Would I visit again? … quizas quizas quizas! I’ve learned that all things are in the realm of possibility. However, so much more to still see and so little time, so I’m not holding my breath on visiting Thailand again.
On to you! If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, make sure you visit its best and largest island, Phuket. Don’t just take it from me, most of the locals I’ve encountered agree. Personal discoveries are sometimes the most memorable but if you’re not one to leave it up to fate and serendipity, I’ve got you!
In my opinion, these are the top places of interest but I’m sure you’ll discover much more on your trip. If you have more to add, please don’t hesitate in sharing them.
Here’s my list:
Phuket’s coast is strewn with endless islands. All about that island life – palm trees, ocean breeze, sunshine, salty hair and sandy feet … claro que si! Soak up the good vibes and relax on Phuket’s best beaches by island hopping along the Adaman Sea. On one of our trips, we went through rough waters and I particularly recall the look on everyone’s faces as we made our way across on speedboat. I don’t think we truly comprehend the power and force behind the magnificent beauty of the ocean. Majestical!
Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is marked by sheer limestone cliffs with caves, collapsed cave systems and emerald green waters. The famous islands, James Bond and Koh Panyee, are found in this bay. Ko Ta Pu is the needle formed limestone rock in the sea just off the James Bond Island (Khao Phing Kan).
Phi Phi Islands
Phi Phi Island is the super-star of Thailand, featured in the movie, The Beach. The Phi Phi islands offers private beaches and all the frills for a relaxing, luxurious beach stay.
The Similan Islands in the Phang Nga bay, north west of Phuket is another top attraction. Most flock to these islands for the wonders that lie beneath its clear blue seas. Its pristine white-sand beaches, boulders, dive sites and lively, colourful coral reefs are a feast for the senses.
More beautiful white beaches and azure waters at Tachai Island with an ancient rainforest and a variety of wildlife. The Koh Tachai island forms part of the Similan Islands. Phew, all these islands can get pretty confusing as there are so many.
Coconut island is a tropical paradise that offers the sought-after peace, exclusivity and relaxation that is associated with a private beach. The Village at Coconut Island is your go-to place for a luxurious stay with five-star facilities and service. Do something different like participating in the ‘raw’ island-life experience of foraging for food, fishing with the locals and end it with Thai cooking classes. I’ll be forever envious of this simple way of life.
Phuket Old Town
Travel back in time with an early morning stroll around the historical Old Town with its Sino-Portuguese splendours. Enjoy a little respite over a good brunch at one of its restaurants. The town is characterised by remarkable architecture, a unique blend of colonial and Chinese influence. Apparently, Old Town was built on the riches reaped from Phuket’s then booming tin mining industry.
Vistas of the future – Phuket View Points
Sri Panwa Baba Nest for sunset lovers like me.
Promthep Cape for Phuket Viewpoints or Karon View Point or Khao Rang Viewpoint
For a panoramic sunset view, head over to “Baan Chom View” restaurant above the beach in Kata Noi. Sip a cocktail while the sun slips below the west horizon and imagine the endless opportunities the future may bring. Baan Chom View is one of the three sunset restaurants here, “After Beach” bar and “Small Viewpoint” are the other two. Reggae lovers will enjoy “After Beach” bar.
For the lovers, be sure to visit Mom Tri’s Kitchen in the Mueang Phuket District for a romantic feast overlooking the Andaman Sea. Fine dining waterside with stunning sea views during golden hour … ah ooh la la!
Smile, there’s rum!
Another interesting activity to do in Phuket is to take a tour of their authentic Rum Distillery in the Chalong Bay. The distillery visit entails a tour, fun cocktail workshop and bar for sips and giggles over delicious cocktails. “Drinking rum before 10am makes you a pirate not an alcoholic” 🙂
Phuket Trickeye Museum
“The heart is a museum, filled with the exhibits of a lifetime’s loves.” – Diane Ackerman
Check out the Phuket Trickeye Museum where you can engage with art. An interactive museum in Phuket Town based on a concept that stimulates one’s creativity and imagination with 3D paintings and an action gallery.
