Thailand Part 3 – Phuket in a day

7 Mar

After the relative tranquillity our Phi Phi jaunt, H and I were quite looking forward to finding out if Phuket is really as good /really as bad as people say it is.  Perhaps my first misconception was that Phuket is a small place, it’s not, it’s a whole big island, and Phuket Town itself is possibly the least desirable (for the likes me) section of it.  We stayed in Karon, at the Karon Living Room, on the west side of the island (between Kata and Patong) and found it to be nice and centrally located for all the sightseeing we wanted to do.   As I said though, it’s not exactly a small island and despite my gravest misgivings, our friends S&K persuaded us to rent scooters to get around (+-R55 a day, excl. gasoline which is sold in old whiskey bottles on the side of the road, but I digress…).  To clarify, I didn’t drive a scooter, but I sat pillion behind H who quickly got the hang of the surprisingly non-aggressive traffic.

S&K had been to Phuket before so acted as our guides which meant we really got the most out of our short time there.  Our first, and my favourite discovery was made while exploring the Chalong area in the south – we came upon a private beach called Siam Beach that we paid 100baht (+-R27) to visit, including a free soft drink and a grass mat for the sand.

Siam Beach

Siam Beach

It was a tiny patch of sand in amongst rocks at the bottom of a very steep cliff, but it was breathtakingly beautiful and the water was crystal clear. We ended up swimming and chilling there for half the afternoon.  Refreshed, we then scootered all the way to “The Cape” in the very south to take in the views.  There were several “elephant tour” spots along the way and we stopped once to admire these gentle looking beasts with their freckled trunks (so different from the big African elephants at home).  I wonder if they actually welcome having the tourists on their backs for safaris because at least they then get a chance to walk around instead of being shackled?

We drove back via Phuket town (which was not pretty and had scary traffic) but then chanced upon a random food market where we stopped so K could buy limes.  The produce just boggled my mind: the most amazing fruit and vegetables (many of which were a mystery to me) as well as pretty gruesome yellow half chickens with innards proudly displayed, dried fish of all sorts, pork (I assume), snails and who knows what else.  A sensory experience all round.

That evening we met up with our other friends for sundowners on the beach (bottles of beer bought from, bizarrely enough, the pharmacy) and then a leisurely supper a local restaurant (Chinese mushroom & shrimp stirfry) followed by a meander through the night market (more retail therapy, more delicious watermelon juice) on our way back to the hotel.

The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

Day two saw all six of us scooter up to the Big Buddha on the top of the hill about 12km from Karon. It really is big – about 45m high and covered in marble.  It has apparently been under construction for many years and they are still requesting (most persistently) donations towards finishing it.  With that spot of culture ticked off our list we decided to explore the beaches up the west coast and find out if Patong in particular lived up to all the hype.  It did, but not in a particularly good way. The glorious long white beach is so jam packed with umbrellas, deck chairs and lobster pink tourists that it’s hard to see the sand.   Much nicer was Kamala beach a little further to the North.  There’s a Tsunami memorial there and although the beach was similar to Patong is was somehow less cheap seeming (“same same, but different”).  Pad Thai for lunch under umbrellas at a little beach restaurant, followed by a swim in the very warm sea was farewell to Phuket.  After that it was time to make the long scooter ride back to Karon to meet our shuttle to Khao Lak for the main event of the whole holiday – the dive boat! Coming next…

6 Responses to “Thailand Part 3 – Phuket in a day”

  1. Astrid March 8, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Poor Phuket elephants!I can’t help feeling sorry for them…being chained and all…
    One has a sense of tourim what with the big Buddha written all in white letters – I am not sure the Buddha likes this…

    • Cathy March 8, 2012 at 6:43 am #

      You’re absolutely right – most of the temples we visited are so commercialised that you forget they are actually supposed to be places of reverence!

  2. Mya March 8, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Not much veg in that stir-fry 😛

    • Cathy March 8, 2012 at 6:41 am #

      Aren’t mushrooms veg? 😛

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