Phuket in a day (GMA News Online)

A striking sculpture along the shores of Patong Beach

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last February 4, 2014)

Since I am a beach lover, it should come as no surprise that Phuket is my ultimate dream destination. Blame it on the movie, “The Beach,” which featured the famous beaches of Thailand. Ever since watching it, I have been fantasizing about visiting, but it was not until recently that I finally set foot on Thai soil, as part of the itinerary of the Asian cruise I was on.

I was ecstatic to have the chance to explore the island, which happens to be Thailand’s largest island. Unfortunately, we only had about eight hours to get to know Phuket, but I made sure to maximize our time there.

First-time visitors have a lot of excursion options—even in that short span of time—but we decided to go on our own and choose our own adventure.

Sun, sand, and sea

Luckily, our ship docked at the port in Patong, one of the more popular areas on the island. My hubby and I decided to go on foot and discover the sights on our own. Instead of stopping at some establishment, we crossed to the other side and strolled along the shores of Patong Beach.

There were no resorts along the shore, but there were lounge areas where beach-goers could hang out for a minimal fee. We rented two lounge chairs so we could soak up some sun comfortably and have a place to leave our things when we took a dip in the cool waters.

What impressed me about the beach, aside from its fine white sands, is the wide shoreline (double or triple the size of Boracay). People were playing beach volleyball or soccer, but since we just felt like unwinding, we simply chilled out at our respective spots and sipped some local brew and fresh coconut juice.

Tasty Thai treats

We didn’t need to go far to sample authentic Thai cuisine, as Patong offers a plethora of restaurants and street food.

We got a table at one of the beachfront restaurants and partook of a feast of local flavors. I ordered my favorite, Pad Thai noodles, and a tall glass of milk tea to accompany it. Seafood was popular in the area as well, so we tried some deep fried shrimp cakes. (Note to diners: indicate your preferred spice level for specific dishes.)

Everything was delicious and the prices were not so bad. But for those who are traveling on a budget, there are various street vendors with food fare like barbecue, and even fresh fruits.

Traditional Thai massage

It was a must for my husband and I to experience an authentic Thai massage, so we made sure to allot at least an hour for it while we were there.

Although we saw massage services being offered at the beach, we opted to get one at an air-conditioned massage place along the main street—both practically had the same rates.

For just a couple of hundred baht, we were able to relax, as the skilled therapists kneaded our tired bodies and eased the tension from our strained muscles. It was different from the massages that we normally got back home because it included a lot of stretching—and it left us wanting for more.

Entertaining elephant show

While we basked beneath the sun, the rest of my family decided to hire a taxi that would take them to the island safari, where they could watch a monkey show and get up close and personal with the elephants.

My mom thought her grandchildren would like to experience elephant trekking (read: riding an elephant), but they were afraid to do so when they got there. They enjoyed meeting the elephants and seeing others feed them, though. My six-year-old niece and three-year-old nephew found the monkey show entertaining as well. Maybe they will have the courage to ride an elephant when they are a bit older.

Souvenir shopping

Before heading back to the ship, we stopped to grab some souvenirs for home. There were a lot of bargain finds there—from t-shirts to key chains. When shopping in Thailand, it’s better to buy in bulk in order to get discounts. Don’t forget to use your bargaining skills to get more value for your money!

As our time in Phuket came to an end, I promised to myself that I would go back there someday, and take a longer vacation to really experience the destination. Maybe next time, I’ll actually have the time to tour Phi Phi Island, the movie location of “The Beach.”

I’m putting that particular destination in my travel bucket list.