Soaking it up in Phuket
ater is the undisputed star of Thailand’s best festivals. From the Chao Phraya flowing through Bangkok like a life-giving artery, to the colourful floating markets with little boats selling exotic fruits and assorted goods, the country’s rivers define its life and culture. Water serves to cleanse away bad luck in the Songkran and acts as a channel for communicating with the gods in the festival of Loi Krathong, when Thai people place candles in banana leaf boats as offerings.
Being part of any of these festivals helps tourists ‘soak up’ (literally in the case of Songkran) the love of water that plays such a huge role in Thai culture. Of course, you could also travel to Phuket and try out a water sport in the crystal clear Andaman Sea.
Bird's eye view of Phuket
The Kata Karon Viewpoint, known as the “three beaches viewpoint” and Promthep Cape Viewpoint compete to be the best in Phuket, but the most stunning panoramic vistas are reserved for those who go parasailing, the latest water-sport craze on the island's main beaches.
The island of Phuket, 862 kilometres south of Bangkok, is one of the essential stops on any trip to Thailand. Its greatest attractions are its fine white-sand beaches. The most famous is Patong Beach, stretching over three kilometres in a half-moon shape. Even the most hyperactive can find relaxation here amongst the hundreds of lively, bustling lounges, bars and restaurants. For some, skimming the waves on a jet ski is a stress-buster.
You could also surf the waves on a board, although for that it’s probably better to make for Kata Beach, a little further south. Regarded as Phuket’s surfing Mecca, it is divided in two, Ao Kata Yai and the smaller Kata Noi. They both attract locals and tourists who love fast but manageable waves. You can hire surf boards on Karon Beach and on Hat Surin, famous for its big waves in the monsoon season. The more daring can try their hand at kitesurfing in Chalong Bay or on Nai Yang Beach. The former is open all year round but the latter, which is in the northern area, offers the sport only from April to October. There are a number of kitesurfing schools that move from one place to another, depending on wind conditions.
Snorkelling is also a year-round activity. However, the sea is calmer between November and April, so visibility is better in those months. One of the best spots for diving is Koh He, the Coral island, a half-hour boat ride away from Chalong Bay. As the name suggests, it’s surrounded by pristine coral reefs, protected from the effects of the monsoon by its location.
If you want to dive even deeper into the Andaman Sea you can do so from various places around the island, like the Koh Racha Noi islet and Koh Racha Yai, where the sea is between three and thirty metres deep. But for the best diving, you have to take a boat to the Similan Islands. This group of nine islands ranks as one of the world’s ten best diving locations for its crystal clear waters and abundant marine life. The most popular spots here are Elephant Head Rock and Christmas Point.
If you still have some energy left after such an active holiday, don’t miss Phang Nga Bay, one of the most popular day trips from Phuket. After the obligatory photo in front of Ko Tapu, there’s no lounging on the sand. Go and explore the caves and lagoons inside the limestone cliffs.