I was expecting Chavs on tour 07 and huge high rise hotels with half naked women spilling out of the doors. The reality is actually; surprisingly different.
The first thing to do when deciding to go to Phuket is to decide where you want to stay. It’s basically an island with loads of beaches, each separated by some jungle. The king of Phuket for Backpackers is Patong, its actually like Saigon by the sea. It is littered with hundreds if bars, hostels and everything a backpacker could need. However it was not the place I wanted. I wanted something a little quieter, somewhere where we could walk to the beach and just chill out all day without hearing the Cheeky Girls blasting out and the sound of mopeds zipping past. So we chose Karon. Just Google Karon Beach and see how beautiful it is, genuinely the sea is blue and the sand like the stuff from the Early Learning Centre. The few hotels stand out above the tropical jungle and the weather sits at cosy 32 degrees daily. We splashed out a little and got ourselves a good old Spa resort for a week, the intention was literally to spend a week doing nothing.
I’m the sort of person who books a flight then spends every day checking to see if I’ve been ripped off or if the price has fallen. So on day one we hired a scooter with the intention of bezzing about Phuket Island and finding out if our beach could be improved upon. The bike cost 200 Baht for the day (£4.50) and it was good to be bombing down the snidey jungle roads at 60kmh with flies smacking me on my face constantly – Safety being absolutely paramount to me it was minutes before I was barefooted, wearing only my shorts and had meatloaf blasting out down the headphones. You have to imagine it, snidey roads through jungles with the odd glimpse of white sand beaches with turquoise water lashing the shores, up mountains and along coastal roads where there isn’t another person for miles around. Every now and again we would see Elephants chilling out or monkeys swinging from the trees. Few things come close to that feeling of freedom. Having the bike in Vietnam last year was one of the best memories of the whole trip and I have no doubt this will be no different.
We really did do some exploring and I am pleased to say that except for one beach we found which was a tiny little thing about 20m long and completely deserted, we really have a great beach in Karon! And it is so quiet, the obvious problem is that prices are inflated compared to somewhere like Patong.
Pretty much the whole day was spent exploring Phuket and finding places much less travelled. We got lost loads of times but it was awesome. We chilled on the beach and then had a few beers and watched the sunset over the Andaman Sea from our balcony.
The second day and we hired a bike again, I mean for less than a fiver it would be rude not to. The intention was to tick off Phukets historical and religious sites. The Premier one being the Big Buddha. It is huge and sits at the top of one of the highest mountains. Of course we got lost but eventually we found it and I have to say it was disappointing. Maybe it was the fact it was raining so hard it felt like we were getting stones thrown at us, or maybe it was the fact it was just so disappointing. It just looks like one day someone had an idea to bang up a Buddha asap and threw one together and had it put up.
We spent some time on the beach with the kids playing in the sea and the kids building stuff in the sand and then we were back on the bike and to a local Elephant trekking place. I am an animal lover, not to the extent where id start gate crashing whalers or hugging trees in my spare time but I do love animals. So it was sad seeing a baby elephant chained up whilst it tried to catch people’s attention by chinning them with its trunk. We gave it some attention and it was grabbing the kids with its trunk, they loved it! It’s a tough moral decision on whether to pay for elephant riding. On the one hand you could refuse to support elephants being used to ferry people up through the jungles, it probably wouldn’t make a difference and any losses the company suffered would probably hinder the elephants more. The flip side is that by paying money you are ensuring there is money for their food etc. The guy told me they ate 250kg daily, whether he was blagging me or not I do not know, but they did look well fed and well looked after. The kids got their elephant ride and I was asked ‘squeeze me I think I’m dreaming’ The elephant walked up through the jungle and the kids were just amazed and loving every minute. Back in the UK I had told them we might go Elephant riding and finally they were doing it. The look on their faces was one you usually only see on Christmas morning. It was worth every penny and we have another day full of memories that will stay with us for years to come.
With that in mind I would like to raise my bottle of Archa (some Thai beer) and propose a toast – To those who dared to travel off the beaten path and find this amazing island that we all now live out our dreams on. Thanks to you and thank you to Phuket.
Phuket touts itself as the island where dreams are made – I find it difficult to disagree with that, its really the place where dreams are not only made, but where they become a reality.