Phuket: A slice of tropical paradise in the land of smiles.
Bitten by the Travel Bug..!!
Phuket: A slice of tropical paradise in the land of smiles.
Love at first sight?! Well, not really. I flew into the town of Phuket with a lot of curiosity and anxiety. First in the list of anxiety was the VISA on arrival at Thailand. Although I did my fair share of research about the VISA for Indians at Thailand, I was worried. Will I get a VISA on arrival? What are the documents required? How much money I should carry, and obviously, what will I do if I don’t get one?
Visa on Arrival at Thailand
The procedure of getting VISA on arrival was surprisingly simple. Fill out a straightforward form; your name, passport details, port of embarkation and disembarkation, and your local contact at Phuket (This could be the travel agent you booked your tour with). Hand over the filled form along with your passport and a VISA fee of THB 1200 (Thai Baht). Voila! There it is! VISA stamped in 10 minutes. We got out of the airport in another 10 minutes. Now that the anxiety part is over, the place was taken over by curiosity.
Patong: the hub of tourist attractions
Patong, where I’ve planned my stay is an hour’s drive from Phuket International Airport. Patong is the preferred choice for travelers to Phuket for obvious reasons. It is the hub of tourist attractions because of its white sandy beaches, bars, pubs, shopping malls, beautiful resorts, restaurants selling Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Philippines, Continental cuisines, artists, street vendors selling some amazing delicacies including pancakes, grilled pork, chicken sausages, money changes, 7/11 and Family Marts, massage parlors and the Tanong Bangla Road..!! The list goes on. I soon realized that my search for the best place to stay has paid me well. An excellent place for a well deserved break!
The pleasant weather would not let you stay indoors. Patong have a lot of view points and the famous one are the “Karong View Point” and “Phromthep Cape” which are among the most photographed viewpoints in Phuket. From Karong View point it is possible to take in views of Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon beaches, which is a vista of 8 kilometer stretch of beaches. Phromthep Cape offers you a picturesque view of the sunset. You can also visit a Buddhist Temple, or try a go-kart drive, shooting range or pass time in a foot spa. Patong Beach is an ideal place to end the tour where you can have some beach adventure activities like parasailing or riding a Jet Ski.
A walk down Thanon Bangla
Patong is a sleepy town till 5 in the evening. The town wakes up only by 6 pm and is alive till 1 or 2 am. The major attraction in Patong town is the Thanon Bangla (Bangla Road), which is the center of adult entertainment. Bars and pubs plays loud music throughout the night, and entertainment centers are countless. You are shown the various entertainment options and price by agents in the beginning of the road. Do take note that food and drinks are expensive here (compared to other locations). You can venture away and try some local cuisines from one of the numerous restaurants in the close by streets.
Phuket FantaSea: A magical experience
Pantong also offers various themed cultural shows at night. Siam Niramit and Phuket Fantasea are the most famous among them. Considering that Siam Nirat is also available in Bangkok, I decided to spend an evening at Phuket Fantasea. It is just a 20 min drive from Patong and is located at Kamala Beach. This is one show you really do not want to miss! This well planned and well organized show is a visual treat for your eyes. You also have option to book your dinner along with the show. The dinner is from 6 pm to 9pm and the show starts at 9 pm. The spread for the buffet is probably the most elaborate course I had in Thailand. This includes Thai, Chinese, and Indian Cuisine.
The gate to the theater opens 20 minutes prior to the show. You need to deposit all your electronic items in the safe locker before entering the theater. The show is lively throughout with shadow plays, fantasy, magic and fireworks, martial arts, elephants, animals, war, comedy and is beyond my words.
Another option in Phuket is to explore Phang Nga Bay and Ko Phi Phi.
James Bond Island:
Phang Nga Bay is commonly known as James Bond Island, for the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed here. A characteristic feature of this famous bay is the number of sheer limestone cliffs that vertically jut out of the water. The tour which starts at 9 is the beginning of a day packed with adventure and activities. You could choose to go by long tail boat or speed boat. I decided to experience the Island on a long tail boat and take in the beauty of this amazing location slowly.
There is a one hour stop for cave exploration on the way to this famous destination. After almost an hour, you’ll board a canoe where the experienced paddlers will take you through and under narrow rock formations to reach the hidden caves inside the mountains.
When you arrive at the destination, walk past the souvenir shops to reach the bay to see the famous James Bond Island. It is a limestone cliff emerging vertically from the waters. The area is a small strip of land with little beach and was crowded. You will get around 40 minutes to explore the island, take photos, and buy souvenirs.
Then is another short trip to Panyee Island. This is a Muslim village, where you are offered delicious Thai food. After the having food, take a walk through the island village before returning to the boat. Being a Muslim village, no alcoholic drinks are served at Panyee Island. Moreover, you are banned from consuming or taking alcohol into the village. The villagers will charge you a hefty fine on doing so.
Later board the boat that will take you to the mainland.
Exploring the Koh Phi Phi
Koh in Thai means island. You need to start by 07 am in the morning to visit the Phi Phi Island. You need to pay THB 100 for a pair of flippers. It is recommended to take a hat, sunscreen lotion and a swimsuit. You can also buy these from the pier. I am taking a speed boat ride to Phi Phi Island because it will cover more places than going by a long tail boat.
The boat ride is for one hour and forty minutes. Right after you leave the coastline you will notice the green emerald water. Cruise for an hour and you can see tropical islands at a distance. First is a short stop at Phi Phi Ley, with blue waters and white sandy beach. Later cruise to Maya beach. On reaching the beach, the blue waters are simply too irresistible not to swim. With white sandy beach and blue waters, this is a slice of tropical paradise. Enjoy the sun, the sand, and take a swim. You can spend around 40 minutes before returning to the boat.
SCUBA Diving at Phi Phi Island
It was my first Scuba diving experience and it was really a wonderful one. You will be taken to a big boat from where you will dive. You will get all necessary instructions and a local diver will also accompany you during the dive. They will take you up to the depths of 7 meters deep and you do not need a license. All you need to do is lay back, breath in and out through the regulator and enjoy the view. You can get your photos during the dive taken with an additional fee. Remember..aa….eehh…hooohhh!
A part of the Phi Phi Island tour is the traditional Thai lunch at Phi Phi Don. Later, board your boat and sail to Khai Nai Island. The clear water and sandy beach and is an ideal location for snorkeling. It is another brilliant experience. But watch out for sea urchins! You can also go for a banana boat ride or a 30 minutes ride on a Jet Ski.
Phuket is a tropical island. When you travel through the small villages dotted along the main road, the view changes from paddy fields to mountains to rubber plantations. Clean cities and wide roads make the travel easier. The people are extremely welcoming, and will do anything if you ask with a smile.
It truly is a land of smiles. In the end, I left my heart at Phuket. I am going there again hoping to get it back from this irresistibly beautiful island!