GET LOST! (IN PHUKET)
One of my favourite things to do in Phuket is to hire a scooter and get lost.
Phuket is the largest Island of Thailand and is full of lush rain forest. Being a resort town by the beach, there are lots of activities to keep you occupied. Go Island Hopping, have an elephant ride, shoot some high calibre rifles and guns or just laze around the pool or on the beach. I often avoid organised tours and activities and would rather get out there and go exploring for myself. Phuket is just the right size for a day trip on a scooter. Scooters are a very reasonable price to hire for the day. You can hire one for around 300 Baht or about $10. They call them motorbikes in Thailand, but are really scooters or mopeds. They are easy to ride and have no gears. If you can ride a bicycle, then you can ride a scooter.
Plenty of Motorcycles for Hire in Phuket
For the price of the hire you will get a helmet. Not a motorbike helmet you may be used to, but what I call an upside down ice cream container. It will provide some protection if you unluckily end up in an accident. The local police will pick you up if they spot you riding without one and will require a ‘donation’ to their retirement fund to let you go. I would also recommend shoes and long pants. Not always practical, but as a slogan in Thailand goes: Safety First.
We hired a scooter from the hotel we were staying at. Nice and easy, no forms or ID. We just asked at reception and we were off. I have hired many bikes in Thailand and some places will require your passport and a bond. I am always wary of leaving my passport with strangers, so I have a colour photocopy of my passport on me when hiring. Most places will accept the copy, but some will require a few thousand Baht as a security deposit in lieu of your passport. Make sure you inspect the motorbike well, before you leave. I have heard a few stories of unscrupulous business owners that claim you damaged or scratched the bike when you return and want to charge you for it. If you notice any damage, make sure to point it out before you leave.
We have our bikes and ready to go, the first thing we will need is some fuel. This is easy enough to find, and there are many people selling petrol by the side of the road, usually in old glass whiskey bottles. They charge us for a litre, but the bottles are usually 750 ml and not full to the top, but that’s ok, everyone needs to make a living.
Gasoline for sale
We head south out of Patong beach to see what we can discover. We decide to follow the coast and go beach crawling. Phuket has so many beaches, each with its own unique identity and personality. We bring our swimmers and a towel so we can take a dip in some of the world’s best beaches.
After winding up and around a rainforest mountain, the first beach you will reach is Karon Beach, a strip of sand about five kilometres long, well equipped with beach chairs. As usual there are plenty of water sports like jet skiing or parasailing and the beach is a bit more relaxed than the main Patong Beach. It is also popular amongst snorkelers and it is easy to find a Thai massage operator on the beach.
We leave Karon beach and ride south. We make sure we hug the coast, which means turning right off the main road. The next beach we happen upon is Kata Beach. This is home to some of the more upscale resorts on the Island. Club Med and other boutique resorts snuggled between the beach and main road. A white sand beach with clear waters, it is easy to see the attraction of this place. This sun soaked location is lined with palm trees and a favourite for families. When we were there, the water was dotted with luxury yachts. We stopped off here and had a snack and a fruit shake on the beach, then walked up and down the shoreline.
Still heading south, towards the southern tip of the Island, we find ourselves in lush rainforest again, heading up to the top of a mountain. Here we found the ‘Kata View Point’ a look out here that gives a wonderful vantage point of the beaches we just visited.
A few locals enjoy a beer at the 'Kata View Point' lookout
I nearly got in an argument with a man who had an eagle. I snapped a picture of it and he wanted me to pay him. There were tourists having their photo taken holding the bird, and I can understand why they would give him a few baht, but I wasn’t even that close to it. He got a bit heated for a bit, so we decided it was time to leave.
Eagles you could pay to have your picture taken with
A soon as we left we saw a side street with a hand written sign nailed to a post. All it said was ‘Siam Beach’. Since we had no plans, we decided to investigate. What would be down there? Had we discovered our own private beach on a parcel of paradise? We continue along a one lane paved road down under the lookout for a few kilometres before it turns to dirt track.
On the dirt track to Siam Beach
We continue and are faced with an extremely large dip of about 50 metres long. We should have had dirt bikes for this one we thought but decide to give it a go. Holding on tight I negotiate the road that has been eroded away in parts leaving gaping crevices. I need to get up enough speed to make it up the other side. I zoom up the loose dirt and momentum takes me to the top. I made it. We continue for about 500 metres before the road ends and we leave the bikes and head off for the ocean along a little track.
We never found the actual beach, and discover out later that the only way to the beach is via a restaurant that charges you 100 Baht for a drink and the privilege to access the beach. We must have passed it way back as there were no people, shops or anything reminding us of civilization where we were. We find ourselves a top of a cliff overlooking the ocean and rocks below.
Where was I?
It was quite a challenging hike and took about 45 minutes, but well worth it. We sit and watch the mesmerising water for a while as it lapped onto the rocks. We now had the task of trekking back to the motorbikes and going up the steep countryside really took it out of us. Lucky we brought some water along. We found the bikes and were back on road.
Siam Beach Cliffs
The further south we travel, the less people there are about. We pass some people having an Elephant ride through the dense bushland who have emerged onto the road momentarily. Not something you see every day. After about fifteen minutes we emerge from the tree lined road and are confronted with an idyllic beach view. We have reached Nai Harn. It is a great beach popular with the in-the-know locals. A tranquil place with only a few hotels, it is popular with snorkelers and divers. The beach has far fewer tourists than the busy Patong from where we started.
Tranquil Nai Harn Beach
We pull up a chair at a restaurant at the back of the beach and order some great local food that is very well priced. We chat to the owner, who was from Germany originally. He visited many years ago and fell in love with the place and never left. We spend an afternoon here, lounging in the sun and taking a dip whenever the mood felt like it.
We have reached the southernmost tip of Phuket Island, and there is a lookout here and a few shops. We have a quick look and a few photo opportunities and continue around the point and end up on the eastern side of the Island. We find Rawai Beach. This beach is not as nice as the others, lots of fishing boats and the sand is not as white and we decide to push on into Phuket town.
Leaving the beach road and heading inland this is where we get a look at how the local Thai’s live. That surreal picture postcard view of the ocean and beaches are gone and we see the built up area of a medium sized city. This is where I lose my bearings and I think I am heading back towards the mountain range that takes us back to Patong, but instead we are heading out of town towards the airport. We have nearly used a full tank of petrol and we keep an eye out for a shop selling more. It was not too long before we refill the tank and about to leave when I ask the shop keeper ‘Patong?’ and point in the direction we were heading. She eagerly shakes her head and points about 90 degrees the other way. Lucky I asked, and we take off in that direction. After another half an hour we finally can see the coast. Taking a few wrong turns here and there (and we are actually going parallel to the coastline for some time without realising it), trying to use the sun as a guide.
We make it back to the hotel without any problems and hand the keys back to reception. I have had a fantastic day and saw some of Thailand that I otherwise would have missed out on. The whole day was fairly cheap as well. I love to get off the beaten track and go exploring for myself. If you give it a go, keep your wits about you and be careful of other cars and riders and you will be fine. Now what shall I do tomorrow?
We did see a few Elephants along the way
Thanks to my friend Lindsay, who went on the journey with me and took some of the pictures.