After experiencing Chiang Mai, I was now ready for the next leg of my tour in Thailand. Down south to mainland Thailand in the Andaman Sea is the country’s largest island and literally the most famous holiday destination among tourists and travelers to Thailand, Phuket Island.
Phuket is a mega island and Thailand’s wealthiest province due to the heavy tourism. But between all the sandy beaches and nightclubs everywhere, Phuket has a rich history to look back to from trade with the Portuguese, English, Dutch, and Chinese that the tourists miss out on. And then there are the innumerable number of activities you can do. Right from golfing, fishing, cruising, zip-lining, diving, snorkeling, canoeing just to get you started with the place. But here’s what I did in Phuket.
Getting to Phuket
I boarded a morning flight from Chiang Mai on AirAsia. Since both cities are poles apart it took me over 2 hours to get there. But AirAsia treated me with some real goodies onboard.
- You could also take a bus to Phuket from Bangkok but that will cut your trip short by 13-16 hours. Your call! 😛
Thailand offers visa-on-arrival (VOA) for a bunch of nationalities and visa exemption for a lucky few passports. The VOA costs 2000 Thai Baht.
- There is a visa waiver going on now until the 31st of August 2017 which you could avail, so you pay only a 1000 Thai Baht upon arrival. That’s a good 50% saved for something else before you even step outside the airport.
If you are visiting Thailand from India like me you would have to go through Bangkok and your visa formalities get done there. I had mine done at the Don Mueang International Airport on my arrival from Kochi a few days earlier before heading out to Chiang Mai from there.
Of the spent two nights in Phuket, I stayed at the Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel in the heart and soul of Old Phuket town with the historical Sino-Portuguese buildings its architectural styles. The hotel itself is housed in a modified building with a Mediterranean vibe, lovely decor and exceptionally clean. Offering a minimalist and elegant touch of hospitality to its guests at some exceptional prices.
On the ride from the Airport, I stopped by to visit the Phuket Trickeye Museum. This was the first time I came across a 3D art museum and there was a childlike excitement that I couldn’t contain. The paintings and art gallery allow visitors to engage and develop their creativity while clicking and posing away. I couldn’t stop but notice that all the kids here were having so much fun. So this is a must-visit if you are traveling to Phuket with kids. Sometimes there is more that meets the eye to each painting. They also have markers that help you take better pictures and also assist you.
- Entry is 300 Thai Baht for kids and 500 for adults.
Phuket Old Town
By the time I finished the tour of the museum and got to town, it was almost evening and a good time to take a lovely stroll. Take your time here and grab a quick bite from the many street cafes. The old town reminded me a lot about the streets of Kandy which I visited a few months back.
I was starving, and my guide suggested I visit the Onechun Restaurant, just around the corner from the hotel.The restaurant was an old converted vintage house exhibiting old wall clocks, box televisions and transistor radios. I enjoyed some authentic Thai seafood with a glass of tender coconut juice. This is a perfect place to enjoy a group dinner.
- A meal would cost you somewhere between 500-1000 Thai Baht.
Feel the Jamaican vibe
After a heavy dinner, while walking back to the hotel, I slowly stumbled the sounds of Hotel California playing somewhere near. It was coming from a funky looking cafe right opposite to the hotel I stayed at. The Rasta Cafe & Restaurant is a good place to relax, wind down and enjoy your evenings. Feel a Jamaican vibe hit you in the middle of Old Town Phuket while you sip on some Chang beer and listen to local artists sing their heart out.
Next morning, it was the start of a long day and I was up by 7. Just a block away from the hotel was a small hole-in-the-wall serving local food. According to my guide, there is no better way to start a good day with some good food at Abdul’s Roti Shop. I had a banana roti with some lamb and chicken curry to dip it in and add a glass of hot Thai tea in condensed milk. The roti reminded so much of the Kerala Parathas in Kerala and the curry had a lot of Indian flavors.
- Forget about your fitness and routine for a day and enjoy some local goodness.
