Phuket is one of those places in Thailand whose reputation precedes it. Fittingly called the pearl of the Andaman, the island lures millions of travelers every year. For most, it’s the allure of gorgeous beaches, the insane party culture and a fascination for clicking selfies with tigers.
Amidst all this commercialization, there is still tremendous scope to get off the tourist trail and venture into something more local. So when in Phuket, skirt some of the all-too-obvious attractions and go for these 10 authentic experiences instead.
Marvel at the Buddha cave in Phang Nga
It’s impossible to visit Thailand without going on a temple hopping tour. If you are in Phuket, you will surely check out the Big Buddha and Wat Chalong, the two most iconic cultural monuments on the island.
Sure they are impressive in their own right, but if you don’t mind a drive outside town, head to the Buddha cave, also called Wat Tham Suwan Khuha. The large cavern houses an imposing 50 foot golden reclining Buddha. Its shimmering body blends in beautifully with the brownish walls of the cave.
The cave also has large standing Buddha images. The cavern houses many smaller caves, some housing more golden stupas, and the stairs at the end of the cave open out to the forest outside. It’s certainly one of the most unique temples you can come across in Thailand!!!
Take a Thai cooking Class
Thailand’s greatest gift to the world is its lip-smacking cuisine. What if you could learn to cook your favourite Thai dishes anytime you want?
Taking a Thai cooking lesson is the ultimate culinary adventure you can embark on. They teach you to make authentic Thai cuisine using ingredients that you buy from the market yourself. The visit to the local market is a great way to understand Thai food culture.
And at the end of the class, you get to eat what you make!!
Explore Phuket Old Town
The old town is a world away from the commercial vibe of Phuket. Just walking through the streets and alleys will give you a glimpse of its past.The architecture is heavily European influenced and the streets are lined with Sino-Portuguese shop-houses, Sino- colonial mansions and quaint old buildings.
There are many cafes, bakeries and eating joints along the way. Just grab a cup of coffee and wander the streets. For shopaholics, Old Phuket town is the best area to stay in Phuket. Its weekend markets especially are a major hit among travelers.
Visit the fisherman village of Koh Panyee
Koh Panyee is a floating village lying in Phang Nga Bay, near the popular James Bond Island. Made entirely on stilts, it’s a unique and interesting village.
A Phuket Itinerary is incomplete without the Phang Nga bay tour, but don’t be one among the flock of tourists taking the cruise. If you reach the village early by yourself, you might be the only visitor.
Koh Panyee is actually a full-fledged village with a school, police station and a tiny health centre. It has tonnes of shops, where you can get everything from t-shirts to souvenirs. You won’t believe how much is packed into this tiny space. Just stroll along its walkways and get lost in its simple beauty.
To reach Koh Panyee, just drive to Surakul Pier and hire a longtail boat from there and you can reach in 20 minutes. Just the boat ride through the mangroves and limestone karsts is worth the visit!
Shop and eat at the night markets
Night markets are the best places to find wacky souvenirs, cheap clothing and savour some authentic Thai cuisine. Shopping here is one of the best ways to see locals going about their daily business. It even gives you a chance to mingle with them.
With rows of bright coloured stalls laid next to each other, these night markets in Phuket almost resemble a carnival. Even if shopping doesn’t catch your fancy, the aroma of delicious Thai cuisine wading through the air is sure to catch your attention.
Give a shot at Muay Thai
If you are in good shape and like to try out extreme physical challenges, then give Muay Thai a shot. An intense sport, Muay Thai sees fighters demolishing each other with a flurry of kicks and elbow strikes.
Of course, you don’t really need to get broken bones out there. A training session involving cardio, stretching, boxing and muscle conditioning is worth a try though.
If the rigorousness of the routine is to your liking, you can choose from a one day session to a month long course. At the end, you can have your new found skills put to the test!!
Gorge on the seafood at Bang Pae
If you are a seafood lover, then you should definitely give Bang Pae seafood a try. Sitting on the edge of a mangrove which opens out to the sea, it’s not just food for the soul, but a view too!
The food here is quite authentic, especially the blue crabs and a local dish called “Poh Tae”, literally meaning “Exploded Fisherman’s Basket”. There is tonnes more that will delight your taste buds.
Check out the Phuket Amulet Market
These markets sell intriguing Amulets and if the locals are to be believed, they can protect you from flu to grenades. Locals highly respect the power of the amulets, know to bring even good fortune in life. They are made from stones, bronze and even bones.
The price depends on the powers of the amulet and how respected the monk who handed them was. Whether you buy amulets or not, it’s quite an interesting market to walk along.
Sail aboard the Chinese Junk boat June Bahtra
The Phang Nga bay cruise is the most popular one in Thailand and if you are in Phuket, chances are you will go for it. You can explore it through a luxury cruise or do a kayaking expedition, but the coolest way of going about it is on the June Bathra Chinese Junk boat.
Lying on comfortable cushions on a deck, gazing at the starlit sky and slowly gliding along the limestone rocks, with its red sails fluttering about in the wind is one of the most surreal experiences you can have.
Pamper yourself with a traditional Thai Massage
It’s a cardinal sin to leave Thailand without giving your sore muscles a taste of an authentic Thai massage. You don’t really have to plan so much for it, you just need to decide the place.
A great place to enjoy the massage is the beach. Open airs Salas are ideal to leave your body in the hands of a trained masseuse. With the sound of lapping waves and the sound of a gentle breeze acting as a lullaby, you will drift into deep slumber in no time.
You can also get a foot massage, sitting in one of those recliner chairs in the middle of an open street. They are just amazing and you can get one anytime you want. And they are cheap too. So remember, when in Thailand, say goodbye to sore muscles.