We arrived Phuket via the sea, onboard Star Cruises’ Superstar Libra. What was initially a silhouette on the horizon grew bigger and bigger, until eventually we were so close to the island, we could almost see what’s inside the rooms in some resorts at the shore. We disembarked at Phuket’s deep sea port, and were whisked away by the tour van we contracted via the ship’s excursion desk. As we were a group of 6, we chose to get our own van and craft our own itinerary in Phuket, rather than take one of the ship’s packaged tours, so we could spend more time in places we want. The ship was going to be in Phuket for 12 hours, so there was quite a bit of time to use up.
The first thing I noticed about Phuket is that it is a very busy place, very developed and quite urban. It is definitely not some backwater place somewhere in the Andaman coast, though there’s still plenty of green spaces in the island. The deep sea port is right outside Phuket Town, which despite being called a town, is actually a district within Phuket City, which covers the southern end of Phuket Island, which is also the whole of Phuket Province. Confused? You’re not alone.
Our first stop was Wat Chalong, the island’s premier Buddhist temple. Travellers from Bangkok will note the familiar styling of the buildings, though Wat Chalong has humbler proportions. Up in one of the temple structures is a relic of the Buddha.
After Wat Chalong, we took a drive to the hills for a look at what could be Phuket’s largest man-made landmark. When one thinks of a gigantic statue of the Buddha, the most common picture that comes to mind is the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping, in Hong Kong. Well, Phuket’s version, which is much newer (and not actually fully complete yet), brings some competition to that.
An added bonus is the view from the base of the Buddha statue, where Phuket Town and the turqoise waters of the Andaman Sea sprawl before you.
Next up, we came down the other side of the hills to Phuket’s most famous beach, Patong, next to a town of the same name, which looks more like a city than a town. Patong is Phuket’s “tourist central”. In my observations, with the few hours we spent in Patong, I wouldn’t be surprised if the local to tourist ratio would be like 1:1. The town itself is an endless chain of hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes, tourist shops, and just about anything that has to do with tourism. The beach was quite pleasant while we were there, with mild weather (though it rained for a while, which our guide says is typical in the afternoon), calm seas and not too much of a crowd (then again, it was a Monday afternoon).
Lastly, after we took a dip in Patong, and just as the sun dropped lower in the sky, we headed back to the van and drove off to the southern tip of the island, in Promthep Cape, to view the supposedly magnificent sunset in the area. Unfortunately low clouds over the horizon obstructed our view that afternoon, so it wasn’t mission accomplished for us.
After the sunset that wasn’t mean to be, we drove back to the port to have dinner onboard the ship and prepare to sail to the next destination, but not before getting a taste of Phuket’s rush hour traffic, which could rival major cities.