One of the highlights of Spring 2012 was my Phuket, Thailand
travel during March 5-9. If someone asked me to come up with just one
word that best
encapsulates the spirit of Patong City in Phuket, Thailand, I would
have to say "massage."
This place probably has more massage shops,
health spas, and relaxation treatment centers per square kilometer than
any other place on the planet.
It is impossible to walk down any of the main streets in
Patong without catching a whiff of that familiar peppermint aroma that
emanates from virtually every massage shop in the city. As a single
guy, I never tired of the special attention I received walking past the
shops when the gorgeous girls would beg me to come inside.
Give me your money!!
What I did grow tired of though, and very quickly in fact, was
the CONSTANT sales pressure from just about every streetside vendor in
the city...from taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, tailors, restaurant touts,
clothes stores, souvenir shops, food vendors, tour operators, to you
name it. All with the not-so-subtle unspoken message: "Give me your
Sidewalk vendors in Patong City, Phuket, Thailand
One young shop clerk even joked that I should pay her
because I wanted to take her picture. And I was even approached by some
Brits on a couple of different occasions trying to scam me into
investing in a vacation resort property. Geez, what's a guy gotta do
just to have a peaceful vacation.
Having said that, if you are successful in somehow shielding
yourself from all the commercial pressure, there is no question that
Phuket, Thailand is an absolutely beautiful place. Phuket has a lot of
the same charm that Koh
Samui does, for example in the cute way
restaurants display their fresh catch of fish right on the
sidewalk in long tubs of ice, often in the shape of a boat.
Fresh fish on display along a sidewalk in Patong, Phuket
Phuket Motorcycle Rental
One of the
ways I escaped all this commercialism was to rent a scooter my 2nd day
there so I could check out the southernmost tip of Phuket island,
including the spectacular Promthep Cape View Point, famous for its
For only 200 baht (~$6.50) for 24 hours, I rented my scooter
from Oot &
Akiyo, a very delightful couple whose motorcycle rental & taxi
business is right next to the Relax Guest House where
Oot & Akiyo, Patong motorcycle rental shop owners
On this 9-hr., 81-km scooter trip, I was
able to visit Mt. Mai Thao Sib Song (Twelve Canes), 529 meters (1,736
ft), the highest mountain in Phuket. Actually, I was unable to access
the true summit, which is adorned by an air traffic control radar run
Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation (thus has restricted entry),
but I got close enough to drive through a lush, green Phuket jungle
along the way and high enough to catch some stunning views of Patong
Beach & the
beautiful blue Andaman Sea down below.
Patong Beach & the Andaman Sea
from Mt. Mai Thao Sib Song, Phuket's highest peak
After making a wrong turn on my
way up to Mt. Mai Thao Sib Song, by pure accident I had the pleasure of
passing by one of the most beautifully colored temples I think I've
ever seen, Wat Mai Luang Pho Supha.
I also took some time to visit the spectacular, 5-star Evason Phuket & Bon Island Resort
southeast coast of the
which has its own private beach and boat pier, as well as its own
private island, the tiny, green Bon Island. The 64 acres of beautiful,
green tropical landscaping for the entire Evason Phuket resort property
is quite stunning.
Bon Island & Andaman Sea from Evason Phuket Resort
Just down the coast a ways from the Evason Phuket & Bon Island Resort
Beach, which I wasn't all that impressed with,
although I've heard that this area is famous for diving, a major source
of tourism money for Phuket.
After stopping briefly at
Promthep Cape View Point to take the mandatory snapshots of the
exhilarating view of the Andaman Sea (too bad my scheduling didn't
allow me to be there at sunset), I also stopped at the Karon View
Point, where I observed two rather bizarre occurrences.
In one case, a guy was posing for pictures with a huge,
beautiful eagle perched on his shoulder. In the other case, at the top
of the observation platform, there was a girl posing for pictures in
her bikini....maybe for a magazine spread. Never a dull moment in
On the way back to Patong, I visited a couple more beautiful
beaches, first the Nai Harn Beach and then the Kata Noi Beach.
