Visiting Phuket, Thailand: The Land of Smiles.
Thailand is a place of surpassing beauty, offering you a warm welcome, new experiences and an affordable way to expand your travel horizons. Formerly the kingdom of Siam, Thailand not only features breathtaking beaches but also vibrant sights and a rich, fascinating culture.
A Snapshot of Phuket.
The largest island in Thailand, Phuket lies in the southern part of the nation. It is approximately 30 miles north to south and 13 miles east to west. Forested mountains cover nearly three-fourths of Phuket, and its main agricultural products are rubber and palm oil. Fabulous sandy beaches line the west coast of the island. Most of the eastern shoreline tends to be less attractive to travelers.
Getting to Phuket.
Phuket boasts an international airport with direct flights from such Asian and European points of origin as India, Malaysia and Germany. Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines are some of the major carriers offering flights to Phuket.
Traveling from a U.S. city.
If you are traveling from a U.S. city, you face hours of travel time and at least one plane change, so you need baggage that is stylish yet rugged. The Swiss Gear 7330 27″ Expandable Hardside Spinner Luggage in teal or slate cement is not only distinctive with its sleek, slim profile but also features ABS construction.
This hard luggage is designed to withstand the inevitable jostling as baggage handlers transport it between cargo holds as you change planes. More importantly perhaps, the interior of the Hardside Spinner from Swiss Gear is engineered to keep all your belongings in place with zippered pockets and tie down straps, helping to ensure that your vacation clothing arrives as neatly as you originally packed it.
If you are touring Phuket via rental car, you will appreciate the compact profile of the 26″ hardside spinner, and if cargo space is tight, the smaller 7330 19″ Expandable Hardside Spinner Luggage from Swiss Gear provides a great, space-saving alternative, especially if you prefer to pack light.
Featuring the same rugged construction, secure interior design and 360-degree maneuverability, the 19″ Expandable Spinner Luggage is great as a standalone or a companion piece to the 26″ model. You may even decide to bring the two-piece luggage set so you have space to pack some souvenirs of your Thailand trip.
What You Need to Know for Your Visit.
Thailand has its own unique culture that differs in a few key ways from what you might be used to, so here are some tips that will help make your visit go more smoothly:
- When visiting religious buildings, wear modest clothing such as a top with sleeves and pants or a skirt that extend below the knees. Also, remove your shoes and hat before entering a Buddhist temple or a mosque.
- The standard greeting in Thailand is the “wai,” putting your palms together as you would in prayer. Typically, the younger person would make the gesture first, then the elder.
- When you go shopping, visit someone’s home or go out to eat, check beside the door, and if there are a number of shoes there, that is a good sign that you should remove yours before entering.
- Show your respect for the country and its monarchy by standing when you are present during the national anthem. Also, take care not to step on currency picturing the monarchs.
Sightseeing in Phuket
When you venture out sightseeing in Phuket, be sure to bring along some bottled water so you can stay hydrated in this tropical climate because some of the tap water may be questionable. You may also want to carry along maps, some local currency and your other essentials like your cell phone, which is handy for translating and photos, high-protein snacks and sunglasses.
The Swiss Gear 5888 ScanSmart Backpack is an ideal go-bag for all your Phuket sojourns, plus it doubles as an in-flight carry on. It has a TSA-compatible laptop compartment, a mesh interior cord pocket and stretch water bottle holders.
It’s also a great place to stow your Swiss Gear convertible travel pillow for neck or lower back support on the airplane, tour bus, or in your hotel suite.
You’ll be comfortable wherever the adventure leads with these ergonomically optimized travel pillow and day pack from Swiss Gear.
