The Land of Smiles is one, indeed.
Phuket Town is where I was lucky enough to study, teach and live for about 4 months of my time in SE Asia. It is where I consider home, the most Thai part of the island and definitely worth spending a day in even if you are there for the beach. Look for the architecture, at the amazing buildings that comprise the town. Ride on a motorbike taxi here if you’re frightened of doing so on the hills near the beaches , flying through town with the wind in your hair and all the colours speeding by is one of the best feelings in the world.
Patong: is famous for its debauchery and its here where you will find your overkill of pirated dvds, fake Raybans, naughty bracelets, lady boys with iguanas and so on. Just walking down Patong’s infamous Bangla Road is a rush of the senses with women calling out “heyyy sexxxxy”, ping pong shows being offered, small children begging for money and a thousand things to buy. And thats just when you walk down it sober …
Bangla Road: deserves its own category and takes a few good nights out on to really appreciate. But traveller beware, if you feel yourself enjoying Patong a little too much than the warning bells should be going off and you should be booking a train, plane or automobile out of there because Patong Beach is fun and Bangla road is a shit show, but like all shiny sparkly things it is meant to be noticed, appreciated for what it is and let go.
the Beaches: given that Phuket Town is in the middle of a an island that makes up all of Phuket, there are numerous little beaches and coves along every coast of Phuket providing pristine white beaches and a real island vibe. Below I’ve listed the best beaches in Phuket for whatever you’re searching for.
Patong beach: is hectic and crazy decorated with locals selling everything from sarongs to massages to “some ganja, man.” Spending time at Patong beach is like eating a truffle – one is just enough and two is too many. It’s a great place to people watch but a terrible place to read, though if you want to transition from the beach to the bar Patong makes for a good full day. Paris bar, found at the end of Bangla Road near the beach, makes the best mojitos buckets and for the price of 1. Karon is the next beach over from Patong and much like the first, though not as loud and distracting. Kata is still busy but is a quieter beach far enough away from the madness yet still full of activities. This beach seems to belong mostly to families and resort goers but makes for a nice afternoon, if you have some shopping to do in Patong.
Nai Harn Beach: is at the southern most tip of the island and is my favourite by a long shot. It’s much smaller than all of the others and nestled into a little cove near Promthep Cape.
Nai Harn Beach is a welcoming sun spot with aquamarine water and blankets of gold sand. Promthep Cape is the islands most photographed location and is a beautiful place to watch the sun go down. Also, look for the secret beach here. Surin beach was a much quieter beach when I lived in Phuket, a little out of a way but a lot more special. It’s the kind of beach where Thai locals bring their elephants round for a bath in the aquamarine water and where no one bothers you to buy things.
Ironically, Surin beach is also home to two great night nightclubs Stereo Club and Catch Beach Bar, popular spots that get going after dark with a dance floor made from sand, pricey tropical cocktails and cool house music.
On the way home from the Southern beaches don’t miss Chalong Bay, which has a lovely little pier and some fantastic restaurants. Right by the round-a-bout, there are a few good ones to try. Chalong is also home to one of the islands most important landmarks Big Buddha, a towering statue soaring 45 meters into the sky and offering great 360 degree views of the rest of the island.
need to know Phuket
the Way – getting to Phuket is easy and your best option is to leave from Bangkok. There are a few flight options www.bangkokair.com, www.airasia.com, www.thaiairways.com, and I have ordered the airlines by least to most expensive. (One way tickets on airasia are as low as 50$.) Many flights run every day and when you arrive in Phuket make sure to have about 500 baht on you – that is the cost of the taxi from the out-of-the-way airport and into the city center.
If you don’t want to fly you can take a lengthy bus ride or the National train most of the way.
the Weather – I arrived in Phuket at the beginning of November which was just at the end of rainy season and on the verge of getting HOT. From June to October tropical monsoons dictate the weather on this island, often providing a torrential downpour of water but in a hot, tropical climate. (My favourite kind of rain in the world!)
Keep in mind that during the dry season and particularly from January to march, the beach is scorching hot and the sun is extra powerful. Be sure to wear legit sunscreen and spend your afternoons under a beach umbrella.
the Food – Thai food is one of my top 3 favourite cuisines in the world and the food in Phuket doesn’t disappoint. Yellow curry with chicken, beef massaman and fresh pad thai are popular favourites, but butter prawns, Singapore crab and lobster tails straight from the Andaman Sea are must try’s when eating here.
There are lots of seafood restaurants along the beaches and it won’t take long for you to find your favourites. One of mine is at Nai Harn Beach, one of a few with with wooden tables stretched out across the beach and battered chairs cushioned by sand.
One of my favourite beach snacks (there is a cart at the beach in Nai Harn) is to get a fresh juice slushies for 75cents. (90baht) Mango, pineapple, strawberry – one of the best parts of eating in Thailand is their fresh tropical fruit and combined with ice, some sugar water and a Thai smile, these shakes are the best!
There are a lot of different cultures that have travelled to Phuket, fallen in love with a person or the landscape and decided to stay. Therefore, so many great Thai fusion restaurants exist on the island particularly in Patong, with strong European and other Asian influences. Try them.