Andaman Sea from Promthep Cape View Point
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Phuket a second time was out
of curiosity to see how well it had recovered from the Dec. 26, 2004
Indian Ocean quake and tsunami which killed over 230,000 people in 14
countries, with 5300 of them in Thailand alone.
Shop Till You Drop
I had the pleasure of spending three days in Phuket back in
1996, and I must say it has in fact made a miraculous recovery. Not
only that, I can honestly say the place is BOOMING! It's almost like
you can even smell the money in the air, as there is no question the
economy is a rockin' and a rollin'.
Two examples of the booming economy are the two humongous
shopping malls I had the pleasure of visiting, one being the Jungceylon
Shopping Mall in Patong and the other being the Central Festival
Shopping Mall in Phuket Town. And from the various tourists that I
spoke with and from the various languages I overheard, I suspect most
of this influx of money is coming from Europe, especially Germany.
Central Festival Shopping Mall in Phuket Town
After returning back to Japan, I've read that Phuket aggressively
promotes their tourism industry abroad, with the aid of the Phuket
Tourist Association (PTA) & the Phuket government. Recently for
6th time, Phuket participated in the Internationale Tourismus Borse
2012 (ITB 2012) in Berlin, Germany, one of the largest travel &
tourism trade shows in the world.
Twenty-eight (28) Phuket
tourism operators leased a 180-sq-m exhibition space there to promote
tourism to the European market.
A number of cities now offer direct airline service to Phuket (but some
are seasonal only), including Frankfurt, Zurich, Stockholm, Oslo,
Paris, Moscow, Copenhagen, Doha, & Abu Dhabi, without having to
change planes in Bangkok.
Phuket is the wealthiest province in Thailand, which one
probably could've already guessed, with all the high-rise hotels and
condos everywhere in Patong. And within just the 2.5 sq. km. (1 sq.
commercial district in Patong City, there are a remarkable 78 ATMs
where you can use your Visa card. Wow!
Bangla Rd. Nightlife in Patong
And I would be remiss not to mention the exciting nightlife
one will encounter along Bangla Road in Patong. It's kind of like a
Mardi Gras on steroids, where just walking down the street you can
clearly see scantily-clad Thai go-go girls dancing on the bar tops and
twirling around poles in the many beer bars along this strip.
The Tiger Live Band bar on Bangla Rd. in Patong
heard that Patong doesn't even rank compared to the Pattaya nightlife,
but it's certainly one of the most exciting nightspots I've personally
ever seen in Asia and much better than what I saw at Chaweng Beach in Koh
Samui 3 years before.
I could go on for hours about all the wonderful things to do
in Phuket, but just a few more things worthy of mention include the Dr.
Fish pedicure spas (where tiny guppy-size fish nibble the dead skin off
your feet), which seem to be more popular here than they were
enjoyed one in Koh
Samui 3 years before, elephant trekking, safari
tours, rafting, and canoeing.
Dr. Fish pedicure spa, Patong, Phuket
Another popular tourist activity is to visit the nearby
beautiful islands in the Andaman Sea, including the Similan islands and
Phi Phi Island, where Leonardo DiCaprio's "The Beach" movie was filmed.
Had I had more time and money, I think I would've enjoyed joining one
of these all day island tours, most of which start from around 3000
baht (~$100), which includes lunch and transportation to/from your
hotel to the
boat pier in Phuket Town.
Oh, before I forget, on my last full day in Phuket, while it
was raining, I decided to pamper myself at the Let's Relax Spa where I
purchased the 90-min., 700-baht Dream Package, which included 45 min.
of foot reflexology, 15 min. of hand reflexology, and finally a 30 min.
back & shoulder massage. And let me tell you, when I left that
place, I felt like I was in heaven. It was without question the best
$23 I've ever spent in my life.
One final note, if you're the theme park type, you might want
to check out the $100-million Phuket FantaSea, the ultimate
cultural theme park in Kammala, a 15-min. drive north along
the coast from Patong. The 140-acre Phuket FantaSea encapsulates the
charm and beauty of Thai culture with a shopping street, 4000-seat
dining facility with Thai and international cuisine, and a 3000-seat
Las Vegas-style theater. The 1900-baht adult admission (1700 THB for
kiddos) includes the Fantasy of a Kingdom Show, the Tiger Jungle
Adventure, buffet dinner, many free street and stage shows, parades,
and live band performances throughout the night.
