Nov 25, 2010
Blissful romance, twinkle in the eyes, eight kilos of luggage were what we carried with us as we set out on our honeymoon. None can be spared from the butterflies in the stomach hours before their first international holiday. We were no better. On our itinerary was Thailand – Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok. Phuket was our first destination.
Phuket is one of the southern provinces of Thailand and is the largest island of the country. Once a region known for its tin and rubber, it saw the French, Dutch, Portuguese and English visit for trade. Today it’s a major tourist hotspot especially for honeymooners. Phuket can be reached directly from certain countries or by a domestic flight from Bangkok. As we step foot into the airport, its beautiful aqua-themed paintings gave us a hint of what to expect.
We had not booked a travel agent for the tour and hence went out to explore Thailand on our own. The 40-minute drive to our hotel was mesmerizing. Well-laid roadways, beautiful road dividers, neatly installed sign boards were a sight to enjoy. A distinct element that will grab your attention is the manner in which people diligently follow the traffic rules. From the city with chock-a-block roads and the cacophony of mindless honking, Phuket was peace-prevailing.
At the hotel, we realized that a little more research could have gotten us a better place. But nonetheless, though on a honeymoon, the outdoors looked more inviting.
Phuket is a great destination to relax and unwind. Hire a bike/scooter and you can tour the entire island. The cabbie tried to talk us into a 5-hour island tour but we cleverly declined. And boy! Were we glad! Modes of transport on the island are bikes, cycles, taxis and the famous Thai tuk-tuks.
Phuket is known for its white sandy beaches, Patong being the most popular. Needless to say, the place around the beach is extremely crowded especially on a weekend. If you are looking at some quiet respite, we recommend Karon or Kata. Unfortunately the rain played spoiltsport on two whole days of our tour giving us less time in the waters. We can’t woo you with pictures of blue waters and white sands thanks to the rains once again. Though we were soaking wet in the rain, we admit, we still enjoyed the place.
While many tour operators try to sell you various deals of bungee jumping, elephant feeding, bird watching, etc, be watchful about what you want to explore. One unique attraction in Phuket is the Simon Cabaret Show. Probably the biggest ‘transvestite’ cabaret show to be found locally. Don’t be turned off by the name transvestites, the show is a full entertainer. It features a spectacular musical performed by the world famous "ladyboys" of Simon Cabaret. It is hard to tell the difference between these boys and gorgeous women. Stunning costumes, bright lights, excellent sound system and expensive sets are all part of this theatrical extravaganza. If our reviews mattered, we’d give it a 9 on 10 but if you are a family, our advice is – don’t take your kids along.
Patong is more commercially advanced and attracts the bulk of Phuket’s tourists. Most of Phuket’s nightlife and shopping is concentrated here. The sleezy night bars, the go-go bars, the dim lit watering holes boast of the vibrant nightlife that the otherwise quiet island has to offer. Some of the sights can be scandalous to the average Indian to digest. With sex tourism being rampant, it is common to see people with ‘escorts’. Bangla Road is the most happening place and guarantees a good walking experience if you don’t mind brushing through the crowds.
One of the prominent landmarks is the Jung Ceylon mall with almost every store worthy of your time. Interestingly the name Jung Ceylon is a corruption of the Malay Tanjung Salang, i.e. Cape Salang which was the earlier name of Phuket. From the outside it looks as if the entire city is built around Jung Ceylon. There is also the famous Bangla Boxing Stadium. Both of us were fans of peace and thus did not venture into this arena. But we noticed that the pub in the ground floor had lots of takers. Perhaps they were waiting for the show to begin.
Food here is available in abundance. Everywhere. Trying Thai cuisine is a journey we’d let you explore and by the way when they say ‘spicy’ they mean SPICY. The gravies that look so Indian can burn your insides. Two meals in Thailand and you’ll know what to order.
Walking along the streets of Phuket, you will never miss the Thai Massage Parlours that have mushroomed everywhere. Choose a “clean” place for a good massage. You won’t regret it.
If you are through with exploring the city, you can opt for the various tours around Phuket. The sought after tours are Phi Phi island and James Bond Island and the road-side travel agents can give you some good deals. We took the tour to Phi Phi island which was superb but later we realised that we had been ripped off by our hotel manager. A local store would have given us the same tour at half price.
On return from Phuket we realized that the butterflies flew off once the city welcomed us with its sober ambience and its composed manifestation of a fun city. It was cozy and more so because of the very hospitable people around. Most people do not follow English but with a little sign language, you can survive. And yes ‘Bargain’ is the word – be it clothes, Thai massage or the tuk-tuk.
All this and much more makes Phuket a great place to holiday. And if you are planning your tour here, you’ve made a great choice.