Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations anywhere in the country. Every year countless thousands of holidaymakers arrive from all over the globe, to enjoy its deservedly famous sandy beaches, natural environment, and abundant attractions in what is still best described as a tropical paradise.
The island boasts some pristine and unspoiled beaches, mountains and jungle, decorative Buddhist temples and shrines, impressive waterfalls and viewpoints, lively local markets, first class dining and shopping experiences, and quite simply an amazing nightlife. Besides these obvious charms, there are many unique and interesting cultural and historical attractions which might surprise visitors, and proves that the island is also steeped in quite a rich and diverse history.
Location, Location, Location…
Phuket is located on the West coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea, and is surrounded by many spectacular and popular islands such as Koh Phi Phi and the Similans, as well as numerous smaller ones which are all worth a visit. Phuket’s waters are warm and usually clear, and the weather is warm all year round. Even in the turbulent monsoon seasons when it can rain a lot and even cause local floods, conditions are not bad and it usually dries quickly when the sun reappears. The upside is that there are fewer tourists around and it’s easier to find a deserted picture postcard beach and have it all to yourself. Most visitors from abroad prefer to visit in the high season at the end of the year, when the weather is warm and dry and you’re guaranteed many days of beautiful deep blue skies.
Something for Everyone
Visitors will find the island has so much to offer, that you can never really get bored on Phuket. Even people that have been to Thailand many times find that they keep coming back to enjoy the mix of beaches, attractions, and of course the infamous nightlife. Furthermore, there is always something new to discover as the island doesn’t stay the same for very long, and has certainly changed over the years with increased development and tourism. Even though some might say that it’s become over commercialised far too rapidly with ever-increasing visitor numbers, it’s perhaps inevitable considering the annual influx of people. Somehow though it’s still managed to retain some of the essential qualities that have made it so popular and successful.
Getting to Phuket is simple enough, as it’s only around an hour’s flight away from Bangkok, and there are good road links north and south. There are many daily flights from the capital and abroad, and good bus routes that go practically everywhere within the rest of the country…for those that don’t mind 12 hours or more on a bus which can be quite an arduous experience. Getting around the island however is a piece of cake, as there are taxis, motorbikes, tuk-tuks and buses everywhere, so it’s easy to get out and explore lesser known beaches and secret coves, or just drive around and see where you end up as it’s not really possible to get lost. Many people choose to base themselves in Patong due to the convenience and extensive facilities and accommodation options, but with such decent transport links there’s really no excuse not to venture a little further afield.
Perhaps the main reason people come to Phuket are to experience the fine golden beaches with stunning turquoise water, of which there are still many marvellous hidden gems to discover mainly along the West coast. Even the busiest and most touristy areas such as Patong have quite impressive beaches that haven’t been too compromised by the daily hordes of tourists, with the added benefit of all the nearby shops, attractions, nightlife, facilities and water sports. A few reasonable beaches are also to be found in the south and east of Phuket, but they typically aren’t as good for swimming and water sports but nevertheless make an interesting trip to see just how varied the beaches really are.
Phuket has an awesome and lively nightlife scene and many evening activities, which is another major reason why people love the island so much. Phuket can easily hold its own even when compared with the raucous and sleazy Pattaya or Bangkok, and the quality and variety of nightlife surpasses that found in more provincial and sleepy towns. Many people consider Patong’s nightlife in particular to be among the wildest in Thailand, and it certainly seems to live up to that reputation (we’ve been told…). Besides the copious girly bars bathed in pink neon and pumping out loud music, there are semi-naked girls dancing unashamedly and provocatively on poles, risqué go-go bars where anything goes, tiny karaoke joints, eyebrow-raising ladyboy shows, expat oriented bars, and throbbing discos and clubs. When all this becomes just too much (it might take a while however) there are some quiet and chilled out places located all around the island, especially in the smaller towns away from Patong.
Phuket even has world class shopping with several large malls that have everything you could possibly need, as well as dozens of daily markets where you can pick up food and clothing much more cheaply. We recommend that you visit a local market or two while you are here, not least to see how the Thais live and shop, as it’s a very interesting experience and quite different to markets in the West. Of course, most tourists love to shop and there’s a huge supporting industry of street vendors, back alley stores, and opportunistic hawkers that sell everything imaginable such as wooden frogs (an essential purchase), silly multicoloured hats, fake designer clothes, copied music and movies, and a novelty souvenir to cover every occasion!
Thrills and Spills
Phuket really does have something for everyone, whatever activities or sports they enjoy. Besides the more energetic activities such as the excellent surfing, diving, and golf, there are dozens of other sports of all types, as well as back-to-nature elephant riding and nature trails, thrilling ATV tours, big game sea fishing, entertaining zoos and butterfly parks, and even an informative museum or two. Phuket has just about every kind of holiday activity that you could possibly want covered. But for those that just want to relax and take it easy, there are also a wealth of massage boutiques and classy spas, with some of the best that Thailand has to offer located in Phuket.
With all this and much more, it’s no wonder that Phuket continues to draw visitors in droves each year. There seems to be no end to its perennial popularity, and even those that say there are no more surprises in Thailand will surely discover something to like on the fantastic island of Phuket.