Phuket Thailand Travel Experience – Thanaa Norodien
Phuket is found in Southern Thailand and is the largest island of Thailand. It has a dominant Chinese influence with plenty of Chinese restaurants and shrines in the city. The Chinese Vegetarian Festival is hosted each year. While the Chinese community is relatively large, you will find various other ethnicities, each with their own traditions and festivals from all over the Globe.
Phuket is surrounded by spectacular beaches like Patong, Kamala, Rawai, Karon, Mai Khao, Kata Yai, Kata Noi. You can experience some of Phuket’s most stunning sunsets at Laem Phromthep viewpoint. But, Phuket is not just about beaches. You can also visit magnificent classical architecture and experience the world renowned Phuket Nightlife first hand.
Thanaa Norodien and four family members travelled to Phuket, Thailand (Bang Tao) and this is what she has to say about her travel experience.
Phuket Thailand Travel Experience – Thanaa Norodien
What makes Phuket an ideal destination?
Besides the fact that it is cost-effective, it is beyond beautiful and has activities that cater to the whole family. It is also a safe destination. You can go to the beach at any time of the day, leave your belongings on the sand when you go for a dip and come back to all your things. I was so sad to leave not just because of the destination itself, but because of the people. We created so many bonds with the locals. I have never before met such a welcoming group of people.
How many days were you in Phuket and was this enough time to explore this destination?
I was in Phuket for 10 days. Each day we did an activity/tour, leaving us with only two rest/beach days. We covered all the aspects that my family wanted to see/do. From boat rides from island to island, to eating dinner on the beach. I could stay an extra week, though!
What was your most memorable moment in Phuket?
We went on a half-day tour that included ATV, elephant trekking, and seeing Big Buddha.
ATV through the forest of naturally formed paths was fun and definitely had my adrenaline pumping. The staff even recorded the whole trip and offered to take pictures when they saw we were struggling.
The elephants were very friendly; they tried to ‘gimme trunk’ and held trunks when they walked next to each other. My sister took a picture next to the elephant and it looked at her in the eyes. That’s good luck, right?
The Big Buddha was… wow. Everywhere you stood, the eyes were looking at you. The Big Buddha is sacred. We were handed scarves, as you have to wear appropriate clothes – over your arms and legs. There were medicating facilities and other sacred statues. The view surrounding Big Buddha was unreal.
In your view, what are the two must-see attractions:
- James Bond Island (all-day tour)
- Big Buddha (half-day tour)
- Phi Phi Island and Maya Bay (all-day tour)
Activity One – James Bond Island and Phang Nga Bay Canoeing
This all-day tour can be taken by Big Boat or Speed Boat. We went with the latter. If the weather cooperates, you see six islands – namely Panak Island, Hong Island, James Bond Island (actually named that), Khao Phing Kan, Panyee Island and Naka Island.
Panak Island (diamond/bat cave)
Luckily for us, it was low tide. We walked into the cave with water waist-height. On the other side was something out of Jungle Book. There were trees growing out of seemingly nothing.There were tiny creatures that were half land, half sea. We did not see any bats, as they are nocturnal.
Canoeing among the mangrove forest. Tight squeeze! At times, we had to position ourselves to fit through the caves. It is like a whole other world on the other side. It goes from complete darkness to sun rays shining through the trees growing out of rock. It is completely silent. No animals, no people (other than tourists).
James Bond Island and Khao Phing Kan
Sightseeing and walking tour – I felt like a celebrity. I was quite shocked that they named the island after the movie. It is beautiful how erosion formed this masterpiece. It defies gravity.
Delicious (spicy) lunch at the restaurant and a visit of the local village market. This island is beautiful, because it is a floating village. There are about 1 600 people from 360 families permanently living on the island for 200 years.
Swimming and relaxing. The ocean water is amazing. It is just cold enough to cool you down but just warm enough so you can walk in. After a busy day island hopping, I cannot imagine a better way to end the day off.
Activity Two – Big Buddha
Which words would you use to describe Phuket?
Locals – Welcoming, friendly, and considerate (they said Afrikaans phrases to us when they heard we were from SA).
Destination – Warm, peaceful, and breath-taking.
What is the food like in Phuket? What were your favourite or must-try meals and why?
They had their traditional food which had a noodles or rice base, and they had ‘tourist’ food, i.e. burgers, pizzas, chips, etc. Traditional food was better priced. What was interesting is finding out they have an excess of fruit – dragon fruit (favourite), pineapple (home favourite), and coconut (absolute favourite). So instead of sweets with your bill, you are handed fruit.
My favourite was the egg-fried noodles with chicken and veg with a Chang (local beer). It was my staple for the trip, because it made me feel part of the community and it was delicious.
What are your top three travel tips for first-time travellers visiting Phuket?
- DO NOT overpack.
- For most days, you wear a t-shirt and shorts because of the heat.
- Buy aqua socks and a waterproof phone/wallet case in Phuket. With all the water-based activities, you will need it.
- Exchange money as you go – great for budgeting.
What was the shopping like in Phuket, were there any must-have or value for money items?
Bangla Road Market has beautiful Thailand-themed items, from clothes and bags to ornaments. There are branded items, too, for half the price. Each seller wanted to negotiate prices. Must haves are Thailand bags or pants – elephants and patterns vary.
Is Phuket a suitable holiday for family travel? And why?
Yes. I went with my family and there were activities for all ages. From beaching activities for kids to clubbing for adults.
Did this destination offer you good value for money?
Yes! The Rand to Baht ratio is almost 2:1. Beautiful experiences for half the price.
What is your preferred next dream destination?
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All the movies I’ve watched (Fast and Furious and Rio) made me interested in experiencing the culture, food and beaches.
General Information About
Because so many tourists are drawn to the island, it is understandable that the locals do not always hang around the well known beaches. However, there are excellent spots where you can mingle with the locals. Phuket town is one of the best spots for meeting, eating, and drinking with the locals.
Although many people in Phuket speak the subdialect of Southern Thai, most of them speak and understand central Thai dialect as most locals in Thailand. Most locals can speak basic English to communicate with tourists, but you will find that only a few can maintain a full conversation.
The local currency in Phuket and Thailand is Thai Baht.
Most of the time, it is relatively safe to visit Phuket, although there are incidents of scams and tourists being ripped off, usually where Thailand heat and a few drinks are involved.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Phuket is from November to February when the weather is mostly dry and sunny. The wet season is usually from May to October with high levels of humidity and rainfall.