Phuket is Thailand’s tropical paradise. Located in the south of the country and dubbed “The Pearl of the Andaman”, it’s Thailand’s largest island—and my favourite in Southeast Asia. Phuket also enjoys a rich culture and colourful history thanks to its position on what was once one of the major trading routes between India and China.
You’ll find a tropical monsoon climate here, with little variation in temperatures. The natural beauty includes lush jungles, sugar-sand beaches fringed by swaying palms, spectacular atolls and limestone cliffs.
The picture-perfect beaches are a huge draw for me…my friends say I’m an aquaholic…and there are plenty of opportunities for water adventures in and around Phuket…
For adventurous types, white-water rafting at Chalong Bay is an experience not to be missed. The rapids can be really wild, pumping my adrenaline as I fight to stay upright in my slippery raft. Staying dry is not an option.
Sea kayaking at Phang Nga Bay is another highlight. Over 100 towering limestone “islands” rise majestically out of the shimmering emerald green water, creating a dramatic, otherworldly landscape. We say hello to wild monkeys at the edge of the sheer formations and later stop at a secluded island to take a dip in the warm waters of a deserted lagoon.
My guide helps to steer my kayak through the mysterious waters which are lined with hongs or sea caves. We weave in and out of the caves and chambers—some of which can only be entered at low tide, even then you’ll have to lie flat in your kayak to get through.
Taking a boat east across the Andaman Sea, I arrive at the island of Ko Phi Phi. This star of the Andaman is my happy place. Here you’ll find Maya Bay, the picture-perfect setting for the film The Beach. Iconic long-tail boats floating between sheer cliffs make it one of the most photographed and beautiful beaches in the world. Just beyond the sandy shore are a series of caves backed by lush and verdant jungle as far as the eye can see.
Another day, another adventure. Back on Phuket, I trek on foot through the rainforest in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, making my way to a stunning waterfall. I splash around in a natural swimming hole and watch as brave souls leap from the top of the falls into the churning pool below.
In Old Phuket Town, riding in a tuk-tuk is a must-do, especially for first-time visitors to Thailand. These small, brightly-coloured, three-wheeled vehicles with open sides are noisy, but so much fun—and it’s a great way to take in the sights and sounds and admire the city’s historic Sino-Portuguese architecture.
When you want to relax and regroup, Wat Chalong is Phuket’s largest and most-visited temple and considered the island’s spiritual centre. It’s hard not to be drawn in by the glossy red-roofed pagodas glittering in the sunlight at this sacred site.
Towards the end of the day, I head over to the beach resort of Patong. The neon lights slowly begin to consume the district and Patong becomes wild and compelling. First I shop for bargains–silk, batik and locally-made jewellery. Haggling is a must, indeed it’s expected.
On Bangla Road, restaurants, bars and nightclubs come to life. This is party central—it’s not for the faint of heart or those without a sense of humour, it’s noisy and crowded, but always entertaining…
Image: ©Patti Morrow
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