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el2995 Phuket - A travel report by USC
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Phuket,  Thailand - flag Thailand -  Phuket
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el2995's travel reports

Phuket: Hat Surin and Phangnga Bay

  21 votes
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A scant 1 hour and 40 minute flight away via one of the budget regional airlines ( www.tigerairways.com ), Phuket made for a very enjoyable 3-day side trip during our last visit to Singapore, which included a day out on the water touring Phangnga Bay. report of the month contest
Oct 2007


Jetty, Koh Ping-Kan
Jetty, Koh Ping-Kan
Situated on the Andaman Sea and separated from mainland by a narrow sea channel, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and is perhaps the premiere destination for those looking to experience Thailand’s world-renowned beaches. Offering the traveler a wealth of natural beauty and a variety of land and sea-based entertainment activities to partake in, the island appeals to the pleasure-seeker, thrill-seeker and the vacationing family alike. Hit hard by the 2004 tsunami, Phuket has bounced back to regain its status as one of the top tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, though there are those who will be forever touched by the event. (Upon returning from Patong Beach one night and enquiring about the toddler sleeping in the front seat next to our tuk-tuk driver, he sadly replied, “Tsunami…Mama die.”) Beach-wise, we opted for Hat Surin (Surin Beach), which is roughly midway down the West coast of the island. The beach is smaller and less developed than the more tourist-oriented ones to the South, but it’s fairly nice and well-kept, and its laid back atmosphere was conducive to a peaceful day spent lounging beneath an umbrella with a cold Singha Beer watching the rhythmic procession of inbound waves that slapped and hissed against the white sand, with the occasional soothing ocean swim to contend with the heat. The beach is flanked by palm and other leafy trees, and a small assortment of open air restaurants, café, bars and beach equipment rental shop that offer some tour guide services. The part of the beach that we settled into was in the vicinity of adjacent restaurants that served Thai cuisine and wood-fired pizza, respective. The friendly members of the family that owned the two establishments also tended to the needs of the beach-goers, whether it is bring out a cold bottle of beer, an order of papaya salad or a pizza, or perhaps arranging a beachside body massage beneath the shade of a thatched bamboo canopy, with the tab delivered at the end of the day.

Favourite spots:
Koh Ping-Kan -  'James Bond Island'
Koh Ping-Kan - 'James Bond Island'
The highlight of the trip was the day tour of Phangnga Bay by boat and inflatable sea canoe to view the scenic limestone stacks. The trip was provided by Holiday Sea Canoe. Picked up at our hotel around 8:30am, we were driven to Ao-Poh pier and boarded our escort boat with the others in the group of 20. The boat would transport us to the islands that were on the itinerary, after which it would anchor off the shore and we would go below to transfer into sea canoes (two people per canoe plus a pilot / guide) to explore the islands; the itinerary included Koh Panak (Panak Island), Koh Hong, Koh Ping-Kan (known as ‘James Bond Island’ as featured in the movie ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’) and Koh Lawa. The trip included a lunch comprised of both Thai and Western cuisine and snacks served on the boat as we cruised the bay. Our host, Alek, was friendly and knowledgeable, and had a great sense of deadpan humor; our pilot, Sam, was also friendly, and very skillful in handling our canoe.

What's really great:
Hidden Lagoon, Koh Panak
Hidden Lagoon, Koh Panak
The most enjoyable part of the Phangnga Bay tour was transiting the limestone sea caves by canoe to access the hidden mangrove lagoons, which at times required one to lie flat on his/her back so as to not scrape any body parts on the sharp surfaces of cramped walls, low ceilings, and protruding stalagmites and stalactites, particularly at Koh Panak. Sitting in the front of the canoe, I was tasked with aiming the flashlight so our guide could negotiate our way in near zigzag fashion through the other-worldly features and contours of the maze-like passage through the cave, which appeared as fleeting grayish-tan apparitions in the beam of the flashlight as I slowly panned it ahead of us. We inched forward through the darkness under dim incandescent illumination for some time until an irregular pattern of dim reflected light in the gloom ahead of us gradually brightened to reveal the passage to a lush sun-bathed mangrove lagoon encircled by the towering inner walls of the limestone stack.

Sights:
Hat Surin (Surin Beach)
Hat Surin (Surin Beach)
During the day, we weren't really able to see much of the island South of Hat Surin, though the drive to the Ao-Poh pier was quite scenic, with the views alternating between lush jungle and small rice paddys, crop field and tropical orchards. The scenery on Phangnga Bay is impressive and at times down right stunning; it was particularly interesting to be able to watch flying fish skip, and sometimes even bounce, across the calm waters of the bay in the wake of our boat. Of course, it's practically a requirement that you make your way to the coast as sunset approaches to really appreciate the beauty of Phuket.

Our Phangnga Bay tour with Holiday Sea Canoe was booked through Multi Travel in Patong (104/7 Soi Post Office, Thaweewong Road). Our agent, Phijitkan (Kan), was friendly and very helpful, and can help make your stay in Phuket memorable by arranging day tours of a variety of the surrounding islands, diving, fishing and eco safari trips, city tours and cabaret shows.

