Circumnavigating Phuket Island by Speedboat!
Phuket is a big island. I've said that before, but it's worth repeating. Part of the reason for starting Jamie's Phuket in the first place was to show that there is way more to Phuket than some beaches, bars and a few well known attractions. Over the years doing the blog it's been good to explore Phuket and the surrounding area. Over the bridge into Phang Nga province, by boat over to Phi Phi, Racha Yai or Koh Yao Noi islands. Ah yes ... a boat. Phuket is an island, and within a 1 hour speedboat ride there must be 100 small islands, there's certainly some amazing scenery (such as Phang Nga Bay), and if you charter a speedboat you can go when and where you want (within reason!). Many speedboat tours head to Phi Phi or James Bond Island or Khai island (for snorkeling) or Raya island. You can take boat trips every day for a week to somewhere different. You can ask my friends at Easy Day Thailand about all kind of tours. They tend to offer private tours and try to avoid the crowds as much as possible - yeh, some of these places can get real busy - to avoid crowds it's best to visit places early or late in the day .. or just do something different, explore, see what happens! And that's what we did last weekend!
The boys at Easy Day Thailand had hired a speedboat for the day to see what could be done. The aim was to cruise a complete circuit of Phuket Island stopping off on the way at a few places and seeing what's possible. We did not start until after midday which led to a very late lunch and a feeling that probably a 10am start would have been better. We started from Chalong Bay and headed off south and east towards the east coast of Phuket...
It was a HOT day with calm seas. It's a long ride to get right around Phuket .. I'd say we covered about 130km, or 70 nautical miles. In places we could open the throttle, but there are plenty of marine craft around Phuket, with speedboats, longtail boats, fishing boats, sailing boats ... you have to slow down sometimes! Best anyway not to race, but enjoy the views of Phuket island from the sea.
(above) View on the east coast - this is Sirey Island, you can see the temple on the hill, it's a nice place to visit. And (below), we passed a fishing boat heading for the fishing port on Sirey.
First stop was Koh Rang Yai island, which I last visited a couple of years ago. It's a lovely little island. There were about a dozen boats by the beach and looked like mostly Russian tourists. Rang Yai is not big, but if you walk 100m from the boats, you get this...
Oh yes! We walked across the island which is mostly full of coconut palms (see photo below). There is some private development here, a restaurant, a small bar, some bungalows, but it's mostly very quiet, and remember this was the middle of the day in high season.
Paradise? Well, don't ask me .. I've traveled a lot and my mind varies between two points of view - there is no paradise (someone always spoils it), and paradise is what you make it. Well, the kids in our group certainly loved Rang Yai :)
We could have stayed much longer at Koh Rang Yai, but due to our late start, people started to feel hungry and lunch was still nearly 40km away! The plan was for lunch at a restaurant next to Sarasin bridge which joins Phuket to the mainland. So off we sped up the east coast of Phuket. The east coast is way less visited than the west coast where the main beaches are found. The east is mostly mangroves, small islands, fishing villages. Oh, and places like this ...
Just a low-tide sand bar near Naka island, a sailing boat, the island of Koh Yao Yai beyond. As we all remarked on the boat, Phuket is just so crowded and touristy! Sure it can be, but that's not my Phuket ... so maybe there is a paradise :)
The speedboat captain slowed down quite a bit on the last 10km before the bridge - he'd never been this way before. A first for all of us. The speedboat owner Mr Kung was aboard too, and he'd never done a full circuit of Phuket either. By this time we knew that a trip of this kind needs an earlier start! It was nearly 4pm when we dropped anchor just past Sarasin Bridge on the beach next to the Thanoon Seafood restaurant which is actually on the Phang Nga side of the bridge.
I'd only been to Thanoon Seafood once before, and I had suggested that it might be suitable for lunch on this trip. It was just about perfect - great view, quick service, cold beers and easy to park the boat right by the restaurant. Actually a late lunch was good, as by about 4pm you can feel the heat dropping, the light is beautiful and .. yeh, one more beer please!
And then we noticed that local kids were playing around, cooling off by jumping off the bridge ...
And on the other side of us, trying to catch something for dinner ...
Well, our lunch break finished at about 5pm! This was of course an experimental trip. We learned that an afternoon trip is possible, but it would be much better to start earlier! Sun was already sinking low as we sped down the west coast of Phuket. An earlier plan to be at Phromthep Cape (at the southwest corner of Phuket) was abandoned. We stopped for a short while at Koh Waew, a tiny island close to Bang Tao Beach. Everyone jumped in for a little spot of snorkeling.
But time was ticking and speedboats don't want to be out after dark, so we could not stop long. It was not far from sunset when we left Koh Waew - still about 45km to get back to Chalong Bay. Sunset at Koh Waew I guess is not seen by too many people. Nice.
And then a dash down the west coast passing Bang Tao, Surin, Kamala, Patong, Karon, Kata, Kata Noi, Naiharn and Ya Nui beaches, rounding Phromthep Cape, past Rawai beach and back to Chalong Bay just before dark. A great afternoon! If you want a trip like this, just ask Easy Day Thailand, the schedule is flexible, there's a lot of possible stops along the way.. they can work something out for you. I want to do it again :)