“Pearl of the South”
14th to 17th of October, 2011
It is time for relaxing the next three days enjoying the beach and the resort’s pool. For a first timer in Thailand, I considered we should not miss the chance to go to this paradise island everyone talks about and so representative of the country. But after our stay, I can say I was just 50% impressed. You have good sides, and bad sides. It is a once in a lifetime to my opinion, and yes I am happy I was there but will not consider it for a next time. There are many more places to discover.
What you need to consider is that most of the people who come here are on a long holiday all inclusive package. That is totally opposite to how I am and what sort of holidays I like. It was really funny to get people asking if we were right that we only stay 3 days. Yes, absolutely, that is more than enough to see what we wanted to see and do. Maybe this is one of the main reasons I did not enjoy too much this place. To be “trapped” in your resort and far from the nearest city.
But if your plan is not to be “trapped” in a resort, then the choice gets reduced to 2 locations. Patong Beach or Phuket City
If you opt for the first one, then you will be in the heart of the island, where everything is, specially night life. And a huge choice of restaurants. On the opposite side, this is the city where prostitution is damaging the image of the country as a whole. Do not expect any great beach here; it is small and packed, smelly and dirt-ish.
Your second option if staying in a city, is its capital, Phuket City. Here there are no beaches, it is the main port of the island. But it is hundred times more recommended to stay, if you want or need to, in Patong than here. This is a dead city, not much life, and very dirty.
The good point is that distances are not big, and you can travel from one place to another wasting few time. That’s why a resort is the best option with difference, but of course minding the tips about transports listed below.
Now to the great part of this place. Phi Phi islands. This was the reason for us to come to Phuket, and we were not disappointed at all. The place is so beautiful, so much vegetation covering all rocks coming out of the sea, those marvellous beaches. The only remark I need to make is that as of 2011 when we went, there were still visible the signs of the 2004 tsunami which devastated most of those islands.
What to see and do in Phuket:
- Patong Beach It’s the main party spot in the island. Everyone from everywhere in the island come here for nightlife, food, bars, etc. It is packed with hundreds of restaurants bars and discos. The beach, although looks nice in pictures, it’s not really the best. Any other beach elsewhere in the island is better and less crowded for sure. Unfortunately, Patong is the place where you will see the downside of Thailand, this is, the sex tourism. Not only that it is very obvious, but just walking along the streets at night you will see the dancers everywhere. The pubs and discos have big windows opened so the places become transparent where you can see from the street all the way inside.
- Phuket City It’s the capital city of the island, and main ferry terminal for moving anywhere by boat. The city itself is very run-down unfortunately. It could be very nice, packed with Sino-Portuguese houses everywhere. But it is really needed a full plan to restore the city. Thai Hua Museum on Krabi Road is one of the best example of those houses.
- Islands tour Without doubt, anyone coming to Phuket will do the islands tour. There are many options available, but the main attraction are the Phi Phi islands. You can either do a day tour, where a pick up from wherever your hotel in Phuket is located is included, transportation to the main ferry terminal, and the boat tour itself to Phi Phi islands. Also included is the lunch and a choice of either snorkelling, scuba diving, visiting a fishing village, and of course the return to your hotel back. Other tours include a longer stay with a night or more in any of the islands. We booked our day tour with Phuket Thailand Travel, the best tour operator we found at the time of our research and offering the best deals and service. But as for any day tour almost anywhere in the world, do not bring high expectations in the lunch. Everything else was great and as we imagined it. You will need to book in advance the tour as depending on the season, it can get really fully booked, but there are many other tour operators offering the same. You will all meet at Phuket docks, where thousands of tourists will arrive with the same idea as you. Just follow your group and instructions handed by them.
This is a text taken from Wikitravel, very useful: From the airport, minibus services charge 150-250 Baht per seat. As guidance, to Patong, 150 is typical; to Kata Beach 180. When you get off the plane, get our of the terminal and head towards the minibuses. When they fill up they leave. If you miss the first group of them, you may have to wait until the next plane comes in, because they don’t leave until they’re full. Note that the minibuses will stop at a travel agent about halfway to Patong. They’ll ask everyone to get out (you don’t have to) and then they’ll ask you where you’re staying, and they’ll try to sell you a hotel. You’re not obligated to use the hotels they push. Just say you already booked a hotel, and tell them the name. They will inform the driver, and he/she will drop you off at the hotel.
And now from my personal experience. The less you use any taxi or tuk tuk the best. And basically, you will only need them to go to Patong and Phuket Town. For the day trip to the islands, it already includes the transport from/to hotel, so another hassle free day.
From the hotel, the best is to walk to a main street and get a tuk tuk from there. Tuk tuk drivers are forbidden to get into the resorts, so there are only a monopoly of VERY expensive taxis which people do not know that can get a cheap tuk tuk if walking to the main street. Between cities there are buses, like from Patong to Phuket city, and those are very cheap. Please note: The monopoly of the taxis is such that tuk tuk drivers can ONLY drop off people at the resorts, but they cannot take anybody from the hotel. They will leave alone, and if they take anyone taxi drivers will beat them! Incredible but true. Luckily, almost every hotel is located by the beach, while the main road runs parallel to them. All you need is not a big walk towards the road and this will save you lots of money, trust me.
It is plentiful everywhere in the island. The most you will find are huge resorts, which is was you are really looking for in Phuket. The choice is so vast, that it results in very competitive prices.
In our case we selected the Laguna Beach Resort. A massive resort with basically everything, and of course, the beach. The rooms were the largest I have ever been to a hotel (lucky maybe?), and the pool follows the same track. Huge, with waterfalls and lots to do. Breakfast choice enormous. It was indeed a great experience to be in that hotel, and we also enjoyed to have the chance to play with a baby elephant. She was coming every morning to the gardens and they had a small show for children with her.