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If you are yearning for a holiday that gets you away from the stresses of everyday life, to a place which offers plenty of peace and pleasure, then Phuket is for you!
Brimming with breathtaking landscapes, stunning beaches, tropical blue water, great food and culture; Phuket, is a perfect paradise, for those just wanting to relax.
I recently went on a long-due weekend holiday with my family, to this gem in South-East Asia. This might have been my shortest trip overseas, but it was exactly, the break that we needed! A much awaited and a much needed break to Phuket– the largest Island in Thailand and also known as the Pearl of the Andaman. Here are the ‘highlights’ of my trip.
After a short, early morning flight from Singapore (which we were visiting) we were touching down, earlier, than expected.
We were in for a pleasant surprise! Phuket international airport runway lies along a beautiful coastline.
With a welcoming visa-on-arrival policy for Indian nationals, some exceptionally friendly locals, and an excellent pre-booked mini coach waiting at the airport (with refreshing lemon grass scented hot towels and bottled drinking water), we were on the way to our beach resort (about 25 min away from the international airport).
Cars did not honk and the traffic was quite disciplined. The streets were reasonably clean and lined with fresh fruit stalls, coconut stalls and little hawker stalls selling local delicacies. There were lush green landscapes with banana trees, palm trees, tree-dotted hills, grazing buffaloes, sleepy dogs, roosters and clucking hens, along the way.
With coves, palm-fringed white beaches, sparkling island-dotted seas and an unspoiled tropical landscape – Phuket felt so much like being in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in India.
On the roads were Thailand’s typical Tuk tuks (a three- wheeled vehicle used as a taxi) and interestingly, they were driven by many women.
As we came closer to our resort and saw picturesque lagoons (where the resort was located), the tiredness of our travel just disappeared! We got a traditional welcome at the resort – a garland, a cold lemongrass scented fresh towel and a welcome drink which we thought tasted a bit like kokum sherbet, with a trace of honey.
With 30 minutes to go before we checked-in to our rooms,we explored the resort, and from the reception area itself we caught a glimpse of the pool and the beautiful ocean beyond it.
The resort had everything we were looking for – it was secluded, right by the beach, had two large pools (one for kids with a water-slide), excellent restaurants, had beautiful grounds with lagoons, coconut trees, lemongrass plants, a spa, shops (with spa products, beachwear and other essentials) great rooms and more. The staff at the resort, though a little challenged with English, were exceptionally helpful and most polite.
As we walked towards our rooms, we saw a lovely atmosphere by the pool. People were having a fabulous time swimming, sunning themselves, playing, reading or relaxing on lounge chairs, with the staff serving refreshing drinks and cocktails. There was loud music playing at the beach-side bar, where people were enjoying seafood barbeque and great weather.
We then settled into our rooms with a sea-view.
We were absolutely delighted to see lovely lemongrass, coconut, and honey scented soaps, shampoo, creams, conditioners, body wash and mosquito repellents, all neatly stacked on the shelves of our bathrooms. These had an incredibly invigorating and a delicate scent, which is hard to describe.
A hundred meters from our rooms, the waves were crashing on the sandy beach.
It was lunchtime and we were famished! We had lunch at the Mediterranean restaurant in the resort, which had a decent a la carte menu.
It was a trip meant to relax and unwind, so we made totally no plans on where to go and what to do. After a short snooze, we walked down fifty meters, to the resort’s own private beach – the Bangtao beach, which is the second longest beach of Phuket, not open to the general public. The sand was soft and the sea breeze was pleasant and bracing. We stayed out the rest of the day – soaking up the sun and balmy weather.
That evening, we had a brief birthday celebration in the family, with a cake cutting and then went on to enjoy some excellent Thai cuisine at one of the indoor restaurants of the resort. On the way to the restaurant, as went past the executive lounge, we stopped to hear a crooner who was entertaining the crowd there, along with music.
We woke up early to enjoy the peace and tranquility around and collected some beach souvenirs (shells).
Later, we went for the breakfast buffet at the resort and what a breakfast it was!
The breakfast (or should we say brunch) that was laid out was simply unimaginable. It had a very large selection of both international and local food, and was one of the most elaborate and grand breakfast spreads, that I have ever seen. It was meant for a ‘Queen’!
