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About Willy Thuan

Early Life and Travel Beginnings

Born in France, my passion for travel began in my 20s, and it hasn’t stopped since. By 1994, I had finally settled in Thailand after exploring over 40 countries, many during times when travel was far more challenging than it is today.

Memorable Adventures

Willy Thuan in Club Med Greece I started when I was 19 to cross the Sahara in an old Peugeot 504 and spent 6 months crossing Morocco, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Mali. We sold the Peugeot in Niger and travelled all the way back hitchhiking back through the Sahara one more time!

Later, I worked 6 months in the Bahamas, in New Caledonia for a year, in Tahiti for a year and a half, and 4 months in Japan.

My other most memorable experiences are India, Greece, Turkey, Scotland, Italy, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, The Maldives and many more, so my love for Thailand follows a long history of exploring many other countries.

The countries I love most for their excellent food are Thailand, Japan, Korea, France and Italy, because food matters to us a lot.

Why Thailand?

Willy Thuan in Bangkok I was a set designer at Club Med for 8 years. My job was to build and set the stage for daily shows, switching it every night on a 15-day basis. That was quite physical but always fun and creative. With Club Med, you get to change country every six months or every year, which allows you to travel a lot!

In 1993 I was working in Tahiti when I decided it was time to do something else. I picked a place in Asia quite randomly, planning to only stay for a couple of years. This place was in Phuket, Thailand, and it was 30 years ago!

Starting a new life in Phuket… from scratch

When I landed in Phuket, I had no job, little money, a suitcase, a camera and a huge motivation. I had no plans and no connections in Phuket. I first picked a small guesthouse in Soi Sansabai Patong Beach called Swiss Garden (it’s still there). From there I started to write letters to every hotel in Phuket (there was no such thing as email or even mobile phones). There was no demand for my design skills, but I was good with languages, so after two months of writing resumes, I finally got a Guest Relations job at Banyan Tree Resort Bangtao. My salary was 12,000 baht so eating street food was a necessity (but it was always good).

Career Highlights

I worked in a hotel during the day and designed logos for local businesses at night, mostly diving centres. In less than a year, I was making more money at night than in the hotel, so I opened an advertising company in Phuket called Andaman Graphics, specialising in logos and website designs. It was quite successful and I was invited to join a growing company called Asia Wed Direct at the time to build travel websites called Phuket.com, Bangkok.com and many more. The company was bought by a well-known international company called Expedia. I stayed, learned and evolved as a User Experience and SEO specialist so my professional life evolved in a surprising and enriching way in a fascinating 20-year career!

My passion for photography and endless curiosity have taken me to many places in Thailand, living a fantastic life between Bangkok and Phuket. I still travel the world several times a year, both for fun and work. Despite the moaning of some negative people, I found the best of all worlds in Thailand! People’s kindness and tolerance, landscape and art, weather, food, easygoing life and affordable life. (Read this: 10 Reasons Why We Can’t Leave Thailand)

Why Phuket 101?

Quite a few websites were talking about Phuket, but none were enjoyable. Some were too formal, some were hard to read or not visually attractive, and some were too niche. I wanted to share a thousand photos I took along my life and the fun things I discovered in my endless wandering around Phuket and focus on the best possible user experience to help all kinds of travellers make the best of their stay in Phuket. My content is unique and written in-house. Many copied it, unfortunately.

Equipment

Apart from some hotel photos, all the photos on Phuket 101 are our own! As a photographer, I never stop exploring, looking for new places, new angles, and new atmospheres to share on the blog and our social media: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Thread. I mostly shoot with a Sony Alpha 7C camera with a 16-35 F2.8 GM lens and occasionally with a Canon EOS R. A lot of my photos and videos are taken with iPhone 14 Pro because it’s always available and light to carry at all times. I use two drones: DJI Air 2 and DJI Mini 2.

Features

Willy Thuan and Chef Ton Phuket 101 was published on the CNN website a couple of times, as well as in Thailand’s national newspapers. I was featured on French TV after the 2004 tsunami for a documentary about Phuket’s recovery, and recently on Netflix for their Chefs Uncut series in 2024.

4.9/5 - (9 votes)
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Born in France a long long time ago, I started to travel the world early until I settled in Phuket in 1994. For the past 30 years, my passion for photography and my curiosity have taken me to every corner of Phuket, Bangkok and everywhere I could go in Thailand. My goal is to share my discoveries, photos and tips to help travellers plan their holidays by making Phuket 101 as easy as possible to use for everyone!