Phuket – beyond the beaches

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A beach in Phuket

Beaches, parties, resorts, festivals, food – Phuket has all the makings of a terrific holiday destination! The rain-forested region is one of Thailand’s most-visited – and largest – islands while the 30 or so smaller islands nearby offer travelers quick escapes from the touristy scene. If you are in Phuket, make sure you take time out from bumming at the beach to take in these wonderful sights!

Fun, frolic and a touch of the macabre!

Thailand as a whole is a festival-filled country and Phuket does not lag behind. Attending these events is a great way to get an insight into the culture. One of the most intriguing festivals is the Vegetarian Festival, a nine-day event where Chinese faithfuls abstain from meat to bring peace and health. It is not a sight for the weak-hearted, however, as you will witness gruesome acts like self-mutilation! If such sights fascinate rather than frighten you, be there to see the rituals from 8-17 October.

Vegetarian Festival in Phuket

Thao Thepkasattri – Thao Sri Suntorn Festival is a far less macabre event. Two weeks of cultural and sporting activities are spread over the Thalang area with the biggest highlight being the historical show. You will see Phuket’s history traced through a splendid open-air enactment at Thalang Victory Memorial Field, complete with stunning light and sound effects.

If you have ever witnessed Loi Krathong, the Chao Le Boat Floating Festival will seem familiar. It is observed by sea gypsies to chase away evil and usher in good luck. On a clear night with boats set afloat and locals dancing to the rhythms of traditional musical instruments, the festival takes on a magical note and you feel part of the rich culture.

Revelry at Phuket Boat Floating Festival

Come April and the air hums with the roar of hundreds of bikes. It is the Phuket Bike Festival, one of the largest bike gatherings in Asia that BECKONS you to be a part of it. The highways come alive and the island takes on a huge party atmosphere with exhibitions, concerts, and a ride for peace to promote unity among riders. Head to Patong Beach and Phuket Boat Lagoon to see the main attractions.

The bike festival coincides with Thailand’s New Year, Songkran (13-15 April), so you can imagine just how festive it gets! It is a veritable water war with revelers shooting each other with water guns. Patong’s Bangla Road descends into happy chaos as merrymakers spread cheer so that even the most reserved folks cannot help but indulge their inner child!

Marbled giants and fascinating temples

If there is only one thing that Phuket could be identified by, it would be the colossal marble statue of Big Buddha on Nakkerd Hills. At 45 meters tall, it can be seen from virtually anywhere in Phuket’s south side and the views from here are amazing. 360-degree vistas of Rawai, Phuket Town, Karon and Chalong Bay offer you perfect opportunities to whip out your camera and capture as many panoramic shots as possible. Try to go early in the morning when the crowds are thin and the temperature is pleasant.

The Big Buddha marble statue in Phuket

Most Thais are Buddhists and you get a sense of this when you enter the country. Wats or Buddhist temples are everywhere, including Phuket. Smack in Phuket Town is Wat Khao Rang. The Buddha image was once the largest big Buddha on the island before Nakkerd Hills was graced by the gigantic one today. From here, you can make your way to Thalang to see Wat Phra Thong and the half-buried golden Buddha. It is believed that anyone who tries to dig it out is cursed, which is why it has been left as it is.

Phuket’s large Chinese community has a strong presence, one that is revealed by beautiful shrines with heavy dragon and lion symbolism. Jui Tui and Kathu shrines are a two that you need to visit, especially during the Vegetarian Festival as they attract hundreds of devotees.

Jui Tui Chinese Shrine, Phuket

Phuket may be known the world over for its great beach scene but there is so much more to it. If you love sprinkling tropical vacations with culture and history, there is no better place than this gem of an island in the Andaman Sea.

Image courtesy: Pixabay, phuket.com, and tourismthailand.org

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