Phuket is a beautiful place to holiday with friend, family or your partner and sometimes its easier to arrange a tour, rather than risking your life on a scooter or in a tuk tuk (haha!). You can either go with a large tour group or look for a small private tour either with a company or ask on Tripadvisor forums for a suggestion of friendly locals who can take you around to see the sights.
While in Phuket we decided to get a local to show us around, he took us on a full day tour and below is our day tour itinerary.
1. Visit Rawai Beach and Visit Promthep Cape viewpoint and Windmill Viewpoint.
2. Drive along scenic beach roads via Patong, Karon, Kata and stop off at the famous Karon cape viewpoint.
3. Visit Phuket’s one and only Big Buddha on the top of Nakkerd Hill.
4. Visit the Wat Chalong Temples.
5. Monkey Hill viewpoint
5. Drive through Phuket town and stop at Central Festival
Our guide Daj picked us up early to take us on our Phuket island Tour. He drove us around in a nice clean van, with more than enough room for the 2 of us. He was always offering us cold water, which was lovely in the heat!
First stop was Rawai Beach/pier, which was just around the corner from the hotel we were staying at (Serenity Phuket). It was high tide and there were lots of Long tail boats in the water along very long pier. Down the road next to the pier, was a small set of markets. These markets mainly sold sea shells and other little bits and pieces. We were unsure about buying them as we weren’t sure we would be able to bring them back into Australia and we were worried they would break. We later found out we can bring them back! As long as they don’t have any live/dead creatures still in them, they have to be completely clean. (Always make sure to check with our countries customs before trying to bring something back, a quick email or phone call to them.)
We wandered through the first shop and saw a HUGE pile of shells that the shop must have stock piled and then they clean them up and sell them to locals and tourists. It was a pity we couldn’t buy anything (didn’t know that we could) as they had some really beautiful things. They sold little things from necklaces and other bits of jewellery to lamp covers and large ornament. We didn’t spend too long there as we felt bad leaving Daj in the hot van (turns out he stays in the van with the air con on.. smart man! We would feel horrible if he was waiting for us in the heat).
Next we headed to the very popular Promthep Cape viewpoint. You have to walk up a few small flights of stairs to get to the actual view point. The scenery from Promthep Cape is lovely! Now that I look back on it, I wish we had gone back at sunset as I have heard it is even better then but I have also heard it is usually very crowded so maybe going when we did, during the day was a better choice. Oh well yet another thing to do on our “to do list” next time we are there!
If you head up another few sets of stairs up to another section. In this section is a large shrine with many Elephant figures, some are very large statutes and others very small little figures, all is different colours. A small way past the shrine there is a lighthouse that houses interesting historical maritime artefacts (or so the sign told us) we were not able to go in as it was shut at that time. We took a few photos and headed back to the van for our next stop.
A short way down the road is another view point called Windmill viewpoint. From here you are able to see similar views as Promthep cape, you can also see Nai Harn beach which is a really nice swimming beach. It’s also known as “Promthep Alternative Energy Station” because it has several very tall wind turbines that look like big windmills. Not only is the view from here really beautiful but locals come here to fly kites or remote controlled planes and occasionally you see hang gliders. This spot might be a better alternative to Promthep Cape at sunset, as it may be less crowded.
Our next stop was Karon viewpoint Also known as the Kata Viewpoint or “Three Beaches Hill” . Here you are able to see Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon beaches. It is one of the busiest viewpoints in Phuket. As we were leaving we were approached by a Thai local with an eagle. We haven’t seen an eagle that close before. Most tourists are fascinated and stopped to take some photos with it. It was interesting to see a bird like this up so close. Make sure you do your research about animal tourism in Thailand, i would not encourage anyone to take photos with animals…I want to warn people while it’s fun when you’re on holiday, think of the animals, don’t be as silly.
Next stop was Phuket’s famous Big Buddha! It’s 45 metres high and a base of 25 metres across, it can be seen from far. It’s one of the most important (and famous) landmarks in Phuket. At the time we visited (October 2011) it was still being built. You could buy a small tile and donate money towards its construction, you can write a small message on the tiles that are used in the building of the Buddha. The whole body of the Big Buddha is made out of white Burmese marble. We noticed in many of the donation boxes or other little boxes, there were cute little cats fast asleep! From the base of the Big Buddha you have almost 360 degree views over Phuket, including Phuket town, beaches and coves.
Avoid beachwear, short skirts and T-shirts with offensive texts or images. If you feel you have dressed a little too daringly for a religious site you can always ask for a sarong to cover up with from the site centre, free of charge. There were several types of Buddha statues, some new (Gold/painted gold) and some a dark clay.. We learnt a little more about Buddism in our trip to Bangkok, more specifically our trip to Ayutthaya just outside of Bangkok.
On the way down the hill after leaving the Big Buddha we stopped at an elephant camp to feed banana’s to a baby Elephant. I love love love Elephants but especially baby ones they give little kisses!! The one we stopped to see had the cutest little “fro” it was so spiky! He (well I think it was a he) was really clever too, he could smell bananas wherever you had them, he would find them.. We made sure to give some of the Mama and Papa elephants some bananas too. Again I encourage people not to follow our foot steps.
After our cuddle with the elephant we headed off to see the Chalong Wats (temples) aka Buddhist temples. There are about 29 Buddhist temples around Phuket. The temples in Chalong are open to Locals and tourists. The temples are decorated beautifully, most are covered with bits of glass or mirrors and they shine and shimmer in the sun. You are able to go in and have a look in the temples but make sure to wear appropriate clothing, no shorts or clothing that shows too much skin (especially relevant for the girls, no short shorts, singlet tops, bikini tops etc). It is suggested to wear long pants (cotton pants generally breathe better) and make sure to take your shoes off when entering. There are small markets/stall around the temples where you can buy things, touristy souvenirs, food, drinks even coconuts. Inside one of the main temples there were many statues of Buddha’s and hundreds of Lotus flowers. It’s beautiful how the Thai people take such pride in their culture and religion, the temples are a work of art!
Next we were onto “Monkey Hill” aka Toe Sae Hill. Sadly we didn’t encounter any monkeys, apparently there are usually about 400 Macaques on any given day.
Our private Phuket island tour experience with Daj was great, he was able to take us to see everything we wanted and more! There was a few times, where we found a bit of a language barrier which we didn’t expect, 90% of the reviews we had read about him said he had fantastic English, we would have called it “moderate” English but he was still easy to communicate with. We weren’t able to “chat” with him socially, but he knew all the questions most tourists would ask. He wasn’t exactly a guide, more of a driver, he takes you to the touristy spots and then leaves you to your own accord until you are ready to move onto the next place. It wasn’t an issue though, and we had a great time!
If you would like to enjoy a Phuket Tour you can contact Daj on the below details –
DAJ: ( Driver)
The price for our Phuket Island Tour was 1,800 Baht, for 2 people (please keep in mind his pricing may have gone up). This is a great value for a full day of driving around. Taking into consideration it costs about 600 Baht to get from Rawai to Patong via tuk tuk, which if converted into AUD it’s only about $60. This is approx. the cost to get from Sydney CBD to the airport in peak hour traffic.