MATT: So we came to Phuket Town thinking it would be a one night stopover before heading on elsewhere in Phuket or the other surrounding islands. We stayed for 8 nights. Safe to say we enjoyed it a lot.
The trip from Khao Sok was easy - a government bus that we caught on the side of Highway 41 and cost a couple of pounds each for the 3 and a half hour journey. We had to stand for the first 30mins or so - but otherwise it was a great trip straight into Phuket Town.
We found our hotel - The Imperial - which is a travelodge style place in the middle of the old town - a nice area with interesting architecture and small streets full of nice shops, cafes and markets. The hotel is a little rundown, but very friendly, cheap and with aircon, cable tv and a hot shower.
Phuket town is a proper, working Thai city - not really aimed at tourists (but catering for them) so what you get is really friendly people, great local food (some of the best we have eaten in Thailand) at great prices, great local markets and none of the tourist rip off places that populate the main resorts. It has also taught us that the main tourist places (where the package deals go) are the places to avoid in favour of the places the books say are not so worth going.
We used Phuket town as our base for the 8 days we stayed - heading out on day trips to the various beaches and attractions around the island. The first day was a package day trip called "James Bond Island Adventure". This was a full day for twenty pounds each. We travelled by minibus around most of Phuket making pickups, which gave us a chance to see the rest of the island in a bit more detail (Phuket is a big island - as Kel informed me today - Thailand's biggest, while being Thailand's smallest province...the only island province). We got a chance to see Patong beach - which is the main tourist beach on the island and described as "Bangkok on Sea" - it doesn't look very attractive - we didn't visit again.
The trip took us to some Buddhist caves in Phang Nga province - which are inhabited by hundreds of monkeys and a huge reclining Buddha statue. Then a trip through some caves, on canoes, bamboo rafts and by foot, to see some interesting rocks and many bats. Then a long tail boat ride, through the islands of Phang Nga bay (which is fantastically beautiful), the main focus of which was "James Bond Island" which was Scaramanga's lair in "The Man With the Golden Gun" - great...but a bit of a let down when the inside part (where 007 and Scaramanga have their showdown) was non-existent.
The last stop was a floating raft Muslim fisherman village - which was interesting - but really just a chance to get souvenirs.
We got home about 8pm - knacked.....but it was a good day.
The next few days centred around us visiting the varous beaches of Kata, Karon and Nai Harn...the latter being the highlight (least crowded and least developed - and a great point to see the sun set) each of which we could get to by local bus for a few pounds.
We were kind of reluctant to leave when we did, as Phuket Town was a definite highlight of Thailand...I could spend an hour blethering on about the food alone (sour fish curry, clams in aniseed and kind of plum sauce, hokkien noodle soup - chinese style - for brekkie, whole fried fish with chilli... yum yum).
But we made a great choice for our next destination. Rather than head straight down the more travelled route of heading for Krabi, Phi Phi or Railay - we decided to head for the less explored island of Koh Yao...an inspired choice - and a great find on Kel's part.