Welcome to Phuket, a little island off the south-west coast of Thailand – connected to the mainland by a couple bridges, spellbinding topography, and rich history. Once along a significant trading route between India and China, Phuket derived its income from rubber, tin, and now plenty of well-deserved tourism! No matter the weather, no matter the season, there's always something exciting underfoot on this side of the planet.
Landmarks and Attractions in Phuket
Explore the two islands Phi Phi Don (ferry ports and hotels) and Phi Phi Len (spectacular uninhabited beaches), as well as nine lushly-wooded Similan Islands, heavenly for swimming and diving. One way to savor the fantastic seascapes is via the Phuket Cruises, in the daytime and at sunset. Be sure to check out nine crescent bays along the west coast, all calm turquoise water and ivory sand. At sunset, make your way to the Promthep Cape for breathtaking views, hundreds of elephant statues, and delicious dining. Booking a room at the luxurious The Baray Villa hotel by Sawasdee Village located at Kata Beach is the start to a perfect Phuket beach getaway for two.
Phuket Town is peppered with intricately sculptured Chinese temples. At Old Phuket Town you'll find Chinese shophouses, Sino-Portuguese grand mansions, and charming hang-outs for coffee, lunch, or a beer. Discover magnificent architecture in the Government Quarter, and climb up to the island's grandest Buddhist temple Wat Chalong nearby, reputedly housing a chip of Buddha's bones. Greet the Big Buddha (49m, and still growing!) and write your name on building materials that will eventually be added to the statue. Art and history lovers will also delight in the http://www.phuket-travel-guide.com/sea-shell-museum.htm Phuket Shell Museum (home to the world's largest gold pearl), the Thalang National Museum, the Phuket Tin Mining Museum.
Family Fun and Nightlife in Phuket
Make friends with the gibbons at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre. Pump your adrenaline with a kayaking tour, scuba diving in the Andaman Sea, or elephant trekking. Revel in the gorgeous golf courses of Phuket, or hike the nature trails in the lovely Khao Phra Taeo National Park (priced, to view the waterfalls). Be sure to also visit the 1,600-acre Phuket Orchid Garden and Thai Village, just outside the old town, with a spectacular display of tropical orchids and traditional dance-music performances.
A classic family favorite is Phuket FantaSea, a spectacular extravaganza of comedians, magic acts, circus acts, menageries, and cultural displays. To experience Phuket nightlife at its best, make your way to Bangla Road in Patong Beach for bars, restaurants, massage parlors, boxing stadiums, discotheques—and don't forget to catch a performance of the famous ladyboy Simon Cabaret Show.
Off the Beaten Path in Phuket
While you're here, live a little on the wild side of the local lifestyle. Savor beer on the rocks (otherwise goes warm in minutes!) and soft drinks served in a plastic bag (ice cubes and straws recommended). Soak policemen (and anyone else) on Songkran Day (when the city becomes a water battleground), or hitchhike on a motorbike with five other people (and a dog, maybe). Watch a Muay Thai boxing fight. Buy gasoline in a whiskey bottle. Recline on a beach chair made of (what else?) plastic blue pipes. And join me in applauding the brave souls (builders, painters, window cleaners) who risk their lives daily on unharnessed bamboo scaffolding!
Restaurants and Shopping in Phuket
Phuket Market or City Centre Phuket Town are always buzzing with bargains and fresh goodies. Weekend and night markets are very popular, the largest one being Chao Fa (or Talad Tai Rot). Enjoy the lively shopping and restaurant experiences along Bangla Road, including the massive Jungceylong shopping complex (from boutiques to discounts) and the Festival Center (including elite/luxury brands). You'll find a locals-geared and reasonably-priced shopping community in Old Town as well.
In Phuket, be sure to try out some of the spectacular local dishes, sizzling with spices and exotic flavoring. Some of the most popular include spicy-sour Tom Yam Goong (shrimp soup), Pad Thai or Kuay Tiew (noodle dishes), Som Tam (papaya salad), Kang Kheaw Whan Gai (green curry chicken), Massaman Curry (meat soup introduced by the Muslims), etc. All over the islands, the choices are endless: Thai oysters at Krachang Floating Restaurant, steamed fish at Mor Mudong, steamed blue crabs at Bangpae Seafood, hokkien noodles at Wilai, the unusual dessert oh eaw at Lock Tien…and so much more.
Photos by: Shazron and mst7022