Phuket Is Now Open for International Travellers – Here’s Anantara’s Top 10 Things to See and Do
For decades Phuket has been one of the most popular island destinations in Thailand, attracting millions of visitors each year. With the disappearance of international tourists for the last 18 months the island’s stunning beaches have once again become pristine, the azure waters teeming with an abundance of sea life and the surrounding islands rejuvenated with lush greenery unseen before. Now the island is ready to welcome back visitors from around the world from July 1st and Anantara has put together a top ten unmissable things to experience on a visit to Phuket.
Go on a walk-through history. Phuket has come a long way from its beginnings as a tin-mining settlement, but with a little imagination you can almost see the merchants of yore arraying goods inside the ornate Sino-Portuguese shophouses in Phuket Town. Converted into trendy restaurants, guesthouses and boutique hotels, they have since received a new lease on life; many restored to their former glory.
Insta-float amongst giant lilies. If you like your nature to come with a side of strange and unusual, you will love the Ma Doo Bua café. A must-visit destination for botanists and Instagrammers alike, this lakeside eatery is home to a colony of giant water lilies strong enough to hold the weight of a child (or a very light adult).
A bridge to the heart. Ask any older resident of Phuket and they will recount the story of the island’s very own Romeo and Juliet who met their untimely end on the Sarasin Bridge. Connecting the mainland of Phuket and Phang Nga in southern Thailand, the bridge opened in 1967 and is considered by some, the most beautiful bridge in the country. In 1987 it entered the collective memory when the tragic romance between two young lovers was made into a film titled "Saphan Rak Sarasin" (Sarasin, The Bridge of Love). Whether you come here to reflect on life, love or have a photo shoot at the pretty pergola overlooking the river, Sarasin Bridge is guaranteed to make an impact.
Tipple on the island’s own rum. To explore a more contemporary side of Phuket, head to the award-winning Chalong Bay Rum Distillery. Plan to spend a few hours here as you tour the facilities learning the centuries-old French technique of using copper stills, before joining a cocktail-making workshop centred on Chalong Bay’s pure sugarcane juice rum. Distilled and bottled in Phuket and packed with local botanicals, it skillfully showcases the terroir of the island.
Experience local life. Koh Panyee is a small fishing village built on stilts a 20-minute longtail boat ride from the main island. The local Muslim community are always welcoming and ready to show you around their unique home in the shallow waters. The floating village has a school, a mosque, small souvenir shops, and restaurants. The community are also football mad and have their very own floating football stadium and their love of the game has made them one of Southern Thailand’s best football teams.
See gibbons ethically. Gibbons were poached to the brink of extinction in Phuket’s jungle over 40 years ago. Today, they are illegally kept as pets or used as props in tourist photos feeding the demand for baby gibbons. But there is a way to engage with these gorgeous creatures in an ethical way. Phuket’s Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, a research division of the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand (WARF), rescues gibbons and rehabilitates them so that they can be reintroduced into their natural habitat. Visit the centre to learn about the work the centre is doing, as well as observing the animals at the designated viewing areas.
Shop till you drop. Phuket’s famous Sunday Walking Street Market on old Thalang Road has something for everyone from secondhand goods, clothes, souvenirs and the best part of it is the amazing array of local food to sample. Even if you aren’t looking to buy, the electric atmosphere and historic setting is guaranteed to charm.
Get back to nature. Take a hike to the island’s last virgin rainforest Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. The rainforest is known for its wide array of birds and wildlife, but the main attraction is the Bang Pae waterfall offering a cool spot to swim after a long hike.
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