06 Jan Perfect Paradise – Phuket
Phuket is often referred to as the Pearl of the Andaman. With an impressive coastline featuring long stretches of sandy beach strung together by dramatic rock formations, it’s been attracting people to its shores for decades. While this means that some parts of this large island can be busy, there are still pristine and amazing places in Phuket to discover.
Getting Around Phuket
Phuket is an Island that is only 48 kilometers from south to north and 21 kilometers from east to west. There are many free maps that you can get at the airport, tour agents, hotels and shopping centers. Use these maps to navigate around on your own, the size of the island makes this very easy.
Most of the beach resorts are small enough to walk around and most hotels are located close to the beach, restaurants and shopping areas. If you’d rather not walk, or if your hotel is not on one of the main beaches, your hotel can arrange for a taxi or tuk tuk.
For short distances tuk tuks are fine, but their small size makes them uncomfortable for anything longer than about 30 minutes. Tuk tuks used to be cheap, but now in the main resorts like Patong, even short distances cost around 100 Baht. You should state your destination and agree on the price before setting off! Trips further afield, beyond the immediate beach area can cost anything up to 400 Baht – depending on the distance, the weather and your bargaining skills!
Unlike in Bangkok, ordinary metered taxis are surprisingly difficult to find in Phuket. If you are planning to stand on the road and flag down a passing cab, you will find yourself waiting for rather a long time. When one does come by, they are pretty much what you would expect of a metered taxi anywhere in the world, with the bright paintjob denoting the company or collective it comes from and the illuminated sign with the words “TAXI METER” on the roof.
Once you have found or flagged down a taxi, you will need to explain where you wish to go. Most of the drivers speak pretty good English and can easily find their way to the major attractions and resorts, but you might have to help with directions or street names if you are staying at a smaller hotel or guesthouse. Make sure they turn the meter on once you set off, which should charge you 50 baht for pick-up and the first two kilometres, then 7 baht for every kilometre after that.
Some taxis operating with private firms do not use meters and will instead name a flat rate before departure. You may be able to bargain this charge down a little, but it will usually still be at least a little more than you would pay on the meter. This is usually because the quality of the car is noticeably better. Some taxi meters will also try to ask for a fixed rate, particularly for long distances.
GrabTaxi is a free mobile app which enables you to book a taxi, easily select a pick-up point and destination and estimate the cost of the journey. While there are plenty of similar apps available around the world, GrabTaxi is the only one currently in operation in Phuket.
The app will use your current location as the default pick-up point, so you need only pick your destination, either by searching for it by name or marking it on the map. Select the vehicle class you want and the call will then go out to the nearby cars. Once one has been selected, they will call you to confirm the booking and pick-up point.
After that, the process is similar to a normal taxi journey. If you ordered a taxi meter, the total price will be roughly in the region of the GrabTaxi app’s estimate, but the exact final cost will be decided by the meter. If you booked a limousine, you will need to agree on a price with the driver before departure, but it should also be approximately what the app says it will be.
The climate in Phuket is a tropical monsoon climate, with the rainy season lasting from May to the end of October or early November. Temperatures remain fairly consistent for the duation of the year and the mean temperature for the year is around 28 °C (82 °F).
What to Do
Phuket’s great advantage is that there’s always something to do on and off the island, whether it’s raining or shining. From the sublime to the seemingly profane, the range of activities and places to visit is remarkable for a destination of this size.
1. Phang Nga Bay
A distinctive feature of Phang Nga Bay are the sheer limestone karsts that jut vertically out of the emerald-green water. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just two of the more famous spots in this bay. The best way to enjoy the spectacular scenery, is to take one of the boat trips from the northern end of Phuket.
You may book tickets for the ferry ride here: http://www.phuket.com/island/phangnga.htm
2. Old Phuket Town
Unlike many Thai provincial capitals, Phuket Town fairly shines with personality and nowhere more so than its Old Town. In this historically rich part of town you will find shrines, temples (Buddhist and Chinese), ornate and beautifully preserved ‘shophouses’, quaint cafés, tiny printing shops, impromptu private and public museums and even a mini ex-red light district.
Phuket Old Town was built on riches reaped from Phuket’s tin boom of last century, when the metal was an extremely valuable commodity. In this quarter of the town you will see grandiose Sino-colonial mansions, once occupied by Phuket’s tin barons of 100 years’ ago. Phuket Old Town is compact enough to stroll around in. The best time to do this is early in the morning or after the day has lost its heat.
Most shops open from 9am – 5pm.
