Kathleen Pokrud

Top rated tourist destination in Thailand

Phuket as a resort island is probably one of the most attractive and commercialised tourist destinations in Thailand. Its strong appeal comes from the sandy beaches with clear blue water for excellent snorkelling and diving experience. Its abundance of fresh seafood encourage local and expatriates tourists to flock to the island annually for relaxation and favourable cuisine. Viewing breathtaking sunsets on the gorgeous beaches under the all year round warm climate, to be followed by the vibrant nightlife in Patong allure to all visitors. One of the latest hot trends over Instagram in Phuket is a “Floating breakfast with a view”.

Taking a family trip last December to Phuket, we were looking for a rejuvenated vacation. With our previous visits, we have enjoyed the friendliness of the southerners. The history of Phuket as a trading place has encouraged the local communities to foreigners. With this trip, instead of visiting the famous landmarks, we had the sense of adventure to explore some unbeaten tracks.

According to Ms. Nopparat Aumpa, SAVP & General Manager, Banyan Tree Phuket and Banyan Tree Bangkok, “Phuket has so much to offer, that even those that live here try something new almost every weekend, we still do not know it all! Our island has so much more to offer than the 10 attractions that pop-up on internet searches, yes those are still a must to visit, but we always recommend our travellers to submerge themselves in the local community and traditions and not just visit attractions for a photo or as a check on their list. In my opinion, it is only when you understand the local heritage that you truly understand the destination.

Scot Toon, Managing Director of Asia corporate office from The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts also recommended, “There are many different beach experiences, hidden beaches to larger bays with lots of water activities or go shopping in the boutiques at Boat Avenue in Cherng Talay, all worth coming back repeatedly for. Additionally, there is old Phuket town with beautiful galleries and local boutiques, or visit the Little Bukit Organic Farm, organic produce, goats and other farm animals for the kids to play with and a little cafe.

Cycle tours or trekking the hills, with so many places to explore, means you can’t do it in one trip.”

Arthorn Vanasantakul, Managing Director Hotel and Tourism Business from MBK Hotel & Tourism Company Limited echoed, “As a world famous destination, Phuket has so many attractions that will always entice both international and domestic visitors; beaches that are amongst the best in SE Asia; a vibrant nightlife and top quality restaurants; scenic mountains and forests. And, of course, the island is renowned for its golf courses, and our Tinidee Golf Resort Phuket and Loch Palm Residence is located alongside two of the most famous – Red Mountain and Loch Palm. So, apart from miles and miles of white sand beaches and the azure waters of the Andaman Sea, Phuket offers a plethora of activities that keep visitors entertained.”

Krating Cape (Laem Krating viewpoint) 

In Phuket, one of the new popular destinations to see the sunset in Phuket with a 360 degree panorama view is at Krating Cape. The starting point to Laem Krating viewpoint is Baan Krating Phuket Resort. The walk takes around 30/40 minutes to the final destination. The walk along the beach path requires crossing the rocks and climbing up the hill slope, hence, proper hiking shoes are highly recommended. The compensation for the trekking route is the chance to take memorable photos of the gorgeous view. We suggest going there two hours before the sunset, and then to start hiking back before the sky gets dark. There is a rock that looks like a sailboat where the locals refer as “sailing rock”. This marks the sunset viewpoint, where the Nai Harn beach, Windmill and Promthep Cape are in full view.

Pa Hin Dum (Black Rock viewpoint)

Pa Hin Dum is high up to the mountains that overlook Nai Harn beach and Yanui beach with an outstanding view. There is a dirt road that leads to Black Rock viewpoint. A sign for Nui Beach sits opposite to the entrance. Parking is available near a big rock with the painted words “Pa Hin Dum”. It takes a walk of around 20 minutes along the long trail about 200 metres to the viewpoint. As the pathway to the viewpoint is quite steep, safety hiking shoes are highly recommended.  

Hidden Rock ond

The Rock Pond is located in Kamala area. This place is a calm and peaceful spot that should be experienced with the sunset over the sea in the distance. There is a short hike down to the pond, so again proper walking or hiking shoes should be worn. To enjoy the sunset fully and taking remarkable photos, the best time is around 5pm.  Another option to appreciate the clear water and relax in the pond is to spend a few hours and arrive early at 10am. However, on the days with strong winds, the visit to the Rock Pond should be avoided as the high waves pose danger.

