Phuket-A A +A
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
PHUKET was just a small dot in the tourist map when I first set foot in it ina the mid- 90s. Our family made a side trip there after attending a wedding in Bangkok (an hour’s plane ride away). We found the place quaint and quiet, its beaches inviting and irresistible, and the islets around it, pristine and picture-pretty. It was the perfect place for family bonding.
I have been back to Phuket a few more times since then, and each time, I find subtle changes in the face of Phuket. All told, it spells progress and more progress. Yes, Phuket has emerged as one of the stars in Asia’s tourist map, and now a major tourist drawer in Thailand.
Last month I was invited by Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) in tandem with JG Summit Holdings and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to have another look at Phuket. CEB flies to Phuket from Manila three times a week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday). It is a smooth four-hour flight on an Airbus A320.
With Viveca Singson, corporate communications manager of JG Summit Holdings, Inc. and CEB assistant manager for corporate communications Michelle de Guzman as tour escorts, we were off to a delightful adventure. Really these two are the team to beat when it comes to heading a trip. Their care and concern go beyond the customary, and their thoughtfulness is legendary. Can you imagine they even provide insect repellent and sun block, aside from the usual snacks and whatnots? There is nothing they don’t think of at all.
From the TAT end, we had with us Director Kanokkittika Kritwutikon and marketing officer Wipaporn Waleesajjakarn of TAT’s Singapore office. The two charming ladies made our land arrangements through Mr. See Tho of See Tho Holidays. They also hosted memorable seafood lunches and dinners showcasing the best in Phuket cuisine.
Over-all coordinator of the media participants from VisMin was CEB PR consultant Charles Lim of Selrahco Management and Consultancy.
Once a mining town, Phuket (Thailand’s largest island sitting by the Andaman Sea), derived its wealth from tin and rubber. In fact, there’s a Tin Mining Monument in Phuket town in memory of Australian Capt. Edward Thomas Miles who brought the first tin dredge to Phuket.
The Phuket of today has evolved into a world-class tourist destination. Aside from its powdery palm-fringed beaches and picturesque islets, the place boasts of several satellite developments.
The Patong district is the most vibrant. As luck would have it, our hotel, the Novotel Vintage Park, is in the area. The elegant hotel features a winding swimming pool and a sunken pool bar in the midst of its cluster of buildings. My spacious and well-equipped room had a cozy corner balcony that overlooked the lovely setting. Novotel Vintage Park is surrounded by bars and restaurants, and is walking distance to the Patong beach area, the night market, and the Jangceylon mall.
We stayed four days in Phuket and got to savor its “island-feel” charm. Here’s a guide on what to do to make the most of a trip to Phuket.
The Phuket Guide
1. Start off with a sight-seeing tour.
• Take a look at the tourists’ playground - Patong Beach, Karon Beach and Kata Beach.
• Do stop by the Karon View Point overlooking three picturesque beach coves - the view is breathtaking!
• Visit Big Buddha, one of the major Phuket landmarks atop a hill, and the exotic Wat Chalong temple outside town.
• Walk around the old Phuket town to appreciate its Perenakan heritage and to see the well-preserved architectural style in the area described as Sino-Portuguese.
• Drop by the Tin Mining Monument for a souvenir photo.
2. Spend time at the cultural theme park called Phuket FantaSea.
• Go in the late afternoon so there’s time for a stroll around the Carnival village and shop for souvenirs.
• Have dinner at the Golden Kinnaree Buffet restaurant, a 4000 seat dining facility housed in a golden pavilion. On the menu are the best of Thai dishes as well as international favorites.
• Watch the Fantasy of a Kingdon show, a Las Vegas-style production showcasing Thai culture, aerial ballet, acrobatics, magical illusions and all else that spells spectacular, sensational and stunning! It is truly one of a kind with a finale that brings about 30 elephants onstage.
3. Get a chance to pose with the tigers at the Tiger Kingdom. It is quite an experience to actually pet a tiger and have an eyeball to eyeball session with one of the fiercest animals in the animal kingdom.
4. Go island-hopping to complete your Phuket experience. We took a speedboat to Khai island, passing through enchanting islets which reminded me of Norway’s fjords. We spent the morning lazing around the tiny island which was filled with tourists, most of them swimming in abandon.
5. Shop at the night market and get good bargains...and if you’ve had enough of haggling and shopping, make a detour to one of the pulsating bars which are open till the wee, wee hours.
6. If time permits try a spa treatment. The spa menu is extensive, and whatever you chose, it is carried out with traditional Thai hospitality. We had ours at RarinJinda Wellness Spa and it was the perfect finale to our Phuket interlude.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 10, 2013.