Located in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the jewel in Thailand’s tourism crown; a sprawling island enjoying year-round tropical weather with stunning beaches, a vast range of restaurants, bars and activities and great nightlife. Hugely popular with foreign tourists and locals alike, the various regions of the island all have a different feel, meaning that whether you’re coming to party the night away, relax on a quiet beach or stay in a luxury resort, Phuket has something for you. With the exception of Phuket Town, most of the island is very tourist-oriented, with prices for most goods and services in Phuket being notably higher than other parts of the country. It goes without saying that you’ll get to spend plenty of time on some of the island’s wonderful beaches, but here are five great things not to be missed during your trip.
Take a One Day Tour of The Island
As well as Phuket itself with its many stunning white-sand beaches, there are several other interesting islands and attractions in the vicinity. These include the beautiful Phang Nga Bay, made famous after being used as a backdrop in The Man With The Golden Gun, and many other captivating islands including the Phi Phi islands, Coral Island and Racha Island. Tour packages vary, however, they can easily be tailored to your needs and should include most of the major attractions as well as stops for food and drinks, a spot of swimming or snorkelling and a stop at a secluded beach or two. Booking a one day tour is convenient and good value, with most full-day packages coming in at around 3300 baht ($110) per person. Beware of any tours coming in at much cheaper prices; you could well end up with dozens of other tourists packed onto a small boat like sardines. Other activities can be incorporated into your trip if desired, such as kayaking, parasailing, fishing or even kiteboarding.
Visit Wat Chalong
Wat Chalong is Phuket’s largest and most important temple and comprises of a complex of several highly decorated and ornate Thai temple buildings adorned with carvings and lavish decorations. Located around 8km from Phuket Town, the temple itself is dazzlingly beautiful and set in carefully manicured and maintained gardens, much like the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It is believed by the locals that the temple is lucky and has the ability to grant miracles, so you’ll spot many residents there going to “tam boon” or make merit, creating luck for themselves in the future. The grand pagoda of the complex is purported to contain a real splinter of bone from Lord Buddha himself and inside the building are many wall paintings depicting his life story. It’s a fascinating place to visit for any visitor to Phuket, just remember to dress conservatively and remove your shoes before entering any of the temple buildings.
Visit the Night Markets
Wherever you are staying on the island, there will likely be a night market not too far away. Thai night markets are busy, chaotic, colourful and at times smelly, but most of all great fun and a fantastic place to pick up some serious bargains for both tourists and locals alike. You’ll be able to try all manner of Thai foods and drinks at rock bottom prices, and be able to shop for clothes, shoes, souvenirs, local handicrafts, jewellery and many other weird and wonderful items. At some markets, you may even get to see some live music or Thai dancing whilst you wash down all the wonderfully fresh Thai food with an ice-cold beer. They are a great place to watch and get the chance to see ordinary Thai people going about their business. The Phuket Town Sunday street market is very popular, as is the hyper-trendy Chillva night market, but you’ll also find sprawling, bustling markets at Patong, Karon, Kata and Kathu. They are a great way to while away a balmy evening during your stay on the island and grab a few gifts for family and friends back home.
Visit Phuket Town
Phuket Town is often overlooked by visitors because it’s inland and therefore doesn’t have a beach, however, there’s loads to see and do within the town and the immediate vicinity. Central Phuket is located here, a vast, upmarket shopping destination which also houses an aquarium and a mini theme park for the kids, and has an amazing food court. Children will love Monkey Hill, home to hundreds of wild but friendly monkeys which you can feed with bananas from a vendor and have them climb on your shoulders for photo opportunities. Within Phuket Town you’ll also find dozens of interesting temples, several museums including the fantastic Phuket 3D Museum, the Phuket Botanical Gardens, art galleries, a tiger park, aquarium, Phuket Bird Paradise and dozens of other attractions. Plus, because Phuket Town is an actual working town where many locals live, you’ll find small, authentic family-owned restaurants that are much cheaper than the touristy places next to the beach. Make sure you don’t miss it.
Thailand is a scuba diver’s paradise. The warm, clear waters, teeming with all kinds of aquatic wildlife, combined with the very low prices for trips make it a wonderful place for diving, whether you’ve never tried it before or are a life-long veteran. The Andaman Sea, in particular, offers an incredible diving experience where you can expect to see beautiful coral formations, schools of colourful tropical fish, manta rays, whale sharks, triggerfish, barracuda, turtles and squid, the list is endless. Very professional dive schools are abundant on the island, offering all kinds of packages from single, first time dives to full certification courses including PADI open water and master diver certifications. The cost of the dive package will usually include hotel pick up, scuba gear rental, a simple meal and/or refreshments, with a single dive package starting at around 3300 baht ($110) which is amazing value. Many people who visit Thailand choose to use the opportunity to obtain a PADI diving certificate, which takes around 3 days and costs 14000 baht ($461), and with some schools throwing in accommodation and meals, it’s an incredibly good deal. If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving, you likely won’t get a better opportunity.