Big Buddha (Pra Phutta Ming Mongkol Ake Nakiri)

Pra Phutta Ming Mongkol Ake Nakiri or Ming Mongkol Buddha is one of the most famous landmarks in Phuket. The 45 metre tall white marble statue on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata is visible from far away. A panorama 360 degree view of the island covers Kata, Karon beaches, Chalong Bay and more. As with all visits to other Thai temples, foreign visitors should remember to dress respectfully and avoid beachwear, shorts and miniskirts. The suggested time to view sunset is around 6pm.

Phuket Old Town

The history of Phuket Island was one of the major trading routes between China and India, with assembled from Arabs, Chinese, Indian, Malay and Portuguese traders. Phuket Old Town, for its architecture, museums, shops and restaurants is a “must see”. The Phuket Town weekend night market is popular with both locals and tourists, offering all sorts for sale from fruits and street food to clothes and old curiosities. When we wandered around the old town, the Sino-Portuguese influence is visible everywhere even until today, with construction of many large mansions or shophouses that possess interesting combination of Chinese and colonial architecture. Colourful Chinese shrines and Thai temples are scattered around the town. 

Phuket community is creative with new concepts of cafes and restaurants to events, markets or shops constantly emerging. There are always fresh delicious treats to bite into. The streets seem to evolve and at each corner, there is new street art to upload on instagram.  

Phuket’s natural beauty is undeniable. All visitors will certainly activities that suit themselves. Enthusiasts of scuba diving and snorkelling can enjoy a full day with only a short boat ride to any of the less known islands which offer perfect bays and amazing scenery.  Alternatively, lazily hanging around any hotel pool to wait for the gorgeous sunset is a pleasing option.  For me, getting up at 5am in the morning it took only five minutes to a beautiful lagoon golf course, to experience an incredible sunrise sealed for a memorable trip!

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Boom in domestic travelling within Thailand

Due to Covid-19 with the country lockdown, domestic travelling within Thailand has seen a major boom. The more popular destinations for local expatriates are the seaside resorts like Pattaya and Hua Hin, the sandy beaches of Phuket and Lanna heritage of Chiang Mai.  Out of the 77 provinces in Thailand, there are a few that deserve a visit due to their distinguished geographical features or historical significance. 

Generally referred to as “The Switzerland of Thailand” because of its high mountainous area; Phetchabun fits perfectly in the category. It is a province situated in between the Central, Northern and Northeastern regions of Thailand.  By car, it takes around five hours from Bangkok with scenic highways (Highway No. 12) and good dual carriageway roads. Phetchabun has a number of mountain ranges cut through wide fertile valleys. In addition, the area is blessed with national parks, forests, lakes and waterfalls. It is more popular among Thai domestic travellers as the province is one of the closest areas to Bangkok that offers a cooler climate to escape the capital’s suffocating city heat due to its high mountains. For more adventurous foreign visitors, Phetchabun offers an attractive option.

The land of crops and food

The very name of Phetchabun means “the land of crops and food.” The province experiences a long and prosperous history and is embedded with rich tourism potential. Benefitting from the fertility of its soil, Phetchabun has always been a productive area. It centres on the Pa Sak River basin with mountain ranges running along both its Eastern and Western reaches. The mountains and forests offer a favourable and attractive climate. It is the meeting place of three regions of Thailand, the North, the Central plains and the Northeast. “The Switzerland of Thailand” is famous for its prized fruits and sweet tamarind.

Khao Kho National Park

Khao Kho is a very commercialised park with number of villages, hundreds of resorts and other premises through out the park. Khao Kho National Park is a very popular holiday destination among local and foreigner tourists. The park is popular for it’s cooler weather, morning mist covering surrounding valleys, impressive viewpoints, a huge wind farm, temples, and various types of gardens, waterfalls and number of other attractions. The main mountain Khao Kho is 1,143 metres in height. The other surrounding national parks are Thung Salaeng Luang National Park to the west and Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park a bit further North. Khao Kho was a base from which communist insurgents conducted their struggle from 1968 to 1982. Other interesting places include various viewing points, remains of guerrilla bases, a war memorial, an arms museum, and a royal palace.

