Phuket / by Dario Branco

Maybe the way I traveled across Thailand was not the best one, meaning starting in Bangkok, go to Chiang Mai, back to Bangkok to get to Phuket and finish again in Bangkok. But it was the cheapest way and more efficient I found.

Now that I had experienced Chiang Mai it was time to get to Phuket. It was also time to be on my own. My friend had decided to visit Cambodia instead. I was a bit jealous but i don't regret staying in Thailand.


As i said in the beginning, i had to get back to Bangkok to catch a flight to Phuket so once again it was time to go on the night train. For some reason this time they didn't give me dinner. When i went to complain no one tried to solve the problem. To be honest i don't think they understood. There was one staff member that after some time gave me some rice with some meat but it wasn't a full meal and it wasn't what i wanted. Luckily i had a few snacks i bought earlier in Bumrung Buri Market. That aside it was a pleasant trip. 

Next step getting to the airport, check in and enjoy the flight. Overall it was a 24 hours trip. 

Once in Phuket, i was happy that i had booked a transfer from the airport. The traffic to get in and out is crazy and is not clear where to go if i needed some kind of transportation. Even with the transfer service, i had to wait 20min for the driver to be able to park the car. Also is worth saying that it takes around 1 hour by car to get from the airport to the main beaches.

With all this done and checked in the Hostel, time to relax on the beach. I decided to get away from the big crowds and stay in a quiet place. Kata Beach was the perfect place for that. Big beach, not to crowded, clear hot blue water and amazing sunset. Touristic as hell but much less crazy then Patong Beach.

Now imagine, after 24 hours traveling, getting your towel, take a small walk on the beach and getting your feet wet in hot clear blue water. It felt like heaven. As soon as i entered the water i didn't want to get out. One of the best moments in my life.

But as usual, i am not much for staying too long getting sunburned so i went back to explore the town. There is not much to see and do in Kata Beach compared to some other beaches in Phuket. To get from Kata beach to any other place either i had to go on a Tuk Tuk, a local bus, rent a scooter or get a transfer service. The cheapest way is to get on the bus. I didn't get into one but i know they are quite inexpensive. The problem is that there is no fixed schedule. The most efficient way is to rent a scooter. It cost 200Baht for a full day. Because i don't drive this was something i missed doing. Not for the thrill of driving but to get from one place to another cheaper and efficient. As for the Tuk Tuk, it depends on where i was going. The two times i took one i paid 800Baht. Once to Patong Beach and the other to get to the Big Buddha statue. In the second one, i had to bargain because the driver was asking 1000Bhat. My suggestion is to rent a scooter and go all around the island. All you need to worry is the fuel.

Moving on, i got to experience an amazing sunset in Kata Beach before meeting an old friend that hosted me in Glasgow almost four years ago. She is a traveler and it was pure coincidence and luck that we were able to meet. We spent a few hours together eating and checking the streets of Patong beach.


At this moment she is still traveling through Asia so follow her adventures on Facebook and Instagram. She is going to make you go as well with her photos. 

Back to Patong. Insanity is how i would describe it. I wasn't in the mood for partying but if i was i would be here for sure. I have no photos of it because all my gear was recharging. I also didn't stay long because at 6 am i had a tour to Phang Nga Bay National Park.

This was another one of my "bucket list items" i wanted to cross. First as a traveler and then as a photographer. I wanted to do snorkel for as long as i remember seeing it when i was a kid. I also wanted to swim with tropical fish.

As i said before, i booked everything before going but even if i didn't it would be easy to find a place to book it. After some research, i ended up booking it via Viator

For starters, our guide was hilarious. He named our group the Blue sexy group. We first went to the marina where they gave us breakfast and tell us more or less what we will be doing. After a posing for photos, it was finally time to get on the way. It was going to be a long day.

First stop: Koh Khai Nai. This small island in overcrowded with tourists. With that said me and a few members of the group decided to ignore the tour guide advice and go swim close to the big rocks and away from the crowd. This ended up being the best decision because further away from the beach was where we could watch the fish and be among them. We had to be careful because the rocks are sharp and we could get hurt. This is a small island with not a lot to see. You go there, swim, make a few photos, get harassed to buy something and you move on to the next stop. There are a couple of other islands around and maybe have a few more activities. I should mention that they provide the snorkeling masks for free but you can buy your own in the marina.


After snorkeling it was time for Kayak in Koh Panak island. At first, i thought i was the one paddling but we ended up having our own private "driver". He takes us around the caves and the edges of the cliffs, sings Thai songs, shows us a rock that is the shape of an elephant or a penis and we laugh, go to another cave, stops to light a cigar with another "driver" a little further ahead and we are back to the starting point. I was amazed by the landscape but i was more interested in photographing the kayak "drivers".


