Phuket Thailand, "must see"?

Started Aug 29, 2013 | Discussions thread
GordonBGood
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Re: Phuket Thailand, "must see"?
In reply to AuroraProject08, Aug 30, 2013

AuroraProject08 wrote:

I'm headed to Phuket, Thailand on honeymoon in about a week and a half. Are there any "must see" spots to photograph? Any places that are "off the beaten path" or not so touristy?

You have received some pretty good advice from Andrzej Bialuski as to a visit to Phuket Thailand but perhaps you'd like to hear the view of a Canadian who has actually lived in Thailand for over 20 years and can speak, read, and write the Thai language. Perhaps my advice is even better than that of Thai people, of which this forum has a few members, in that I can temper my comments from the Western view from which you are coming.

You don't provide many details of your stay in Phuket as to how long you will be there, into what hotel your travel agent has booked you, etcetera, but I'll make some assumptions: that your honeymoon is two or three weeks, and that you have been booked into one of the major beach hotels such as on Karon or Nai Han (hopefully not Patong as Andrzej has said, if so, try to change it as even if you want to visit, you can make a trip there to see why you don't want to stay there).

As to accommodation, it really doesn't matter much where you stay as a hotel room is a hotel room. With my experience, I would probably book into a middle priced "resort" type accommodation perhaps about a block off the beach in order to get a more relaxed atmosphere at better prices (perhaps about $50 per night), and would likely stay on Karon if I wanted a more touristy busy atmosphere or more likely a beach called Nai Yang near the airport for a more quiet experience. But, of course, I likely wouldn't choose Phuket as a place to honeymoon and the main reason I would go there would be to visit friends who live there, as I dislike the heavy traffic and crowds of the more touristy venues.

You should realize that you are not going to Phuket in the top "high" beach season as the season on that side of the peninsula is just getting close to the end of the peak rainy season, the seas are likely to be a bit rough, and the days will likely be partly overcast. Even if you wanted to visit Phi Phi Island, although it is likely to be quieter than usual, the very best thing to do there - snorkelling - is not at its best (if it ever is any more). If you really wanted to do beaches, you should be headed for the Gulf of Thailand side although here we are just headed into the beginning of the rainy season. If you really wanted to do diving and snorkelling, the Andaman side into the new year is a better time. So while if your dream was to experience beautiful European style beaches (topless and/or bottomless, which is not at all Thai BTW), you may be disappointed, but you can likely experience what Thai families want to see in a beach - an absence of foreigners where they enjoy the beach in the evening after the sun has dropped below its peak with their clothes on! In my mind, visiting Phuket in the "low season" is a good thing!

So what to photograph in Phuket? In my opinion, if you came to photograph the "sights" you are wasting your time and your luggage allowance in bringing your camera gear as all of that has been done professionally 1000's of times and you may as well just buy postcards or even better a book or two of Phuket plate photographs, which you can do without even leaving the US or at least in the Phuket airport. Other than the obligatory silhouette image of the two of you against the Phromthep sunset, which you can get someone to snap with your cellphone, there isn't really much worth photographing unless you plan to do some really interesting things that it's worth capturing images of you. The really interesting things to photograph are the people in their natural settings and you are unlikely to see much of that in Phuket that isn't staged (usually for a price) in the main tourist areas. If you really want to see how people live, get to know your hotel maid or the guard or your masseuse (the ancient massage kind), perhaps meet their family and try to experience how they live including their schools, home life, clinics and hospitals, etcetera. The good thing about this time of year is that it isn't peak money making time and people will be willing to take time with you in chatting and getting to know you as well as allowing you to get to know them, at least up to a point.

On my first trip to Phuket with my family over 20 years ago, we didn't stay at a hotel but rather at a sparsely furnished monthly rental apartment with all three children ranging in age from nine to thirteen, and rather than eating on the beach or in hotel restaurants, we ate where the Thai hotel staff eat about a block behind everything, meeting many local people in the process. In other words, even though we knew not a word of Thai, we tried to live something resembling a Thai lifestyle and got an experience that we never would have had staying in the Karon Sheraton.

The list of things to bring should also include things to leave behind: To leave behind - preconceptions about Thai society and what is "right" or "wrong" according to Western standards; to bring - an open-minded attitude that can accept what life is really about here as in, yes, we have corrupt politics which may be just somewhat worse than what you are used to, and yes, we have what you might call "prostitution", but the local people think of all of that as just "getting by" and that nothing is entirely bad nor entirely good but just a way of "getting on". Thus, with the right attitude one can experience the bar scene even on Patong beach and gain an experience in the so doing, which might include learning the life story of a person of one of the "tween" genders, which when there is not money pressure can be illuminating.

To truly enjoy Thailand, which is her people, one must learn to go "Zen", not get frustrated by laws, traffic habits, construction or service standards, or any other little thing; to show anger is to contaminate the ambiance of other's space and will distance you from those who would naturally help you, especially as we all know it is futile, and to truly be at peace one learns to step back and sincerely smile, realizing that you truly are experiencing Thailand in all her glory with your beloved. The sincere smile will generally erase all difficulties you may have, and Thai people love to help those who truly need it.

So where would I go on my honeymoon if I were to happen to pick Phuket? Although I have not been there for about 10 years, I would look into Nai Yang beach for quiet, taking day and/or night trips to the other major beaches, would likely stay in the "Turtle Beach" bungalows operated by the Thai National Park Service (which were completely destroyed in the tsunami since I was last there but I understand have been rebuilt). If that were not available, I might stay at one of the new "Resort" type hotels if I were on your budget, or at one of the "Residence" type ones if I were on mine. On those days I did not make day and/or night trips to the Phuket Town itself or one of the other beaches, I would relax near the beach near the food outlet of my friend "Jit", the "SomDtum" lady and her family, eating her spicy papaya salad ("somdtum") with barbecued catfish with turmeric and sticky rice. Almost every afternoon or at least every other day I would have an ancient massage at the shop of my friend "Daeng" (means red) from the province of Buriram, which if still there is just about 10 minutes walk from either the Nai Yang beach or the Phuket International Airport. IIRC, her shop is near here: https://maps.google.co.th/maps?q=8.101209,98.305029&ll=8.102898,98.305053&spn=0.009028,0.016512&num=1&t=h&z=17, according to Google Maps: https://maps.google.co.th/maps?ll=8.101368,98.305157&spn=0.002371,0.004128&t=h&z=19&layer=c&cbll=8.101397,98.305053&panoid=SzJEcVXBNBUm4tpzFRUf9w&cbp=12,177.71,,0,5.25, the white with blue writing shop is still there saying Nai Yang Thai Style Massage, but unfortunately I can't see a number or I would call her!

Of course, the most important thing is to relax, enjoy your stay, and share your experiences with your bride.

All the best regards, GordonBGood

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