On Feb. 4, 2017, I took my second trip of the semester. The destination: Phuket, Thailand. Prior to the trip, I did not know anything about the city. First and foremost, how do you pronounce the name?? foo-kay? poo-ket? fu-ket? something more explicit?
Turns out, Phuket (pronounced poo-ket) is an island off the West coast of Thailand with beautiful beaches, interesting nightlife, and cheap but delicious food. My four day trip there blew my expectations out of the water (pun intended) and it was definitely a memorable time!
We landed in Phuket in the late morning and split a taxi with some fellow travelers to our hostel in Old Town Phuket. To kick off the trip, we had a great (and super inexpensive) lunch at a local restaurant. Of course I had to try their tom-yum flavored shrimp curry and some mango sticky rice.
Our itinerary for the rest of the day involved visiting temples and parks that were quite far apart from each other, so we made the bold decision of renting motorcycles as a mode of transportation. This is the first time any of us have ever been on a motorcycle, let alone drive one, so naturally I was very anxious. The owners at the rental shop gave us a quick lesson, and off we went! At first, it was so unnerving to be driving beside all traffic and we were a bit unsteady, but the ride eventually smoothed out and I felt more at ease.
Our first stop was a Buddhist temple named Wat Chalong. The highlight here for me was trying the deep-fried insects. I randomly stumbled across a booth selling a variety of different insects like spiders, coach roaches and other bugs which I did not recognize. Being intrigued, we picked a relatively conservative choice of deep-fried grasshoppers. To be honest, it actually tasted decently good with the different spices and a dash of lime (if your mind can get past the fact that it’s actually a grasshopper).
Then we hopped back on our motorcycles and headed for the Phromthep Cave to watch the sunset. The ride there was quite long, it felt exhilarating as we cruised down an open highway with the wind flowing past us. When we got there, the sun has already started to set, so we quickly hiked all the way down to the bottom where we got close to the water. The view was breathtaking and it was a sweaty but fun hike.
The previous day we had arranged two day trips to the surrounding islands of Phuket. So we woke up very early in the morning for our speedboat tour to Phi Phi Island. The travel company picked us up from our hostel, and then we had to wait at the pier for our boat. It was a relatively small group of people that travelled with us on this tour so it felt like a more intimate experience. Our first stop was the famous Phi Phi Island. The water and beach looked beautiful, however there were just SO many tourists here. The entire bay was lined with tour boats, and the beach was filled with people. Also, the sand had many rocks in it which easily cut people’s feet and made it very painful to walk. Overall this first stop made me feel pretty underwhelmed and I was afraid the rest of the tour was going to be like this (fortunately it wasn’t).
After an hour of wandering on this tiny island, we went back on our boat and headed towards our second location. I became super excited when our tour guide started passing around snorkeling glasses, because our next activity was snorkeling! Eagerly, I jumped into the water and I was pleasantly surprised by how much sea life we saw. I saw many schools of colorful fish and black sea urchins which lined the floor of the ocean. My tour guide even let me do a head-first dive off of the boat, which was such a fun experience. This activity drastically boosted my spirits and I felt more anticipation for what’s to come.
Our third stop was another lagoon with water that was a surreal shade of blue. We were brought here to swim and had the options of jumping or diving off of the boat into the water. I had a ton of fun here as well and dove off of the boat a couple times. Our last stop before lunch was at monkey island. (Warning: the monkeys are quite vicious and could bite!)
After lunch, we had one last stop at Bamboo Island. I was pleased to find that this was a much less crowded and less touristy beach. The water was clear, blue and shallow; the sand was fine and white; it was perfect. Of course we had to take advantage of the photo-ops, and spent a lot of time taking photos. Then we all enjoyed the beach together and played in the waters. In total we had two hours here, and when the time came, I did not want to leave 😦 .
I sat at the front of the speed boat on the way back, and enjoyed a one hour ride that had strong winds which felt wonderful and it was a great end to the day trip.
Upon returning to our hostel, we freshened up and headed out again to dinner and a night market. The market was lined with shops selling everything from jewelry and clothing, to backpack and shoes. I was even able to get my nails done on the street. We tried a variety of street foods, and ended the night by getting an authentic Thai massage. The Thai massage was such an interesting experience and was much more “interactive” than I had imagined. It involves the masseuse putting you in weird stretches, twirling you around, cracking your bones,… It’s definitely not something to do if you wanted to just relax. I am unsure if it had any beneficial effects on me, but I would still recommend trying it nonetheless.
As I previously mentioned, we had another day trip planned for our third day in Phuket. This time, we went with a larger group of people on a ferry tour of some other famous islands. This ferry brought us to James Bond Island then we took a smaller canoe to Koh Panyee which is an island that is like a floating village. This island is home to a population of 200 people; it has its own school, medical center, mosque, and just one policeman. We did not have much time to explore, but it was definitely interesting to see.
Next, we went to the famous James Bond Island. Apart from it being famous due to its appearance in some Hollywood movies, there was nothing special about this island. It was filled with tourists and the scenery was relatively average.
We had lunch on our ferry and then came time for us do a canoe cave tour. Strangely, we did not have to paddle our own canoe and every pair of people had their own local canoe guide. They were waiting for our ferry at the entrance of the cave and picked us up from the ferry. Funnily, me and my best friend’s canoe guide was very good at taking photos and volunteered frequently to take our photos from all different angles (He understands our Instagram struggles). He even brought us to shore, gave the paddle to us and had us pose with the paddles as he took photos.
The tour’s last stop was a lagoon where we could dive into the water. The water seemed a lot less clear than the one we were at the day before, so I was not as keen on getting into the water and I ended up just chilling on the ferry.
After the end of the day trip, we took arranged to be dropped off to the other side of Phuket: Patong Beach. This is where we stayed for our last night. Once we got there, we had a reasonably priced yet delicious dinner on the beach and then walked around to see Patong Beach’s night life.
On our last day in Phuket, we went to chill at Patong beach for the morning, followed by Karon Beach in the afternoon. The two beaches are not close by to each other, so you would have to either take a taxi or a motorcycle. We ended up getting on a motorcycle where the guy took both me and my best friend as passengers. Three people on a motorcycle was definitely a bit tight and didn’t feel very safe… But hey, we survived.
Both Patong Beach and Karon Beach could not beat the incredible waters we saw at Bamboo Island, so it wasn’t as exciting. The beaches were also filled with people and there are tons of locals trying to sell you stuff. Even to the rent an umbrella on the beach costs $6 per person. It was nice to relax by the beach but I would not say it is a “must do” when in Phuket.
Overall, Phuket was an unforgettable trip filled with mouth-watering food, beautiful beaches, and fun water activities. The second day outshone the others by far, but it doesn’t mean the others weren’t great too. However as a last tip, I would recommend avoiding the more “famous” islands and try to go to some lesser known ones. You will have a much more authentic experience and get some better photos too!
P.S. My friend also created a video of our trip, and you can see it here.