For lunch, we went to Koh Panyi which is a small Muslim island. From all the places on this day, this was the one i enjoyed the most despite not spending much time there. After lunch i had a few minutes to walk around and photograph the daily life. I could see into their houses because most of them had no front wall. Is apparent that the sea is the main source of income but there are also touristic stores. After walking a little i found the school with the floating soccer field. I wish we would have had more time and a proper guided tour in this island and not stop only for lunch.


To finish the tour we went to James Bond Island. I wasn't expecting much from this place. It is an iconic place but not much to it. You get there walk around, wait for your turn to take the photo that everyone has taken and it is all over. Do i recommend it? Yes If you are doing something meanwhile. Going there just for this spot is not worth it. The most amazing thing for me about this place was seeing how a massive boulder got split in two after the earthquake in 2004.


Back to Kata beach at night, i got lucky because there was a local night market. Well, not so lucky in the end. I had run out of storage on my cards so I decided to buy a new one in this market that ended up not working... Dumb stupid Dário. Of course, it wouldn't work. There was nothing I could do anymore. When I realized it didn't work the guy had already gone away. The good thing was that there was a lot of good food there. Unfortunately, all these photos were on the bad card. Better not think about it and after trying maggots for the first time it was time to rest.

Next day was time for another tour. This time to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

Let me start saying that i wanted to visit an Elephant Sanctuary and although it is easy to find one, it is hard to know if they are really sanctuaries. When i was researching about this i found a lot of people complaining about some sanctuaries and the way they treated the elephants. I also learned what humans do to elephants to ride them. We should not ride Elephants. I wasn't going to be part of it. I then started to research even more and came across the Elephant Nature Park. Wherever I looked, this was the place to go. Unfortunately, it was booked but after talking with a friend that had been there before, she suggested the Elephant Jungle Park in Chiang Mai. Again fully booked so Phuket was my last chance. As soon as we get there we see an adult elephant and by its side, a baby one called Naughty Boy stealing a girl's purse. it was explained to us that is not 100% a sanctuary due to the proximity with the hotels and that sometimes the elephants get too close and break things. A few minutes later it was time to feed them. Although we knew the word for them to open their mouth so we can feed them, they just go for the full bucket. Meanwhile, a Naughty Boy is running around wreaking havoc.


We then go to the mud bath. Elephants use mud to protect themselves against mosquito bites. We were told that is perfect to protect against sunburns so obviously I am getting covered in it as much as possible. Because elephants only sweat from their eyes and their nails they need to cool down in water. We went to bathe with them and all they do is lay down while we, stupid humans, flap around in the water. Did I mention that by this time Naughty Boy is still wreaking havoc? 


We end up all together having amazing Pad Thai and other Thai delicacies. There were still a few minutes left before I go back to Kata Beach so I decide to make a few photos of the people working there.


In the end, the elephants seemed happy and used to humans. The staff seemed to care for the animals. The only thing I would say I didn't like was how many people were there. We were around 50. I am not saying this for my pleasure. I think for the elephants well being they should limit the number of people. And this was the morning tour. They have one more in the afternoon.

To end the day I went to the Big Buddha Statue. I was a little disappointed because it was under construction. I could still get inside and walk a little. After a few minutes walking, I saw a couple going to a monk, getting on their knees and the monk said some prayers and "blessed" them with water and gave them a bracelet. Well, monkey does what monkey sees. There I was getting blessed with water and getting a bracelet. I took the opportunity to make a photo of him as well and although is not obligatory I gave 20Bahts as a donation. 


Once again back to Kata Beach my friend and i got together at Karon View Point. It took me almost one hour to get there because I decided to hike there. For sunsets and relaxing this is a good spot. A few tourists but nothing crazy.


During the night I joined the other travelers on the hostel, had some heated conversations with two British guys while drinking whiskey. Next day woke up earlier then I should and decided to walk on the beach and make some photos.


My experience in Phuket/Kata beach was a very good one. Different from Chiang Mai. While Chiang Mai is more spiritual, Phuket is more touristic. There are a lot of Russians, Australians, and Americans. Sometimes I felt I didn't belong there. In the end, I ended up being more like a tourist than a traveler. And there is nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed myself and the places I went. Still would have loved to know more. For sure I am going back and spend more time exploring Phuket Town and maybe go crazy in Patong Beach.

Next stop: Phi Phi Island