Exploring Phuket: The heart of the dragon

Phuket 2

Perhaps the evenings are what captivate me the most, when the heart of the island basks in the falling light. People hurry home from work on their motorbikes, picking up food from the market on their way. No tourists can be seen, save by the hostels and Western style bars, but they are few surrounding the Thai haunts that I like to frequent.

Every night my daughter and I take a walk from our home in Phuket Town to a local café we have become accustomed to frequenting on a daily basis. Our walk is filled with magical stops where she points out a house shrine or perhaps a stone dragon outside an internet café. We say hello to the chickens and other birds we find on our path, as well as some fish that swim in the flower pot outside the bank. We savour the simple, magic filled moments that are what make Phuket special to me.

Perhaps I have blinders on but here in the heart of the dragon, you won’t find throngs of tourists like in Patong or Kata. You find authentic Thai food and no fancy hotel style cocktails. Sure you will see some souvenir shops selling knick knacks and Baba influenced clothing that the random backpacker or lost farang look at, but that’s about it. Those of us expats who live here are the odd ones that have lost much of our original culture and do our best to avoid being treated like a clueless tourist. We know our neighbors and where the best places are to eat. We do our best to learn Thai, as bad as our pronunciation may be.

And most of us don’t like Patong whatsoever.

I completely understand why the well traveled soul dislikes Phuket as they equate it with Patong, the Disneyland of the island. Even Chalong is becoming oversaturated with foreigners, as are Rawai and Naiharn. But even in the apparently tourist heavy parts you can still find Thais, many of whom commute to Phuket Town to work and shop.

Phuket 3Here’s the deal: Phuket has a unique culture and in order to experience this Thai and Chinese influenced spirit, you simply leave the tourist traps and go to other places, such as Jui Tui Shrine or Saphan Hin. Instead of going to a farang bar, copy the Thais by buying a few Leos and heading to the park or Chalong Pier to sit by the water and watch the late night fishing while listening to Thai rock blaring from someone’s phone. Sabai Sabai to the max.

Instead of going to Starbucks, maybe head to the infamous Kopi De Phuket for a coffee and tea fusion popular with the locals. Maybe seeing a bunch of drunk people super soaker eachother is also not your cup of tea ( I won’t judge you) so instead check out the Vegetarian Festival in October.  You’ll love the ceremonies and come home sober.

Thai cuisine may be synonymous with Bangkok street food ( and for good reasons) but you’ll still find reasonably priced, delectable Southern dishes in Phuket. I take pride in avoiding Western fast food restaurants ( which mind you are actually more expensive here than Thai food) and pick up something from the local Thai market, such as gang som pla or a quick khai jiaw doused with prik nam pla.

I’ve tried to leave Phuket a number of times, convincing myself that perhaps Bangkok or Krabi would be best for us. So far our moves have proven unsuccessful and we still remain proud Phuketians, savoring simplicity and avoiding the tourists while slowly but surely finding our place within this culture.


E.K. Bradley is a travel writer and photographer stalking chefs in Phuket. She writes about family travel on Sattvic Family and shares her culinary escapades on Epic Wanderings.

Posted by | Comments Off on Exploring Phuket: The heart of the dragon  | March 16, 2014
Category: Asia

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