This post was most recently updated on February 15th, 2017
“Thailand: Discovering Phuket” is part two of a three-part Thailand adventure by guest blogger, Ron Clinkenbeard. He’s also my cousin! I invited Ron to share his Thailand adventure because I haven’t yet been to Asia and I hoped to experience it vicariously through his account. Perhaps you can, too…
If you’re just joining us, you can read about Ron’s first leg in Chiang Mai at Thailand: Chiang Mai Adventure.
I began the second leg of my Thailand adventure on US Thanksgiving Day by leaving my sister and brother-in-law behind in Chiang Mai and boarding a plane to Phuket in the southern part of the country.
Phuket is the home region of First (the Thai exchange student) and his family, and as a result I was treated like visiting royalty. It is a west coast island approximately 45 miles long and is linked to the mainland by a causeway at its northern end.
Phuket: Beaches and more
Smaller and separate communities have developed along the water on both sides of the island and each beachfront has a separate character which caters to the particulars of the tourist contingent: partiers, relaxers, on a budget or well-to-do. The west-facing beaches in this region were devastated by the earthquake-triggered tsunami of 2011. I was told about how high the water ran through the oceanfront streets, yet the beach town of Patong, where I stayed, appears to have been entirely rebuilt and fully resumed its reputation as a party town.
The beaches are the primary draw to Phuket yet it offers a wide variety of activities to engage the traveler. Rosy-skinned Northern and Eastern Europeans made up the majority of tourists with a large contingent of Chinese visitors and twice-weekly arrivals of cruise ships supplementing those populations.
My hosts wisely advised me to take particular care with sun exposure as the solar intensity at 7 Degrees North Latitude is much greater than most Americans are used to. In this part of the country use sunscreen generously!
My accommodations being 40 miles from the airport, I was prepared to use local bus service or a taxi to reach my hotel, but I was met by First’s relatives who delivered me directly to the hotel after the hour-long car ride. They also arranged to pick me up for “Thanksgiving” dinner with the rest of the family.
In that I was a special guest, I was asked what I wanted to do while I was in Phuket and they made all of the arrangements…Thai hospitality at its finest! They also made recommendations for several of the tourist activities that are commonly engaged in while in Phuket.
Water play options are extensively available. Any stroll on or near the beach will encounter industrious entrepreneurs promoting long-tail boat trips to outer islands, jet-ski rentals, para-sailing, sea fishing, and snorkel or scuba trips which can be negotiated with individual purveyors or arranged through a broker at any of the many shops offering the services away from the beachfront. Bargaining is expected.
I indulged water play on two boat trips. The first was an all-day excursion on Phang Nga Bay in a boat filled with tourists from all over the world. I met travelers from Australia, Egypt, Germany, Bulgaria, Israel, Russia, Mexico and Spain – but no other Americans! The huge bay is noted for its karst islands and monoliths that contribute to its allure, beauty and mystery.
We moored at the entrance to a sea cave and boarded kayaks to explore the interior, paddling past the monkeys guarding the entrance (and begging food) and underneath the huge colony of bats and great hall with a ceiling covered by stalactites. We motored to another mooring location for a kayak exploration of a lagoon mostly sheltered from open waters yet open to the crystal blue sky. Our other stops allowed us to visit a marine sanctuary with a view to James Bond Island – the picturesque backdrop used in the advertising posters of “Man with the Golden Gun” – and to moor at a small deserted beach for a late afternoon swim in the 80-degree water.
The second water adventure took the fast boat to a small island on the east side of Phuket for a day of snorkeling, speed boating, para-sailing and lounging around in and near the water. This outing was not so much about sightseeing as it was about recreating and relaxing.
Other Phuket Attractions
My hosts insisted on my experiencing a breadth of other Phuket attractions. As a result, I found myself in several enclosures with both cubs and grown felines at Tiger Kingdom. The cats are ‘wild’ but have been acclimated to humans by repetition (and perhaps some sedation). I have to admit to some substantial adrenaline flowing while stroking the tail end of a 300-pound tiger.
I sat ringside for one night of Muay-Thai boxing. I also enjoyed the history, arts and culture in a spectacular and entertaining display at Phuket Fanta-Sea, a Disney-like extravaganza incorporating acrobats, animal trainers, dancers, and musicians. Each attraction was unique and made for colorful memories.
After Phuket, the final leg of my Thailand trip took me to Bangkok…as a city with 8,000,000 residents, it provided great contrast to my Phuket explorations.
- Tiger Kingdom admission prices are determined by the size of the tiger you wish to encounter. The price to be with a large adult tiger is 1000 THB (about $29 USD). It’s more to be with a newborn cub (2500 THB or $71 USD). The website claims the tigers are NOT drugged.
- There are two Muay Thai boxing stadiums in Patong, Bangla Boxing and Patong Boxing. There are several fights a week, as boxing is a very popular sport in Thailand. The fights are real and not staged. Prices vary from 1300 to 2500 THB, depending on the seat ($37-$71 USD).
- Phuket’s Fanta-Sea show is on the scale of Las Vegas shows and also includes a buffet if desired. Admission prices start at 2200 THB for adults for both the show and buffet ($63 USD) or 1800 THB for just the show ($51 USD).
Have you been to Phuket? Any attractions you would add to this list?
See Bangkok: the New York City of Thailand to read about Ron’s visit to Bangkok.