Just Phuket!

 

SimilanAnyone who’s ever been to Phuket, Thailand knows that it’s anything but “just” anything!  This island is a combination of beach, jungle, city, and water destinations.

I didn’t stay in the typical tourist location, the one that everyone thinks of when thinking of Phuket (if you think of it at all, that is).  I didn’t stay on the west coast on one of the many beaches where the party scene and the noise prevail.  I couchsurfed and my host was on the east coast, in Paklok, where it was peaceful and completely surrounded by locals and jungle.

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Karon and Kata Beaches on the west coast

I didn’t set my destination to the island of Phi Phi or to Krabi, either.  Again, those are notorious party zones even though they are also incredibly beautiful.  I did plot two separate day long water destinations while staying in Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket).  The first was to Phang Nga Bay.

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James Bond Island

The tour made 4 stops:  Panak Island, where we kayaked into a bat cave; Hong Island for more kayaking to water chambers on the interior of the island; James Bond Island (the tourist name for Khao Phing Kan) to wander & take photos; then to Lana Island, where we hopped off the boat for a swim.  The water was so salty that it made floating easy and very refreshing!  This tour departs from Ao Por Pier which is very close to my couchsurfing hosts home.  I didn’t pre-book;  my host dropped me off at the pier and I easily found an affordable tour for that same morning.  I recommend the tour company, JP Andaman Tour Co. Ltd.

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Elephant Rock on Similan Island

My second tour destination was to an island that is only open 6 months out of the year, the Similan Islands.  I made it just under the gun as it closed May 15th and I went on May 6th.  Considering that I was staying on the east side of Phuket and the islands were off of the west coast, the trip was a very long one!  My host drove me 15 minutes to the pre-arranged meeting place for the tour van; the van drove 1.5 hours to our check-in point then another 10 minutes to the pier.  From there, it was a 1 hour speed boat ride to our first stop for snorkeling then a short ride to the other side of the island to debark and hike, play in the water, eat lunch, and take photos.  Soon we were off to the next island for more snorkeling and to another island for more hiking, playing in the water, and photos.  One hour back to the pier, etc.  Whew!  But wow!!  The water was startlingly blue and the sand incredibly white!  Also, watching the boats debarking their guests along the beach, amidst considerable waves, was extremely entertaining in itself!

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Phuket’s Big Buddha

After such amazing water adventures, I decided to do a half day land tour and actually see Phuket!  I found this tour through a friend of my couchsurfing host.   In this case, a taxi (included in the price of my tour) picked me up down the road from where I was staying.  A long drive into town and we met up with the tour van.  After picking up 4 other tourists, we began our adventure at a view point, high above the west coast beaches.  A short trip down the road, we stopped to take photos with a baby elephant (or just to enjoy others feeding and interacting with it) then on we went to see the Big Buddha.  The Buddha is impressive but the views, in my opinion, were more worth the trip.  We moved on to ride elephants and, depending on the tour you purchased, ride ATV’s.

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Elephant trekking was my choice and it was an awesome experience, especially when I straddled my elephants neck to feed her bananas.  The trek itself was comical!  You are led down a short road to an empty lot where you just kind of hang out.  That is the point where I fed my elephant and the handler took photos of me.   After stops at a honey farm, jewelry and souvenir shop, and a cashew nut factory, our last stop was at Chalong Temple.  A beautiful temple and, at that late hour of the afternoon, fairly empty of other tourists.  Once back to where I met the tour van, my taxi was already waiting for me.  She drove me all of the way to the house then she had to turn around and drive all of the way back to Phuket Town, where she lived.  Again, this is a tour I recommend as the tour guide and my taxi driver were amazing but I can’t locate a website for them.  If interested, call 088-1204861 or 062-443271 and ask for Ammy!

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Wat Chalong

My first night in Phuket, my host and I went to a BBQ at a coworkers home.  The next night, he took me to a lovely restaurant right on the beach.  I didn’t see him much after that as he was out and about doing his own thing but he did want to take me to a hilltop restaurant overlooking Phuket.  Unfortunately, my last 2 days there, I was suffering from Traveler’s Diarrhea so was unable to go.  Apparently, this ailment is very common among visitors to Thailand.

