On our first day in Phuket, we signed up for an afternoon tour that included elephant trekking and ATV riding, with side trips to famous Buddhist structures. The cost was 1,500 baht per person.
Everything went smoothly except an hour before the tour ended, we realized that the agency made a booking mistake – we were given a tour that didn’t include ATV riding. The agency had no choice but to give us a 500-baht refund.
The attractions we visited include Karon view point, the Big Buddha, elephant show, monkey show, elephant trekking, Wat Chalong, the Big Bee farm, cashew nut factory, and Wang Talang Gems International (a jewelry store).
NOTE: There are brochures after brochures of tour packages offered at every corner in Phuket‘s streets. If you’re planning to visit Phuket soon, remember to haggle and take your time to go over the inclusions.
Here are the details of the trip.
1. Our guide – a friendly woman in her late twenties – picked us up at our hotel at 1:30 in the afternoon. We were joined by a Singaporean couple and a shy girl from Europe.
2. Karon View Point. There’s nothing special here, but if you’d like to see two of Phuket’s beaches from afar (Kata and Karon), this is the place to be.
3. Big Buddha. Phuket’s Big Buddha is a 45-meter marble statue of a cross-legged Buddha located on top of the Nakkerd Hills in Karon. Ladies are required to cover up before they’re allowed entry. If you don’t have a sarong, you can borrow one at the entrance.
The stairs leading up to the statue create a dramatic backdrop, so take your time to snap some IG-worthy images. But before climbing up, enjoy the view of some of Phuket’s islands.
Here’s a video showing what’s at the base of the Big Buddha.
4. Elephant Show. It’s a 3-minute show featuring a hula-hooping and dancing baby elephant. For guests who want to feed the animal and have their picture taken after, a bunch of bananas that costs 100 baht is for sale.
5. Elephant Trekking. The correct phrase is “elephant riding.” For 30 minutes, we endured the slow and bumpy ride as the elephant moped around the bushy part of the camp.
6. Monkey Show. There was nothing spectacular about this show, just a poor monkey demonstrating his basketball and coconut-harvesting skills.
7. Wat Chalong. According to online sources, Wat Chalong or Wat Chaiyathararam is the most important of the 29 wats – or Buddhist temples – in Phuket. This is an attraction worth looking forward to. Marvel at the architecture, pay respect to Buddha, and learn more about Buddhist etiquette. Speaking of etiquette, did you know that it’s wrong and disrespectful to use the image of Buddha for decorative purposes? We learned this on our visit to the Big Buddha and Wat Chalong.
Here’s a video that shows Wat Chalong’s main pagoda. The other video shows what’s inside the pagoda.
8. Wang Talang Gems International (jewelry store). This felt like an excuse to sell or market the Wang Talang brand. Expect two things. First, there’s an exhibit of some of the company’s finest products, which include several animal figurines richly adorned with crystals/gemstones. Second, there’s a hall with an endless display of beautiful jewelry pieces that are up for sale.
We weren’t allowed to take photos or record videos of the pieces, but here’s us enjoying our free coffee at Wang Talang‘s coffee shop.
9. Big Bee Farm. This is another clever marketing trick, so don’t expect it to be fun. It took us only 5 minutes to look around the “farm” (if you can even call it that) before we were led to the company’s store. We didn’t see any real bees.
10. Methee Cashew Nut Factory. Cashew nuts and the cashew tree are not unfamiliar to us, so this part of the tour was the one we found the most uninteresting. Though that was the case, I managed to take this video, which shows how the company separates cashew nuts (the edible part) from the shell.
11. The tour ended at 6 pm.
Here are some of my favorite shots, courtesy of my friends Lenn and Drake – at the Big Buddha (1); at the elephant camp (2); at the main pagoda of Wat Chalong (3).