Phuket, Thailand: Where Photographers Find Haven

phi phi island with girl

Phuket, Thailand was five days too short. I know it’s too short a trip when my skin haven’t even been painted in a tan. Though I have to admit, I may already be planning my next trip to Phuket in my mind, and knowing this place has so much to offer, it definitely will be at least a week’s kind of trip.

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As a birthday treat to my mother for her birthday, we decided to splurge and stay somewhere casted off from the heart of the city. The Westin, Siray Bay hotel was like being shipped off to a mini paradise with three infinity pools all facing west. All accompanied with bars fully stocked with coconuts to sip on whilst perched on the edge of the pool, watching the sun set in an ombré pastel sky, lowering itself behind the mountains.

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I must say, we did end up spending a lot more time at the hotel than I am willing to admit, more than I have ever stayed at a hotel. I’ve been accustomed to treating hotels as a bed more than one of vacation’s highlight, but this hotel was different. Equipped with three restaurants, all offering a different kind of cuisine with an all day dining buffet restaurant, a pan Asian restaurant, and an Italian bar and restaurant.The traditional Thai cuisine was no less authentic than the local dining available outside of the hotel. To really have the full pampering holiday I so desperately desired, we took a liking to the Spa that transforms you to another world where the masseuse greets you with smiles and tender touches to massage your stress and muscle aches away.

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Venturing out into Phuket Old Town, originally for seafood (which we never ended up having), I discovered this hidden piece of gem that’s a combination of the old and new, a juxtaposition between architecture left untouched since it was built centuries ago, sitting next to niche coffee shops with rustic interior design. I could pick any coffee shop, sit there with my laptop and a good book, order a traditional Thai Iced Coffee and happily spend a whole day there. As the sun sets around 6 to 7pm, the lights shining against the exterior walls start to illuminate the entire street with whites, pinks and blues. A hue that’ll make photographers, or amateurs like myself, want to constantly snap away.

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On weekdays, the streets are in a perpetual state of emptiness, perfect for street photography. And when the weekend comes rolling in, the night markets are set up on Saturday and Sunday nights, and as I wandered amongst the hustle and bustle of street vendors selling traditional and fusion Thai treats, sweets, and food, I felt more Thai culture than I have in all my days there. Haircuts out in the open, various performing arts, and handy crafts can all be found amongst this lively crowd of locals and tourists.

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Next time around, I’d like to stay in Phi Phi island for at least one night, to really soak in the clear blue ocean and the brightening white sand. Albeit the scorching sun made my skin hot to touch after five minutes of standing under it, it felt refreshing to toss back my head and lay in the cool water.

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The sky, landscape, other islands floating above water was so breathtaking it seemed impossible to take a bad picture of it. Every image came out looking like a postcard. A great place to wipe any anxiety, stress, and negativity from the mind. I didn’t think about work at all, completely disconnected and only felt a great sense of peace and catharsis, even when I had a mouthful of salt water.

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On the flight back from Phuket, Thailand, all I could think was at the end of the day, what do you do when you realize your heart can’t settle in one place? When a little piece of you is left behind in every place you visit?

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Everyone has settled back into their routine considerably quickly after a vacation, exclaiming how happy they are home, and how much they’ve missed it, yet here I am still contemplating on how I can keep travelling. What can I do to prolong this experience? To go to more places? To experience more cultures? Does anyone have the secret to this they can share with me?

[All images are my own; click on image to expand]

Claudia Cheung