Renowned as the ‘Pearl of the Andaman,’ Phuket is the largest and most famous of Thailand‘s islands. Its long sandy beaches, large estuaries, mountain cliffs, tropical forests, exquisite beaches and amazing nightlife make it an all-year-round travel destination.
The island offers impressive shorelines, splendid sights and attractive nightlife, all of which have been attracting people from all over the world for decades. Saying adieu to my sweltering home city of Delhi for a few days, I recently visited Phuket on my first Southeast Asian holiday. Landing on the pleasant, beautiful island of Phuket was just the beginning of all the fun and recreation that was in store. Passing through many scenic locations and lush green mountains, I arrived at my hotel resort after an hourlong drive from the airport. Spotting the hotel villa, with its big bedroom and private swimming pool, instantly relaxed my senses.
Soon after checking into my room, I left to discover Phuket’s main town, Patong. It is the centre of Phuket’s nightlife, with around 200 bars, clubs, and pubs, most of them located on the famous Bangla Street. It also offers a plethora of restaurants serving a combination of Thai and Western cuisines, as well as numerous options for accommodation, from basic hotels to 5-star resorts lined up along the famous Patong Beach.
Patong Beach is Phuket’s most popular beach, with over 2 kilometers of shoreline. Besides relaxing and swimming, there are plenty of water-sport activities being offered at the beach, such as jet-skiing, snorkelling, surfing, and para-sailing. You can also try a traditional Thai massage right on the beach, which is quite reasonable compared to other massage parlours in town.
Besides Patong, there are many other beautiful beaches in Phuket which are less crowded, cleaner, and more family oriented than Patong. In the south of Patong, you will find some big beaches such as Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach and Karon beach, whereas in the north lie the smaller beaches such as Kamala, Bang Tao and Surin. All of these beaches have a totally different feel to them.
Attractions / Sightseeing
In addition to beaches, Phuket has many other attractions which can be easily discovered on a day tour. You can either take a minibus tour or hire a bike for a day and discover the city on your own. I booked a minibus tour, which is like a group tour. The bus takes you around many scenic locations and lets you discover the amazing sights of Phuket. Our first stop was the Kata Noi view point, where we enjoyed great views of the beaches at Kata Yai, Kata Noi and Karon.
On the way to our next view point, we stopped by Phuket Elephant Safari and enjoyed taking pictures with a baby elephant. The next stop was the Windmill viewpoint, which features the west coast of the island. Occasionally you can spot different types of boats passing between the Ya Nui and Nai Harn beaches and delve into a photo-shooting session.
Moving ahead, we arrived at the Big Buddha. This giant white Buddha statue is a remarkable landmark of Phuket, which offers splendid views of the island and its surrounding beaches. Many people sit down and pray in the temple beneath the statue for a spiritual experience. Just 20 minutes down the road from the Big Buddha, we discovered another famous Buddhist temple, Wat Chalong. It is the largest temple of Phuket and its impeccably designed buildings are home to amazingly carved statues and images of Buddha. As you approach the temple you will hear many firecracker sounds coming from a nearby small, brick oven-like structure. This practice is a way Thai people show gratitude when their wishes are fulfilled. The next stop on the tour was a visit to the cashew nut factory, which provided us insights into the processing of the nuts. I was surprised to discover hundreds of snacks and beverages made out of cashew nuts here.
In the evening, we arrived at Khao Rang viewpoint to witness an amazing panoramic view of Phuket. After some snacks and beverages we headed over for our last stop, the weekend market. The drive to this stop takes you through splendid Old Phuket Town, known for its Sino-Portuguese architectural houses, which render a historic feel to the city.
At last, we arrived at the weekend market, located just outside the Old Phuket town. It is an appealing clutter of food, clothes, and other goods. While most of the girls in the tour group indulged in shopping, all the boys went crazy upon sighting the famous Thai food stalls. From Som Tam to Khao Pad or Krapao Moo to various types of seafood, all sorts of Thai street food dishes were on sale here. This was one of the best quintessential Thai foodie experiences of my tour.
Besides these attractions, there are many other things to see and experience in Phuket. One of them is the Phuket Fantasea show which exhibits circus performances, animals, and cutting edge technology depicting traditional Thai drama story. Due to budget and time constraints I couldn’t undergo these experiences but they are on my bucket list for next time.
No matter how much of the island’s interior I explored, I was always drawn towards the sea, as this is where the best adventures happen. There are many sea tours around Phuket which are bound to leave you spellbound but the two major tours are Phi Phi Island tour and James Bond island tour. As it was a rainy season and the tour operates depending upon the weather conditions, I had to spend another day in the city, leaving me with the option of only one island tour.
Soon the moment came when I was departing on a ferry to Phi Phi island. Phi Phi is arguably the most famous of all the islands around Phuket. The journey from Phuket to Phi Phi was full of scenic views and landscapes. From bottom to deck the boat was filled with people. The water was covered in shades of blue surrounded by magnificent island cliffs emerging out of the ocean. This ride is a great way to explore many amazing spots such as Maya Bay, Monkey Beach, Pileh Lagoon, etc.
The last stop before Phi Phi island was Coral Bay, where we got our snorkelling gear and got off the boat to discover underwater creatures. For me, this was the major highlight of the tour. Spending around 30 minutes in blue, salty waters under shimmering sunlight was an incredible experience. After snorkelling, the boat took us to Phi Phi island, where we enjoyed a classic Thai buffet lunch and spent some time exploring the Phi Phi beach before departing for Phuket.
I can say that the best memories of this tour rotate around water. There is still so much more to explore in and around Phuket, and after this incredibly exciting adventure trip I can understand why this magnificent island sees such a heady mix of visitors return year after year.