At 30,000 feet above the ground, everything looks dramatically small and different. You get a true bird’s eye view of the world beneath you. That isometric view of the land where you’re going pumps up the excitement and joy of traveling. When I saw a glimpse of Phuket from my airplane window shortly after the pilot had begun to descend, I was no different. The islands scattered across the sea and sand color of the beaches that surround pretty much all of Phuket prepared me for the week ahead that I was about to spend exploring them!
This was during my journey to Phuket, an island in Thailand that is surrounded by beautiful beaches and mountainous roads. I took a week-long trip in April as part of a team meet up for the company that I work for. While the main purpose of the trip was team building and socializing with the colleagues whom I do not get to meet very often, it also came with the opportunity to explore in and around Phuket, a popular tourist destination in Thailand.
The week in Phuket, Thailand
Shortly after landing at Phuket International Airport, I cleared customs and purchased a local SIM card. I also rented a car so that I could drive around in Phuket. As a driving enthusiast, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to drive in Thailand. So I rented a Toyota Yaris from one of the local rental companies and drove toward the hotel.
We stayed in Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort which is located some 30 km from the airport. The drive from the airport to the hotel was a breeze. The wide-open highway in Phuket was a pleasure to drive on. Especially coming from the irritating and congested city traffic in Dhaka, the Thai highways were like heaven. Shortly after, we took a right turn into a two-lane road that became a very windy mountainous road with tons of corners and climbs. Enjoying the drive to the fullest, I arrived at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort.
We started sightseeing around the afternoon when the sun was low on the horizon. To my disappointment, it was really hot and humid in Phuket. But that didn’t stop us from going out to the nearest beach called Kamala Beach.
Kamala Beach is pretty beautiful. On one side, you have the pedestrian walkway, on the other, you have the beach. You take which route you want to stroll through. And undoubtedly, we took the sandy beach and walked as much of the beach as we could before stopping and watching the sun go down over the horizon.
Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort
(Click and drag your mouse to view the panoramic photo above)
The next day, after the initial excitement thinned out a bit, I was out exploring the place that I was staying at. The hotel was very nicely decorated. The rooms are scattered across many small buildings, and there were no lifts anywhere in the hotel. They have some small battery-powered ‘buggies’ that take the guests up to their buildings. It was fun for a while, but after that, it got tiring.
Perhaps the hotel’s best feature was the location of the pool. This large pool is situated in a way that blends the edge of the pool with the ocean view that is right across the street. The street cannot be seen so you always walk past — or sit down — by the pool and feel as if the pool is blended into the ocean.
The hotel also offered a breakfast buffet. The food item is varied ranging from various toasts, doughnuts, chicken sausage, etc to sliced watermelon, pineapple, papaya, and bananas. There’s also a wide variety of fruit juice for you to choose from from the refrigerator.
The rooms at the hotel were also very gorgeous. My room had a large glass door overlooking trees and the ocean into the distance. There was also a private pool right outside the balcony door. However, due to the hot weather, I didn’t end up going to that pool which now feels like a waste.
Food in Phuket
In Phuket, food is cheap and varied. You can find almost any kind of food that you want — from pizza to the heavy meals such as Indian biriyani or steak. You just have to know where to go for it.
We went to various places for food across Phuket. We went to an Italian pizza place near the hotel. We went to an Indian restaurant for some ‘deshi’ food. We also went to Burger King to have some burgers.
In general, there are all kinds of restaurants that you can go to. Especially if you head to Patong beach which was some 8.6 km from our hotel, there is every kind of restaurant that you want to try out.
Other places in Phuket
Because the majority of the time in Phuket was spent in the conference room with our colleagues, the time we spent outside sightseeing Phuket was during the dinner. But we also had a dedicated activity day when we out to visit some of the places we wanted to see.
Our group was broken into two segments. One went out to ‘island hopping’ which is a boat ride into multiple islands across Phuket. I didn’t go there as the weather was too hot. I opted to drive around Phuket and see places instead. So, we ended up visiting some of the memorable places in Phuket.
The Big Buddha in Phuket is one of the places that you must visit if you’re there. It was a long, uphill drive from the city. The roads were mountainous, narrow, and took sharp upward turns. I didn’t have previous experience driving in such winding roads, but I did have experience driving in Dhaka, which means I could drive anywhere in the world! After a long climb, we approached the Big Buddha which gave us a spectacular view of Phuket and its surrounding ocean and islands.
Despite the hot weather, it was so windy up there that we could barely feel the sun on our face. I didn’t want to leave that place because it was so beautiful and cool.
Next, we went to visit what’s called the Tiger Kingdom. This is like a zoo, except that there are only tigers in there, and you can take pictures with them. No, not you and the tiger separately, but you can touch the tiger and take pictures as if the tiger was a pet cat!
It costs money and the price varies depending on what size of the tiger you want to take a photo with. None of fancied a photo with a real, live tiger, so we went in just to see them in their habitat.
A couple of us went to the Go Karting that is situated right beside the Tiger Kingdom. It’s also a great place to visit if you are into racing.
We also visited this large shopping mall called Jungceylon. It’s also a must-visit place in Phuket. It’s near Patong Beach. If you go to Phuket, you can’t miss Patong Beach. Not just for its beautiful scenery, but also because Patong Beach is where the Thai nightlife is. You’ll hear a lot of music, see great restaurants, and there are also tons of stores if you want to do some shopping while you’re there.
Phuket is an island which means there are beaches on all sides. We didn’t have as much time to explore more of Phuket, and I certainly wasn’t satisfied because I wanted to drive and see more of Phuket. That means I’ll have to go again soon, rent a car, and drive through the rest of the beautiful roads that Phuket has to offer!
Visa, cost, and accommodation
From Dhaka, Bangladesh, you can apply for a tourist visa through VFS Global. Their website has all the information you need to gather the required documents and apply for the visa. There are travel agents that you can apply through as well, but I opted to apply for myself. It takes only 7 days to get a visa from Royal Thai Embassy in Dhaka.
My flights were booked through a company website and I flew Malaysia Airlines. But if you book well in advance and fly to Bangkok, you may get a much cheaper airfare through Bangladeshi airlines like US-Bangla Airlines and Regent Airways. The cheapest I could find for a round trip from Dhaka to Bangkok was 18,000 Taka. You then need to add another roundtrip flight to Phuket from Bangkok.
The airfare is the costliest of the entire trip. Everything else in Thailand is super cheap. If you don’t opt for a five-star hotel, you can find accommodation in Phuket really cheap. Getting around and food prices aren’t high either. If you search online, you’ll find that Thailand is known for being cheap no matter what you want to do — stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant, or rent a car to drive yourself like I did.
In the end, the short trip to Thailand was full of memorable and fun experience for me. But I’m sure I’ll be going back there to drive some more and enjoy more sceneries. Of course, I’ll have to pick a good time of year when the weather isn’t hot and humid. But once I do, I’m sure I’ll be back on the plane looking down at that beautiful isometric view of Thailand waiting to land and start exploring!