Hey guys! OK, so I’m sure I’m probably overwhelming you with all these vacation posts but I want to get them out of the way so I can get back to talking about makeup and food! If you haven’t been keeping up, I’m recapping our trip to Southeast Asia in a series of posts. You can read the first post about Bali here and you can read about our day in Singapore and first day in Phuket here.
Let’s get into it, shall we? After spending our first full day in Phuket on the water, we decided we needed to get out and see what the island has to offer. It was actually our official one-year wedding anniversary that day, so it made for a really memorable anniversary!
Just as we did in Bali, we hired a private driver to take us around. If you ever travel to Asia, I highly recommend hiring a local (and English speaking) driver. It’s surprisingly affordable, and they usually give you lots of interesting background info about your destination.
Our first stop of the day was Tiger Kingdom, which is a total tourist trap. The premise is that you pay to go into a cage with a tiger – either a baby, a “teenager” (for lack of a better description) or a full-grown, giant tiger – where you get to pet them and take photos. We opted for the full-grown tiger, and a trainer led us into a cage with several gigantic tigers lazing around. We got to stretch out and lay on them, pet their bellies and hold their tails. It was pretty crazy! Granted, I’m not sure whether they are just extremely well-trained tigers or if they sedate them. I don’t want to think about it, frankly!! As we were leaving the park, our driver told us one of the tigers had mauled a tourist last year …. a story that I’m glad he saved for after we left!
Next, we drove to Patong Beach, which is the most popular resort and nightlife area in Phuket. It was a totally different world from Mai Khao beach, where we were staying. There are tons of people and a lot of boats and jet skis in the water. It’s also a super shallow beach and you can walk a long way out before it gets deep – unlike our beach, which drops off quickly. We learned that the ocean floor depth played a big role in the extent of the damage from the 2004 tsunami. In areas with shallow beaches, like Patong, the waves were able to keep their speed as they headed inland. But in Mai Khao, the drop-off in the ocean floor slowed the waves, causing less damage.
After Patong, we drove through a few other popular beach towns – Karon and Kata – then headed to our next stop: the Elephant Safari. It was a must-do on the hub’s list, and I wasn’t going to say no – because who doesn’t want to ride an elephant?! We boarded our elephant via a tall platform, sat on a little bench that basically served as a saddle, then our elephant guide assumed his spot sitting on the elephant’s head with his legs dangling down its forehead. He took us on a half-hour ride through a hilly (and extremely hot!) jungle. We got to the top of the hill and had a great view of the ocean. Then he asked if I wanted to ride on the elephant’s neck. Obviously, I said yes! But it was soooo incredibly uncomfortable. Elephants have hair, which I didn’t realize, and it’s super coarse and prickly. Since I was wearing shorts, my poor legs took a beating. The guide even let the elephant wander down the hill by itself as he walked behind and took some photos. When we got back, we gave our elephant some pets and the guide took him off to get a bath.
After that adventure, our driver took us to a beautiful scenic overlook where we could see Patong, Kata and Karon beaches (as an aside, we also saw the most gigantic spider I’ve ever seen in the wild), then we drove through the countryside to get to our next stop: Big Buddha.
When I was researching things to see in Phuket, Big Buddha was always listed. It’s a 150-foot tall white marble Buddha that sits on top of a huge hill. The crazy thing is that it’s not an ancient landmark by any means. Construction started in 2004 and it has been going ever since. What’s even crazier is that it’s being funded entirely by donations! You can actually pay to write your name and a message on the back side of the white marble tiles that cover the outside of the Buddha. We didn’t do that, but we did drop some coins into a donation box – for good karma, of course!
Our next stop was the Wat Chalong, one of the many Buddhist temples on the island. Aside from knowing it was an incredibly ornate and picturesque temple, I didn’t know much about it. Like all temples, women must cover their shoulders and legs, and we also had to remove our shoes before entering. Our guide walked us through the most important building on the property, which houses a sacred relic – or a splinter of bone – from Buddha. He also told us the story of Buddha. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about Buddhism, so I found it really interesting.
Our final stop was for a late lunch in Phuket Town, which was yet another amazing meal. I could dedicate an entire blog post (but I won’t) about the food we ate in Thailand, it was that good! After we ate, he drove us around the town, which is a weird mix of old European colonial-style buildings and more traditional Thai architecture. We didn’t get a chance to explore Phuket Town’s famous night market, but maybe next time!
We closed our last full day in Phuket with a fabulous anniversary dinner at a bamboo and thatch seafood restaurant – which is basically an open-air restaurant set up on the side of the road. I had the most amazing green curry that I will forever dream of!
With a flight to Hong Kong in the afternoon the next day, we decided to get up early and hit the hotel pool for a few hours before heading out. It was a perfect, relaxing ending to an amazing few days in Phuket. We decided that we’d absolutely love to go back someday, as there was so much more we didn’t get to see and do!
I’ll be sharing the final installment (I promise!) of our trip – Hong Kong and Shanghai – in the next few days, so keep watching for that!