Phuket to Penang. The H is silent

Posted: June 8, 2010 in Cycle touring South Thailand & Malaysia 2010
Tags: , , , ,


Pronouncing it phonetically as in ‘Foo-ket’ or ‘Phoo-ket’ is dead wrong. A sure sign of being a new visitor. It might sound vulgar even, or embarassing if too much saliva hits a total stranger. Most people get by with ‘Poo-ket’ although some Thai purists say it’s more like ‘Boo-ged’ So the silent ‘H’ should be gone with the ‘P’ replaced by a ‘B’ I shall have to do an in depth study once I am on the ground there.

The island is Thailand’s largest at 800 sq kms. With a million and a half tourists inundating it’s shores each year, Phuket is very touristy, pricey and tourists outnumber locals 3 to one. If you’re on a touring bike, you might not get much cycling done, well maybe just riding to one of the 15 white sand beaches on the west coast, or packing your bike to switch hotels. As a total landlubber, I’m not too intrigued by beaches and the goings on above and under the water, but Thailand has some beautiful pristine coastlines and research shows that the remoter ones are not on Phuket. Cycling up the lush Andaman Coast in search of ‘remote’ will be the added bonus.


Phi Phi island

A beach on Phi Phi island near Phuket, scanned from a Fujichrome Velvia slide, circa 1993. The ‘h’ in Phi Phi is also silent

As I’m landing at Phuket International at high noon and assembling the bike and have to figure out lunch, I might as well ride south to Phuket’s old town just some 30 kms away. An easy first day, in search of a nice room, tasty street food, into one of the malls for dessert and an exotic bike shop or two, to jump start this tour.

You can start your very own virtual one here,

Select Phuket from the list of Thai cities, or if you prefer, San Jose among others, from the USA list.

Riding south into town is actually going in the opposite direction, as my plan in the coming days is to head up about 400 kms north to the Isthmus of Kra, close to the Burmese border, veer east over the mountains to the Gulf of Thailand and then south back to the Thai Malaysian border and eventually Penang Island. As a kid, our family spent many a vacation on Penang’s northern beaches at an aunt’s beach house, so riding into Penang for the first time will be bittersweet.

My partner in grime above, Surly Shirley


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