Phuket was the last place I went to during my Southern Thailand adventures last September. Having traveled much of Thailand for the past month and a half and meeting a lot of travelers, 9 out of 10 them told me not to go to Phuket. They said it’s very touristy and very expensive. I originally didn’t want to come to Phuket because of the strong image it brought me but a good friend of mine introduced her friend in Phuket and just like that I was encouraged to come. So I took an overnight bus from Bangkok to Phuket and met my friend’s friend, Jill. She informed me that from the bus station, I had to take a taxi. I didn’t realize that the taxi here is a motorbike taxi. Whew. If there’s one thing you should know Phuket drivers are not like any driver in Thailand. They’re like race car drivers. It was some kind of ride. Jill has been residing in Phuket for the past few years. Though we haven’t met each other before, she welcomed me with such open arms and kindness to her abode and just like that we became friends. We went to get some delicious Thai breakfast and since I didn’t know Jill that much, I had to inform her that I was a vegetarian. Surprisingly, it was a few days before the Phuket Vegetarian Festival! How luckier can I get?!
The street food vendors preparing for the vegetarian festival
After knowing that I was in the best place for the biggest vegetarian festival in Thailand, I felt that I would love Phuket! There’s nothing like a real local who can talk to you about what the place has to offer. Jill was a lovely woman and a very gracious host! She taught me how to go around like a local, the best places to eat and given me an insider’s guide to Phuket. Suddenly, all the negative connotations I thought about Phuket disappeared.
Kata Beach, Phuket
Some Common Myths About Phuket
1. It is very touristy
Phuket is one of the most popular islands in the world and expect that there are a lot of expats living here. Every time I went out, I saw “farangs” (foreigners) left and right. But majority of the tourists are in the beach area of Patong, Kata and Karon. If you walk around Phuket town, you’ll meet a lot more locals than foreigners. This is especially true if you explore the whole island. As one of the largest cities in Thailand, I met a lot more locals here and got a really good taste of the Thai culture. I actually find Ko Phi Phi a lot more touristy than Phuket.
The locals in a market
2. It is very expensive
The southern you go in Thailand, the more expensive it gets. The southern part is relatively more expensive than Bangkok or the north. But, if you know how to go around the food or accommodation prices is not different compared to the rest of Thailand. There are a lot of cheap places to eat especially in Phuket town. Most of the travelers talk about Phuket when they’re actually talking about Patong. Remember: Patong is just one beach in Phuket.
Songthaews are the way to go! Trip costs THB 10-20; THB 30 to the beach
3. Phuket is all about the beaches, parties and lady boys
Phuket is not only known for its beautiful beach but also for its beautiful lady boys. The lady boys here are quite more aggressive than any place I’ve been to in Thailand (not that they were interested in me). But, I found them pulling men even if they were with girlfriends/ wives and talk them out for a “massage massage” with a happy ending. I find it funny and quite a scene but there is actually more to Phuket than that. I was surprised with how much beautiful architecture, temples and scenery there is in this island.
Beautiful evening in Phuket Town
“The Beach” hotel, yes it was shot in Phuket!
I never stayed at any accommodation in Phuket since I had a friend who accommodated me in her home. But if you’re looking for a place to stay on the budget I’d say head to Phuket town. The closer you are to the beach area of Patong, the more expensive it gets. But if you are all for parties, it will be cheaper to stay in the beach area since to get a taxi back to town late at night or early morning would cost you THB 500. Budget room rates in Phuket town range from THB 200- 300.
Places to Eat
If you want to enjoy authentic Thai food, look no further, Phuket town is the place to be. Phuket town is small and can be explored by foot. However there’s not much to do here but if you’re a big on Thai street foods like me, you will love it here!
To Get Around
The best way to explore this island is by motorbike. BUT if you are not an advanced driver, I’d say go for the songthaews instead. The roads here are hilly and are not advisable for beginner drivers. Even lonely planet says that a lot of people have died while driving around Phuket. This is not the best place to practice drive.
If you want action, shopping and to see loads of tourists, go to Patong beach. I’m not into much of it but I highly recommend visiting Kata beach. It’s touristy but not as much as Patong.
Enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon in Kata Beach with my lovely host, Jill
One of the main reasons why I travel is because I am always learning so many new things. One big thing I learned with my experience here is not to listen to the hype. Sure, there might be a place where most people will say the same thing about it. Since I want to get a feel of the country, I try to travel extensively per country and I always get asked about my recommendations. I always give my honest opinions but I also remind other travelers that no two travelers are the same. It might be great for me yet really bad for another traveler and vice versa. In conclusion, it is very important not to just always listen to others but go see it yourself cause you just might love it. And like what they say in Thailand: Never try, never know.