I was very pleased with my
choice of accommodations. The Relax Guest House is conveniently
located in the Royal Paradise complex and is very reasonably priced. I
paid 700 baht (~$23) per night for my room, which included a BIG
"double" bed (I'm
guessing actually queen size), air
conditioning, cable TV with over 60 channels, and it even had a
It's only a 5-minute walk from the Bangla Road
nightlife area and Jungceylon Shopping Mall & only 10 min. to
beach, and the hotel staff were exceptionally cordial.
My only complaint is about the other noisy guests, many of whom came in
after midnight drunk.
The Relax Guest House has a very
unusual room numbering system,
the floors named by alphabet letters rather than numbers. The first
floor is the 'A' floor, second floor 'B', third floor 'C', and top
floor the 'D' floor. There are only six rooms on each floor, and on
each floor the six rooms are numbered 1 through 6.
So if you
miss the small letter sign on the wall in the stairwell, it's very easy
to confuse which floor you're on. Just my luck that on one of the four
nights I stayed there, one crazy guy came back to his room
at 3:00 in the morning and was banging on the door of Room 3 on my
floor, begging his girlfriend to open the door.
He thought the
room was his, only to find out he was banging on the wrong
He was on Floor C when he should have been on Floor D. Oops, WRONG Room
3. Needless to say, he woke up our entire floor. Ugh!
The pics in the collage below are a sampling of my Phuket, Thailand
photo album hosted at Flickr. Clicking on the collage will open up the
album on a separate page, or you can view the entire set sequentially
in the slideshow player below. I hope you enjoy them !
Sunset over the Andaman Sea, Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand, Tues.
Mar. 6, 2012,
Click above to view the slideshow of 267 pics,
or quickly view all of
them at a glance on a
separate page here.
My Phuket, Thailand Travel Video
(Note: Some scenes may be
inappropriate for younger viewers.)
separate window here)
marks (in min.):
0:00 Bangla Rd. nightlife
7:00 Soccer practice
8:25 Hotel tour
9:20 Shopping street
11:20 Beach Rd.
12:05 Patong Beach
12:30 Paraglider launch
13:45 Beach Rd. sidewalk grill
14:15 The Terminator cyborg
14:55 Colorful fruit stand
15:40 Jungceylon shopping mall
20:05 Evason Phuket Hotel
21:00 Promthep Cape View Point
21:55 Karon View Point
22:45 Lucky balloon launch
23:45 Dr. Fish spa
25:15 Banana chocolate pancake
26:50 Thai boxing match loudspeaker truck
27:20 Thai massage girls
27:40 Bangla Rd. lady boys
28:15 Patong Beach panorama
29:20 Traffic signal countdown timer
30:05 Two Heroines Monument
30:20 Churning of the Milk Ocean monument
Phuket, Thailand Google Map
If you've ever wondered exactly where Phuket, the largest island in
Thailand, is located, it's in the Andaman
Sea off Thailand's southwest coast about 863 km (536 mi.) south of
Bangkok. It's also about 250 km (155 mi.)
northwest of Langkawi,
Malaysia, another of my favorite exotic Pacific
island travel destinations.
To get a better feel for Phuket's location in the Andaman Sea,
zoom out in the Google map below. Google Maps recently added the Google
Earth feature to their maps, which offers a very impressive 3D view if
you have Google Earth installed on your PC. Using GE's tilt &
rotate features, you can actually fly around Phuket as if you were in
What a romantic, exotic place Phuket is! My only complaint is there
too many western tourists..... like me.
So this passage from Wikipedia doesn't surprise me at all: "In July
2005, Phuket was voted one of the World's Top 5 retirement destinations
by the acclaimed Fortune Magazine. There are thousands of expatriates
living in Phuket, many of them retirees." Ouch.
Four days in Phuket was not nearly enough time, and I can
hardly wait to go
I hope you have found this page both informative & entertaining,
and that it will benefit future
this Pacific island
It is also my hope you will find time to check back again soon to this
page as I
it in the future with more details on some of the other local