Lessons I learned in Phuket

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

I HAD been to Thailand several times, but mostly in Bangkok. So when I learned that a workshop was to be held in Phuket, I was excited. After all, it is one of Thailand's tourist destinations.

It was past 3 in the afternoon when we left Manila on our way to Bangkok. The travel time was more than three hours. I had to check in again since I was flying in a different plane on my way to Phuket.

I arrived very late in the evening in Phuket. I immediately went to Carousel 1 where the passengers could get their luggage. Almost everyone had already taken theirs but I could not find mine. When I checked-in Manila, I was told that I could pick up my luggage at Phuket since it was already tagged.


I was already disappointed; what would I wear during my lecture (which was scheduled in the early morning the following day). Just when I thought I wouldn't be able to bring my luggage to my hotel, an airport personnel came. He asked for my boarding pass. After seeing it, he said, Yours is international flight; come follow me."

Yes, I got my luggage. It was in Carousel No. 3. Which means that if you are flying in an international flight, your luggage is not included in the domestic flight.

Here's another lesson you need to know, although I didn't experience it since I have already booked a hotel where I would be staying. There are minibuses at the airport, which can bring you to the place where you want to go. It is cheaper by hiring a taxi. Just bear in mind thought that they don't leave until they're full.

Here's the information I get from a travel agency: "Don't be surprised if the minibuses will stop at a travel agent about halfway to the area where you are going. They'll ask everyone to get out (you don't have to) and then they'll ask you where you're staying, and they'll try to sell you a hotel. You're not obligated to use the hotels they push. Just say you already booked a hotel, and tell them the name. They will inform the driver, and he/she will drop you off at the hotel. This is a little annoying, but it's over in 10 minutes, and you're on your way again. Any travel agent can arrange a minibus ride for the way back to the airport."
Lesson number three is that Phuket may be an island but you don't feel like it is an island at all. It's so huge; it is after all Thailand's biggest island. Approximately 863 kilometers south of Bangkok, it covers an area 210 square miles, excluding small islets.

Phuket nestles in balmy Andaman Sea waters on Thailand's Indian Ocean coastline. In the past, Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoyed a rich and colorful history. History records showed the island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign trader's ship logs.
But times have changed. Today, tourism is its top earner. So, don't be surprised if the prices are higher compared to that in Bangkok. My friend, Imelda Abano, ordered a canned soft drink and was billed 150 baht. A beer costs 210 baht. Prices of foods are even higher!
I really didn't have much time to explore Phuket. Sorry, but I wasn't able to visit WatChalong, the most-visited temple on the island. The temple is associated with three revered monks of Luang Por Chaem, renowned herbal doctors and settlers of bones.

I also didn't have the opportunity of going to Phuket Town, which reportedly features an exciting mix of old and new, simple and sophisticated, peaceful and pulsating. The night markets offer exceptional shopping opportunities.

What I really want to visit is the Phuket FantaSea, a nighttime fun-for-all entertainment complex. Dubbed as the world's first Thai cultural theme park, it offers a highly entertaining and spectacular theatrical show (think of 30 elephants!), a colorful shopping street full of games and carnivals -- and more!

But I was still lucky since I stayed at the hotel located in the heart of Laguna Phuket, Asia's finest destination resort. Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket is a sanctuary of tranquility shaded by native casuarinas and coconut palms. Gentle breezes waft through the vaulted ceilings of the open-air lobby, carrying the sound of breaking waves from the adjacent Bang Tao beach.

The hotel also offers unrivaled dining experiences in Phuket, from Italian delicacies to authentic Royal Thai cuisine, from poolside dining to beachfront barbecue. Its Laguna Cafe has a sumptuous breakfast buffet selection.

A ten-minute walk away from the hotel, you can find restaurants and souvenir shops. So one afternoon, after a day's workshop, Imelda and I went out. We found a place where we had our shopping spree -- for our pasalubong.

Lesson No. 4: Buy what you want to bring since you cannot buy them at the airport. There are few items you can buy at the Phuket Airport. I was glad I bought them when we went out one afternoon.

Yes, I know I will be back in Phuket. I still have to explore the island. I need to visit Phi Phi Island, located 48 kilometers southeast of Phuket. The island is said to be encircled by water so clear that you can see almost the seabed from the surface.

Another one I missed on my first trip: PhangNga Bay, a seascape described as both "bizarre and beautiful." The bay is thought to have been formed about 12,000 years ago when a dramatic rise in sea level flooded the summits of the local mountain ranges.


Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 26, 2014.


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