Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“Due to Phuket’s larger size, there are more attractions, more stretches of coastline to explore, and life is busier and more varied. Entertainment and shopping opportunities are likewise greater here. Unlike Samui, there’s a big city here (Phuket City) where you can also get a more authentic idea of everyday Thai life. Samui is almost all about tourism, while Phuket has some other stuff going on, too. At the beaches, malls, and shops of Phuket, foreigners are more likely to find themselves in the company of locals than on Samui. Due to its larger size, trade-in Phuket is more abundant. In addition, the island can be reached by a bridge from the mainland, so everyday goods are cheaper. Phuket also has substantial local production, while on Samui almost everything is shipped over from the mainland. Due to these factors, prices in Phuket are slightly lower than in Samui. The same goes for hotels, as Phuket has much more capacity and a broader choice of accommodation.”

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“As on the other islands, here we rented a motorbike and used it to explore the south of the island. We covered a total of 190km on Phuket and loaded 4.5 liters of diesel into the engine. The real miracle is that, even so, it was half empty when we gave it back at the rental. We didn’t realize what this 125cc Honda ate. 🙂 The usual schedule was as follows: breakfast, beach, then a drive to somewhere on the motorbike, then lunch between 11.30 am and 3 pm (to avoid scorching sunshine), beach, and finally an evening activity. I have to add that I myself was unable to stay for more than 5 minutes in one place between 10 am and 5 pm as the sun was insanely hot. To cope with the heat, I walked up and down whatever beach we were at about six times a day. Our personal favorite was Kata Noi’s quiet, family-friendly beach since this was the place where it felt least as though the beach was full of masses of Chinese coming to Thailand to celebrate Chinese New Year, as well as the Russians, who are known for their cultured behavior.” (2017)

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“1. The standard cutlery set includes only a fork and spoon. They give you this for practically everything, perhaps leaving out the fork sometimes. Bear in mind, though, that it’s considered rude to put your fork in your mouth, so it acts as a knife and helps load the food onto the spoon. You don't have to cut the food anyway, as it is cut into small bites in the kitchen, even before baking and cooking. Depending on the food, you may sometimes get chopsticks.
1. White skin is coveted here, so in addition to the fact that all their cosmetics – even the soap – contain whitening agents, they tend to stare at white people on the street. Our little boy was patted regularly (maybe they think they will make them whiter too? 🙂), he really has very pale skin, though he still has more of a tan than the locals. 🙂
2. They drive on the left in Thailand. You get used to this quickly, but it clearly causes a bigger problem for Chinese tourists – they very obviously struggle to get used to looking in the right direction when crossing the street.
3. Their physique is generally smaller. We were particularly conscious of that this year because they really couldn’t believe that our boy, who is about 95cm tall, is really 2 and a half years old, but thought he was four or five.
4. Phuket is expensive by Thai standards but here, too, there are substantial differences: prices at popular tourist destinations can easily be compared to those in Europe, and even exceed them...
5. The rainy season is the local version of winter. I even saw a knit sweater for sale, but we saw both adults and children in caps, sweaters, and full-length jeans at 35 degrees every day. If winter, as we learned from our mothers, means dressing in layers, they take such advice equally seriously. 🙂
6. Beer is only sold between 11 am and 2 pm, and again from 5 pm until midnight. It’s an old regulation, and you quickly get used to it.”




Practicals

Transport

“On Phuket, transport is just a money-hose for the locals: if I wanted to get to beaches other than Patong Beach, the total cost would have amounted to a small fortune. There is a direct bus service between Patong, Karon, and Kata, but it is horrendously overpriced: a trip of about a quarter of an hour costs 170 Thai baht (about six dollars) one way! Plus, the schedule is unreliable – I once waited 50 minutes for this bus, and none of the two buses scheduled for that time appeared. Of course, you can take a taxi any time, but I didn’t really like to throw away hundreds of baht. Many rent a motorbike and explore the island that way, visiting five or six beaches, or even more, in just a day or two. I, on the other hand, hate driving, and don’t know how to ride a motorbike, so this solution was out of the question for me.

