The baby elephant squealed and made a grab for the bananas in my hand. She shoveled them into her mouth and gulped them down. Then it was my turn to squeal in surprise, as her trunk searched my body for more. Ready for awesome things to do in Phuket?
I was in Phuket, Thailand. On my way to visit the Big Buddha, one of the city’s most famous tourist spots. A group of tourists drove by on ATV’s, the guys hooting as they tried to overtake each other at the turn. I petted Lucy the elephant goodbye, and climbed back into my tuktuk. In Phuket, tuktuks are more like vans where passengers can ride in the back. I stuck my face and hands out into the breeze as the van made its way up the hill.
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After climbing about 50 steps, I gazed up at the serene face of the Big Buddha. Made of white marble, the giant 45 metre statue did impart a sense of calm. The Big Buddha sits atop a mountain, overseeing the green isle with its blue waters. He gets a really good view! The 360 degree sweeping vistas from the top is just stunning.
Tiger Kingdom in Kathu
I decided that my trip was going to be a mix of adventure and relaxation. I headed to Tiger Kingdom in Kathu. Here you can play with baby tigers or pose for photos with fully grown ones. The downside is that the big cats spend most of the day asleep, leaving you wondering if they are drugged, as many people claim. It was sad to see the tigers in cages. But the baby tigers were really cute and playful.
Across from Tiger Kingdom is a go-karting track. Perfect for a quick dose of adrenaline! I chose my race kart, suited up in gloves, a protective jacket and helmet, and gunned off down the track. Lined with tyres along the sides, the track was smooth and it was fun maneuvering the kart around the bends. My arms were aching 10 minutes later as I pulled into the pit stop. But no pain, no gain! Turns out, Phuket even has a bungee jumping site… but I decided to save that for another time.
Phuket nightlife is as good as anywhere in the world, and most tourists visit Patong, a district known for its go-go bars, strip clubs and ladyboys. Neon lighting and loud music characterizes a narrow lane with bars on both sides, with women standing on top of tables gyrating around poles. Scantily clad women offer you free shots at their bar, while ladyboys pose with tourists for pictures. I watched what looked like a bachelor party in progress at a club. Losing interest after a bit, I strolled down the other streets to check out the local shops. A lot of them were filled with handicrafts, wooden carved lamps, I even discovered a local artist shop with some fabulous paintings for sale. It’s a good place to come and buy things to take back home, but bargaining is key!
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Scuba Diving in Phi Phi Islands
The next day was bright and sunny, complete with a rainbow! I was off to Phi Phi islands for a scuba diving trip. A 3 hour boat ride from Chalong pier, I relaxed on the sun deck of the dive boat, watching green islands and sparkling waves go by.
We reached Phi Phi, majestic black rocks covered with greenery that sprouted vertically out of the waves. All the divers kitted up and jumped in, me with my trusty gopro camera. It had been a long time since my last dive, and I enjoyed the weightlessness, the silence, and the beauty of the watery world. A cloud of yellow fish swam by, and I focused my camera on a colour-changing cuttlefish, a poisonous scorpionfish, and a tiny clownfish peeping out of an anemone. We did 3 dives at different sites, on the last one we entered an underwater cave. It was my first time in a cave under the waves, quite creepy in the dark enclosed space and I was glad to get back out into the open water.
The boat ride back treated us to a spectacular sunset over Phuket… fiery orange skies, broken by grey clouds and black hills. I could even spot the Big Buddha from far out in the bay.
Phatong and Kamala Beaches
The next day was just spent lazing at the beach. Phuket has a number of beaches and it depends on whether you want to do watersports, or find a quiet spot to read a book. Patong beach was thronged by tourists, hawkers selling hats, coconut water and jetski rides, families, you name it. A great location if you want to be in the thick of the action. I retreated to Kamala beach, far from the madding crowds, but a beach still serviced by numerous restaurants and snack shacks.
Cultural Treat in Wat Chalong
Another cultural place to visit is Wat Chalong. A solemn place, it is a complex of temples, with some truly amazing architecture. Locals light incense sticks and candles and pray silently. Inside one of the temples, you can get your future foretold with a bunch of sticks in a jar. You shake the jar, and a stick falls out with a number on it. Your future is printed on a piece of paper with the corresponding number. Unfortunately, it was written in Thai, so I couldn’t get it translated.
Dinner was at a beach side restaurant, the classic feet-in-the-sand, cocktail-in-hand experience. Sweet and spicy Thai curry, lobster, and crunchy greens complemented each other perfectly. And easy on the pocket too!
Phuket is your answer to a perfect getaway… Beach bum, culture vulture or party animal, there are options for every type and for every budget.
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