Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, is the playground of the rich and famous. An island paradise like no other, Phuket is a great place to holiday. The island has managed to pack in all the elements of a tropical paradise – limestone cliffs, sandy beaches, thickly forested hill slopes, kilometres of rubber plantations and dive spots.
Phuket has something for everyone from beaches and eco-tourism to luxury resorts and boutique hotels. The credit for discovering Phuket has to go to the backpackers of the ’60s and ’70s on the look out for isolation. But today the island is firmly on the international tourist trail packed with hotels catering to all tastes.
Phuket is one of the world’s most preferred holiday destinations, a island paradise that promises great all-year- round tropical weather. This island is not just about the sun, the sand and the beaches either but also the about the nightlife, the shopping and the theme parks. Add to this amazing diving opportunities, excellent snorkelling and jungle trails, the result is a complete destination with something for everyone.Ofitsbeaches,Patongisthemost popularwithit soft sand, clear water and water sports and in the evening it turns into nightlife central thanks to its many bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Karon is a long, peaceful palm-lined stretch while beautiful white sands characterise Kata, just south of it. Both beaches are suitable for swimming, snorkelling, sailing, windsurfing and sunbathing. Boats to nearby islands for diving and snorkelling expeditions leave from Rawai, while Railey is for rock climbing. The longest beach on Phuket is Mai Khao or Airport beach in the north, then there is Bangtao lined with luxury resorts… and these are just a few of beaches on offer. The island even has its own marina dedicated to luxury yachts that anchor here to get a bit of the Phuket vibe.
The island’s five-star plus resorts and luxurious boutique hotels attract royalty, politicians, celebrities, and other high- rollers from the world over. Obviously the hotels offer the ultimate in hospitality and service and are able to translate any demand into reality. The island offers the perfect setting for a spectacular beachside wedding.
Magnificent coves and bays; powdery, palm-fringed white beaches; sparkling island-dotted seas; superb accommodations and seafood; delightful turn-of-the-century Sino-Portuguese architecture; numerous sporting and leisure opportunities; a lush tropical landscape; and a very hospitable people – all of which combine to create truly memorable holidays.
Patong is four-km long beach is island’s best known sandy stretch and is very popular with tourists on holiday. It is also known for the night market that pops up at sunset along the sidewalks of the beach road, and the shopping complex, Phuket Jungceylon. There’s live music in most pubs and bars, but nightlife is centred on Soi Bangla. During daytime, it is ideal for swimming and water sports.
Karon: Despite its popularity, this extensive beach never is too crowded.
Kata: Very popular with families, it is an all-around favourite mainly because of its spectacular palm-lined beach, great restaurants, and lively but not raucous nightlife. The clear water is perfect for swimming, and at the north end is a coral reef with a rich variety of colourful tropical fish and corals.
Kata Noi: The beach is superb and the scenery is breathtaking from the popular Kata Viewpoint. Swimming can be difficult though.
Nai Harn: The beach is generally less crowded than other spots on the southern part of the island. A wide variety of water sports can be enjoyed, but swimmers should be on alert for the red flag, which warns of dangerous currents during the monsoon season from May to October. One can walk from here to nearby Promthep Cape to observe fiery, spectacular sunsets.
Mai Khao: On the northwest coast of Phuket, this beach stretches a little over 10 kms but is still much less developed than other beaches on the island. The sand here is perhaps the coarsest in Phuket but its seclusion offers visitors endless privacy.
Nai Yang: This beach is very popular beach among locals and tourists alike. The beach is on a long curving bay lined with casuarinas that provide shade to picnickers.
Layan: This beach is at the northern end of Bang Tao area where the beach meets a river and a lagoon.
Bang Tao: This a large open bay with one of Phuket’s longest beaches. During the dry season (Nov-April) swimming is excellent, during the summer months the swimming is restricted due to strong currents.
Surin: A bit off the beaten track, Surin has seen a lot of mid to upper market development in the recent years and it rapidly gaining in popularity by couples and families alike.
Kamala: This much more laidback and quiet beach north of Patong is the preferred place for long stays and retirees. The 2-km beach is very beautiful.
Kalim: Despite the quieter edge to this beach, its proximity to Patong Beach makes it an ideal alternative for travellers who like to have a bit more of a quiet time, albeit easy access of the nightlife, restaurants and entertainment.
Rawai: Today, this beach is more of a transit point for day boat excursions out to the numerous islands surrounding Phuket. Many long-tail boats are available for hire and trips to Coral Island, Koh Lone, or Racha Island.
Dining out in Phuket is an integral element of a memorable holiday, so don’t miss out on it. There’s a fabulous array of dining opportunities on the island, although many visitors miss out on them because they don’t know where to find them. Therefore, try to get consistent, dependable, reliable and up-to-date information on Phuket restaurants as much as you can even before you make your plan. The Internet is full of websites you can scour for information. You can also ask those who have been in Phuket already, and those familiar with the territory such as expat friends or hotel concierges for their recommendations. Most hotels will probably have a restaurant you will enjoy for their cuisine and ambience. If you are staying in Patong, the choice widens because it is home to several great award-winning restaurants. Some recommended restaurants, from our experiences, are La Gritta, the 9th Floor, Baan Yin Dee, Chicago Steakhouse, Coyote, Sala Bua, in Patong. You should also try On the Beach in in Karon, Baan Rim Paa in Kalim Beach, @Beach Bar & Restaurant in Kata, and yes, the Blue Elephant in Phuket town for Royal Thai cuisine.
By Air: It only takes approximately one hour or so to fly to Phuket. Several domestic flights operate daily from Bangkok at both regular price and low-cost fares. For details, contact Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Thai Air Asia, One-Two-Go by Orient Thai and Nok Air. Phuket also offer direct flights to international destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Penang, Singapore, Sydney, and many others.
By Bus: Buses (both air-conditioned and non-air) leave daily from Bangkok’s Southern Terminal Station to Phuket. Overnight buses are the most popular choices because they are comfortable. Travel time is approximately from 12 to 14 hours. For more info, call 02 435-1199, 02 435-1200, 02 434-7192, 02 434-5557-8 or visit www.transport.co.th. Buses, operated by some travel operators, also leave Khao Sarn Road with slightly higher fares.
By Train: There are no direct trains to Phuket. If you’re taking the overnight train from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station, get off at Suratthani, then to take a bus to Phuket. Pre-booking is advised. Check the train schedule with the State Railway of Thailand (Hua Lamphong) at 1690, 02 223-7010, 02 204-444, and 02 621-8701.
By Car: You can also drive to Phuket. Just drive along Petchkasem Road (Highway No. 4), pass through Nakhon Pathom, Ratchburi, Prachuab Kiri Khan, Chumporn, Ranong, Phang-nga, and cross Sarasin Bridge to downtown Phuket. The total distance is 862 kms and takes approximately 12 hours.