Among the top world’s island destinations, Phuket is the shining star in the Thai Airways Royal Orchid Holiday planner. The Big Island in the south-west Thailand that keep reinventing itself, swarming with visitor, has been recently affirmed as the most densely populated destination in the world with 5,090 tourists per square mile.
But despite that, there are places in the sun that has a feel of solitude, and to the most avant garde of local and universal vacationer, Phuket is seen as a geological cake, dotted with 32 islands and garlanded with the indigenous Malay and Burmese culture.
Located on the south-west shores of Thailand about 863 kilometers (536 miles) from Bangkok, the Big Island (576 sq. kilometers/ 222 sq. miles) with a population of 600,000, revamp this paradise with new high net worth resorts and Estate developments along the existing first-class hotels. International flights from many countries arrive direct at the Phuket International Airport, including frequent flights by Thai Airways.
Phuket has all the features of what it takes in making the Island a world class holiday retreat. There is an endless array of activities including island hopping, sailing, diving, live-aboard, kayaking, golf, jungle exploration, cultural shows and a vibrant night life – spiced up with Thai and international cuisines and thematic musical evenings. Posed with lifestyle hotels like the newest: Pamookkoo Resort by Kata group, the Beyond Kata Beach Resort, Amari Patong Beach Resort – to name a few of the Island gems – Phuket has no shortage of budget accommodation.
A derivative of Malay word: Bukit, meaning hill, the other name for Phuket is found in Thai literature: Phu (mountain) and Ket meaning Jewel. Formerly known as Thalang, a Malay word meaning ‘cape’ or Jung Ceylon, an alteration of Malay word Tanjung Salang – Phuket was on the map of major trading routes between India and China but first became known to be discovered by western navigators in mid 1700. Thalang National Museum Phuket offers an insight into Phuket’s ancient and modern history. I trace the origin of people on the Island visiting a settlement of Moken: the Sea Gypsies (also called Chao Ley – People of the Sea), who are related to Urak Lawoi Malay people and Burmese tribe – respectively. Visitors can meet the descendants of Sea Gypsy at Rawai.
The 48 kilometers (30 miles) long (North to South) and 21 kilometers (13 miles) wide Island brim with long stretches of sub lime beaches, and a variety of attractions.
Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai islands in the picturesque Pha Nga Bay area can be easily reached by hiring speedboat or even a long-tail boat, but the latter can be time consuming. On a day trip, repeat travelers regard these islands a reminder into Phuket’s past – as if a page torn out of the epic novel Robinson Crusoe. Local taxi boats navigate between the two islands, which cost about Baht 100 one way per person. Hiring a bike is the best way to go around Koh Yao Yai.
The popular excursion from Phuket to Phi-Phi Island is just a couple of hour’s voyage on a high-speed ferry. You can take the first ferry from Phuket and return by last ferry from Phi-Phi or spend a night at a recommended abode like the Viking Nature Resort that sprawls uphill by a private beach and offers spacious log villas designed in contemporary Thai style as well as budget bungalows and luxury tents. Thai Sala restaurant – best on the Island, serve local sea food specialties and continental cuisines. www.vikingnaturesresort.com
Phuket rates among the preferred destinations for wellness travelers. Spa Wellness Center like Atsumi Healing Center based on the philosophy of body cleansing through the cleansing process of digestive system. “Food is your best medicine, and it (this medicine) is your best food”. All ailments are caused by dirty digestive system. Expert therapists like khun Timmy, who freelance for various wellness centers, ensures restoration of health through healing hands, which apply the process of cleansing that need to go through different levels. Cleansing of digestive system helps the body to heal.
The Island is world renowned Asia’s Gourmet Seafood destination and no visit is complete without experiencing traditionally prepared Thai seafood recipes at these recommended places:
The @ Beach Bar & Restaurant at the Beyond Kata Beach Resort, overlooking the turquoise green Andaman Sea; Mookoo Nest at Pamokkoo Resort; Rim Talay – the signature All-Day-Dining restaurant at Amari Patong will tease your taste buds to an addiction, each time you try something new from the menu. The bar at Beyond Karon Resort and Rim Talay Amari Patong makes a variety of cocktails to your desire through the day till late in the evening, and nothing could be as rewarding as sitting here watching the sunset, while sipping over gourmet coffee or young coconut – a perfect drink rich in electrolyte.
