Phuket has rightfully emerged as one of the hotspots on the world tourist map. Neptune blue seas, lush green hills, hospitable climate and lovely people – it has all you may want, to have time of your life.
I went to the Thai island of Phuket in March, but I am told that except for the few monsoon months, the place is perfect around the year. Numerous and lovely beaches are just one of the highs of a Phuket holiday – day cruises to various Islands and bays, underwater sports, sea caves, night markets, jungle safaris…it has all. But one word of caution before we delve a little deeper in Phuket waters – don’t plan for less than six days, or else you would return a sad man (or woman), having missed a lot of sightseeing, photographing, sunning and island hopping.
In brief, the following would my favorite ‘top ten’ things to do in Phuket:
1. Day cruise to Phang Nga Bay: Made famous by the James Bond movie – Man with the Golden Gun, the area around this beautiful bay has since been filmed in a number of Hollywood and Bollywood movies (especially the aerial shots of the islands). A photographer, with a digital camera, will want to have additional storage capacity, and one with the old ‘roll’ camera will tear his hair off.
The manner in which the local tourist industry has handled the day cruise business in this area is commendable. It is cheap, efficient and hassle free. Canoeing and snorkeling is part of the trip. Though one does feel that with more moolah, one could have hired a private yacht and lived on it for days. If wishes were horses…
2. Day cruise to Phi Phi islands: A similar experience awaits one on this cruise too, but with a different location and different set of activities, there is no sense of repetition. One should however keep a gap of one or two days between these two trips.
I remember an incident on the trip that I feel is essential in this narrative (though why, I cannot explain). There was this Iranian gentleman on the trip, who was with his wife and two daughters. For the first few hours, he behaved impeccably – in an unassuming, hen-pecked manner, devotedly caring for his twin daughters, while his wife had a whale of a time with a group of youngish guys. But suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, this gentleman revealed his true, ‘He-man’ side. He dived off the boat and swam to a nearby island, which looked a few kilometers away to my untrained eyes. At the time the boat had stopped for lunch at a scenic location. The gentleman instantly became the toast of the crowd, and his wife claimed the rightful place by his side on his return.
3. Roaming around the Bangla Road at night: It may sound strange, but is true, that it is a perfect outing for the family. The Roxy clubs and all the activity of the like nature notwithstanding, it is a great place to be in at night. Brightly lit shops, crowds on the roads, pubs and hotels with seating arrangements on the street, hustle-bustle of the hawkers and loud music – the atmosphere of fun just makes one wish to stay awake a little longer.
4. Biking on the island: This list is random – had it been strictly on the basis on my favourite activity in Phuket, I would have placed it on the number one spot. I just had the best experience of my life, riding along the sea, on the snaky-wavy road that went up and down the hills and passed cute little markets and giant statues of serene Buddhas on the way. Make a mental note of it – this activity requires two days to do justice to the beauty of the island.
- Snorkeling: Along with the cruise, or separately (if it has to be done properly, with guide and all), it is an enriching experience, though it does require you to be a competent swimmer. Moreover, you would require time to master the techniques before you can really enjoy the underwater.
- Sunning at Karon and Kata beaches (though the others are no less): The first and foremost reason for a beach holiday is, well, the beaches, and here the island scores a perfect ten. We may not waste more time on this topic. There are an number of them to explore, each a little different from the other.
- Enjoying the resorts and hospitality: Reasonably priced, elegant and often perfectly located, there are any number of good resorts both at Phuket as also on Phi Phi island. Spas, Thai massage and hospitality in general is of a good standard all over the island.
- Shopping and sightseeing at the Old Phuket town: A mix of Portuguese and Thai architecture, with a touch of Chinese and Indian at places, makes this place look very 19th century. Again, shopping and photo shoot are the obvious pass-time in this place. So go prepared.
- Sighting the flying fishes on long cruises: Now these two items are for the lucky few. Longer cruises need longer period of stay and sighting of the beautiful silvery flying fishes can not be guaranteed (though it is not too difficult), and
- Temples, tropical rainforests, mountain climbing, waterfalls and local bazaars: This point in the list just shows that for tourists with the luxury of longer stays (something that I did not have), there is much more to do and explore. So, best wishes and happy journey….