Phuket FantaSea in Kamala Beach is a night-time cultural theme park that showcases Thailand’s exotic heritage. It is comprised of the park, restaurants, theatre and show.
Sashay away to the Simon Cabaret Show – The Ladybugs, the biggest transvestite cabaret show in Phuket.
Beach Clubs are dime a dozen in Bangtao / Kamala / Patong. For a great chill out session with sublime music, food and atmosphere, be sure to visit the well-known Café Del Mar, an iconic Ibiza venue in Phuket.
The human-animal interaction sites for tourists remains a contentious issue. So, I’m just going to move on with a pinch of salt and something to ponder 😉 Why would an elephant, who can easily trample on us, allow any human to casually touch it or better yet, ride it? Hmm, because they simply adore us humans, oh hell no! They are scared of negative reinforcement, simple! Okey dokey, with that off my chest, here’s a few more places in Phuket that you can go check out and people, try to be respectful of the animals.
Aka Khao To Sae Hill, home to approximately 400 macaques. Do not feed the monkeys! Heed the warning or they’ll get aggressive. It’s free, good exercise, has sunset views but it is unsupervised so do be careful!
Experience the unimaginable – Tiger Kingdom!
Kudos to Tiger Kingdom for helping tigers back into the wild, where they belong. They support the “Plant a Tree Today” Foundation which helps to actively restore the wild tiger habitat in Thailand and combat climate change. Bravo!
Observe and participate with the gentle giants at the Elephant Sanctuaries in Phuket Town / Narthan / Bangtoa for ethical and animal-friendly interaction.
Last but not least under my ‘animals-to-see’ recommendation is the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project – “We are on a huge mission to return Thailand’s most intelligent wildlife species, gibbon, back to where its previously extinct from the wild.” According to the Gibbon Project, by paying to have your photo taken with a gibbon you are simply part of the abuse crime of gibbons: “Say No – Report – Spread the Word Today”. Apparently, these cuties are seriously mistreated, abused and even killed. Let’s make a difference by not supporting this crime.
After 2004 Phuket and tsunami have become synonymous, sadly. I recall talking to our driver about it, he described the devastation that the tsunami wrought and how he survived, by chance. When tragedy hit, he was driving a client to the opposite side of the mountain. In memory of the 2004 tragic event that cost so many lives, visit and take in the respectful quiet at Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Center.
As John Piper put it, “destructive calamities in this world mingle judgement and mercy. Their purposes are not simple. Job as a godly man and his miseries were not God’s punishment (Job 1:1,8). Their design was purifying not punishment (Job 42:6). Suffering, and even death, can be both judgment and mercy at the same time.” Take the death of Jesus for example.
Walking amid flashing neon lights and clashing music beats aka the Bangla Road Nightlife in Patong, a huge rat darted across our path, oh my horror! Like little lights in a pagan world, you will need an open mind and a sense of humour to enjoy this outing. If I were younger, I suppose it would have been more tolerable. I wish I wasn’t so slow in fully grasping my mother’s sage words earlier in life: “it’s all false gaiety” and “nothing good happens after 10pm.” Sans judgment, each to his own.
The Night Markets are also a popular attraction in Phuket.
The final ones on my list are the Big Buddha and Phuket Temples in Chalong. Whether for spiritual reasons, the love of architecture or simply passing time, these sites do pull a crowd. Hope you’ve enjoyed my recommendations.
Some closing thoughts by John Piper:
“… our desire for happiness is designed by God, and so is our desire for permanence. They are not evil. Here is what is evil: Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13).
We are designed to be satisfied with the one eternal (permanent) God. Evil is when we believe that God will not satisfy us and therefore pursue happiness in something else. That’s the essence of sin. And the way we fight sin is not to kill desire, but to abandon our futile desires for broken cisterns. There is no water there. Go to the Fountain!
Jesus and the Buddha agreed that pursuing ultimate happiness in transient things is futile. But they direct us to opposite solutions. The Buddha says satisfaction is treasuring no thing. Jesus says it is treasuring God. In God we get all things. In no thing we get, well, nothing.”
Besos y abrazos,