Kapunka Phuket! This Thai word means thank you in English, and after visiting Phuket, the tear-shaped island on the south-west coast of Thailand, your are bound to thank everything. Phuket may not boast of a tourist turnout as big as Bangkok or Pattaya, but it has all the trappings of a perfect holiday destination. With its numerous beaches, Phuket is a beach lovers’ paradise. The 2004 Tsunami devastated the country, but it has overcome the tragedy. In recent years, Phuket has positioned itself as the ‘it’ beach resort, with many new luxe hotels and high-end restaurants making inroads into the island.
Soak up the sun
Few islands can boast of endless beaches and clear waters as Phuket. The sea is blue-green coloured — a blend that truly takes your breath away. Also, the sand is extremely soft and white. You can hit the beaches by either renting a motorcycle or by hiring a tuk tuk, the Thai equivalent of Indian autos, albeit a lot more spacious. Among the beaches, Patong Beach is the most famous for its water sports, bustling markets and nightlife. Another popular beach is the Karon Beach, which offers a number of budget guesthouses, restaurants and bars that are idyllic for people looking for a quiet getaway.
Thai curry and all that food
Phuket is a beach haven. The exotic Thai food can be found around every kerb in the island. The famed Thai curry, in all its classic colours — red, yellow and of course green — is available in most restaurants. Since most Thai delicacies are non-vegetarian, vegetarians may have a tough time finding a good leafy meal. Seafood is a crowd-puller. There are some Thai food courts where you can enjoy authentic and inexpensive meal. But, if you’re in a mood to splurge, several high-end restaurants are spread across the island too. The menu at McDonald’s is strictly non-vegetarian, barring two items — Spinach pie and the good ol’ fries. If you are homesick and longing for your kadhai paneer and butter chicken, Tantra, an Indian restaurant is located in the market along the Patong beach. The food is authentic and the settings are sure to take you back to India.
Massage in a bottle
From inexpensive massage parlours to high-end resort spas, Phuket has them all. For a quick foot rub or back massage, small parlours lined-up along the pavements of the markets at most beaches, will do the job. But, for a head-to-toe massage treatment, visit spas that are housed either in hotels, such as Courtyard by Marriott, or that are located in shopping malls. The traditional Thai massage, that includes acupressure therapy, is especially relaxing and refreshing and comes cheaper here than anywhere else.
Phi Phi Islands, here we come
Often called Thailand’s ‘island-superstar’, Phi Phi Islands are located between Phuket and the western Andaman Sea coast of the mainland. The islands gained worldwide popularity when Hollywood film, The Beach (2000), starring actor Leonardo Di Caprio, was shot there. Ferryboats are used to travel to the islands. It takes almost an hour to reach but, in this case, the journey is as good as the destination. With strong winds slapping your face and the boat traversing choppy waters through high-low tide, the boat ride seems nothing less than a joy ride. The islands don’t disappoint either. Tourists and locals are seen swimming and snorkelling their heart out.
FantaSea Cultural Theme Park is undoubtedly the island’s biggest extravaganza. With trapeze artists, hundreds of actors, performing elephants and other animals, and a dramatic story that beautifully marries tradition with fantasy, the stage show is breathtaking. FantaSea also has many souvenir shops along with regular jewellery and clothes shops. Interestingly, it has a huge buffet restaurant called The Golden Kinnaree Buffet Restaurant that has a capacity to seat 4,000 diners.
Although not as shopper friendly as Bangkok, Phuket still boasts of many markets and shopping arcades. From the bustling open-air markets in Patong beach to western-style shopping malls like Jungceylon Shopping Center, located on the opposite side of Bangla Road in Patong, shoppers have enough to lay their hands on. However, haggling is a must! Though, language becomes a barrier as most locals don’t understand English, but you are bound to come across some shopkeepers who hail originally from Nepal or Bangladesh and are happy to reduce prices for their neighbours. Also, there are many CD shops that have a elaborate collection of almost all latest Bollywood movies. But, do test-run a CD before buying because they can be faulty. A big encouragement to shoppers is a policy adopted by Thai authorities wherein they refund VAT at the airport, provided shoppers have correctly done their paperwork and have the bill.
PHUKET TRAVEL FACTS
Best time to go: November, December, January and February. With its low-humidity, relatively low temperatures and clear skies, the cool season is the best time to visit.
Stay at: Courtyard by Marriott, its branches located near most beaches in Phuket. Visit www.marriott.com. One of the hotels is located in 48 Ruam Jai Road, Patong beach, Phuket - 076-337000.
Affordable style: www.firenzealbergo.it. Room rate starts from €79 (Rs 5,147).
Eat at: Tantra Indian Restaurant at Patong beach. Exotic Indian cuisine. Tel: 076 296 016, 087 117 7259, 081 880 4287; E-mail: email@example.com.
How to reach: Travel webite makemytrip has several offers to choose from. They even organise charter flights to Phuket. For more information, log on to: makemytrip.com.