Land of Smiles
It’s been so long since I last travelled that was about to grow roots. I mean by now any place would seem like heaven. So maybe my enthusiasm for Phuket can be colored by desperation. Covid situation currently better there was less trepidation this time than the last vacation. Hope all remains well as the world is certainly too vast to be spent in one city/country.
Thailand being a short flight away from India have visited a couple of times earlier as well. This time was different as wanted to explore and store more information to share on my blog. End of the trip, what I felt was there is so much more than what I did do on this trip, need to go again.
Phuket = fun, pure unadulterated fun, the to go place to relax or party. It’s the biggest Island of Thailand and has easy access by boat to Krabi and Phi Phi
City Tour : Embarking on the tour ensure that shoulders and legs are covered as many places don’t permit entry if the dress is inappropriate. Shawls/ Stoles can be bought outside the monuments, just in case in the enthusiasm to head out rules are forgotten. Though sightseeing is not the main attraction, for the die hard tourists there are a few places that can be visited.
Old Town : All Instagram fanatics must visit. It’s just a couple of roads with quaint cafes, pretty looking shops ( nothing which can really be bought ) I mean the pretty part of it gets over so fast, but it’s super cute. Not sure about food but for desserts John donuts ( was sold out, did not get any ) and Torry’s Ice cream are brilliant. It would be one of the best ice creams every had. Be brave, try their different combinations.
Wat Chlong temple : It’s peaceful and has 2 main sanctuaries, Saw a few locals who were shaking a box of sticks till one fell out. Curious when I asked around, this is what the folklore says…the stick that falls out tells your future, there are printed sheets corresponding to the color of the stick and the number written on it, match it and your future is revealed, unfortunately it’s in Thai so google translate assistance will also be required. It’s a fun thing to do.
Big Buddha : On a mountain it can be seen from afar. It’s majestic and needs some climbing after the car park. On the way to the Big Buddha before reaching there are some viewing points which sell some drinks and snacks. Visit Big Buddha just before sunset and stop at the viewing points on the way back for breathtaking sunset views.
Karon view point : Was kind of disappointed as there was not much to it, better views were on the way to Big Buddha. There are a few rooftop bars which would be a better option than the view point.
James Bond Island : Best to take a speed boat tour, avoid the long tail one as it’s time consuming. They include hotel pick up and have some complimentary snacks at the boarding point. Typical itinerary is cruise around Phang Nga Bay. Take pictures of Koh Panak Island on way, stop at Hong Island for sea canoeing tour. ( make sure to choose this option as it’s great fun ) following stop will be at an island with unusual rock formations, limestone caves and hidden lagoons. Next is the star island Khao Ping Gan (Leaning Rock), or “James Bond Island “. Lunch is included in the tour price and I expected it to be quite bad but was served at a very pretty island village Ko Panyi and the views made up for lack of palatable vegetarian food. Finish lunch fast to walk around the village, there is a school there which has a floating football ground. Final stop is at Naka Noi island. The stop is for an hour to swim and enjoy on the beach, or try activities such as Jet Skiing or banana boating. There are snacks and drinks that can be bought here. Mainland is around 20 minutes away. It’s a full day tour and hectic, but fun.
Beaches in the north are peaceful and some may say boring, south beaches have the buzz which people would visit Thailand for. Massages on the beach, water sports, so much shopping, restaurants, cafes, a vibe so lively and infectious.
Mai Khao beach : It’s in the north and quite secluded, only recommended if aim is to rediscover oneself. It’s clean as hardly any vendors are there.
Surin beach : It’s white sand beach which is less crowded than Patong, if have have loads of time can visit else Patong works best every time.
Karon beach : 4 kms long and less touristy than Patong which also translates to less expensive, it’s a decent option in case travelling with family and on a budget. Has good resorts at lesser prices.
Patong beach : THIS is the one to go to, even while writing since it’s so fresh in my mind I can feel the energy, the buzz is electrifying. It’s like your personal genie, whatever you want you get. And open till probably 7AM. I personally feel the essence of Phuket is captured here. Lots of resorts around, staying options are many, and stay cost is highest here. ( Baring Laguna of course )
Summary of beaches : Naithon, Nai Yang, Mai Khao ( Quiet beaches on the North ) Kamala, Bangtoa, Surin ( Semi quiet beached in the center ) Kata, Karon, Patong ( Buzzing beaches in the south )
Laguna : It’s got 7 high end luxury hotels, golf courses, spas, boutique shopping, fancy spas, canoeing, sailing. Situated on Bangtao beach it’s in a world of its own. Highly recommended for all who want a luxurious vacation.
