Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, located in the Andaman Sea off southern Thailand. The island is mostly mountainous with a mountain range in the west and the rest of the island covered by forest. The western coast has several sandy beaches, while on the east coast beaches are more often muddy. One of the most popular tourist areas on Phuket is Patong Beach on the central western coast, perhaps owing to the easy access to its wide and long beach. Most of Phuket’s nightlife and its cheap shopping is located in Patong, and the area has become increasingly developed. Patong means “the forest filled with banana leaves” in Thai. Other popular beaches are located south of Patong. In a counterclockwise direction these include Karon Beach, Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach, and around the southern tip of the island, Nai Harn Beach and Bang Tao Beach. These areas are generally much less developed than Patong, and sought out by individuals, families and other groups with a preference for more relaxed and less crowded environs than Patong.
Growing up, I remember Phuket as one of those places that expatriates from Hong Kong would visit during the December months to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. This year, I had the pleasure of spending a few days on the island as part of my in-law’s family reunion. It was everything I expected with its sandy beaches and laid back environment. As expected the weather was quite tropical and the heat and humidity were quite intense on certain days.
During our time there, we stayed at a ClubMed which was stocked with friendly tourists from around the world. The facility is located right on Kata Beach and, aside from general hotel and restaurant accommodations, supplies nightly entertainment and activities including trapeze, acrobats, and cobra shows. We also had the opportunity to try Thai Massages. These entail a masseuse using his/her elbows and feet to dig into your body. They don’t use any oils and its definitely worth trying at least once. Massage parlors are extremely common in Phuket – I think I saw almost one every block.
The region is just starting to recover from the after affects of the tsunami that devastated the region, and most of the coastal cities of Southeast Asia. As we walked through the city, we saw signs that indicated the path to “Tsunami Hazard Zones”. We were told that in the event of another tsunami, these would be areas where one would be in danger and there would be areas where one would be safe. I never bothered to ask but isn’t that a bit like predicting the location of where it will rain next? Well, I’m at least glad they are making precautions.
If you have some time, don’t forget to try the transvestite shows. We went to the Sphinx Restaurant where we had a good European style dinner and then were treated to a lip synching extravaganza performed by men and she-men! These are very common throughout Thailand!
If you’ve been to the grand temples of Bangkok and Ayutthaya, then you really don’t need to visit. However, if you love temples then this is the place for you! We took the opportunity to try our hand at a little of the local customs and Lauren pressed some of the customary gold leaf into the statues. This is meant to answer your prayers!
Phang Nga (James Bond) and Koh Pannyi (Sea Gypsy) Islands
Phang Nga or James Bond Island was aptly named due to its starring role in the James Bond movie, “Man With the Golden Gun”. To get to the island you have to take a Thai long boat through several dense rivers, through a cavern and into the ocean. The scenery is great and there are lots of pictures to be taken but no much else aside from the throngs of tourist stalls conveniently located on the limited beach front. On the return to the mainland, we had lunch at a local seafood restaurant built on the island of Koh Pannyi, also known as the Sea Gypsy Island. The island has a whole host of these buildings essentially builts over the water and the biggest building on the island is a mosque.
Of all the tourist activities in Phuket, this was the one we most enjoyed and would highly recommend. You definitely get a good overview of the various aspects of jungle life in Thailand in a safe, family friendly environment.
We were treated to a curry cooking demonstrations, coconut de-husking, and interactions with numerous animals. Below I’ve added some video showing monkeys removing coconuts from the tops of trees and elephants dancing for fruit!