Accommodations:
Lobby, Manathai Hotel
Lobby, Manathai Hotel
We stayed at the Manathai Boutique Resort and Hotel Phuket ( www.manathaihotels.com ), on Srisunthorn Road in Hat Surin. The decor of the hotel is very impressive and lends both a touch of class and a mood of serenity to the place. The hotel has both a stylish lobby bar and a convenient pool side bar, offers a choice of two outdoor swimming pools, and has a good breakfast buffet. The staff members are very friendly and attentive, and can provide tourist information and facilitate bookings.

If you stay at the Manathai, be sure to check out the Asian antiques shop south of the hotel near the street corner. The three-story building houses an impressive (and costly) collection of pieces from Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Tibet and China that makes you feel as though you're walking through a museum. The only drawback is that you are not allowed to take photographs inside the shop. Across from the shop, you can easily hail a tuk-tuk to visit the surrounding towns and beaches.

Nightlife:
Sunset, Hat Surin
Sunset, Hat Surin
As near as I could tell, Hat Surin did not have much of a nightlife (at least in the area where we stayed). Your best bet would be to hail a tuk-tuk and make the 20-minute or so trip down to Patong. Strolling the streets of Patong (which are generally crowded with tourists) can make for an interesting evening, given the myriad shops and sidewalk vendor stalls to browse through, the open air restaurants that sometimes have fresh seafood on display, and the chance to do some people watching. The people watching can be particularly entertaining by strolling along the main drag (no pun intended) of Patong's Redlight District, where young Thai beauties (sometimes dressed as school girls although likely in their mid-twenties...and sometimes even ladyboys dressed like school girls) attempt to entice the male visitors out of their hard-earned wages now converted into Bahts, and scantily-clad girls suggestively gyrate on outdoor stages to throbbing beats to attract customers into their club.

Restaurants:
Vacant Boat, Koh Lawa
Vacant Boat, Koh Lawa
As for dining in Hat Surin, I would suggest the restaurants at The Chedi resort hotel, which was perhaps a 15-minute walk Northwest of Manathai Hotel, though at night the narrow road to the hotel can be quite dark and you need to be mindful of approaching cars. There is indoor and outdoor dining at the main restaurant near the hotel entrance serving Thai cuisine (which was our choice for the evening), and European cuisine served at another restaurant which requires a bit of a walk though the grounds of the resort that's adjacent to the beach.

In Patong Beach, try Sala Bua Restaurant at the Impiana Phuket Cabana Resort and Spa (41 Taweewongse Road) for some very good Thai cuisine with live entertainment provided.

Other recommendations:
Canal Village Shopping Center, Laguna Resort
Canal Village Shopping Center, Laguna Resort
If you're in the mood for some slightly up scaled shopping or are looking for that Jim Thompson silk shirt as your memento of Phuket, check out the Canal Village shopping center at the Laguna Resort. They do have some nice (albeit higher-priced) shops, one of which had a good selection of Thai crafts and art objects. Of course, if you're not into shopping (like myself), it may not hold your interest for long. Unfortunately, my wife and daughter kept us there so long that I didn't get a chance to check out the Phuket Shooting Range as hoped, though it will be on my itinerary next time. As I understand it, they have rental firearms (rifles and pistols) available for tourists to use on their range, though as I learned from the owner at one of the the gun shops along Thanon Burapha in Bangkok, Thais are not allowed to legally own or possess any rifles chambered for center fire calibers (.22 and .17 rim fire calibers only), so don't expect to find any M16's, AK's, G3's or FAL's for rent.

Published on Thursday October 18th, 2007


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Sat, Aug 06 2011 - 06:23 AM rating by adisidh

nice report ............ need more pic.

Mon, Feb 11 2008 - 11:14 PM rating by krisek

A magnificent report! Thank you so much for sharing, and congratulations on the Report of the Month!

Wed, Nov 28 2007 - 01:19 PM rating by murrayskinner

A wonferful report I stayed ad Karon Beach while there. Did you see it? The Karon Beach Hotel

Thu, Nov 15 2007 - 01:36 AM rating by downundergal

Great report and belated congratulatons for ROM. Hpow Phuket has changed - when I last visited we stayed at Karon Beach in the only hotel (if you could call it that) and Patong was a laidback village with not many more hotels than Karon. Phnang Nga Bay is definately otherworldly.

Wed, Nov 07 2007 - 08:10 PM rating by adampl

Interesting and useful. A very good recommendation to go to Phuket. Thanks for sharing.

Mon, Oct 29 2007 - 03:18 AM rating by shalini_md

Nice detailed report with beautiful pictures.The canoe trip sounds very interesting.

Thu, Oct 25 2007 - 11:53 AM rating by frenchfrog

Very detailed report with lots of info, it was very a very pleasant read, well done, great photos as well.

Sat, Oct 20 2007 - 03:20 AM rating by bineba

Great report with lots of insight and a touch of humour. One tip, if you want to appear your report on the globo homepage: chose a landscape photo for your first photo in 'overview'. as it's not set up for portrait.

Fri, Oct 19 2007 - 12:23 PM rating by marianne

I had not realised Phuket was so easy to reach from Singapore. Your decription makes me want to visit. I love the sunset photo. Are these closed sun umbrellas?

Fri, Oct 19 2007 - 09:55 AM rating by zrusseff

Great account - good to see Phuket is doing well again (after the tsunami).

Thu, Oct 18 2007 - 08:57 AM rating by mistybleu

A wonderful report with great pictures - I'm so tempted....

Thu, Oct 18 2007 - 05:04 AM rating by rangutan

Excellent report! A very effective choice of adjectives and images [4.8]

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