Updated: May 16
It would be impossible to scour the globe to find somewhere unaffected by covid right now. Phuket is a place that relied so heavily on tourism before all of this...which means it's been hit so hard. While It's a different place from what it was pre-pandemic, it hasn't dampened the spirits of the local people. They continue to make it an amazing place to visit! I've always found Thai people to be among the most welcoming and friendly people, and that if anything has only been heightened by the recent events. You can physically see their faces light up as you walk into their shop, bar, restaurant or hotel as they're incredibly eager to greet people back to this once so visited place.
Danielle and I had a great time in Phuket, we loved it. Here is an overview of our experience taking part in the sandbox programme.
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PHUKET: TOP 10 THINGS TO DO
BANG TAO BEACH
This stunning beach is located in the north of Phuket and is one of the longest beaches you'll find here. Being further up North it's much quieter than others in the more popular areas such as Patong. There are not a lot of bars and restaurants, but it's family-friendly, beautiful and great for relaxing in the sun. It's also great for a nice long walk.
A fantastic Beach which is easy to get to via Tuktuk or scooter if you rent one. It's 100THB per person to enter the beach, however, that covers the cost of a sunbed, umbrella and you get a fruit juice upon arrival. The beach is stunning, and there's a much quieter section just to the left which you can't miss! While the beach is amazing the ocean floor is rocky so bring some sea shoes if you have them!
JAMES BOND ISLAND
This incredible island was originally called Khao Phing Kan, but the name was changed after it made an appearance in James Bond's "The Man With The Golden Gun" in 1974. It's a staple for most who visit Phuket, and you can still find trips or excursions that will visit this beautiful Island. Tours are less populated right now, which is great for exploration, however, it does make them a little more expensive. Finding a few like-minded explorers can help to negotiate the cost of the tour if you all group together.
A shortstop, but one you'll regret if you miss it. We got there in the middle of the day but it would make an amazing viewpoint for a sunrise or sunset. You can see most of Phuket from here, and it is a great tranquil spot to simply sit and be.
PHUKET OLD TOWN
A different vibe to the beach lifestyle, but one not to be overlooked. There's a tonne of picturesque spots, great places to eat and interesting pieces of street art to see. Compared to many other places in Phuket right now there are a lot of places open, which was great to see. There are plenty of colourful streets and pieces of graffiti that will do wonders for your Instagram! We visited The Neighbours Cafe for some smoothie bowls and would recommend them in a heartbeat!
An amazing beach that's tucked away and very private, but I must stress to approach with caution! Danielle and I pulled up on our scooter and noticed some other scooters parked near a cut-in to the jungle. We thought we'd arrived, but then noticed a sign that said "Freedom Beach 600m ->". Some locals were nearby and they advised the cut-in was the best way to get to the beach, because it "wasn't that far". Avoiding the official entrance meant we saved 100BHT, but we wish we'd paid it! What followed was a 500m+ trek down through steep jungle terrain. After a while, Danielle froze in terror as a snake slid across our path, but thankfully we kept going. The beach was spectacular! If you're squeamish maybe just pay the 100BHT each to avoid the jungle.
The 2 guys who'd given us the "tip" were shop workers who made our stay as comfortable as possible. They had mats, pillows, umbrellas and provided some great food and drink.
THE BIG BUDDHA
It's not going to take over your day, but it's an incredible ride through the winding roads up the mountain. When you get to the site you will see the incredible feat that is The Big Buddha and some amazing views that accompany it. It's completely free to enter, but they greatly appreciate any donations. Remember to dress respectfully, which means covering your shoulders and knees.
PATONG STREET MARKET
Almost any night of the week you're certain to find incredible food here. It's just up from Patong beach, and there are always plenty of people taking in the great eats. The Pad Thai stall is fantastic... just pick up your jaw when they tell you how cheap it is. Most stalls have vegan/vegetarian-friendly options available as well. If you want a bit of home comfort with a Thai twist then there's a great cheesy french fries stall.
BANGLA WALKING STREET
An unfortunate victim of the current times. What would have once been the life of Phuket has been reduced to a stroll through a few empty bars. There are a few shops still open, and we ate at Eurasian Restaurant which was good. If you're a football (soccer) fan then they show it here too...
RENT A SCOOTER
The best thing you can do is just explore! it's how we have always found the best places to eat, drink and see. Tuktuk's are easy enough if you're not confident on a scooter, and they're a reasonable price. Our feeling is that you get so much more freedom with a scooter, however. We love being left to our own devices, and while it might mean we don't always end up at the most popular and most visited places...it can often lead to the best stories.
Phuket is a great place, and somewhere that was an excellent start to our adventure! We can't wait to see what else Thailand has to offer.