Go Zip-lining in the jungles of Phuket
With the yummy heavy breakfast done, I was off for a short drive to the western side of the island. I’ve never gone zip-lining and was in the mood for some adventure. It was an overcast day and certainly not one for the beaches but perfect for some adventure in the jungle. Flying Hanuman offered some great courses of zip-lines from tree to tree in a lush green rainforest, oh yes, in the rain. They had a lot packed in for about 2 hours of tree hopping. A bit of wilderness trekking, sky bridges, spiral staircases, sky rails, abseils, dual zip lines and to top it, a total eco-experience with all the latest safety gear and well-trained staff. I opted for the “Journey A” which covers the entire course of 28 platforms from one end to the other.
- Enjoy the amazing view of Phuket and the coast from the tallest of the trees.
- Open for people of all ages from 4 to 80 years old.
- Journey A costs 3490 Thai Baht along with a sumptuous meal served along with some tropical fruits after your adventure.
- Journey B costs 3250 Thai Baht and Journey C costs 2300 Thai Baht.
- For a small additional charge, you could get your photos and a movie of you zip-lining made by them.
- Always better to get there early as it gets really busy with a lot of people later during the day.
Take a complete boat cruise to the Andaman Sea
After zip-lining, I spent the remaining day cruising in the deep waters of the Andaman Sea. I boarded a private boat with Silver Hawk Phuket for a cruise to Phang Nga Bay, the bay that connects Phuket to the rest of mainland Thailand. This place is known for its scenic sea views and the hundreds of islands dotting around it. My pickup was at the Ao Por Pier where the boat was waiting for me. The skies were opening up after a bit of rain.
Canoeing in Hong Island
The first stop on the cruise was at Koh Hong Island. An island completely surrounded by limestone karst, where you will board a canoe and a guide will paddle you around to explore hidden caves, caverns, and lagoons.
Visit James Bond Island
James Bond? Yes, this was next on our cruise stop. Known as Khao Phing Kan Island from where you get to view the famous limestone karst known in Thai as Koh Tapu. This was featured in the 1976 James Bond movie, “The Man With a Loaded Gun”. The island is now more commonly referred to as James Bond Island. Take a stroll through the island and enjoy the immaculate beauty of the surrounding sea and islands with the sound of the waves to soothe you.
Celebrate Loi Krathong
On board, the friendly guide taught me how to make a Krathong (Flower basket) with a lotus flower. As the sun set for the day, the boat stopped at a cave en route and we lit a candle with it, made a wish and let the Krathong float into the sea.
Taste the ultimate seafood dinner
The lovely afternoon boat cruise ended with a delicious dinner of seafood and Phuket delicacies cooked by the chefs on board.
- There are so many cruises to choose from. You could charter a yacht or a boat, go on a one day trip or multi-day honeymoon package. Visit the Silver Hawk Cruise website for more details.
Located on the western side of the island is the infamous crowded yet beautiful Patong Beach. While I didn’t get a lot of time to spend at the beach, I did have a walk through the famous street known for his its vibrant nightlife, Soi Bangla. Take a walk along this street lined up with bars, discos, and parties one after the other with decibel levels shooting through the roof. Don’t be surprised if you find families with kids walking along as well. Haha!
- But be wary of the touts even if you find it really convincing.
Phuket also has its share of good transportation services for everyone.
- You could rent a car from the airport.
- Rent a motorbike for around 150-300 Thai Baht a day.
- There are motorcycle taxis that can take you around Phuket Town for about 20 Thai Baht.
- Plenty of tuk-tuks are also available.
- And like Chiang Mai, I made use of Grab taxi when I needed one.
It was a bit rainy and overcast on the days I was there but it did open up and clear a few times. But the weather was more tropical like in South India. June is the low season but it is probably the best time to be in Phuket to avoid the masses that flock in the high season from December to March.
The Pearl of the Andaman
Phuket lives up to its name as one of the best beach holiday destinations in the world and I’m sure you would want to find out what else goes on here. Beaches, islands, tropical jungles, old towns, nightlife, they have it all. Come and explore, the Pearl of the Andaman when in Thailand.
Have you been to Phuket? Share your experiences in the comments below.
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*All views expressed here are my own.
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