Phuket starts the day by proving its not backpacker friendly, regardless of how nice the hostel is. James Bond Island tours (the one thing everyone has insisted I go see) start at 1200 baht, and the good ones closer to 3000, which is 3 times my daily budget – there’s no way I can afford it. Also can’t make it to a muay thai fight as they’re held in Patong which I’m miles away from, and cost a fortune too. Eventually, mostly due to frustration at not being able to do anything, I decide to sign up for an evening event – Siam Niramit (which again is more than I can afford) just because it looks pretty worthwhile and has a lot of evening events, dinner and transport included in the price.
For the day itself, the hostel has a walking tour map that you can follow, so took a photo and tried to navigate my way through the city. This was a little bit complicated as the map had stars at points you could stop, but didn’t actually explain what you were stopping for. I think most of the stops were to have a look at older architecture or buildings (often sabotaged by construction works) and might have missed some of what I was supposed to see, but if nothing else got a much better idea of the how the city centre worked.
Another positive of my wanderings, was I managed to solve my financial impossibilities for the James Bond Island. As I was looking over a tour shop, the woman pointed to the leaflets I was staring at and offered the 2,900 baht tour for 900 baht. I honestly thought she was joking, but she was on the level, and I booked myself up for the next day.
I discovered later through my dorm mate that thanks to the Full Moon party coming up in the next day or two, all the tourists were leaving for the islands, and as such a lot of the tourist offices were offering big incentives as to get their numbers up, either through lax haggling or just massive discounts. Certainly no complaints here.
Afterwards I had to head home and change, as my taxi was picking me up 17:30 for Siram Niramit. The show itself didn’t start until 20:30, but there was quite a bit of pre-show entertainment to enjoy too. Including Muay Thai fights, elephant riding and a small Thai village designed to demonstrate traditional crafts such as coconut cooking and weaving. Most of it was free, but certain things cost a little bit extra, and it never felt like they were milking the cash.
The other aspect was the buffet dinner that I’d paid for. Now, I’d had a few buffets while travelling, and this was by far the best value for money I’d gotten all trip. Wasn’t cheap (200 baht), but the sheer amount of choice was staggering. Salads, pad thai, spaghetti, rice, soups, spring rolls, sushi, beef, and a multitude of different desserts including jelly, bread and butter pudding, fruit and cakes. There was so much I wanted to try, but had to stop because I didn’t want a repeat of Gringos – as it was I had to stop walking and sit down every now and then until my stomach calmed down, really have no ability to gauge how full I am any more.
Siam Niramit is a show that features over 100 performers and 500 costumes, and consists of several acts portraying the various cultures throughout the history of Thailand, as well as acts about the afterlife and spiritual beliefs of the country. And its well worth seeing. The stage is huge, and the props and dances and performances are incredible. Its quite a spectacle to see a nearly 100 people acting out a royal procession, or creating an active village or harbour with personality. My only vice was it felt too short (which considering it was a full 90 minutes should give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it). The whole thing is very polished, and ended my first full day in Phuket on a high.