3. Bangla Road
Bangla Road really comes to life once the sun sets. The road is closed to vehicle traffic and becomes a 400 metre festival of neon lights, loud music, cheap beer and sexy girls. Jammed most nights of the year, it is quite a friendly and lively place to walk around as bars and clubs compete with each other for customers. If you’re looking for a fun night out in Phuket, Bangla Road should be your first (and, often, only) stop.
Almost all of the bars are outdoors, so the music from each one blends into a deafening mess of sound. Beer bars occupy most of the street’s length, with several go-go bars and a few pubs, restaurants, discos and shops rounding out the attractions, both on Soi Bangla and down its side streets. Street performances are also common most nights, which can make dodging around the tailor shop salesmen, leaflet distributors, street vendors and ping pong show touts more difficult, but it is all part of the fun.
Tip: Here are some of the famous bars opening hours and addresses!
Opening hours: 10pm – 4am
Address: 70/3 Bangla Rd, Kathu, Patong
Opening hours: 10pm – 7am
Address: 31 Bangla Road, Kathu, Patong
White Room Nightclub
Opening hours: 10pm – late
Address: Soi gonzo 9, Bangla road.
4. Big Buddha Phuket
Visible from most of the south of Phuket, the Big Buddha is a recent arrival to the island. The image stands on the top of the Nakkerd Hills and looks down over Chalong, Kata and Rawai. It cost 30 million baht to construct and is 45 metres high. Next to it stands a smaller, golden image that is actually made of brass and there is a shrine near the site’s car park. The drive up to the Big Buddha takes you through the ‘real’ Thailand and the view from the top is enhanced if you take a map to identify the surrounding sights.
Opening Hours: From 08:00 – 19:30
Tip: If you want to catch the sunset from one of Thailand’s best spots, try to be there before 18:30!
How to get there: The road leading up to the Big Buddha is off Chao Fa Road East near Chalong. There are many red-and-white signs indicating where it is. Turn down Soi Yodsane and simply follow the indications for the next six kilometres up the hill. You can’t miss it.
5. Wat Chalong
Wat Chalong is one of Phuket’s most important temples and visited by thousands each year. It’s beautifully decorated with infinite reflections from hundreds of tiny glass pieces and several pagodas. On special holidays Wat Chalong hosts ‘country fairs’ with a real local flavour where you can buy just about anything and snack on Thai food to your heart’s content. Wat Chalong has an interesting history and is Phuket Island’s spiritual centre. You haven’t seen Phuket if you’ve never visited this fascinating temple!
Directions: From Phuket town, take ‘Chaofa Road’ in the direction of Chalong and Rawai. There are two Chaofa Roads: the one you need is passing in front of Central Festival and all the shopping malls. It’s about 10 km from Central on the left, well indicated.
6. Island Hopping
Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island is Thailand’s island-superstar. It’s been in the movies. It’s the topic of conversation for travelers all over Thailand. For some, it’s the only reason to touchdown in Phuket. Even with all the hype, it doesn’t disappoint. Phi Phi’s beauty is a large chunk of the allure. The islands, when approached by boat, rise from the sea like a fortress. Sheer cliffs tower overhead, then give way to beach-fronted jungle. It’s love at first sight!
Directions: The cheapest and most reliable way to get from Phuket or Krabi to Phi Phi is by ferry. The journey takes about two hours from the continent to Phi Phi Islands. The schedule below displays the ferries between Rassada Pier in Phuket and Tonsai Pier in Phi Phi, as well as between Klong Jilad Pier in Krabi Town and Tonsai Pier in Phi Phi. Other ferries are available from Sea Angel Pier in Phuket, Laem Thong in Phi Phi, Ao Nang (Nopparat Thara Pier) and Koh Lanta (Saladan Pier) in Krabi.
You can book your tickets and find the ferry schedule here: http://www.phiphi.phuket.com/schedule.htm
James Bond Island
A boat trip through the dramatic limestones –jutting out of the waters of the Andaman Sea–is the best way to fully appreciate Phang Nga Bay. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just two of the more famous spots in this bay, and it makes for a great day trip, particularly if stopping off at the quieter beaches along the way. The so-called James Bond Island was featured in the film “The Man with the Golden Gun”. It is extremely crowded with tourists, and stalls are brimmed with souvenirs that you may not want. Though highly raved over the internet, consider giving this place a miss.
Heading northeast from Phuket will lead to the pristine islands of Similan and Surin, where divers are in their element amid clear waters and an array of marine life, including leopard sharks, octopus, and colourful exotic fish. A day trip to the Similan Islands boast great value for money with many snorkelling spots and a buffet meal provided. If you’re feeling adventurous, challenge yourself and head up to a gorgeous viewpoint to see the colours in water gradients of the beach!