A juice bar (infused water, and orange, pineapple, apple and other juices).
A hot and cold beverage bar (varieties of tea, coffee, fresh frothy milk).
A made to order egg counter (serving all possible varieties of egg dishes).
Breads, croissants, bagels, buns, cakes (mango, chocolate etc) Danish pastries, locally sourced honey pots and preserves.
A colorful array of cut and whole tropical fruit- longan fruit (like lychee) pineapple, watermelon, muskmelon, Dragon fruit, Sharon fruit, papaya, oranges, bananas.
Salads like cherry tomatoes, slices of tomato, cucumber, grated carrot, different varieties of lettuce, rocket leaves, kimchi salad, a sausage salad, olives to go.
Authentic Thai food – fried rice, Thai chicken curry and noodles (different noodle types and different dish varieties each day).
At least 7- 8 different varieties of sushi with wasabi, soy sauce etc.
Cheese, cereals, porridges, assortment of nuts, dry fruit, cold cuts – plain ham, ham with red pepper, crispy bacon, sausage, mini salmon bagels.
Humongous platters of fish – smoked salmon, salmon terrine, some flaky, shredded chunks of salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, sliced salted eggs.
Waffles (with maple syrup, chocolate syrup and more) yummy chicken tarts, baked beans, toast, butter.
A big dim sum basket filled with piping hot, steamed pork dim sums made with a green coloured dough. These along with Bao- which are Chinese steamed buns with a filling of meat and vegetables.
Mouth-watering, local sweet delicacies, made with sweet sticky rice, coconut cream, shredded coconut, syrups.
We particularly enjoyed and could not get enough of a sweet steamed delicacy, wrapped in pandan leaves. It had a heavenly filling of a mixture of coconut and a jaggery-like syrup with a deliciously soft, rice flour based cover.
I was so spoiled for choice, that I tried almost everything.
I have made myself so hungry, writing this!
After a hearty breakfast, we set out, to see some cultural sights (short trips are great for a quick dose of culture!).
It is the Island’s biggest Buddhist temple. We walked through the fairly large and beautiful grounds, taking in the elaborate detail and ornamentation of the buildings.
Every now on the ground, a loud sound of firecrackers, would make us all jump! Since it was Dussera that day, for a moment, we thought those were meant for Dussera! We learned, that the reason why people burst those firecrackers (inside a large clay chimney)there,is to show their gratitude, when one of their wishes has been granted.
We went up to the rooftop to enjoy beautiful views of the surroundings of the temple.
The interior of the temple had gorgeous rich colors, flowers, golden statues of Buddha and beautiful murals on every wall.
It was so good walking in and to be inside the beautiful temple, amid peacefulness.
This was our next stop. The steep winding road going all the way up to the Big Buddha had beautiful, breathtaking landscapes. The Big Buddha, high up on a hill top, was indeed an impressive and fantastic cultural experience.
A little disappointed that it was foggy and began to rain. But the raincoats for sale at affordable prices solved the problem.
Loved being up there, surrounded by the clouds, in the drizzle.
On the way to the top we saw and heard the monks chanting and felt the calmness and serenity of the place. On coming down, we stopped to have some tender coconut water. We saw a stall there, serving coconut ice-cream (sprinkled with peanuts) stuffed inside a hot dog bun! It was an interesting take-home memory.
On the way back from the Big Buddha, there was an elephant excursion place where we halted. We had fun moments meeting and feeding the baby elephant. Each time it was fed a banana or a cucumber, it let out a cute trumpet, as if to say ‘thank you’. Every now and then, the little one helped himself to the fruit. When asked to ‘KISS’ by his minder, it would gently plant a kiss on the face, with its trunk! This was by far, the best stop of the day.
Karon view point was also on the agenda. But by the time we were in the van and on the way, rains lashed our ferrying van and roads were flooded. We did get down and got drenched. The heavy rain did not allow us to see anything. The drive back was also through hilly country and it sloped towards Phuket’s many gorgeous beaches- Patong, Kata and Karon beach.
We were back at the resort around lunchtime, had some rest and then early evening we enjoyed some excellent Thai food at the beachfront Thai restaurant.