Must-See Places on the Island
Big Buddha Statue
One of the most spectacular visitor destinations in Phuket is the Big Buddha, a jumbo statue that is highly revered by the locals. Although sited high in the Nakkerd Hills in between Kata and Chalong, this tribute to the ancient religious leader soars to a height of nearly 150, making it visible from the town of Phuket. It is made from white jade marble that reflects sunlight, which adds to the colossal visual impact of the monument. Situated a few miles from Chalong, your transportation will take you within a short walk of the Big Buddha. Be sure to dress in temple-appropriate clothing, and don’t miss the fabulous panoramic view of Phuket Island while you are up there.
Called the most important temple in Phuket, Wat Chalong is also the largest in the region. It dates to the early 1800s. The soaring Chedi building features paintings that depict scenes from the life of Buddha on the interior ceilings and walls, three floors housing golden statues, and the centerpiece, a bone shard said to be from Buddha himself. The ornate central temple is the place where Thais bring offerings of lotus flowers and gold paper to clad the statues within. If you hear a loud bang, chances are it is from a firecracker someone lit to celebrate a wish that has been granted.
Weekend Night Market in Phuket
Set aside a Friday or Saturday evening to spend shopping, eating and people watching at the Weekend Night Market, which is just outside of Phuket town near the Naka Temple. You can mingle with the locals, score some authentic souvenirs, purchase clothing and sample all sorts of freshly made food from sweet treats to fried insects. Savvy shoppers arrive in the afternoon before the crowds gather.
Tour the Tiger Kingdom
The Phuket Tiger Kingdom, located in the center region of the island, offers you the chance to see these majestic cats up close while picking up some interesting tiger facts you may not have known. The striped residents are born and raised in captivity, and you can elect to purchase a 10-minute encounter with the big cat of your choice. Two restaurants overlook some of the Kingdom’s residents, and you can shop for souvenirs at the facility’s gift shop. The gates are open every day of the year, even during monsoon season.
Phuket has 30 or so beaches. If you need help deciding how to divide up your time, the following spots are a few you definitely shouldn’t miss on your Thailand trip.
Fall in love with the soft, smooth sands and stately palms of Kata Beach, located along the island’s lovely west coastline. About 10 miles from the town of Phuket, this laid-back, family-friendly strand invites you to test the crystalline, temperate waters and relax in the sun. If you crave more privacy, try nearby Kata Noi. Daily buses run from Phuket, and you will find restaurants just down the beach. A variety of shops offer such Thailand-themed souvenirs as elephant figures, silk fabrics and Phuket T-shirts.
This spectacular white-sand strand gives off a quiet and exclusive vibe that is perfect for vacation time. Access is limited, so you must either arrive by boat or a steep footpath. Freedom Beach is not as commercial as some of the other seaside spots on Phuket, but there is a nearby restaurant. Be sure to bring along your small essentials such as sunscreen, sunglasses, eye drops, hand wipes and lip balm in your Swiss Gear 2612 Dopp Kit, a handy, handsome zippered pouch with a zip-away bottom compartment that separates liquids like mouthwash from the other contents. Interior mesh pockets keep your personal items organized for easy access.
If you are up for a more active day, try Paradise Beach, a sheltered cove near Patong featuring an outcropping that divides it into two sections. Shady palm trees spread their fronds above the soft sands, providing shelter when you want some quiet time out of the sun, and a variety of beach side shops, bars and eateries offer popular diversions.
Nai Harn Beach
You can see more of the island while setting out for a day at the beach when you head to Nai Harn on the island’s south end. The soft sand borders a sheltered bay, and a sizeable lake just behind this beach offers more recreational options. Nai Harn has lifeguards on duty, and the beach slopes gently into the turquoise water, so it is child-friendly. You can rent stand-up paddle boards nearby, or if you happen to go on a windy day, you can try your hand at kite surfing.
Phuket, Thailand presents a wonderful alternative to more traditional vacation getaways, giving you a glimpse of an unfamiliar culture, a taste of exotic foods and the chance to kick back and relax too. You can opt to take a guided tour or venture out and explore on your own, but you need not worry about running short of things to see and do.