You’ve read the guidebooks and you’re inching to visit this Thai city. You have to expect more than the guided tours can ever offer you, though. If you’d rather go out on your own and experience Phuket without a leash, then you’ll have to cut yourself loose from the pack and travel on your own (or with your group). The public commutes are your first picks of transport, but the outskirts are easily accessible if you hire a rental car that’ll take you anywhere you want to go. Your guidebook (and the Phuket tourism website) will serve as your survival guide, but don’t forget to experience the sights and sounds firsthand once you’re there.
Tour the City, Breathe the Local Culture
Your tour has to start from the inside out; exhaust all of the city’s usual fare of attractions before you head out to Phromthep Cape, Surin, Phi Phi, or Phang nga. Soak yourself in local culture, and your first stop should be the Amulet Market. It’s just a modest spot of about 20 stalls, but the wares should give you an overview of local beliefs. Amulets are tied to the Buddhist religion, usually blessed by monks and supposedly bestowed with protective powers. You’ll have to scout for an amulet expert to sort the genuine from the fakes, though.
The shrines are worth your visit because these provide a glimpse of the culture in one fell swoop. The architecture and aesthetics are also the perfect backdrop for your postcard pictures. Of note are the Bang Neow (along Phuket Road), Hok Nguan Kung (at Surin Clock Circle), and Jao Mae Kuan (along Bangkok Road) Shrines, all located within the city proper. These temples are dedicated to deities or to monks considered as deities, decked with adornments of heavy and religious symbols. The shrines are usually open till the early evening; observe and visit with discretion.
Phuket Beaches Are One of a Kind
Hit the beaches once you’ve had your fill of the city. The West Coast is balmy during the dry season, and the beaches are pristine from Phromthep Cape to Surin. You have to cruise on a rental car, though. You’ll stop plenty of times just to appreciate the view. There’s the usual fare of tourist novelties at Phromthep, but the trinkets and hawkers are forgivable when you’re within view of the coastline. Up north are several lookout points, with majestic views of Nai Harn, Kata, Karon, and Patong beaches. Note that elephant camps line this stretch of road, so drive carefully and watch out for safety hazards (elephant droppings) along the way. Kamala and Surin beaches lie at the end of the long stretch, the first set against a backdrop of an idyllic village, the other lined by posh restaurants, cafes, and bars.
See the Islands on a Pleasure Cruise
Phi Phi and Phang Nga offer clusters of untamed islands, the perfect way to spend a sunny morning. You can board a boat (Chinese junk boat) for your cruise. If you prefer a closer view, paddle a sea kayak with an experienced tour guide. Phi Phi is best experienced on speedboat, but the lagoons of Phang Nga bay are too beautiful to sample in a hurry. Arrive early so you’ll have plenty of time to linger. You’ll surely schedule return flights to Phuket to experience its other attractions, but these few picks should do for your first visit. Travel solo, with a special someone, or with a group; your stay is memorable whether in solitude or with familiar company.
Sofia Angeli is a PR & communications consultant for companies in various industries. She also brings her writing skills and passion for culture and travel to the online world. If not out and about on a trip somewhere, she consults for cheapflights.com.au.