Splash water park : Quite run down and not worth spending time and money.
FantaSea : They really need to revamp the show as well as all props for spectators to come out happy. Avoidable in it’s current state.
NIghtlife : USP of most cities of Thailand and Phuket doesn’t disappoint. Bangla road for all who want to party all night. At sunset it transforms itself every evening from a sleepy lane to a energetic buzzing locale. Not to be visited with children or parents. There is an unapologetic openness to the vibrancy making it fun rather than sleazy. I personally anyways feel sleaze is more in the mind. A good place to go is Red hot club, it’s open to the road and you can soak in all happening outside as well, it’s like being at 2 places at the same time. I LOVED Illuzion, the DJ’s there are beyond fantastic, visited on Monday and could barely get place to stand. I want to go back some time and see what happens on a weekend. It’s in a building but hard to miss as they have lighted staircase leading up to it. While heading back to the hotel could hear Bollywood playing from somewhere, which means hunt a bit and get all kinds of music that you want.
Michelin star restaurants : PRU @ Trisara, Raya for homely food. Blue Elephant, what a fabulous place, recommended by our driver and we thanked him plenty for it. It’s Michelin star in an old mansion with sprawling lawns. If you don’t know about it you can’t just discover it. A vegetarian getting good food in Thailand is unheard of but yes it happened. They serve non vegetarian food as well obviously. Want to learn how to cook what has been served ? Enroll for their cooking classes. Too lazy ? Just buy their array of sauces and food all hand crafted to be taken back home.
Fun, romantic, picture perfect places to dine in ( Not very sure about how the food tastes though, being a vegetarian in a non vegetarian city ) : There are so many that I discovered, probably would be so many more which someone else can unearth and update on the blog. Catch beach club ( On Bangtao beach, lunch here would also be good ) Cafe Del Mar ( Kamala beach for sundowners and Ibiza vibes) ) Blue beach cafe and restaurant ( This honestly was chanced upon, but what a superb find, right on the beach and serving superb cocktails, want to go back )
Rooftop places with great views : Wassa ( Patong, pocket friendly ) The surface ( Patong ) Sundeck ( Karon view point ) Heaven Rooftop ( Karon view point ) Vanilla Sky ( Kamala ) Kee Sky Lounge ( Patong ) Andaman Sky Lounge ( Patong ) 360 degrees ( In hotel Pavilions, banana beach )
Street food : Along with fancy places to dine in some suggestions for street food. Pad Thai Noodles, Pancakes, Tom Yum. ( Spice levels are high ) Thiland has the best fruits in the world, loads of fruits, not to forget raw mangoes. A disclaimer, being a staunch vegetarian for the best food to be had, maybe should be hunted as a separate search online.
Shopping : Plenty of roadside shopping at Patong, Central, the mall was closed but a lot of small shops have sprung up just outside. Naka night market for fun shopping, its local stuff and fake bags etc, on weekends a live band plays and just to hang around would be fun. Old town has night market on weekends. Patong has shops open till midnight.
Getting around : There are small vans called tuk tuks, available everywhere and at all times, a little negotiating on rates is totally acceptable. They have flat charges to be discussed before alighting. Many of them have fun flashy disco lights, the party continues till drop at the hotel .
Massages : Last but most important, it’s everywhere and the best thing to do in Thailand. Don’t sleep without getting one done every single day. Would prefer the foot massage to the body massage. Can be done in the open part of the parlor and feels safer, in terms of hygiene as well.
Tips : Carry loads of waterproof sunscreen, a waterproof backpack, 2-3 pairs of sunglasses for variation in pictures. A small water bottle to keep filling water where you can ( save the world, refuse plastic bottles ) Waterproof foldable shopping bag. A book to read. Lots of hair conditioner, so much of dunking hair in water, they cry for nourishment. Lots of swimwear, sarong ( maybe get one that can double up as a towel ) It’s cash friendly economy, most places charge 3% to swipe credit cards, carry enough cash.