Wat Phrathat Pha Sorn Kaew

Many visitors to Phetchabun will visit Wat Phrathat Pha Sorn Kaew which was established in 2004, with Phraphawanawachiraprakarn as the abbot of the temple. It is located at Pha Sorn Kaew; the Dharma practice hall is surrounded by scenic nature and tall panoramic mountain ranges. The origin behind the name “Pha Sorn Kaew” came from the time when many of the Tang Daeng villagers saw a glass marble levitating in the sky, then disappeared into a cave on top of a mountain peak. The villagers believed the glass marble to be a sacred object, and considered the location as a sacred place. They then called the mountain peak Pha Sorn Kaew, which literally translated as “the cliff that hides the glass”. 

The original land occupied by the temple was a charitable donation by two benefactors, Phawinee and Urai Chotikhun who together contributed 40,000sqm of land to the temple to construct a Dharma practice hall for the monks and Buddhists. Later, many contributors had joined together to donate additional assets to the temple. The whole area now covers a total of 145,600sqm. 

There are three key landmarks of Wat Phrathat Pha Sorn Kaew. They are Phrathat Pha Sorn Kaew Siriraj Thamma Naruemit Pagoda, Maha Viharn of the Five Buddha and Emerald Buddha Pavilion.

Phrathat Pha Sorn Kaew Siriraj Thamma Naruemit Pagoda

The pagoda enshrines the Buddha’s relics that was bestowed by Somdet Phra Sangkharat Chao Kromma Luang Wachirayannasangwon, the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand. The area at the base of the pagoda contains a collection of Buddha’s teachings, and Dharma puzzle images; and provides a space for Buddhists to worship.
Phrathat Pha Sorn Pagoda was constructed with meticulous detail and magnificent design. The shape of the pagoda imitates 7 layers of lotus flowers to make merit to the Buddha. The brightly coloured pagoda is decorated with beautiful patterns made from colourful tiles, painted Thai porcelain (Benjarong bowls), ceramics, pearls, beads, crystals, and other valuable materials.
When viewing the pagoda up close, you will find glorious colours and patterns that have amazing details made from various materials that combined together into a large structure. We can learn many things from these patterns, it might be Dharma principles, Buddha’s teachings, impermanence, or anything that is hidden within the artworks and sculptures in front of you. Possibilities are infinite, depending on how you define these kaleidoscopic patterns with your own unique perception.

Maha Viharn of the Five Buddha.

As seen in the Buddhist scriptures, the five overlapping Buddha images are called the Five Buddhas. The large white Five Buddha statue stands spectacularly against green mountains and white fog, creating an unrivaled scene. The base of the Buddha statue is measured 41 metres in width and 72 metres in length. It stands at 45 metres in height, divided into 6 levels. Level 1 and 2 have been arranged as accommodation for worshipers, and the other areas are facilities used to perform religious duties such as worshiping, listening to Dharma, and for prayers. 

Another important landmark is Sala Phra Yok Khiao (Emerald Buddha Pavilion). The airy pavilion for Dharma retreat is surrounded by large window panels, when inside; you could experience nature, the mountain’s lush greenery, and the flourishing garden with various kinds of fauna. The pavilion also enshrines the largest emerald Buddha statue in Phetchabun.

Best time to visit

According to Wannarak Siripanich, Managing Director of Kiri Pura Resort, “June is a good month to visit Phetchabun to experience the fog cloud.  During the heavy rainy season from July to September, visitors can encounter every morning waking up to the magnificent seas of mist and cloud.” Further added, “October is also a favourable time as it is the end of the rainy season, so the temperature starts to be cool and pleasant.  For those tourists who enjoy the cold, December and January are the best.  The temperature drops to 10 degrees in the morning.”

To conclude, Phetchabun is truly a province that befits its name.  “Phetcha” is a Sanskit word meaning “diamond” and “bun” means “perfect” which combination becomes “Perfect Diamond”. During this pandemic time of domestic travelling only, Phetchabun poses a perfect destination for a long weekend stay!

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