Phuket (Thaïland) 2011

For our first weekend away from Singapore, my flatmates Bastien, Nicolas, Dan and I went to Phuket in Thailand. Looking for one of the most cultural highlights of the country, we didn’t quite find this… At least not in the way we thought!

We landed at around 10pm on Friday evening and, by the time we reached our hotel and got ready to go out to town, it was midnight. This first night revealed itself full of surprises and I will keep the crunchy details for myself. But to be short, I got to witness with my own eyes the best known clichés that I had heard of, and considered as rumors.

Anyway, we got up early on Saturday to start our exploration of the area. I decided to head to Phuket Town and Dan accompanied me. I discovered a city of a kind I had never seen before. Unbelievable amount of electric cables running above the streets, hundreds of motorcycles awaiting at traffic lights and buddhist altars at every street corner. But there wasn’t a lot to do nor to see. So we took a ride back to the center of the city center. A man told us to jump on the back of his scooter and, for a few bahts, “slalomed” us to our destination in this local traffic chaos… I did wonder if we’d get there alive a few times to be honest!

Anyway, we finally got the beach, unfortutely without great weather, and got to lay down for a little bit.

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As I suggested to go back to the hotel, I got to experience another of the Thai cliché. One that made me run faster than ever.

We joined our friends back at the hotel and headed to the restaurant to have dinner. You will probably hear me say this about many cuisines, but Thai food is amazing. That night I had the traditional chicken pad thai as well as another dish I can’t remember the name of.

After another memorable night, we got up early again for the tour we had booked. Once in the van, it didn’t take long until my breakfast decided to make its way out. The rest of the morning would just be matter of INs and OUTs until we reached our first stop, Buddha Cave Temple Wat Suwannakuha.

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Where people there seem to like breaking the rules.

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It is also infested with friendly monkeys, probably attracted by all these tourists giving them bananas.

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We jumped back on the van and then on a boat to reach our second stop. The massive rocks rising from the water in vertical cliffs make the Phang Nga Bay a typical scenery where we found the floating village of Koh Panyee.

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Most of the day, it is a small fishermen village.

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At lunch time, it becomes a trap for tourists on the James Bond Island tour. So we had our meal there as everybody else did.

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Back on the boat, my comrades had a little nap.

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Then we left our large longtail boat for smaller canoes that would take us into an group of islands, related by an intricate labyrinth of channels.

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Our “captain” took a little detour to take us to a less crowded area.

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We went through the mangrove. I got given the paddles for our captain to take a picture with my camera. He was standing on these tiny, fragile-looking branches. I can only imagine my face when I saw his foot slip into the water…

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Back on our longtail boat, we head to our final destination, another magnificent island on Phang Nga Bay called Khao Phing Kan. Does it ring a bell? No? Well, I didn’t think it would. But what if I was telling you that its beach was a scene of the film “The Man with the Golden Gun” in 1974, and its nickname is therefore, James Bond Island. You should understand the paradisiac scenery I’m talking about. And if you don’t, I’m sure you will looking at this pictures.

The boats unload their tourists at the back off the island.

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The trail takes us around the rock, to the main beach and the view is magical.

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I have to say, I didn’t want to leave this island. It was so incredible that I didn’t think I could get enough of it. I wanted to engrave this magical landscape onto my mind. That was the picture of Thailand I had. But it ended up exceeding my expectations and this island did blow my mind away.

We got back on the boat eventually and starting the long trip to our hotel, first on the river and then on the road. It was then time to make our way back to the airport and return in home Singapore. The adjective that best describes my first visit to Thailand is “unexpected”. I didn’t quite find the cultural aspect I thought I’d experience. But I still got surprised by many other aspects of this trip. Next time I will definitely have to visit Bangkok and Chiang Mai, which I hear loads of positive comments about. But before that, it’s time to go to bed because the alarm goes on in 6 hours and Monday already seems like it’s going to be a long day…