At last, at the hotel reception, I learned that if I want to get to the other beaches cheaply, I have to take a substantial detour: if I take a bus to Phuket, from there I can take a local shuttle bus to Kata or Karon Beach. This, however, entailed a significant loss of time (three-quarters of an hour by bus to the city, then another hour from there to Kata and Karon.)” (2019)


Phuket - tuktuk - h.a. photo

Phuket - ride from Phuket City to Patong - k.j. photo

Food

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Phuket - Fried shrimps with vermicelli

Phuket - Tom Kha Gai Soup (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) - m.m. photo

Phuket - street food - sushi for 7 baht per piece only - 2,30 USD for these 10 - k.j. photo

Phuket - mango sticky rice for 60 baht (less than 2 USD) - k.j. photo

Phuket - chicken sausages for 50 baht (1,60 USD) - k.j. photo

Phuket - glass noodle with shrimp - 60 baht (less than 2 USD) - k.j. photo

Shopping

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Phuket - fresh-cut fruits - k.j. photo

Phuket - steamed duck egg yolk - k.j. photo

Fun

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Phuket - Patong - Bangla Walking Street - h.k. photo

Phuket - Patong - Bangla street - night life - r.p. photo

Public safety

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Phuket - tourist police - s.y. photo

Health

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Phuket - if first aid needed

Others

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Phuket - training for future life in the hell - s.a. photo

Background

Destination in brief

Size: 543 km² (210 mi²) -  48km (30 mi) in length and 21km (13 mi) at its widest

Capital city: Phuket City

Population (in 2020):  400,000 (The seasonal workers, and visitors not included) - The Thai residents of Phuket mostly migrated from the mainland (71%), but there are many ethnic Chinese and Malays (24%) as well. The native inhabitants are mostly Chao Leh or ‘sea-gypsies.’ 

Phuket had 9.9 million visitors in 2019!

Religions: 72% Theravada Buddhist, 26% Muslim

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 570 USD - (Thailand average is 620 USD)



Climate

It was a good decision to come to Phuket at the end of the rainy season – prices are lower, and there are fewer tourists. Still, there were plenty of vacationers on the island even in the rainy season, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to be here in high season – frankly, I don’t want to know. Of course, like everyone who comes to Phuket during the monsoon season, I had the experience of arriving at the beach just as the rain started (and this wasn’t at Patong Beach, where I could have run back to the accommodation). I didn’t let that discourage me: I pulled myself together, sat down on a fallen tree trunk – who knows how it got to the beach – opened my umbrella, and waited for the clouds to recede. Soon the sun came back out, and everything carried on as though there had been no bad weather at all.” (2019)


People

“The population of Phuket, the most famous resort island in Thailand, is around 35% Muslim. In the past, they moved to the island to work in tin ore mining, and gradually became accepted citizens of the island. As far as I can tell, the Buddhist and Muslim communities on the island live companionably side by side.

Apparently, a substantial number of the Thai women on the island whom one sees wearing headscarves do so only because it increases their chances of marrying a rich Muslim husband, and not for any religious reason.

If you spend much time here, you’re likely to see many younger Thai women together with older white men. Again, if rumors are to be believed, Thai women with the requisite energy can have from three to five European companions.

As for Phuket itself, it’s wonderful. Amazingly soft-grained, sandy beaches, clear turquoise or emerald green seas, and wonderful natural surroundings, with palm trees and jungle-clad mountains.” (2017)


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1. At the hotel it is customary to tip the cleaner, though of course only if you are satisfied with the work, or simply want to encourage more thoroughness. Some put a $1 note on the pillow daily, while others give around 200 baht (i.e. about $6). If the hotel has a bellboy who carried our heavy luggage upstairs, it is enough to give him 20 baht. In a restaurant, a 10 to 15 percent tip is not uncommon. It is not customary to tip a tuk-tuk driver.
2. Many people believe that the local Thai people in Phuket are loose in all respects, although the truth is that despite how used they are to the crowds of tourists, in many ways they are quite conservative. It causes them some consternation that a number of white female tourists (mainly Russian) wear monokinis (meaning they are topless) on the beach. It is advisable to avoid such fashion choices because it is not appropriate behavior in that culture. The degree to which this island, which is considered a loose moral milieu, is in fact morally conservative is well illustrated by the accounts of many single men regarding their casual (and paid) sex adventures. They tell me that girls who provide sex for money seem extremely ashamed both when they are taking off their underwear and putting it back on again. Of course, this is also related to the fact that there are many newcomers among them.


Phuket - cookies vendors

Phuket - grandma with grandson - h.p. photo

Phuket - local school kids - j.k. photo

Phuket - street food vendors - k.j. photo

Gastronomy

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Phuket - fried shrimps with basil leaves - k.j. photo

Attractions

Big Buddha

“The Great Buddha, sitting cross-legged at the top of a mountain in the south of the island, watches over his surroundings. I envisioned the Buddha’s surroundings as a calm, quiet place, but when we arrived, we were greeted by an unpretentious rickshaw. We had arrived right at prayer time, and the Buddhist monks were holding a ceremony involving growls that would have put a metal singer to shame, and which was broadcast at maximum volume by speakers around the shrine. The sanctuary is free to enter, so long as visitors dress respectfully with knees and shoulders covered. They’ve prepared for tourists in this as well, and you can borrow a sarong or shawl free of charge. There is also a footprint of the Buddha on the left side of the stairs to the shrine, but this was too faint for us to perceive it – or else it was much bigger than we thought, and we were actually standing on the tip of the big toe without knowing it...” (2016)