Price: 100 THB per hour
Kayaks are available throughout the beaches of Phi Phi. Phi Phi’s vast waters and many islands make Kayaking an adventurous activity.
Address: The Adventure Club, Central Tonsai Village
The waters around Phi Phi Islands host a good number of inoffensive black-tip and leopard sharks. Phi Phi’s shark watching tours usually start very early – about 6:00am – and last a half-day. The tours are done in small groups with full snorkelling equipment provided and a professional guide; the most renowned site visited for shark watching is the small ‘shark point’ located 800m off Long Beach. Exciting and very educational, a shark watching tour will leave you with unforgettable memories.
Address: Central Tonsai Village
When staying on the island local diving is sensational with a head-spinning variety of marine life living in the waters surrounding the island. Phi Phi has long been a well-known place to dive and local sites include Maya Bay, Wang Long, Palong Bay, Bida Noi and a popular shipwreck. There are many dive shops to choose from in Tonsai Village.
Address: Cat Climbing Shop, near Café de la Bohème, Ton Sai Central
This new ‘sport’ is taking off in a big way on Phi Phi due to the abundance of fantastic jumping venues. Not without its risks, Cliff Jumping should be approached with an organised tour and participants should try lower jumps, starting from three metres gradually working to a 20-metre leap into the briny. It should be noted that combination tours are available that include snorkelling and cliff jumps.
The party scene in Phi Phi isn’t as chaotic as it is in Phuket. Instead of drinking till you’re blackout drunk, you drink to chill and singalong. There are bars sprawled around town, fire shows, and the island is filled with Reggae vibes.
Alcohol in Bucket
“Alcohol in Bucket” is common in Phi Phi. As soon as the last rays of the sun had vanished, buckets stalls appear in the busy streets of the town. These colorful buckets are popular with travelers at reasonable prices. Each bucket contains soft drinks and a bottle of liquor. Just mix everything directly into the bucket and sip with a straw.The price of a bucket depends on the alcohol sold with it.
Buckets with their prices shown – prices are subjected to the alcohol being sold.
Phi Phi Reggae Bar
Located right between Tonsai and Loh Dalum bays, Phi Phi Reggae Bar is a large venue featuring loud music, sport events broadcasted on a sizeable screen, five bars with talented and friendly bartenders, pool tables, and in the centre of everybody’s attention: a Thai boxing ring.
Muay Thai (Thai boxing) is the main attraction at Phi Phi Reggae Bar: every night professional demonstrations are held, but the climax is reached when often inebriated spectators are invited to fight in the ring (in exchange for a few more drinks); the association of alcohol and friendly fighting (at least at the beginning) has no limit in matter of fun
Price: 100 THB per person
Fire shows are held every night at 10pm and are accompanied with loud music. Expertly mixed cocktails and ‘buckets’ heat up the atmosphere until late.
Where to Eat
Visitors to Phuket are spoiled for choice when it comes to food. Phuket caters to every taste and budget, From tiny hawker stalls and local noodle shops, to seafood restaurants and fine dining establishments.
1. Boathouse Wine and Grill
Address: Kokthanot Road, South Kata Beach
Boathouse is a tastefully appointed beachside boutique hotel with one of the most celebrated restaurants and wine cellars in Thailand. Located at Kata Beach, its five-star restaurant serves gourmet French and Asian cuisine in sumptuous settings with top-of-the-range service.
2. Home Kitchen
Address: Kalim Beach, opposite the street food cour
Home Kitchen, Bar & Bed is the new project of Chef Daniel Isberg at the northern part of Patong Bay. Home Kitchen’s arty design comes from recycling and transforming old stuff into splendid pieces of art. Set in a two-storey building with the second floor shaped as an upside-down boat’s hull opened to the sea, the venue is highly original and fashionable; a perfect place for a stylish sundowner before a fine dinner prepared by internationally recognised head chef.
3. Baan Rim Pa Restaurant
223 Prabaramee Road, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand
Happily enough, Phuket has its share of fine-dining restaurants. Quality is not an issue here if you’re willing to pay for it. But for a special night out with a real dining experience, Baan Rim Pa has got all the bases covered – top atmosphere, location, service and food. Baan Rim Pa is located on a small cliff overhanging the beach near Patong.
