Having been away from Phuket for almost a month has made me reflect a bit more than usual about the island that we call home. We originally left Phuket for Scotland, only to return 6 months later. And now, we just left again, acquiring a tourist visa (which allows a longer stay) while perusing other possible living options in Thailand – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pai.
And trust me, when you come here, the normal 30 day stamp is not enough. If you want to experience all that Thailand has to offer: driving journeys in the Northern, exploring the never-ending Bangkok, seeing the East, and indulging in Phuket and Hat Yai in the South – that 90 day Tourist Visa(60 then leave with 30 days more upon re-entry) is a must. Phuket even has flights directly from Europe, Japan, Korea, and Australia. Flights using German airlines leave from Munich or Frankfurt almost daily. You can search for some Australian flights at Cheapflights. Virgin airlines even offers pet transport with an authorized agent if you can’t stay away from the furry one. Add that to the USB ports for charging your mobile devices on long-haul flights, the touch screen in-seat displays, and a user rated 9/10 for their flight meals, and you’re Phuket-bound in no time!
SO…. why Phuket again? Well, it all boils down to the food, the smiles, and the open sky. Yes, Bangkok offers a bustling metropolis with Skytrain and nightlife 25 hours a day, but we can’t find the smiles or the open sky even on the good days! Chiang Mai is full of gorgeous temples and is much cheaper than both of the more touristy locations, but a lack of fresh seafood and heavy amounts of chicken and pork hit us hard. Pai is rural, beautiful, and an artist’s paradise with house rentals 1/4 of the Bangkok price, but again, not an accessible ocean in sight. We eat only seafood-vegetarian (Pescetarian) and 90% of the time, Gluten-Free. We enjoy our food spicy, sometimes seriously spicy, and have had such falling-outs due to lack of seafood, vegetables, variety, spice and taste that it’s complete changed our reason for visiting and staying in areas around the world.
I spoke with the owner of a small Thai breakfast/lunch restaurant regarding the difference between Phuket Thai food and Thai food in Bangkok. Cleanliness is a big difference as most Phuket restaurants will purchase their cooking water knowing full well the dangerous implications of using tap water. Bangkok establishments, for the most part, will use the local tap, for all dishes, even those on the wok that are quick-fry that don’t leave enough time to boil off the water-borne bacteria. Her Phuket restaurant caters towards students running off to school and their parents that have little time for preparing breakfast while they ready themselves for office work. Lunch time revolves around workers in the area who want a spicy seafood or chicken curry with rice and a hand-squeezed orange juice. And let me say, their fried rice is one of the best – it’s loaded with vegetables, especially carrots – that give the rice such flavor, much more so than those from bangkok made with meat and little else. But, in Bangkok, lunchtime seems to be away from the food courts and traditional thai food. The busy areas of Silom and Sukhumvit are adorned with popular western culture eateries and newly built Italian or American establishments all having entrees at higher tourist-esque prices. At times, I ask myself how most of the locals can afford to eat in the areas they work (daily wages of most retail and service workers is around 10-15 USD a day.
Again we are left with the blaring realization that Phuket is and shall remain our most desired destination for a prolonged stay in Thailand. Maybe others find vacation spots for popular attractions or stunning natural beauty. For us, food and culture play such an enormous part. We want to live the life of the locals, inhaling the smells wafting from the kitchens, hearing the laughter and nature blend together in an exotic harmony that only island life exudes.