Friday 28 September 2012

The land of thousand smiles – Phuket

The island of Phuket, although small, has much to offer with its crystal clear seas, sandy beaches and the warm sun. Residing in the southern part of Thailand, the island streets bustle with people, mostly casually dressed tourists. Some of them would even be spotted wearing t-shirts imprinted with the words “I Phuket”!  

DAY 1. On 24 Nov 2011, I left my house with excitement. I was going on a business + holiday trip to Phuket. This would be my first independent trip overseas, and with a group of unfamiliar faces, no less.

My flight touched down at Phuket International Airport at around 10:45am. We were given free SIM cards to use during our stay in Phuket. These SIM cards can be easily topped up at any 7-Eleven stores around the island at our own expense. Our tour guide for this 4-day trip would be Prapatsorn Intayot, whom we affectionately call Cat. Cat picked us up at the arrival hall of the airport and we transferred by a minibus to Patong Resort. The journey took approximately 1 hour. After checking in at the resort, we started off the sightseeing tour with a scenic drive along Patong beach, Karon beach and Kata beach, eventually arriving at our first stop – Karon View Point.

Free SIM cards given to us upon arrival at Phuket
Karon View Point, located on a hill top, has a beautiful panoramic view of the three beaches – Kata Noi, Kata and Karon Beach. The closest of the beaches is ‘Kata Noi’, followed by ‘Kata’ with its sister island ‘Koh Poo’ (Crab Island) and the furthest is ‘Karon Beach’. These three magnificent bays indeed make a good backdrop for photo-taking.

Karon View Point
Magnificent view of Kata Noi, Kata & Karon Beach 

Beautiful backdrop for a group photo
After visiting Karon View Point, everyone was hungry. Cat brought us to Phong Phang Seafood to have our lunch. Located near the Phuket Zoo, Phong Phang Seafood is very famous among the locals for its affordable seafood and local dishes. It has a large outdoor seating area with a pleasant view of the sea. At Phong Phang, one can enjoy the gentle breeze while savoring the delicious Thai delicacies.

After lunch, we visited Wat Chalong, a Buddhist temple. Wat Chalong is a three-storey tall building in shimmering gold, and is one of the most renowned temples in Phuket. On the first and second level, there were many golden Buddha statues covering the floor area and paintings depicting the life of Buddha on the walls and ceilings. As I continued the climb to the topmost level, our guide told us that the realm contained fragmented pieces of Lord Buddha’s bones in the glass display.

Wat Chalong, renowned temple in Phuket 
Countless golden Buddha statues
Locals & tourists come here to pray
Fragmented pieces of Lord Buddha’s bones are kept in the glass display  
After visiting Wat Chalong, we proceeded to the Phuket Shooting Range & Activities Centre. This recreation centre offers a wide range of activities, such as Go-kart, monkey or elephant shows and a shooting range. We toured round the shooting range but sad to say, we were only there to explore the facilities, but not to play. I shall try it the next time I visit Phuket.

The Shooting Range
Are you ready for a game?
Arrow shooting
Put on these ear muffs and get ready for a shoot! 
The last stop of the day was Laem Promthep, a picturesque viewpoint at the southern tip of Phuket. According to Cat, that was the best place to catch the sunset. However, soon after we reached the cape, it started to pour suddenly and all of us rushed back to the minibus for cover.

After the brief stop at Laem Promthep, we headed back to the resort. We were given 1.5 hours to rest before heading out for dinner at Merlyn Beach Resort. Being my first trip to Phuket, not one minute was to be wasted, hence, I took a walk down to Patong Beach, which was a mere 5 minutes away. Once there, the sight of tourists reclining on deck chairs greeted me. There were also others playing water sports and beach balls. While enjoying the sound of the waves on the beach, I was momentarily distracted by some screaming in the distance. I lifted up my head in the direction of the screams and saw that there were people parasailing, ‘flying’ high up in the sky!

Relaxing on the deck chairs at Patong Beach
Jet-skiing, the water sport that I have always wanted to try 
The bustling road with many tourists
Cute signage warning about drunken people crossing the road 
DAY 2. It’s time to get some work done today. ¾ of the day had been allocated for the Andaman Travel Trade Show, a buyers-meet-sellers session held at the Rajahbat University Convention Hall. Notwithstanding, we managed to find time for shopping after the trade fair at the Phuket Premium Outlet. The weather was unpredictable though, as it started to pour when we reached there. Rainy weather did spoil the fun of shopping, especially when the walkways weren’t sheltered, but that did not deter us from some serious card swiping. It was indeed a challenge to move from one store to another, but almost everyone came back with a bundle of shopping bags and big wide smiles.