A good way to start off a meal is to sample the appetiser selection which features herbed minced chicken and sweet corn in pastry shells; fried prawns and nut wrapped in an egg net; crispy rice noodles with minced fried basil leaves. Then move on to mains with dishes like soft crab fried with chili jam and garlic or the gorgeous duck in thick creamy curry sauce and lychees. The whole idea behind Baan Rim Pa is to invite diners to sample Royal Thai Cuisine in regal surroundings and it has succeeded well.
4. Phuket Weekend Night Market
Address: Phuket Town, Along Chow Fa West Road
4pm-10pm, weekends only
Price: At Least 500 THB
Visit the Phuket Weekend Night Market for a taste of local culture. It is a chaotic and atmospheric place, selling everything imaginable – from second hand clothes to fake designer handbags, and it also has a thriving food section.. You can easily get your dinner and supper fix here. The food selection is amazing: Flavoured fish cakes, Thai ice cream rolls, fried quail eggs, Thai pancakes, grilled chicken, beer, boiled buttered corn on the cob, honey glazed pork, exotic fruit, and barbecued meats etc. If you’re feeling daring, you can try some roasted insects! Visiting the Phuket Weekend Market is an experience in itself, but there’s always something worth bartering for among its diverse and colourful stands.
5. Beach Bars at Kata
For a vibe, head to Kata Hill overlooking Kata Noi Beach, where three bars invite chilled out beach-bum types to sip cocktails. The bars here–After Beach, Small Viewpoint and Baan Chom–play Bob Marley music on loop and have fantastic sunset views.
After Beach, Samll Viewpoint and Baan Chom are located in:
Mueang Phuket District, Phuket, Thailand
6. Tonsai Seafood (Phi Phi Island)
Tonsai Seafood is one of the oldest and most renowned seafood dining establishments in Phi Phi’s Tonsai Village. Set right next to the beach, the venue features a large open-air terrace – it is indeed a great place to enjoy a cocktail when things cool down a bit before dinner under the stars.
As the name suggests, Tonsai Seafood is highly specialised in Seafood from the Phi Phi Islands. From the fresh catch of the day, you will find lobster, crab, tiger prawn, horseshoe crab and more, grilled or steamed to your taste by an excellent and professional team.
7. Chukit Restaurant (Phi Phi Island)
In Chukit Restaurant, the seafood is fresh, juicy and tasty. The Stir-fried Flower Crab with Curry Powder is a signature dish and a must-try. Other dishes to check out are Clams in Garlic Chili sauce, Fried Fish Roe, and Barbecued Tiger Prawns. Western choices are available if Thai cuisine isn’t to your liking.
8. The Mango Garden (Phi Phi Island)
Honey mangoes are abundant in Phi Phi and are sold at affordable prices. The Mango Garden offers desserts at fine-dining level – Mango sticky rice is decorated with gold leaves.
Where To Stay
The choice of hotels in Phuket are endless. There’s a wide variety of international hotels in Phuket, along with some well-located budget-friendly options–and almost everything in between. With the renowned Thai hospitality, guests soon find that the place they’ve chosen to stay inevitably becomes an integral part of their Phuket holiday experience.
Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa
Address: Avista Hideaway Resort & Spa, Phuket, Muen Ngoen Road, Tri-trang Beach Patong, Patong, Phuket 83150, Thailand
For a location within easy reach of beaches, nightlife, and food, Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa is a high-end escape in Patong. The resort enjoys rich vistas of both Patong and Freedom bays, a private beach club, access to three separate beaches, butler service and three spectacular swimming pools.
Other than that, there are both chain hotels and charming local accommodation options scattered all across Phuket, from the heart of its old town right along its coast.
The Naka Phuket
Address: Kathu Kathu District, Phuket 83120, Thailand
The NAKA Phuket is a collection of beachside Villas at Kamala Beach on Phuket’s lush and verdant west coast. Kamala is some 15 minutes north of Patong – Phuket’s party centre, shopping hub, and fine-dining venue. Accommodation categories at The Naka Phuket comprise One-Bedroom, Two-Bedroom, and Three-Bedroom Villas: One-Bedroom Villas enjoy fantastic views of the seascape, and are mere steps away from the shoreline.
Address: 116, Soi Sakhu 1, Sa Khu, Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand
Indigo Pearl is a private paradise; The Private Pool Villas offer a unique experience – the ultimate in romance, indulgence and renewal, overlooking onto enchanted tropical gardens and tranquil ponds. Each villa will feature exotic suites, exclusive his & hers fixtures, grandiose dining & living area and an exquisite barbecue and bar, making it the perfect place to entertain. Welcome to the epitome of luxury living.