There's simply no escape . . .
|"I had my opinions about
Phuket before I came. Seedy, overdeveloped, overtouristed,
overpriced. And I chose to avoid it. What I didn't know was
that if you like beaches, international food, Thailand, and islands,
there's no avoiding Phuket. Your paths will cross.
In my first year in Thailand, while avoiding it, I wound up here twice
and two years later, here for a third time. As I continue to shun
it, I'll probably end up here for another vacation or two within the
next few years."
Phuket is Thailand's biggest island and the size of Singapore.
With unlimited funds and a choice to live either in Phuket or Singapore,
I'd choose Phuket. So would, I imagine, the majority of
Does Phuket really live up to the claim of being a sex den and packed
out with tourists? Let's not beat around the bush. It is,
hands down, Thailand's most visited island. There have been direct
flights here long before Air Asia set up shop. Yes, it's an
island, but unlike Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, Koh Phangan, Koh Chang, etc,
you don't need to take a ferry to get here. Two bridges span from
the mainland to the island, so it's easy to get to. It's on the
Andaman Coast, making it more scenic and beautiful than the islands in
the Gulf of Thailand. There's a variety of accommodation
available, the food is eclectic. The capital of the province/island,
Phuket Town, offers real comforts and characteristic architecture,
something missing in many Thai towns.
Phuket - no
escaping it and for many, no better escape
Phuket may just be too
popular for its own good, and there's always a reason to
come down here. My first visit was in July 2007.
I had just learned how to kiteboard in
Hua Hin, and the season had just ended. I
caught a flight and decamped on Naiyang Beach very close to
the airport. That was about the only benefit.
Wind was up and down, and Naiyang was so far removed from
any kind of stimulation. Near the end of my
two-week stay, I rented a motorbike and drove to Phuket
Town. As the
entire island stretches north to south about 50 km, the
drive can take well over an hour each way, not a trip you'd
be making on a daily basis. Having had my fill of
Phuket, I didn't think I'd be back for awhile.
Vegetarian Festival: Doug returns three months later!
It's October 2007. I had taken the plunge and moved in
with my girlfriend and her son a month earlier.
October was his school vacation, and my girlfriend suggested we
all go to Phuket for the annual
Vegetarian Festival. The Vegetarian Festival is a
9-day Taoist celebration observed by Chinese Thais, with the
focus of the festival being in Phuket which is 35% Chinese.
People stuff their faces on delicious vegetarian cuisine and
sacred rituals are performed at various Chinese temples.
Big time devotees walk barefoot over piping hot coals and pierce
their bodies with swords, fish hooks, whatever. Some ascend
ladders with bladed rungs to have a bloody good time.
A piece of advice. The vegetarian food doesn't taste any
better after you've inflicted wounds on your body.
This was our first family vacation, although I hadn't yet comprehended
that I'd become the patriarch of a new family klan at that moment.
It was filled with fond memories. We'd booked a few nights
at the Centara on well touristed
Karon Beach. My hotelier
girlfriend found it disappointing and found a luscious deal at the
also purveyors of delicious chocolates, although I hadn't yet
comprehended that either. The Movenpick's Kids Club put my
girlfriend's own hotel's to shame. I tried lying to the staff and
saying I was 9, then 9-and-a-half, and finally 12 to see if I could also
make use of the kid facilities myself. None of the staff bought it
and security escorted me off the Kids Club premises.
Two Years Later -- Back Again!
Even though we lived in a beach resort city, my girlfriend wanted still
more beaches for our 2009 family vacation. We spent some of the
time in Khao Lak and finished up in Phuket,
back in Karon yet again. Phuket called us back!
Actually, what called us back was an unbelievable hotel bargain.
Phuket abounds with them. This bargain was extra special. A
former colleague of my girlfriend had moved to a competing 5-star chain
in Phuket. We were offered a deluxe room for USD 50/night
including a luxurious breakfast buffet. Sweetening the pot were
two vouchers to a Middle Eastern dinner buffet. I had just come
off a Master Cleanse and lost 7 kg. Once I stayed at this hotel
for 3 nights, I soon found 3.5 of those lost 7 kg.
We missed the Vegetarian Festival by one day in 2009. No worries.
Phuket Town still had pre-festival festivities and I stuffed my face
just before boarding the bus back to Hua Hin. Magically, I found
yet another lost kilogram.
Phuket's Magnetic Allure
There's just too much going
on down here to ignore Phuket, try as I might.
I would not need my arm twisted to go down for
another Vegetarian Festival. I didn't fall in love with
Naiyang Beach but Chalong Bay in the southeast also has kiteboarding.
The island boasts an international school. Half of
Europe takes a dump here, and the dumbest Australians on
their continent come here for holidays, yet as I pondered it
over in my mind, I realized Phuket wouldn't make a bad place
to live if you could find a place a bit but not completely
away from it all. And if it's not a bad place to live,
how could it be a bad place to travel?
this map. Look how many bays and beaches Phuket
contains. Sure, Karon and Patong host more Korean package
tourists than the population of North Korea. Who's saying
you have to book your holiday there? I'm telling you what
it's taken me more than four years to realize. Phuket
has plenty more than the trendy beaches, access to numerous
watersports, golf courses, shooting ranges. I'd say one of
the most obvious downsides is that it's got so much and it's so
accessible that you may not feel you're on an island anymore.
I'm not planning to
arrange our next family vacation here. That
probably means our next family vacation will be in Phuket.