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Mural in Phuket Town
Chang Beer
Chang Beer

I’ve been extremely lucky in my travels in that I’ve been able to eat anything and have been fine.  I believe I got sick from the buffet on my Similan Islands tour.  It just didn’t seem…clean.  Luckily, I barely ate any of it.  I did a little research and found out that Chang beer is made from untreated water and is unregulated.  I drank quite a bit of it while in Phuket, so I think it was a combination of the two.  For my remaining weeks in Thailand, I drank either Singha, Leo, or Tiger beers.  These are all regulated and are also cheap.  They have less alcohol content than Chang but I can actually enjoy the taste without worry!

My host kindly drove me to the airport and I said goodbye to a wonderful young man and anything but “just” Phuket!

James Bond Island - Phang Nga Bay
James Bond Island – Phang Nga Bay
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Departing James Bond Island
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Kayaking Hong Island – Phang Nga Bay
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Kayaking Hong Island – Phang Nga Bay
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Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay
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Excessive cables, a common sight in Thailand
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Ao Por – Launch point for Phang Nga Bay from Phuket
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Wat Chalong
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A Similan Island Beach
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Camping is an option on Similan Island
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A Similan Island Beach

 

 

 

Singapore to Penang

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Singapore, the cleanest city in the world, has no trash cans!  I found myself time and again hauling my empty water bottle, metro and bus tickets, and other trash I’d generated throughout the day for quite a while before finally finding a trash bin!  I imagine that everyone else is doing the same!  I finally asked a security guard at the metro station where a trash can was and he said, “No trash cans”.  What the heck?!  Maybe that is why they are so clean!  No overflowing garbage recepticles and major fines, or even jail, if caught littering!  Hmmm.

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Singapore Garden By The Bay

I was only in Singapore for 4 nights and, though I enjoyed the Flyer and the Gardens By The Bay (the 2 main attractions), the materialism is, to me, appalling!  I’ve never seen so many malls and markets in my life!  I’ve never seen so many seemingly manic shoppers in my life!  The most beautiful and travel friendly airport in the world and yet, still, so many poor locals.  I visited Sentosa Island where Universal Studios is along with a multitude of attractions, live music, restaurants, and beaches.  I simply walked around it all then walked the boardwalk away.  Again, all about making money and much too expensive!

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Pulau Ubin Island

My last day in Singapore, I rose early and doggedly found my way to Pulau Ubin Island, the last “original Singapore village”!  It took 3 metros, a bus, and a “bumboat” to get there.  Just as I arrived at the ferry station, the skies let loose so I had to wait until the rain let up a little bit before heading to Ubin.  Crossing over was so foggy that I could see little.  On arrival, it was still raining so I found a restaurant where I enjoyed the local food & Tiger beer!

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Bicycles for rent!

I rented a bike for $5.70 SGD (that’s all I had except for big bills) and rode out!  I never really knew where I was going at any point (turns out that I can no longer read maps very well!), I had issues with the seat but finally got it to quit sinking as I rode!  THEN the chain came off in the middle of nowhere!!  Three tourists who, like me, were off road, came along and managed to get my bike chain back on so off I rode again!  Along the way, I saw a python, wild pig, a monitor lizard, and some kind of giant tadpole!  At the end of it all, I was soaked in sweat and definitely got my cardio!!

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Pulau Ubin Pier

Penang!  Heat, humidity, art murals, food trucks, and Uber!!  What’s not to love??  Traffic!!  That’s what! LOL  I feel like this blog is so negative!!  I don’t mean it to be but I honestly am not a big fan of either location.

Penang Original

The thing about Penang is that, because I lived there when I was 8 years old, I wanted to see it as an adult.  After 46 years, it’s a completely different place so was not what I expected!  This formula makes for a less enjoyable experience.  That being said, I adored visiting my old school, St Christopher’s International Primary School, and my old street where I actually saw the house I lived in all those years ago!

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St Christopher’s International Primary School

The art murals of Penang are amazing, the people are as well, as are the temples…with the exception of the Snake Temple.  Don’t bother visiting that one!!  It was great back in 1969 but it’s not now.  In the end, don’t take my word on any of this!!  It’s all about your own experiences!!  Asia offers a multitude!!!

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Penang Panorama
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