by guest author Isabella Rose
A trip to Phuket (Thailand) had always been on my travelling list but this faraway place (thirteen hours to be precise), had always seemed just a little out of my clutches, not to mention my budget. The little knowledge that I had gleamed of Southeast Asia had come from the rather dubious source of The Beach, that infamous film that gripped the nation with its gritty drama (and of course the rather divine, Leonardo Dicaprio). Portraying a remote island of paradisiacal beaches where unwashed 20-somethings could ‘live off the land’ and backpack beyond their wildest dreams, most of my views of Thailand hinged upon this film. Tragic I know, but having never had the luxury to pack up my life into a pint-sized bag to embark on a soul-searching trail, I had no choice but to believe this portrayal.
Following years of scraping the pennies together and denying my true nomadic nature, I decided to take the plunge and book a trip to Phuket (Thailand) to be more specific. After looking for adventure travel tips on sites like MyPhuketInfo.com, I thought Thailand’s largest island situated on the southern Thai coastline would be the perfect place to unfurl whether this remote tropical paradise really did exist.
Already feeling like the Farang (westerner) that I was, arriving in Phuket with expectations of a remote and secluded island left me feeling even more embarrassed by my obvious naivety. An island connected to the mainland by three main bridges, Phuket is far from secluded. Instead I was greeted with a vibrant hub of activity as locals and expats went about their daily duties. Market stalls, street vendors and hawker stalls lined the roads and the odd person carrying an overflowing rattan basket of Thai food meandered between the tuk-tuk’s rushing by. Not what I was expecting but needless to say I delved in head-first to fully exploit the bounty before me. Just a few highlights include the straight-from-the-wok noodles in Phuket Town, the vegetarian buffet on Bangkok road and the fruit market on Ranong Road, (yes, I do like my food!)
Knowing that guesthouses were among the cheapest places to stay in a trip to Phuket (thanks to oh mighty google), I had booked to stay at Shanti Lodge, a small guesthouse run by a friendly African/Australian family, nestled between Phuket city and Chalong bay (costing me 750 baht a night). Pleased for a little shade from Phuket’s hot and humid weather, I jumped on a local beach bus known as a Songthaew (the cheapest way to travel around Thailand) to reach my lodgings. Mentally preparing myself for a modest stay of the thatched-roof variety, I was surprised to find a lovely double room with a shared bathroom, (once again The Beach had led me astray).
To find out once and for all I joined an organised boat tour to Koh Phi Phi Leh, the uninhabited island on the southernmost tip of Phi Phi Don and the glorious backdrop to the main culprit of my views-The Beach. Did I find glorious remoteness? Well, yes and no. Remoteness, no; ferries and long-tails carried eager snorkelers and scuba divers by the boat-load to the various beaches of the bay. Gloriousness, yes; the view of verdant vertical cliffs enclosing a tropical reef, resplendent with white sandy beaches was truly spectacular.
Opening my eyes to the real heart and soul of Thailand, my trip to Phuket was a journey of discovery, just not the one I was expecting. Rather than finding remote seclusion, I experienced a vibrant hub of thriving culture amongst stunning tropical scenery. While nowhere near The Beach’s portrayal (and even without the gorgeous Leo in sight), Phuket offered a taste of modern paradise that would come highly recommended by me.
If you’ve been to Thailand you’ve probably been to Phuket too. How did you feel when you arrived? Would you recommend Phuket or would you rather suggest readers go elsewhere? Where to?
Author Bio: Isabella Rose is an enthusiastic traveler with a love of adventure. Having studied History of Art and Italian at university, it has been her lifelong dream to move to Italy to revel in the art, culture and of course the gelato! You can follow her through Twitter at @IzzaRoseB
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