Anyone 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!