Let's get our of the country for a while, and visit one of the most desired Asian destinations. It is the largest island in Thailand, and an hour's plane ride south of Bangkok. Despite its reputation for being the most tourist infested beach capital of Asia, it still remains to be one elusive destination. Join me as we touch down in Phuket.
The island of Phuket is huge, much like Bali. The main beach here is Patong Beach, as shown below. It is as over crowded as one could imagine. Brilliantly colored umbrellas line the dirty white sand that stretches for about 5 kilometers.
It is difficult to get space here, even though the beach is that long. That's how many people this beach digests. It was surprising though, that only a few people were swimming, probably because the water wasn't as clear.
Patong Beach was once devasted by the infamous tsumani, but little traces of the disaster are visible. The resorts facing the beach range from cheap and dirty, to modern and expensive. Several watersports are offered here, such as sailing, parasailingand jet skiing. Name it, they have it.
Visitors from all over the world descend to this urban beach. This makes the beach road lined with a myriad of various restaurants, cafes and shops that cater to most nationalities of the world. And like any other place in Thailand, shopping is another main draw.
We stayed however, not in Patong Beach, but in Kata Beach. Kata is 2 more towns away from Patong, making it less crowded. The beach here is better as well as the sand is finer and whiter. There are also more relaxing resorts, as Patong owns the party scene.
We stayed at the Kata Sea Breeze Resort, where we got a pool access room. I could just swim right off my balcony. And the price was just Bht 2,000, or roughly P3,000 a night. It was a deal I think, again compared to our overpriced resorts here in the Philippines.
We hired a car to get around the island, since it was difficult to go by public transportation. Also, we didn't have enough time, so we opted to just rent for one day to explore what Phuket has.
We visited several other beaches such as Karon, Kamala, Surin and Nai Harn and Nai Yarn. This beach below is Rawai, which is the jump off point for several other islands in the Andaman sea. Here you can take ferries to Phi Phi.
Phuket is a balance of urbanism and natural wonder, which you can still see in the vastness and serenity of the mountains and some of the empty beach coves. I was amazed at how the entire island is bent in sustainable tourism.
The roads of Phuket are lined up with more shops and restaurants especially in the main beach towns. it feels like Bangkok, except people are wearing their bikinis and board shorts.
Phuket also has several malls, such as the Centara Festival and Junceylon in the Patong beach area. It is as bustling as any city.
In just one island, you get everything, from shopping malls, to adventure trips, island tours, mountain treks, culture and of course, the beach life. Phuket is also cleaner and more organized than Bali, caused perhaps by the renovations and clean up after the tsunami.
Finally, the Thais are so friendly, it makes me shameful to call the Filipinos hospitable. Even though they speak little English, their charm is amazing and endearing. So, there's definitely a long long way to go for the PH to become like Thailand, and with 4 million tourists a year just arriving in Phuket, that's 4x the number that visits the entire Philippines. A long long way to go. And I think the DOT needs to act soon and radically to transform our country into the next tourist destination, and reap in economic rewards for the country. As I've said, I believe that tourism will save the PH from poverty and having narrow social outlook. I think we should learn and follow Thailand's lead, as most other SEA nations are doing.