Raw Café by Atsumi is about 3 kilometers from Chalong roundabout on Rawai Road is the unique place for healthy dining. Everything served here is organic. A carefully created menu is based on vegan and raw vegetarian food including variety of health drinks. Try some of the innovative vegetarian dishes like burritos, pizza, salads and not to miss the rich chocolate cake served with organic coffee or herbal tea.
Other recommended restaurants are La Gritta Italian restaurant at Amari Patong; Le Bayon Restaurant Karon (Phuket Orchid Resort) serving Thai and International Buffet and al-carte; Suan Bua contemporary Thai Restaurant at the Centara Grand West Sands Resort; Seabreeze Restaurant Karon (Woraburi Resort) popular for Thai curry recipe wood-fire pizzas.
Phuket is also well known for top quality custom tailored suiting and dress making. Highly recommended by travelers: Island Creation Suit masters in overnight stitching, they meet the satisfaction of the customer and have an impressive selection of imported material at the shop. (Karon Beach 089-8718461).
Traditional Phuket Festivals 2015
-Vegetarian Festival or Nine Emperor gods Festival end September.
-Ghost Festival or Pho To Festival, middle day of the 7th Chinese lunar month
-Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, December (1st week)
-Phuket Travel Fair/ Patong Carnival, 01 Nov
-Chao Le (Sea Gypsy) Boat Floating Festival, Mid of sixth and 11th Lunar months annually
The Island is blessed with a number of die hard gurus in the service industry – committed to a philosophy of service with a smile, seeking to encourage visitors mentally, physically and spiritually by engaging them into a stimulating travel experience.
With the ongoing trend of luxury pool-villas, accommodation in Phuket comes in a range of categories – from five star lavishness and comfortable abode to budget and Guest House abode.
Kata Beach Resort & Spa is the high-end resort on one of Phuket’s finest Kata Beach. It’s unique orchid garden that sprawl the interior of the building radiate warmth and beauty. The Resort’s central location, right on the beach makes it a preferred address for leisure travelers, with an option of choosing either pool-access room or a room with the view of the sea. The Kanda Spa offers a menu with a variety of therapy treatments including the more recently introduced: Foot Reflexology. www.katagroup.com/kata-beach
Pamookkoo Resort, Kata is the brand new Resort recently opened in October 2019 is a retreat for family holidays. The philosophy behind the Pamookkoo Resort is to pamper – not only children, but to reinvent a child in adults, and to wallow the guests with a memorable holiday experience. www.pamookkoo.com
Amari Patong is the landmark resort of Onyx Hospitality group,
Nestled away from the crowded Patong, the luxury beachfront resort define paradise in its true meaning – the cool ocean breeze while you dine at one of the restaurants at the resort and the placid view of the ocean while you relax in the comfort of one of the luxury suite Club Ocean wing rooms, located uphill with an infinity pool, FIT center at the Clubhouse, which serves buffet breakfast and sundowner cocktail.
Phuket Orchid Resort & Spa is the 525 room oasis for family fun and recreation with its 3 pools, uniquely characterized with the all seeing eyes of the 4 Bayon statues, inspired by Khmer art. The spa at the Resort offers massage treatments in its well appointed rooms for ultimate relaxation and wellbeing of the visitor. There is a host for numerous recreation activities for children including baby-sit service. www.katagroup.com/phuketorchid
Serenity Resort & Residences Phuket at Rawai Beach.
Spacious suites cater 5 star luxuries and have the balcony looking out partially the beach and sea. The Resort’s facility includes chic beachfront lounge, East 88, a spa and fitness center. At the Restaurant, buffet breakfast comprises a choice of healthy food that stock up good deal of energy in taking up an active day. www.serenityphuket.com
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Words & Photography by: Saifuddin Ismailji | Founder: e-Travelers Club travel update