From Freedom Beach to the Big Buddha

Assuming it was time to get out a bit from Kalim and the hotel, I rented a car for a Phuket roadtrip. In a tiny Nissan March, I started by driving to Freedom Beach. I can’t exactly say that I did my homework. And this aspect made it turn out to be quite an adventure. Turning right from the main road out from Patong, there was a pretty steep slope leading into a small village of a kind. After a short ride, the paved road turned into a dirt road.

The monsoon rains had hit the road very hard. I decided to drive slowly, to be careful and take my chances avoiding a few cracks and pretty large stones on the road.

After reaching the end of Google Maps official road, on the map was this indication with small dots. It said “additional road”. Luckily, there were also local signs declaring Freedom Beach go this way. So I followed the signs.

End of the road, start of the walk to Freedom Beach

I arrived at the point where to park and then started walking. Waiting for me were some local entrepreneurs who sold numerous services, everything from fishing tours to ATV rentals. The latter, I had no problem understanding. The way leading down to the beach was a complete mud bath. ( Remember this is September in Phuket). Going in high season and dry, hot weather will be completely different.

Anyway, they offered a kind of steeply charged transfer for a very steep road in a four-wheel drive. And it was worth every single baht to slide around down to the beach. The adrenalin kick sat indirectly. Driving took less than 5 minutes. I imagined myself in a bobsleigh outside its track, hammering through rocks and roots into the heart of the dark jungle. Not that bobsleighs operate typically here. But still came to my mind.

Some of the infamous overland transfers to Cambodia ten years ago also came to mind. But this hmm, road was bumpy and steep—a snow-free downhill race.

Anyhow, I walked the last stairs down. Then I sat down to contemplate tourism before and after the pandemic for a while. I was looking at the cliffs on the horizon. It was clear that bad weather was on its way in. No filters were needed to create any drama effects for the photos today.

Freedom Beach Phuket
The staircase you need to walk down and up after the mud road.

After a while, two more people came. It turned out that they were vendors. They managed the tiny stall with samples of drinks that I had seen. The man set up the shop, and the lady opened her Bluetooth radio and filled a short sphere around here with traditional North-Eastern folk music. She told me that the two of them were from Ubon Ratchatani in the Northeast, also known as Isarn.

Again I got the story of how Covid had destroyed someone’s work and how she and her husband had moved around the country to try to find opportunities.

Finally, the couple settled in Phuket,t hoping for some chances with the “sandbox”. Not materialising the way they expected it. Now, they took their opportunities to have some drinks sold on the beach and help sell food from the kitchen upstairs. Someday,s only two or three customers,s she said. Depends on the weather and the “sandbox” situation.

Four wheel drive to Freedom Beach
Happy driver.

And then the rain

A light rain started, and I reckoned that I had to get moving. Some of those dark clouds were quickly moving in on me. I called up to the staff and asked to be picked up. The jeep came slamming down the slope again, and off we went. The rain increased, and the driver said he was worried because he had forgotten to fill up with petrol. Luckily, we made it the whole way up, and now the rain was battering the mud road.

I thought a bit about what to do next, tropical monsoon and rental car? Not a day for exploring more beaches. So, what to do? I considered going to Phuket Town to have some delicious Thai – Chinese lunch or visit a museum. But again, I decided to take my chances, and I have never been to the Big Buddha on Phuket Island.

Maybe the rain would stop. And I yearned for the temples and Buddhas of Chiang Mai anyway. So, it was Buddha and temple time.

The Big Buddha

I got on me with a road tr; it took about 30 -40 minutes to get the great protector of Chalong, as the Buddha has been called. I had to wait quite a while for the rain to stop. I just stayed in the car in the parking lot. Driving to the top where the Buddha of peace is located wasn’t tricky. It just wouldn’t be a day of splendid panoramic views of Phuket island. Or photos of a marble white Buddha towards a deep blue sky.

I still like the pictures I got, misty and mysterious. And I was alone up there apart from two or three other Buddha enthusiasts. He is tall, 45 metres, they say.

Phuket Big White Buddha
The Big Buddha was built with the help of donations from locals and tourists, and the short name is Ming Mongkol Buddha. Furthermore, it sits atop Nakkerd Hills. Construction began in 2004
Dramatic skies over Phuket Island
Dramatic heavy rain clouds stretch out over the landscape.
Naga staircase to the Big Buddha
Naga snakes guard the staircase with the Big Buddha in the mist behind.

The rain started again. It wouldn’t stop until 8 pm. I could feel the water inside my shoes. Enough adventure for one day, so I headed back to the hotel.

How to reach Freedom Beach?

According to the site Phuket 101. Freedom Beach is only accessible by longtail boat and only during the high season, usually from December to June.

Moreover, taking a long tail boat from Patong Beach to Freedom Beach should be around 1200 baht to 1500 baht for the whole boat.

However, I did see motorbikes where I parked my car, even in the green/rainy season. So it is possible to drive, but then you either have to walk or use the “local transfer”. At this time of year, they charged 200 baht to go and return. I was handed a phone number and could call as soon as I wanted to get up.

It felt expensive at the time, but I was in no mood to walk and just kept reminding myself that this is Phuket, and prices are in general higher here than less touristic areas.

Anyway, check out the Phuket 101s article about Freedom Beach and what it looks like in the High Season. Pre-pandemic version. There you find more information on how to get there, prices and so on.

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