a little tired. We are two couples and the feeling that I have got after reading the reviews on trip advisor is that it is a more family friendly resort. Though honestly we are all quite fond of kids and don't mind them. The biggest plus is that it is on the beach...and away from the more lively area of Patong. The outside areas look decent and well kept.

Hilton Karon Beach Phuket: Personally I am not too keen on Hilton. My only experience of staying in a large five star property is Four Seasons in Hong Kong and I thought it was fairly soulless. However everything was really perfect there. So in terms of risk, this seems like the least risky option. It might not wow us...but we wouldn't also feel that we went terribly wrong. We are getting the sea view rooms within our budget here. The reviews on trip advisor are mixed.

Our main requirements are:
- budget
- as luxurious an experience as we can get (I understand luxury is the wrong word to use given our limited budget...but the best that we can do within that) - good rooms, grounds, beach, views etc.
- Sumptuous breakfasts. We all love big breakfasts with a large spread of things to choose from.

Location: As of now Kata seems like the best option for us. We want to be in a lively area with loads of local restaurants and bars...however we wouldn't want to be hassled by vendors every few seconds. We definitely plan to go to Patong for one of our nights and see how the night life is...we are in our early thirties and though not really party animals...we do like to go out once in a while.

Please help us decide which resort do we go with. We are all completely confused. I know we are already struggling with all the different options...however if you feel that we should look at any other resorts...then do suggest:)!

Please help....once we decide on this I will come back to the forum for more help with the Bangkok part of our trip.

Thanks a lot.....

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