Phuket is a beautiful place to holiday with friends, family or your partner. 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 check out Tripadvisor forum list of drivers and tour companies for a suggestion of friendly locals who can take you around to see the sights.
Personally I recommendation is a company called Phuket Let’s go – “No petty shop stops to slow you down! Only must-see attractions that are culturally and historically significant to Phuket island. Lead by fun & informative English-speaking tour guide. Local rum tasting at the end of the tour is included.” We didn’t do the below tour with Phuket lets go however we took a different tour with them and would recommend their services.
***Updated October 2017***
We decided to get a local private driver to show us around, he took us on a full day tour and below is our Phuket island tour itinerary.
- Rawai Beach
- Windmill Point
- Karon Viewpoint/Kata Viewpoint
- Big Buddha
- Elephant kisses
- Wat Chalong and Phuket Temples
- Monkey Hill in Phuket Town
- Cashew factory
- Old Phuket Town
- Wat Khao Rang
- Kathu Waterfall
- Promthep Cape (for Sunset)
First stop was Rawai Beach/pier, It was high tide and there were lots of Long tail boats in the water along very long pier, waiting for someone to come along to hire them … maybe for a private island tour (bookmarked for another day). 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 wandered through the first shop and saw a HUGE pile of shells that the shop must have stock piled and then cleaned and sold 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. They sold little things from necklaces and other bits of jewellery to lamp covers and large ornament.
A short way down the road from Rawai beach and Promthep Cape (we will come back here later) 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, however it’s also a smaller area so it might feel just as crowded.
Karon Viewpoint/Kata Viewpoint
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 and like most tourists, we were fascinated and stopped to take some photos with it, It was interesting to see a bird like this up so close. However don’t be silly like we were, make sure you do your research about animal tourism in Thailand, I would not encourage (or recommend) that anyone takes photos with animals…I want to warn people while it’s fun when you’re on holiday, think of the animals and 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 2017) it was still being built. You could buy a small tile and donate money towards its construction, The Big Buddha is built on donations, hence why it has taken so long to build. The whole body of the Big Buddha is made out of white Burmese marble (the tiles for sale). 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 when visiting this site, however sarongs are provided at the entry to cover up and they are free of charge, you just need to return it at the end of your trip to the Big Buddah. There were several types of Buddha statues within this complex, 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, we were a little uneducated on my first trip to Thailand.
Wat Chalong and Phuket Temples
The Chalong Wats (temples) aka Buddhist temples, keeping in mind that there are about 29 Buddhist temples around Phuket, some of the temples are not open to tourists however the temples in Chalong are open to locals and tourists. The temples are decorated beautifully, mostly 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’s suggested to wear long pants (cotton pants generally breathe better) and make sure to take your shoes off when entering – again you can borrow a sarong at the entry of temples. There are small markets/stall around the temples where you can buy touristy souvenirs, food, drinks even whole coconuts. Inside one of the main temples are a heap of statues of Buddha 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! You can see the Big Buddha from one of the larger temples (the top floor).
Another temple i’d recommend if you have time is Wat Khao Rang it is significantly quieter than other temples in Phuket.
Monkey Hill in Phuket Town
Monkey Hill aka Toe Sae Hill. We saw quite a lot of monkeys along the side of the road – personally i was a little scared of being bitten by one – no one wants rabies!! We got out the car, took a quick photos and got the heck out of there! Apparently there are usually about 400 Macaques on any given day and just as many dogs!! Don’t feed the monkeys or the dogs as they can become aggressive.
Depending who you speak you, some people might say that the cashew factory is a scam like most “shopping” places on tours in Phuket however we choose to go there to check it out and bring back some goodies.
You can learn about where cashew nuts come from and watch a lady show how they are extracted and then wander around the shop and try the cashew testers. Its not really a factory anymore, more of a shop.
Old Phuket Town
Old Phuket town is really interesting, most of the houses are based on old colonial style houses, our guide told us that the housing in this area was based on European influences. On Sunday evenings there are also street markets where it’s possible to taste local foods. Generally this part of Phuket is fairly quiet and not too busy with locals or tourists. However the ships are very expensive compared to other areas in Phuket. The colourful buildings are worth a trip – we just drove through.
If you need a quick dip to cool off from a long day of driving our Phuket then make a stop at Kathu Waterfall, however there are a few hundred steps to get to the waterfall but it’s worth it trust me. Keep an eye out for the (hand size) spiders on the way up…. not something you want to walk to!
Promthep Cape (Best spot for Sunset)
The very popular Promthep Cape viewpoint, is the perfect spot to watch sunset. You have to walk up a few small flights of stairs to get to the actual viewpoint. The scenery from Promthep Cape is lovely! As it’s such a spot post, it’s usually very crowded so maybe going when we did, during the day would have been a better choice, however it was worth sticking around! Make sure to get there maybe an hour to 45 minutes before sunset to get a good spot.
The best thing about hiring a private driver is that the day goes on your plans and you can take as long or as little time you want at the different sites.
The price for our Phuket Island Tour was 2,000 Baht, for 2 people (please keep in mind his pricing may change depending who you go through). 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.
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