Phuket - Big Buddha - Peter H. photo

Phuket - Big Buddha - Peter H. photo

Phuket - Big Buddha - Peter H. photo

Karon Beach

Phuket - Karon Beach - f.s. photo

Phuket - Karon Beach - l.r. photo

Phuket - Karon Beach - b.i. photo

Patong

Patong is the largest city on the island, with vibrant nightlife and many tourists. The hustle and bustle reach a peak on the pedestrian street of Baorang, which has a little bit of everything: there are lots of bars, some of which have live music, while others blast the latest hit songs. Every few minutes, someone would approach us to try to sell us tickets to a ping pong show. It’s also easy to stumble upon Thai ladyboys there:  they say that the taller the girl and the more European she looks, the more certain that she is actually a he…

We have a principle that if we’re in a place, we always try the local food, so we ate very strangely: perhaps the most bizarre was the bean-and-sweetcorn flavored yogurt, which we referred to as ‘crappy beans’. We also ate a bitter-tasting berry about the size of green pea in our green curry; pumpui, a fish served in a spicy sauce; tasted the fruit of the Japa tree; ate dragon fruit; and also bought a fruit that looked like a rotten testicle. We were constantly deciding that this would be the day when we ate the rotten-testicle-fruit, but we kept putting it off until it finally spoiled in the fridge. Both of us gave a little sigh of relief when we threw it out since that was probably the one we feared most…” (2018)



Phuket - Patong Beach - m.m. photo

Phuket - Patong - m.m. photo

Phuket - Patong - beach - s.i. photo

Phuket - Patong -nightlife in Bangla Street - k.j. photo

Phuket City

Phuket City - y.t. photo

Phuket City - Old Town - j.k. photo

Beaches

The most beautiful sandy beaches are almost all on the west coast of the island. Patong, Karon, Kata, Kamala, and Bangtao are the most popular beaches, but not necessarily the most beautiful. On the northwest coast, there are peaceful, less visited beaches like Naithon to Mai Khao and Haad Sai Gaew. The northern part of the east coast is beautiful because of the mangrove vegetation, but it’s not the best for bathing. The southeastern shoreline is very rocky, although there are some pleasant, hidden beaches here as well, such as Laem Ka. The east coast is more beautiful because the nearby islets offer a stunning panorama. Don’t be surprised that on the beaches in front of the less upmarket beach hotels, the sunbeds are made up of the remnants of plastic plumbing pipes.
Throughout Thailand, including Phuket, all beaches are free and open to the public. Authorities severely restrict trade on the beaches and, as part of this, prohibit locals from renting out sunbeds. This means that you should take a mat with you on island tours that involve visits to beaches! Anyway, the happy result of the strict provisions is that the beaches do not become flea markets, and it’s much more pleasant to stroll on them. So the Thai military government has some sense of style... It has to be said that the positive benefits of the military government’s strict beach provisions are greater order and cleanliness. Bar-style bodegas are not allowed in the immediate vicinity of the beaches.

It is important for those who go to Phuket between May and October to know that at the beaches on the Andaman Sea coast (the west coast, including Patong, Karon, Nai Harn, etc.) the sea can be much more dangerous for weak swimmers during the monsoon season because of higher tides and stronger currents.”


Phuket - Patong - beach - d.g. photo

Phuket - Karon Beach - n.a. photo

Khao Phra Taew National Park

“We visited Khao Phra Taew National Park, which is apparently the last area to preserve the island’s former rainforest. There are two large waterfalls here, Bang Pae and Ton Sai, and this is also where the gibbon sanctuary is located. We first tried to get in at the west entrance because this was where Google Maps directed us. It wasn’t a good trip – we arrived to find absolute silence – the whole area was deserted. Eventually a local guided us to the other entrance on the east side. Here we immediately found the gibbon sanctuary, which is where those gibbons that can’t survive in the wild are kept, those who can are released back into the wild. After the gibbons, a path led up the creek to Bang Pae Falls, where both locals and tourists like to bathe. A longer tour leads to Ton Sai, which takes about two hours, and we guess the falls themselves are near the west entrance.

However, there weren’t enough interested participants for them to lead the longer tour, so instead, we headed northeast to the mangrove swamp in Bang Rong Bay. Along the way, we noticed a few elephants in the yard of a house that looked like a restaurant and went in to take a closer look. There was one male and two females, the male protecting his territory so much that he threw elephant crap at anyone who got too close. I learned this to the detriment of my two constant companions, and successfully got out of the male elephant’s range.” (2016)

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