Last Easter we visited Phuket, Thailand. Phuket is actually pronounced “poo-KET”, the h is silent. Which leaves it sounding rather unfortunate. However, I can assure you it is not!
As it was my first time in Asia – I had loads of preconceived conceptions and quite a few expectations. I had heard stories about crazy ping-pong shows, lady boys, full moon parties and cheap off the grid beach living- channel Leo DiCaprio in “The Beach”.
Yeah, so that was totally not my trip to Thailand or like any of my experiences in Phuket.
Our resort was on the quiet west end of the Island (far away from the nightlife of Patong Beach) at The Westin. We didn’t attend any full moon parties and I’m pretty sure I didn’t see even one lady boy. At least not one who was advertising.
Thailand – The Land of Smiles
The Thai people are deserving of their title: “The Land of Smiles” as they are generally courteous and kind.
In fact, I can’t remember one unpleasant or rude person while there. Except on arrival when clearing customs. The line up to clear was long and moved painfully slow.
Of course there were language frustrations as many of the locals in Phuket do not speak great English. However, they always greet you with a slight bow and a warm smile. The rest just seems to work itself out especially when it comes to settling on a price. They will often write the price down to be clear. You can then choose if you wish to barter.
Phuket is the largest Thai Island and is located in the south of Thailand on the Andaman Sea. A magnet for beach lovers and divers. It is also a great base for exploring smaller out Islands and Inlets such as: Phi Phi, Krabi and Phang Nga Bay.
The interior of the Island is filled with lush mountainous jungle which is home to monkeys, snakes and mosquitoes. Dengue Fever and Malaria are prevalent in the interior of Thailand. Care should be taken if you plan on doing any jungle trekking.
Thailand was one of the first of the Asian countries to hop on the tourist bandwagon. Unfortunately this is prevalent in many areas in and around Phuket. Unless you’re staying at a swank resort – you will not find unspoiled tranquil beaches. That said: there are loads of beautiful locations and cool experiences to be had. You just have to share or stand inline.
If you’ve always dreamed of riding an elephant in Thailand then you might want to revisit your bucket list. The current ethically friendly way to interact with these big beauties is to bathe them. There are several Elephant Sanctuaries in Phuket where you can have loads of interaction. Just make sure you bring your bathing suit!
This was a definite highlight for my 9-year-old. Above is Lola, a 45-year-old retired Asian Elephant. Note that she does not have tusks and is smaller than her African cousins. My lil man did have a climb on her but she didn’t seem to mind as it didn’t really disrupt her bath.
You can’t miss this dude as he’s 45 metres tall and sits atop a massive hill. The view from Big Buddha offers sweeping visits of Phuket.
The temple is a peaceful place with Dharma music playing melodically in the background. There are sarongs available for free (donation) to cover your knees and shoulders should you need them. Big Buddha is an active place of prayer so your visit should be as silent as possible.
As mentioned there are lots of dangerous and poisonous snakes in Thailand. A safe place to see these critters is in a controlled environment like a snake show. What qualifications does this guy have? Can’t say. But he’s crazy enough to play with King Cobras and the rest of this slithering aggressive bunch. Was cool to see…I guess. But really not my fave way to spend my time.
Phuket Town & Markets
Phuket Town is easy to navigate. It consists of about 5 main streets, some smaller streets (“sois”), and a walking street called Thalang Road. Many of the Sino-Colonial mansions (from nearly a century ago) when Phuket was a booming tin mining town are now being refurbished. Stylish coffee shops and hip restaurants are also beginning to line the store fronts.
There are many markets in around Phuket. We went to a night market to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. You could get everything there from a knock off designer bag to a bag of edible insects.
Phang Nga Bay
From Phuket you have to get out on the water to see the smaller outer Islands. There are many way to do this: high-speed boats, ferries, long tails, big tourist boats and private charters. We did the latter and it was worth every penny.
We didn’t book until we were in Phuket as we wanted to see what the winds would be like. Being experienced boaters we could tell that many of the southern Islands were exposed to some big bodies of water.. We found a great and easy company to deal with called Coralseekers. The boat was perfect and our Thai crew were outstanding.
On a near glass calm day we decided to head north to the gorgeous emerald waters of Phang Nga Bay. The drawback of Phang Nga Bay is the emerald coloured water is a result of the limestone bottom. Thus you don’t get the clear blue Caribbean waters, like in the south (near Phi Phi), and you can’t see the bottom. However, you get dramatic limestone karst shooting up from the water. The result is some beautiful boating water with stunning views.
The vistas of Phang Nga Bay were made famous by “The Man with The Golden Gun”, and Koh Tapu, “Nail Island” is referred to as James Bond Island. Koh Tapu is heaving with tourists. Take your pic and get out! There is much more to see and do.
Floating Sea Gypsy Village – Koh Panyi
Further north from Koh Tapu there is the floating village on Koh Panyi. There are about 1500 people who live here. It’s a Muslim village so cover yourself appropriately. No alcohol is permitted.
Heading back to Phuket Harbour we moored at a couple of quiet inlets so we could play in the water. Phang Nga bay has many Hongs, “rooms” which you can kayak through when the tide is right. There are several tour companies that serve the caves. Our charter came with kayaks so we self explored with our crew.
Wats are Buddhist Temples. Most Thai people are Buddhist so it goes without saying….there are lots of Temples. Most are quite beautiful. My favourite was Wat Chalong.
I happen to love Thai food but I appreciate not everyone does i.e. my husband.
However the fresh seafood is delicious, the local fruit (coconut, mango, papaya, dragon fruit) is juicy and the rice is plentiful so even the picky eaters are covered.
The base of most Thai food is: coconut milk, chilies, lime, shallots/garlic, and fresh herbs (lemon grass, coriander, etc.).
If you are feeling adventurous make sure to head to one of the local markets to try out the food stalls. Don’t miss the one with the fried insects!
Yes! Absolutely. But that is another post all together.
So after sparking for a nice resort. We wanted to make sure we took some time to relax and enjoy it. The weather in April was perfect. Balmy days with hardly any rain. A bit humid but just enough to make your skin feel great. Our resort had loads of activities from Yoga to Muay Thai Boxing which we took advantage of. We also took many opportunities to sit poolside with a coconut cocktail chatting with other travellers from around the world.
Taxis and tuk-tuks are everywhere. I don’t recommend renting a moped unless you want to spend time in a Thai hospital. Make sure you secure a price per person before taking a taxi.
We found a guy on the first day and negotiated a per hour rate with him. Mr. Pong then took us where we wanted to go and did most of our negotiating when necessary. We did take a tuk-tuk once as it seemed like the thing to do.
There are some dodgy areas in Phuket. Patong Beach and the Bangla Road offer a wild party scene. We took a walk in daylight with the kids (not kid friendly at night). It was littered with bars, restaurants, night clubs and tattoo parlours. At night, this is where you could catch a ping-pong show or other sex show and probably see a pretty lady boy or two.
It’s safe to imagine that trouble could easily find you in these areas if you let your guard down. However, if you play it smart and let common sense prevail you should do just fine anywhere in Phuket. Remember, if it seems to be good true, it’s a scam. Walk away. Even if the person is smiling.