Phuket Southern charm

Stacy Danika Alcantara (The Freeman) - September 19, 2015 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Among a high school crowd, Phuket may well belong to the clique that every other kid feels he knows but really doesn’t.  If you ask me, among all of the places in Thailand, Phuket is the most underestimated and misunderstood.

Phuket is one of Thailand’s biggest islands.  It is set at the southern tip of one of Southeast Asia’s oldest and grandest kingdoms with a front-row seat to the Andaman Sea.  Phuket definitely has one of the most arresting sunrises in this part of the world.

People usually flock to Phuket for the endless parties along its Patong Beach. Yes, for the longest time, Phuket is to Thailand what Boracay is to the Philippines.  But there is more to Phuket than the wild nights by the beach.  For the most part, Phuket is every culture vulture’s next favorite vacation hot spot – and the best part of it is that it takes only a shoestring budget to enjoy the place.

Phuket used to be a tin mining town flocked by Chinese and Portuguese merchants and miners, the reason for the town’s rows of distinct Sino-Portuguese architecture.  Phuket Town, the heart of Phuket Island, is a blast-from-the-past with colorful, carefully preserved shop-houses radiating from Thalang Street towards the outskirts of the town.  Grand 18th century mansions are also open to the public as museums containing treasure troves of Phuket’s colorful past.

Beyond the town proper lie beaches, coves, and limestone cliffs rising above emerald waters.

Today, Phuket is a collection of cultures and religions while still remaining undoubtedly Thai.

Travel Tips

Getting there. Direct flights are available from Manila to Phuket.  If you plan to fly from Cebu, expect a brief stopover at the capital city up north.

When to go? April and May are the best months to visit Phuket, especially since breathtaking national parks like Similan are only open during these months and closed from the public for the rest of the year.  August is Thailand’s rainy season, so stick to the summer months, to be safe, if you wish to truly enjoy the place.

Where to stay? If you’re on a budget and if you want the best of both beach and culture, stay at Phuket Town.  I highly recommend 99 Oldtown Boutique Hotel, which is at Thalang Street, the best part of town.  Oldtown offers free breakfast, spacious rooms with four poster beds, and flowing tea and coffee the whole day for only P900.  If you are up for more peace and quiet, Cape Panwa may be the place for you with Radisson Blu Plaza Cape Panwa Resort offering the best view of the sunrise.

Getting around. If you are touring the town, your best bet is getting around by foot since the town is small enough to stroll around in.  Otherwise, if you are heading to any of Phuket’s famous beaches, songthaews (which are like oversized jeepneys made of metal and wood) are the way to go.

What to do? Book for island hopping tours and explore Phuket’s natural parks.  Similan Island and Phang Nga Bay are two of the places you should not miss.  Take time to explore Phuket Town especially Thalang Road and Dibuk Road for its abundance of colorful shop houses.  Sign up for Thai Cooking classes at the Blue Elephant Restaurant in Phuket Town and keep copies of the hot recipes.  Book for a Thai massage session to soothe those muscles after island hopping.

Chow time. Grab a bite at the Blue Elephant restaurant for high-class authentic Thai cuisine.  Otherwise, Kopitiam by Wilai in Thalang Road serves one of the best pad thai and tom yum in Phuket Town.  Sawasdee at Cape Panwa undoubtedly has the best food at the southern tip.

Bring home. Hand-sewn Thai pillows and hand-crafted home accessories are found at Phuket Town’s souvenir shop-houses.


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