|The view above Phuket's Ya Nui Beach.|
When planning our time in Phuket, I had a difficult time deciding in what area we should stay. Phuket town seemed like the most authentic option, but it was inland and away from the beach, and getting to the beach would be difficult without a rental car. Knowing what I know now, Phuket town would have been a good option. Patong sounded like my worst nightmare, listed as Phuket’s main tourist center with clubbing and prostitution and catcalling touts. Based on my research, Kata and Karon seemed like the best options. A possibility barely explored in my guidebooks was Rawai, which I also believe would have been a better choice for us.
We stayed at the Andaman Seaview Hotel in Karon Beach. While we usually prefer to stay at smaller hotels, I thought Phuket was the place to stay in a resort. Plus I was able to get a room that would normally cost hundreds of dollars for a very reasonable price through Olotels. See, I told you not to think me pretentious; I was already selling out for luxury comforts! The hotel is very pretty with nice people and right across the street from the beach. However, to give you a sense of my overall problem with the more touristy towns of Phuket, the buffet breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon, fruit, mashed potatoes, soups, pasta, and ice cream. This was one of the first indications that Karon felt the need to cater to tourist palates, rather than hoping tourist palates wanted to experience Thai tastes.
|Andaman Seaview Hotel - A beautiful hotel, but not my favorite in Thailand, and certainly not my favorite breakfast.|
Phuket town is very colorful with interesting Sino-Portuguese architecture. If you visit Phuket, be sure to visit Phuket town. I would guess many visitors never step foot in the town. In addition to the beautiful architecture, we visited a fascinating apothecary shop, which I believe was also featured in The Amazing Race. We visited Wat Chalong, the most important of the Buddhist temples in Phuket. We also visited a Chinese temple, which was a little different from the many Thai Buddhist temples we had visited during our trip.
|Sino-Portuguese architecture of Phuket town.|
|Apothecary shop in Phuket town.|
|Kiew Tien Keng Shrine|
|Bird's Nest Soup|
|Sunset at Laem Phromthep|
On another night, while in search of a place for dinner, we tried to take a shortcut through an alley. We found a number of small outdoor bars the size of a living room. Most of them had a bar and one pool table. What they all had in common were prostitutes. I was a bit fascinated, and the ladies were all friendly, even to me (I’m assuming they didn’t think I would be sending any business their way). However it really depressed me that this was what a large number of travelers to the area were looking for.
While walking around at night, we both noticed we would get raging headaches. The headaches were caused by the pollution and fumes from all the tuk-tuks and cars. You would think the pollution in Bangkok would have bothered me, but it never did. But every single night in Phuket I had a pounding headache.
We also walked by a baby elephant one night which was being used for begging. The elephant was in obvious distress, rocking back and forth. After our day at Elephant Nature Park, which is dedicated to saving elephants such as this, I found this incredibly disturbing. Luckily elephant begging has been eliminated from the streets of Bangkok. But these efforts have not yet been completely successful in Phuket.
Something else very different in Phuket from other parts of Thailand is the tuk-tuks. Many of the tuk-tuks we saw had had blinking lights and loud music, more for a party than for transportation Also, Phuket has a tuk-tuk mafia that controls transportation in Phuket, which means tourists get ripped off and private tour operators are blocked from picking up travelers from their hotels. Tuk-tuk and taxi drivers pay the mafia to be allowed to pick up passengers at certain locations. There are stories of non-member drivers being intimidated and beaten. The government is working on eradicating this issue.
I am so glad we met Aon on what may be one of my favorite travel days ever. After our day of rock climbing, we had become friends, and he asked us if he could take us to breakfast on our last day in Phuket (as we weren’t leaving until after midnight). By this time I knew I wouldn’t be as happy as I thought I would be hanging out on the beach and walking around the town. Aon picked us up in the morning and took us to a wonderful restaurant that served traditional rice porridge for breakfast. He then took us to see the Big Buddha, which has been in the process of being built for some time now. We also visited Laem Phromthep and toured the lighthouse.
|Big Buddha Phuket as seen up close and from the distance.|
|Ya Nui Beach - Free Beer Tomorrow|
We then headed to lunch for one of the best meals I had in Phuket, including a crispy pork dish which was divine and which I have not yet been able to replicate at home. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the pest control truck outside of the restaurant. I promise he was there to eat lunch, not to eradicate pests. I also loved the friendly dog who had obviously just come back from the groomer where she also had her eyebrows done.
|Really good, authentic Thai food is available in Phuket, it's just a little harder to find.|
I used Lonely Planet Discover Thailand to plan our Thailand trip.
Have you every stayed in Phuket? Were your experiences similar, or vastly different? Do you have any suggestions for seeing the best of Phuket?