Four Days in Phuket, Thailand

Monday, June 20, 2016

Phuket, pronounced with a silent 'h', has always been one of my dream destinations in Southeast Asia for its beautiful beaches. Surrounded by the Andaman Sea, Phuket is one of the southern provinces and the biggest island in Thailand. Because it is home to numerous resorts, hotels, and restaurants, much of this region's income is derived from tourism. This is where I did my first ever solo trip outside of the Philippines. Warning: this is quite a lengthy post but if you continue reading, I do hope you'll enjoy it.

Day One. I arrived at the Phuket International Airport around 11pm after a four hour flight from Manila. Thirty minutes of cab ride later, I arrived at my hotel, Ma Maison Hotel, that is located in Cherngtalay District in Bang Tao. Even though it was cheap, the hotel was actually nice. It even has an outdoor pool. While I did not get any sleep prior to my flight, I was energetic upon arriving. So instead of catching some ZZZs, I ended up fixing my things, buying something to eat at the nearby 7-Eleven store, and killing time on social media, with the TV on, until I finally fell asleep.

Day Two. I woke up waaay early. It was around 6am, I think. I tried my best to get more sleep but I failed miserably so I got out of the hotel and did some exploring on the nearby beach. My hotel was a good 50 meter walk from Bang Tao Beach, which is one of the longest beaches in Thailand, as it stretches roughly six kilometers.

After taking some pictures of the beach, I decided to get some breakfast. Unfortunately, it was still too early for the locals that there were only a couple of food places open at the time. I tried Cafe' De Bangtao along Cheong Thale, and had a hearty meal of Pad Thai and lemon iced tea. I then went back to the hotel and got ready to go to the race expo in Outrigger Laguna for the Laguna Phuket Marathon. After claiming my race kit, I went back to the hotel to get some rest before the Pasty Party. Since I had no itinerary for the entire trip, I decided to check out some tour packages being offered by one of the local travel agencies. I paid for a one day city tour, scheduled for the next day, that costs THB1000. Not bad. The rest of the day went by uneventfully, with the exception of the Pasta Party during that evening.

Day Three. I woke up around 3am to prep for the race. You can read all about it here. After the race, I did a quick recovery swim in the hotel pool and had lunch before getting ready for my tour. True to the schedule, a huge van picked me up at the hotel around noon. When I got inside, I was the only passenger. We were to pick up the other passengers for the next hour before officially starting the tour, as I was informed by our tour guide, P'ya. Our tour group was very diverse, with twelve other people from different countries. There was a German couple, an Egyptian couple, a Chinese couple, three women from India, and three guys from Australia.

First on our itinerary was the Kata viewpoint located in the Mueang district, which gives one a breathtaking spectacle of the Kata beach and the Karon beach. We were given ten minutes there to take photos before going to our next stop.

Next was the Big Buddha, which is known as one of Phuket's most important and most revered landmarks. Sitting on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata, it is 45 meters tall and made of Burmese white jade marble. Known to the Thais as Phra Puttamingmongkol Akkenakira Buddha, this magnificent statue is devoted to the king of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Next to it sits a smaller Buddha statue, that while gold in color, it is actually made of brass. This one is devoted to the queen, Sirikit. 
 dress code: covered shoulders and legs, so they lent me a sarong and shawl 
before entering the vicinity

Because the big Buddha and the temple on its base was still under construction, donations were being accepted. Visitors can purchase a marble tile and write anything on it. These tiles will be included in the construction. Visitors can also buy a "golden leaf" to write on, and then hang it on wires outside the temple. After taking photos of the Buddha statues, I went inside the temple and had a Sai Sin bracelet tied on my left wrist by a Buddhist monk. Then he uttered words of blessing and splashed holy water on me. The Sai Sin bracelet is said to give bring one good luck and good fortune. Every person who goes through this quick ritual was required to make a donation of any amount and drop it in the bowl next to the monk.

Our next stop was the Siam Safari in Chalong where I got to see a baby elephant. There was also elephant trekking where visitors can ride these big gentle creatures and go through a short nature trail. I did not try it because elephants are naturally wild creatures and needed to be tamed so that humans can ride them. I read that the taming process in Asia is brutal, to the point of torture, and I just do not approve of it. So instead, I opted to take selfies with the baby elephant and its mom.

Up next was the Pearl Shop, Cashew Nut Factory, and the Big Bee Honey Farm, all located in Mueang District. We spent about ten minutes in each of these places before finally going to my most awaited place in the itinerary: the Chalong temple. 

Formally called Wat Chaiyathararam, Wat Chalong is considered as the most important of all 29 Buddhist temples in Phuket. Dominating the temple is the Grand Pagoda that contains a splinter of Buddha's bone and is decorated with wall paintings depicting Buddha's life story. As in all other temples, Wat Chalong has a strict dress code wherein one should cover their shoulders and legs, and remove their footwear before entering.
 the Grand Pagoda
 Wat Chalong
the interiors of Wat Chalong

To conclude the tour, we made our last stop at the Phuket Weekend Market, known to locals as Naka Market. It is located along Chao Fa West Road just outside of Phuket Town. This was a time for us to buy souvenirs and what-not, and go food tripping. We were given an hour of free time. This is where I bought pasalubong for my friends and family back home. I also got to try some local street food. 

Day four. Even though I was exhausted from the tour, I still had lots of energy to wake up early that day and go exploring the nearby beaches. First up was Surin Beach, which was an estimated 1.3km from my hotel. With its pristine sand and turquoise waters, it was such a stunning view. The waves were fierce though, so I didn't swim in the deeper waters.

After that, I rode a tuktuk and was dropped off at the Laguna District, which is home to a few luxurious resorts and hotels. I then went on a walking tour of the Canal Shoppes, and left empty handed, before heading to Bang Tao Beach, where I did more swimming. I also fed an elephant with some bananas, played with it, and got to take photos with it. For THB100, the experience was worth it.

Of course, any travel would not be complete without a taste of local brew. I bought a bottle of Chang beer from one of the stalls by the beach. Sitting there with my toes sinking in the sand, while admiring the view and listening to the sound of the waves kiss the shore, I was in my happy place. It was pure perfection.

I spent the rest of the day swimming in the pool. I also had a light snack before packing my things. I checked out of the hotel at around 5pm and then finally headed to the airport. Being my first ever solo out-of-country trip, every bit of my trip to Phuket will be memorable. I felt sad leaving the island but then, all good things have to come to an end. This is not goodbye though, because I will definitely return. Maybe next year. :)
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