Don’t be a beach bum, try Phuket for non-touristy things that’ll blow your mind
Looking for your next dream vacation? A weekend trip to Phuket, the go-to destination for most Indians, thanks largely because it is cheaper to fly in from most metros, could help you explore a Thailand you won’t find in tourist brochures.travel Updated: Nov 24, 2017 09:34 IST
Thailand’s resort island of Phuket has much more to offer than those “massage parlours” that dot the beaches promising to “rejuvenate” you in the blink of an eye.
So, the rule of the thumb: Don’t be a beach bum. Try Phuket for non-touristy things and this tiny island will surprise you no end.
A recent weekend trip with my sister to the go-to destination for most Indians, thanks largely because it is cheaper to fly in from most metros, helped us explore a Thailand you won’t find in tourist brochures.
We reached Phuket at night and it looked like any sleepy Indian town as we headed towards the Anantara Layan Phuket Resort and Residences. Landing in the night helped because when we woke up in the morning, we were greeted with the gorgeous view of a blue sky interspersed with green trees all around.
The vast expanse of the sea in front completed the picture and we knew we were at the right place.
Perched high on a hill overlooking the Layan Bay, sits the last masterpiece of the late Indonesian design guru Jaya Ibrahim. Its owner, William E Heinecke, is one of the richest people in Thailand according to Forbes.
Thai food is getting very popular and the stunning Anantara Layan had amazing food, so it seemed a must to pick up a few culinary tricks. The chef took me to the local morning market to buy some ingredients. I bought black pepper, roasted garlic, and grated coconut to carry with me back home. And back at the hotel, I learnt how to cook prawns and rice Thai style.
As we were cooking, I got to know that the chain of resorts comes under the Minor Hotel Group and it was named so because when its founder Heinecke started his company, he was still a minor. Today the group with its presence in around 146 locations and 45,000 employees is a “grown up.”
With the help of the hotel staff, we went about exploring the island city.
Phuket’s market comes alive at night. It is a flea market where haggling is not much of a norm although you can try and bring down the price to about 50 baht or so for certain items. The shop owners mean business and don’t waste time striking up a friendly chat. We picked up some amazing hair accessories in the range of 20-50 baht, some earrings and slippers that strangely were in the same price bracket.
And next to it was the food market.
There were stalls and stalls filled food, juices, and salads but not raw ingredients. Our local guide told us that most people don’t cook at home and either eat at the market or get food packed. And it made sense because the food is cheap here. We had a plate full of rice and a bowl of Thai chicken curry for 20 baht with an array of condiments. And it was so tasty that it could have been served at any good restaurant. The variety was mind boggling – there were fried rice salad, different dishes of shrimps, squids, chicken, yummy ice creams, fruit juices.
Of course, the seating arrangement is make-shift so if you are looking for cushioned chairs, then pack the food and take it home.
The other must do is to check out the archipelago on ferries and speedboat. The archipelago of six islands is called Phi Phi and located at the mouth of the Phang Nga Bay between the southern tip of Phuket Island and the Krabi coast. The most famous one is the James Bond Island, named so because years ago The Man with the Golden Gun was shot there. These islands can be visited only during the day.
You could also go to the man-made floating village, Koh Panyi or Panyee. Built on stilts, the floating village also boasts of a floating football pitch apart from a school, market and mosque. Apparently, children there built the pitch from old scraps of wood and fishing rafts inspired by 1986 FIFA World Cup. Those who built it are all grown up men now but some play for the Panyee FC and are regarded as some of the best footballers in Thailand.
There is much more to Phuket than its beaches. Water-sport is one such nice activity. Kayaking in the sea is safe and enjoyable but make sure that you apply a lot of sunscreen. If rowing is not your scene, then try water-scooters and scuba diving.
You must also enjoy the tranquil, scenic beauty of mangroves on a leisurely canoe trip along Klong Mudong (canal). As you are paddled around the canal for about two kilometres, you can spot colourful crabs, snakes, birds and other inhabitants of mangroves.
Phuket turned out to be a dream vacation with an inspirational success story and beautiful locales. And its people were warm and ever so helpful.
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