As your aircraft approaches Phuket island off Thailand’s south-western flank you observe at least three different shades of the water below. Just as you’re taking in this surreal sight, your partner, grabbing your arm, hisses, “I think we’re diving straight into the sea!” Thankfully, before she starts screaming, the plane lands on the runway barely 200 metres shy of the great blue yonder.
After checking into your Patong Beach rental, the two of you do a brief recce of the place and find it chock-a-block with boutiques, eateries, pubs, massage parlours and the ubiquitous tour operators waving their mind-boggling assortments of Phuket experiences, bungee-jumping to scuba-diving. The same evening you decide to catch the much-ballyhooed Simon Cabaret. Now you’ve heard it’s performed by the famed Ladyboys of Thailand so you go in expecting close-shaven drag queens crooning in falsetto. But what voluptuous figures? What delicate faces and dulcet voices? Are these people really transvestites? For ninety minutes you sit spellbound by the choreography, the costumes and the lilting music.
Lined up for the next morning is the Phuket city tour. Sharp at ten, a Toyota van picks you up from your hotel and races southwards, forging through thick tropical vegetation one moment, galloping along the seafront another while you sip the visual champagne of emerald green hills skirted by geometrical golden beaches embracing the aquamarine Andaman Sea. Soon you’re inside Phuket Seashell Museum, marvelling at the outlandish collection of seashells and conches.
Next you are at a snake farm getting yourself photographed with a python draped around your neck. Then, the magnificent Wat Chalong temple, and finally the Phuket Gem Factory. You enter the last one thinking you’ll only have a look at the dazzlers. You exit with your wallet a few thousand Bahts lighter and your partner grinning earlobe to sparkling earlobe. The next day, you go snorkelling off the talcum-powder beaches of Khai. “Swimming with fishes” may have dire connotations in Mafiaspeak but when done literally, floating face down on water, your fingers locked into hers, while schools of coral fish glide inches below your nose, it’s an experience to die for. Your third day in Phuket is reserved for the James Bond Island tour.
After driving to Phang-Nga, you hop on to a boat that winds its way around sheer rock formations before bringing you to an island with a curious geological formation, slender at its base and broad at the apex, towering over it. Your guide tells you “The Man with the Golden Gun” was shot here. Coming up next is sea-canoeing in a vessel for two followed by a sumptuous lunch at Panyee, a village built entirely on stilts in the Phang-Nga Bay. “Phuket FantaSea: Miss it and you’ve missed Phuket.” So goes the marketing spiel for this wonder park on Kamala Beach.
After visiting it that evening, you both whole-heartedly agree. Words are inadequate to describe the grandeur of this place. But the pièce de résistance is a cultural extravaganza performed on an enormous stage by hundreds of artists helped along by wild beasts that make their entrées and exits in lockstep with their human counterparts. You could be dreaming but you don’t want to check. The following morning, as your plane readies to take off for Bangkok, you realize you’re in love. Sadly, only in the movies do taxiing planes stop to let lovers reunite. As you reluctantly turn your back on Phuket, you slip your hand into your partner’s. At least, you’ve got her for life. But Phuket, like an old flame, will always seem the one you should’ve been with.A restaurant for couples in Phuket.
Story written by Sandeep Shete | Since 2006 Holiday Velvet offers Phuket holiday rentals.