Thursday, August 26, 2010

Phuket, Thailand and why it's so popular

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why Phuket, Thailand's largest island, was, is and will be a popular destination.

Lapping its edges, the Andaman Sea is spectacularly beautiful, its brochure-blue waters interrupted by romantic islands, exotic looking watercraft and striking thrusts of karst that form almost hidden coves. The interior is mountainous and precipitous slopes can be encountered along the edges. The eastern side is less touristy, the western side, especially at Patong, is international party central. You can drive from one side to the other and back again in an hour or so.

First things first: pronunciation. It is NOT the version that rhymes with that favorite expletive or buck-it. Phuket is pronounced Poo-kett, despite the sexually explicit shops and offers you're bound to encounter in Patong.

East. Phuket Town is marked on the maps but it's hard to tell exactly when you've reached it. The strip-store virus is rampant. I was so busy with water-oriented activities there wasn't time to explore the town or, horrors, even shop. I'm told the east side is where the bargains are.

Spent the better part of three days in the Andaman sea and wish it could have been more.

The first day was in a speedboat around the fascinating islands that make up Phang-Nga Bay. Thank goodness for digital cameras and high capacity memory discs because I never stopped snapping away. Incredible vistas. Just when you thought you had captured the image, here comes another, even more dramatic island. Koh (Thai for island) Ping Kan, known as James Bond island since its appearance in The Man with the Golden Gun, tourist boats and all, is pretty spectacular.

It took a bit of peering and adjusting for glare but I did see the ancient paintings of boats and animals on the rock walls of Khao Khien.

Koh Panyee is a steep island with a village on stilts over water founded about 200 years by three Muslim families. Since then it has grown to an enclave of about 1,500 Muslims whose fishing has morphed into the feeding and souvenir supplying of tourists. We were the only ones at the time which made us pretty popular even though we had left our pocketbooks on the boat.

From there we made a beeline to lunch on a lovely beach where we took our first dip in the Andaman's waters - warm with strips of cold currents from somewhere. In short, like heaven. I just wish I and my companions could remember its name because there was a nice little resort there. However, after rising at 4 a.m. in Bangkok to reach the airport for the early plane to Phuket, much of our first day there is a blur. I think it was in the Hong islands near Krabi but don't bet money on it.

Last stop was a snorkeling spot. It didn't look too promising until our guides peeled a banana and began tossing slices in the water. Wow. Do Thai fish go bananas for  bananas. Must try that on American and Caribbean fish.

We stayed at Vijitt, a lovely seaside resort tucked in the hills at the southeast tip of Phuket. Steep inclines and unusual placements of furniture and bath facilities plus a dearth of lighting makes me hesitant to recommend it whole heartedly to Levelers. However, like too many places on this Thailand trip, I never had time to fully explore much less utilize the facilities. The infinity pool was gorgeous, the food was excellent, there's a spa, a cooking school and the most fragrant soap made on site. NOTE: For a recipe from Vijiit, go to my other blog,  Food Afar: Recipes from a Travel Writer.

Tip: Like many similarly situated resorts in Thailand, Vijiit maintains a fleet of golf carts that ferry guests from their cottages to wherever they want to go within the complex. It is efficient and pleasant to be delivered door to door so don't let topography deter you from staying anywhere offering this service.

 Day two brought a dream destination - Six Senses Hideaway on the island of Yao Noi. Picked up at a marina for the hour-long ride across the Andaman Sea in the handsomely appointed runabout, we eagerly anticipated a spa treatment and lunch at this tres chic escape.

The massage, a combination of techniques rather than the Thai massages we had been spoiled with, was one of the best all of us had ever enjoyed and the surroundings were rustically elegant and comfortable.

Warning: Yes, but the massage rooms were a good walk or stair climb away from the reception area. We were requested to remove our shoes before the walk/climb which was fine in the morning but when we were done those wooden stairs and walkways were hot enough to seriously burn your feet. Ask your attendant to bring your shoes to you before leaving the treatment room.

Afterward, before taking a tour of accommodations, we relaxed in the pavilion around the lovely lily pond with something wonderfully cool to drink. Hated to leave but even better awaited - lunch at the top of the world.

This three-suite villa is superbly outfitted, comes with infinity pool overlooking islands in the Andaman Sea and did seem as close to heaven as one could get. We were guests of the manager who was joining us for lunch so you can just imagine the quality of service. The food truly was angelic with just enough of Thailand's devilish spice to keep our attention. If you ever have the opportunity to see and sample it, do so.
NOTE: For a recipe from our meal that day, go to my other blog, Food Afar: Recipes from a Travel Writer.

Tip: SS Hideaway is situated along the steep sides of a mountain so only the man made elements are level. You will encounter stairs, too, so make sure the golf carts are running before you book.

Next post: By sea around the cape to Patong and the wild west - and secluded elegance.

2 comments:

Romantic bed and breakfasts said...

Phuket is one of my favorite Islands in Thailand after Koh Samui. You can enjoy some of the calm beaches and serene environment which is best for couples who want to spend their honeymoon. Wonderful climate, crystal blue water and soft white sand attract me to visit frequently that’s the reason number of visitors comes from all corner of the globe.

August 27, 2010 at 3:51 AM
Helish Lawera said...

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