Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, and popular travel destination for beach seekers everywhere. We spent 5 days relaxing, basking in what sun we could find, and taking the scooter all over the island. Ideally, we would’ve preferred to travel to the islands in the East but Phuket offered us more value for our dollar. If we were to go back to island hopping in Thailand, we would try an island more remote than Phuket.
How We Got There & Around
From Singapore, we took a direct flight to Phuket on AirAsia. Once arriving in Phuket, we had to take a taxi to our hotel 60 minutes away. We arranged for a taxi outside the airport at the meter taxi checkpoint. There are several taxi stands but we thought the meter taxi would be cheapest and least sketch. I think in the end; they all would have been pretty similar.
While in Phuket, we rented a scooter to get around for sightseeing. Driving in Thailand was similar to driving in Indonesia – scooters “own the road”, people run red lights, scooters often go on sidewalks, and somehow it is a controlled chaos. One thing different in Thailand was the scooters with attachments – food carts, carts with people, homemade sidecars, etc. This made driving challenging in areas. The scooters were significantly slower and wider, which made passing them hard.
Where We Stayed
We had read several blogs and reviews about where to stay. Ideally, we would’ve liked a nice beach hotel near Karon, however that was out of our budget. Patong beach had options but we read it was similar pace to Miami beach, which we didn’t care for. We ultimately chose old town Phuket. It had character, dining options and plenty of history nearby. We were bummed we weren’t near a beach, but the hotel had a pool which was nice (when it didn’t rain). We stayed at The Malika. The hotel is pretty new, and the price was right.
The Death of the King
Weird heading, right? However, I felt obligated to mention this. Thailand’s King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, passed away October 2016. The entire country is in their year of mourning. Throughout the country there are shrines. At every hotel, malls, and restaurant we visited, there was a shrine. They made announcements on the plane. When visiting websites in Thailand, a popup shrine would appear on the screen, that you had to click (I accept I mourn the King??? Not sure what it said). We didn’t feel this hindered our experience (except in Bangkok, which I will explain later), but it is something to discuss. People have been arrested, criticized, etc., for not wearing black. I should also mention, it is illegal to speak poorly of the royal family.
What We Did
Of course we spent plenty of time drinking beer (or tea) by the pool. But, we did get around to seeing a few awesome things too:
Temple Wat Chalong – We visited during a very active day here. Not only was their worship going on, a couple was doing their engagement photos, and many people were participating in a lighting fireworks in the clay oven. We had learned that many people participate in this to show gratitude to an answered prayer.
Big Buddha – It is exactly what it says it is – a giant Buddha statue. I mean, GIANT. Being situated on top of a hill only gives the Buddha a much bigger feel, plus offers tourists a fantastic view. The Big Buddha was under renovation, so we were limited to walking outside and around the Buddha. During our stroll, we saw a happy monkey and plenty of sleeping kitties. It didn’t cost us anything to enter the attraction and was a lot of fun. The only downside to this experience was the drive up to Big Buddha. We had to drive up a pretty steep hill on our little scooter, which in itself was a bit scary. Second, the drive up had some not so pretty sights including elephants being tied up for tourist attractions – like petting and riding. It made us sick to drive past and helpless that we couldn’t do anything about it. Not only that, several people were stopping to ride them and/or take photos. Steve and I do our best to be ethical and humane travelers and although we are not perfect, we hope we can inspire others to do the same. If you are interested in traveling in South East Asia and want an elephant experience, do your homework. Look for one that is a sanctuary: rescues, provides ethical and humane treatment and does not allow riding on the elephants.
Laem Ka Beach – We had read on a traveler’s blog about this “secret beach”. Let me tell you, the secret is out. It was crowded, was challenging to find, and the entrance to the beach had some sharp corral. We enjoyed relaxing here for a bit and people watching.
Phra Prom Cape – At the Southern point in Phuket, we checked out the cape. Besides a beautiful view, there are several landmarks on display for tourists and boats.
Phi Phi Island Tour – I had picked a tour to visit Phi Phi islands, Phi Phi Cruiser. Phi Phi islands is a highly popular spot to travel to, as it is supposed to be one of the cleanest beaches around. In more recent times, Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, “The Beach” was filmed there. Our tour included a boat tour around Phi Phi Lay, snorkeling at Phi Phi Don, lunch at the marina and a return trip back to Phuket. We opted not to snorkel and instead went to the beach and relaxed and swam. The beach wasn’t crowded and the drinks were cold. I fell asleep easily on the sand. Phi Phi Don Island has many hotels and shops to occupy us during our walks. Our buffet lunch was actually better than I expected and we quickly returned to our beach for an afternoon Mango Splash (YUM!). The return ride home seemed to go by quick, as most people on the boat (including us) were a little sunburnt and snoozing through the entire voyage. I think if we come back to Phuket, we would do additional boat tours. There are several islands you can visit, but sadly the boat tours are a bit expensive, so we picked one that gave us more bang for our buck.
Wat Khao Rang Temple – Steve and I loved this temple. As first arrival you are greeted by a large statue of the Lord of Death. We were blown away with the details of every carving and art everywhere in the temple.
Patong Beach – We decided to check out Thailand’s version of Miami Beach on our last day. The beach was packed with makeshift massage booths, parasailing stations and many other vendors. We made sure to stroll to famous Bangla Road to check out the shops. The town was packed with restaurants like Hard Rock Café, bars and more – and we saw that more families that we had expected were in the area. I can imagine at night the bars are packed with tourists. Although I can understand the appeal this area has on travelers, we were glad we didn’t stay here.