Thai cuisine is based on a simple philosophy: the harmonious mixing of the five basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter. In that same manner, the Island of Phuket is a fusion of all these flavours and represents, in its own unique manner, the essential Thailand.
Sweet Urban Life
If this is your first time in this part of the world then everything around you will have the sweet taste of discovery, even the simplest things will seem exotic and mysterious. The strange letters on the road signs, the colourful tuk-tuks and the colorful markets loaded with mangoes, chili peppers, spices and clothes.
Phuket Town will enchant you with its Sino-Portuguese mansions, Chinese row houses and Buddhist temples. Have a birds-eye look at the city from the top of Khao Rang Hill and take part in the Vegetarian Festival processions. Also, remember not to behave like a farang, or a Westerner. Learn a few simple rules – do not ever touch a monk’s head, always greet with a wai, and never point your feet at a person, and your first impressions of Phuket will be as sweet as honey!
Westerners give a rather negative connotation to the concept of ‘sour’ and explicitly wrinkle their noses at the taste of it. The Thai, on the other hand, have managed to get the best of this flavor by blending it with the others. The love they put in preparing and eating their dishes is striking: the meals are pieces of art, always consumed in company four or five times a day.
A few tasty examples containing the sour kaffir lime are the spicy lime-ginger soup, the famous kaeng som (or sour curry) and the steamed fish with spicy lime juice dressing called pla nueng manao.
You will long remember the grains of salt on your skin after sunbathing blissfully on Phuket’s beaches washed by the salty waters of the Andaman Sea. The island’s magnificent western coast is sprinkled with luxurious resorts along the beaches of Patong, Karon and Kammala. You can also go on an island excursion, visit neighbouring Krabi and kayak inside sea caves and dive with sea turtles and colourful fish (and whale sharks at certain times of the year!).
You can still find some quiet beaches, like Bang Tao, where you can wrap yourselves in a Thai sarong, cross your legs on the warm sand at sunset, and let the humming breeze and splashing waves purify your thoughts.
The ancient gods have been generous to Phuket by giving it not only heavenly beaches but impressive mountains too. You can continue meditating through the virgin rain forests of Khao Phra Thaeo National Park on the back of an elephant, then see the steamy waterfalls and say ‘Hi’ to the gibbons at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre.
After having purified your soul, you might want to ‘spice up your life’ by exploring Phuket by night. The liveliest spot is Patong with its crowded streets, neon lights, night bars and discos. Less noisy and more authentic are Phuket Town’s open cafés, live music pubs and Thai-style beer gardens. After a relaxing drink, sports enthusiasts can enjoy watching the national sport – Thai Boxing.
The quick recovery from the devastating 2004 tsunami shows the fighting spirit of the Thai. Now, safer thanks to an advanced tsunami-detection system, the island is readier than ever to welcome its guests.
So, after this virtual Phuket tasting experience, there are only two things to do: find yourselves a hotel in Phuket, unfold your napkins and Khaw Hai Jarern Aharn (bon appetit, that is)!
A guest post by Nazeli K. Kyuregyan.