Phuket Premium Outlet
Shopping is my greatest love
DAY 3. A conversation on Phuket never deviates from the sun, the sand and the sea. Apart from the main island of Phuket, there are many other small islands surrounding Phuket, each with its own attractiveness. The island of Koh Khai was where we headed out for early in the morning. Our means of transport: a 20-minute speedboat ride from the main shore. The journey to Koh Khai is an adventure in itself, with the boat rocking vigorously due to the high tide. It was as if we were taking a roller-coaster ride at a theme park, albeit on water. Adventure soon gave way to excitement as the sandy beach came into view. As soon as we alighted from the boat, we parked our belongings on the deck chairs reserved for us, and went snorkeling in the crystal clear waters. I had always wanted to try snorkeling and now was the chance! I had great fun despite the fear of water. It was a beautiful experience getting up close with the fishes and corals and being surrounded by all the colorful fishes. We also brought some bread to feed the fishes and the more we fed, the larger the number of fishes that surrounded us! I would call these fish ‘Happy Fish’ with their endless supply of food from the tourists, won’t you agree? After swimming with the fishes, I took a break and relaxed on the deck chair, enjoyed the windy breeze and the warm sun.

Koh Khai Island
Fun time feeding the fish 

The soft sandy beaches of Koh Khai
Everyone felt tired when we got back from Koh Khai island, so it was a godsend when we were offered a complimentary spa at the Rarinjinda Wellness Spa . A big ‘Thank You’ to the organizer of this trip for that! The spa was conveniently located adjacent to the back of Jungceylon Shopping Centre. Its services and facilities included foot massage, body massage, facial, colon cleansing and detoxifying infrared sauna. We chose to take up the aromatherapy oil massage. The therapist was really good and the massage was excellent and very relaxing. I felt so refreshed and rejuvenated after the massage.

After sundown, we went to Phuket FantaSea, located on Kamala Beach. Phuket FantaSea is a 140-arce entertainment theme park showcasing the charm and beauty of Thailand and its rich traditional culture. When I entered the theme park, it seemed as if the clock had been rewound. The games at the theme park reminded me of the Uncle Ringo Amusement Park back in Singapore. It was like an old-school fun fair where you’d find games like throwing a ball to hit the cans placed a distance away. And the prize: cuddly soft toys that come in various shapes and sizes, just like the good old days. However, there are no adventurous or adrenaline-pumping roller-coaster rides of the modern world here so don’t get your expectations up too high when you hear the words ‘theme park’.

We had dinner at Golden Kinnaree, one of the restaurants in Phuket FantaSea offering Thai and International buffet. When I walked into the restaurant, my jaws dropped. The restaurant was majestically huge, with a seating capacity of up to 4000, and it shimmered in gold with its exquisite and intricate architecture. After the buffet dinner, we took a stroll around the park. The park turned into a mini Carnival Village at night with performances and souvenir stores. One of the attractions – Tiger Jungle Adventure – awed me with the animals I saw in there. Walking through a magical adventure and catching glimpses of exotic animals right in your face, it really made me wonder if the animals were real. This enchanting wonderland also boasts of the white tigers living in the grand white palace. After visiting the white tigers and some photo-taking around the park, we made our way to the much-anticipated theatrical performance, the main highlight of the theme park. The rules were strict here: the gate only opens at 8:30pm and we were required to surrender our handphones and cameras as recording or photo-taking of the show was not allowed. The performance was overwhelming, to say the least. The daring stunts, magical illusions, acrobatics, special effects and much more had the audience transfixed. What amazed me most were the animal performances, and I was even startled by the elephant show! The elephants, birds, chickens and goats all seemed to know how to do the tricks, and knew where to enter and exit the stage, just like a human performer. It totally left us wanting for more when it ended.
Entrance of Phuket FantaSea
Welcome to wonderland!
The main stage at Carnival Village
The majestic, shimmering Golden Kinnaree
Are the animals real? 
White tigers living in the majestic kingdom
All ready for some spectacular performance

DAY 4. My last day in Phuket. The morning would be spent tidying up work-related matters and after lunch, we would have some free time for more shopping. Junggeylon, the shopping mall with more than 200 stores, is a place where you can find almost everything you need. I simply love shopping in the hypermarket, Big C, for candies and food stuff for my dog. Besides this huge shopping complex, there were also a number of shopping bazaars across the road, where I bought most of my spoils. We checked out of the resort at around 4:30pm and headed to the airport for our flight back to Singapore. Goodbye, Phuket! 

1 comment:

  1. Two things I am liking already from the post: Beach and the potential surfing spots. I can see the potential of a surf camps there to boost tourism.