After dinner, we dressed up to go to the island’s biggest cultural theme park – the Phuket FantaSea. We arrived to a royal welcome by beautiful Thai girls dressed in splendid traditional costumes and to a colorful festival-like atmosphere.There was the Carnival village with shops, food stalls, a restaurant, games, amazing handicrafts, incredible souvenir shopping and lots more! We particularly enjoyed watching an artist sand painting ‘live’.
We stopped at a paid photo studio where my niece dressed-up royally in a stunning traditional Thai costume, with a beautiful tiara and ornaments; she then posed majestically on a throne like a princess and got professionally photographed.
We then went to the FantaSea show indoors, which was one of the best spectacles that I have seen (no cameras were allowed inside). This astounding cultural stage show, with a seating capacity of over 3000 people, showcased Thai culture and mythology, with magnificent music, dance and Thai art cultural art forms.
There were jaw-dropping performances by a cast of hundreds of people, performing along with elephants, tigers, goats, chickens, pigeons and buffaloes. There were illusions, acrobatics, pyrotechnics, stunts, aerial performances, magic tricks and more; all this was done with state-of-the-art technology and special effects. The show done both in the darkness and lights, had a magical feeling to it.
My mum needed some assistance to go the long distance into the auditorium, otherwise she would have missed the show completely (she missed the elephant parade at the beginning of the show). She was not only given assistance, but was escorted in and out like a VIP, again reinforcing the impression that the Thai people are the most, caring kind, helpful and friendly people that I have come across.
People come to Phuket for the sun, sands and the still, clean Andaman sea but the FantaSea show, clearly wins it for Phuket. It alone makes the trip to Phuket, worth everything.
I couldn’t resist taking pictures inside the unique washroom at Phuket Fantasea.
We had a quiet restful morning- lazing, relaxing, walking around the resort and simply doing nothing. The bracing breeze and the swaying palms added to the tranquillity that we were yearning for.
We sat out all day on reclining chairs in the shade, sipping drinks, grabbing an ice-cream, watching the allure of the turquoise blue sea, watching speed boats skimming, the paragliding above and generally enjoying watching the way in which reveller’s were enjoying the sun, sand and the sea.
Mid-morning, we hired a buggy and went elephant trekking, nearby the resort. I have to say, the elephant ride was scary!
This was followed by bathing the elephant under a roof shower. We were given a hose-pipe to spray water over the elephant. It was a hot morning and the elephant enjoyed itself thoroughly! By holding water in its trunk, it not just sprayed itself but spurted water all over us! It was then time to feed it some fruit and it loved it.
The day ended with a fiery golden sunset, cameras clicking the moment as dusk and then darkness began to envelop the place.
With lanterns on the table, we dined again at our favorite beachfront restaurant and then lounged outdoors on a very large divan bed (with pillows) underneath a starlight night, enjoying the gentle breeze, with a distant view of the ocean.
We woke up very early, as it was time, to leave Phuket. When you have a super-soft, king-sized bed to sleep in and then a day bed (with a beach view) for games and ‘daytime chill’ (where you can roll over at night) who would want to leave? A Phuket travel experience is such, one that is so memorable, that you will never wish to leave.
We went to the beach for a short time and then went for the buffet breakfast for one last time, before we checked-out.
When I came to Phuket, I came on a mission – I desperately wanted to visit Phang Nga bay and the James Bond Island, which could not happen (due to inclement weather forecast). Now, during our stay at the resort I lost my favorite military cap in the sea – the wind blew it away and the waves took off with it! I now ‘comfort’ myself with the thought that though I could not visit James Bond Island, hopefully, my cap must have made it there!
I loved Phuket and I wish I had some more time there. There was so much more that I wanted to experience. But I do feel lucky, that despite being there for such a short time, I was still able to experience so many wonderful things.
During our time in Phuket, the scent of lemongrass followed us everywhere and it has made me fall in love with lemongrass. We bought back a bagful of lemongrass tea, essential oils and lovely, Thai fragrances. The sweetly scented memories of zesty lemongrass beautifully blended with coconut and a hint of honey, will always bring back a rush of remembrances of Phuket.
Lemongrass = Phuket=nostalgia
Images source: Anjali Acharya
Header image source: Pixabay