Discovering James Bond places
Phuket Town (Muang Phuket) stands distinct from the tailor-made tourist settlements along the beaches as a place of tangible history and culture waiting to be appreciated on an MSC Grand Voyages cruise excursion.
Most visitors hang about just long enough to jump on a beach-bound songthaew, but you may find yourself returning for a welcome dose of real life; there’s plenty to engage you in a stroll through the small but atmospherically restored heart of the Old Town, along with many idiosyncratic cafés and art shops, several notable restaurants and some good handicraft shops.
Some of the Old Town’s most elegant buildings line the western arm of Thanon Thalang, where a dozen signboards highlight the special features worth an upward or sideways glance: pastel-coloured doors and shutters, elaborate stucco mouldings, ornate wooden doors, and the distinctively arched “five-foot walkways” that link them. MSC Grand Voyages cruises also offer excursions to the newly erected Big Buddha of Phuket, a towering 45m statue atop the aptly named Khao Nakkerd hill, which dominates many island vistas, including Kata Yai to the south-west.
Made of concrete but faced with glistening white-marble tiles, the eastward-looking Buddha boasts enormous proportions: he sits on a lotus flower that’s nearly 25m across and even his individual hair curls measure almost 1m each. Views from the base of the statue extend east over Ao Chalong to hilly Ko Lone beyond, while western panoramas take in Kata Noi. For islanders, Chalong is important as the site of WatChalong, Phuket’s loveliest and most famous temple, which enshrines the statue of revered monk Luang Pho Saem, who helped resolve a violent rebellion by migrant Chinese tin-miners in 1876.
Elsewhere in the temple compound, the Phra Mahathatchedi (pagoda) is believed to contain a relic of the Buddha.