Without a doubt, Phuket has what most people would consider an extremely lively, vibrant and colourful nightlife, with something to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Some people will be thrilled by its night time entertainment, but those looking for a gentler and more tranquil experience may be shocked or even disgusted. Indeed, many visitors come to Phuket simply because of the seedy girly bars, go-go clubs and adult fun that’s widely available, all set in a tropical destination that, for many, represents the best (and sometimes the worst) that Thailand has to offer. It wasn’t always the case in Phuket, which was at one time a rather underdeveloped island, except for the now long-gone tin mining industry, and most Thai residents lived in Thalang and Phuket Town; in recent years, with the increase in mass tourism and commercial development, Phuket has emerged as a favourite holiday destination for people from all over the world.
The island is physically quite spread out and comprises around a dozen or so main beach resorts mainly on the west coast, each with its own unique and distinctive character; as expected, there are plentiful raucous and raunchy hotspots, but many visitors are surprised that Phuket also has more respectable and family oriented attractions. Even the busiest and most popular areas such as Patong Beach are not too in-your-face, and can certainly be enjoyed by families in the evening as there are plenty of great restaurants, cabaret shows, live music venues, and more respectable bars that don’t have any sleaze on display. Although girly bars are almost everywhere, they can easily be avoided for those that want to.
Phuket has plenty of places to party after a hard day’s relaxing on the beach. You can enjoy intimate girly bars with attentive female company, as well as western-style nightclubs, discos, pubs, Thai karaoke joints, and many cultural shows such as Phuket FantaSea and the infamous Simon Cabaret ladyboy show. For a more subtle experience, Phuket has all bases covered with more laid back beach resorts such as Kata, Karon and Surin. Evening entertainment on the island needn’t just involve drinking and partying; many venues, even in Patong Beach, have a relaxed atmosphere with live music, in a more low-key lounge or restaurant setting that should appeal to couples and families.
Please see our related articles that cover nightlife in the individual areas around Phuket.
A Hedonist’s Paradise
The central part of Patong Beach and particularly around Bangla Road, is where most of the wild and sleazy action in Phuket is concentrated. There are hundreds of girly bars, clubs and go-go’s packed into a small area that all offer adult fun to varying degrees. The majority of bars are girly bars, where customers can sit and chat or drink with girls vying for their attention. However, in Phuket the experience is not that off-putting, and it’s just as easy to sit and watch TV in a bar over a quiet drink, than be hassled too much by the girls.
Besides the numerous bars, most of the island’s go-go clubs can be found in Patong, each with a bevy of sexy pole-dancing girls in two-piece bikinis or micro shorts (or less). Some go-go bars have free entry, while others charge a few hundred baht to enter and may have a variety of stage shows such as the now clichéd ping-ping show, soapy girls in foam baths, and lesbian acts. Patong also has its fair share of discos and nightclubs, some with live bands but others not. While most of these venues also serve as local pickup joints for the freelance working girls, they tend to play fairly decent western dance and pop music. Most don’t try too hard to be upmarket and the fashion police are noticeably absent. Unlike most clubs in Europe and elsewhere, in Thailand customers are welcome to enter most places wearing just shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops, so you don’t need to make too much effort to dress to impress. There are also a few bars and clubs that play live (and very loud) rock music every night, mostly local bands from Thailand or the Philippines.
Of course, Patong Beach also caters to people that don’t want to hang around girly bars, go-go clubs and discos, and there are plenty of other things to do in the evenings, including shopping, watching a movie, enjoying a Thai massage, or going to any of the cultural shows.
Something for Everyone
For a less crazy night out, head down to Karon Beach which is just a few kilometres south of Patong. The atmosphere is decidedly more tame and there are no proper go-go bars, but there are just enough lively drinking holes that you can easily participate in a lengthy bar-crawl. Some Karon nightspots can be found close to Patak Road and the northern traffic roundabout, but many more are just a bit further south near Luang Poh Chuan Road, and consist mostly of girly bars with the traditional pool tables, TV, bar stools and friendly hostesses. A few bars in Karon even have regular live music and jam sessions occasionally.
Further south from Karon, Kata is a great little place to spend an evening or two, as it has quite a compact layout and it’s easy to stumble from one bar to the next. There are dozens of restaurants and outdoor cafes that cater more to families, but that’s not to say there isn’t any wilder action going on; the beachfront road is dominated by the Club Med resort, but on the beach there’s the simple but fun Ska Bar which has reggae tunes and cheap drinks. In central Kata, there are some girly bars at the northern end of Kata Road, and many more at the Kata Night Bazaar and along Tai Na Road. Apart from the girly bars, there are some slightly more respectable ones with great live music such as Robert’s Pub.
Kamala has retained it’s village-like and sleepy atmosphere, but still has a few options at night. Apart from Phuket FantaSea, there are some quaint little beach bars that are a great place to watch the local fishermen in the evening, or try your hand at releasing a Chinese lantern. There are several good local restaurants on the beach and in the village nearby, and a handful of fun and lively bars, where you can chat with the locals and tourists alike.
Surin has a very relaxed and charming nightlife scene, with some great dining, drinking and eating venues near the beach such as the Catch Beach Club, Liquid Lounge and the Stereo Lab Lounge, which has amazing décor and superb tunes with regular performing DJ’s. The more peaceful area of Bangtao has a quiet but enjoyable nightlife scene, with a couple of simple but funky beach bars (try the Reggae Bar which always plays smooth tunes), and plenty of chic restaurants and bars, such as The Supper Club, Kargo and The Orange House. It’s considered by some as the complete antithesis of Patong Beach.
Over in Phuket Town, things liven up but the clubs and bars are mainly geared towards a very Thai clientele. It’s very different to how things are done in Patong, and an Asian style nightlife scene can often be a fun and welcome change. There are plenty of Thai music pubs (such as the Johnny Walker pub) that have live rock bands most nights, and dozens of very attractive and skimpily dressed waitresses. In such places, you can even bring your own drinks (normally bottles of whiskey) and pay only for the mixers, something that seems to be a common practice in Thailand. As well as the dozens of bars there are a few upmarket clubs, as well as two cinemas (one in Central Festival mall and the other next to the Ocean mall) and a bowling alley.
Unsurprisingly, Rawai is much quieter than Patong Beach but there are ample friendly, and fun, bars and restaurants to visit at night. Many expat residents tend to stick to their local or favourite bar, and a few great ones are located on the main beach road, such as Moby Dick’s, Nikita’s and the ever popular Sunshine Bar. Heading back towards Phuket Town from Rawai, there are also a smattering of Thai style karaoke joints with blackened windows and girls sat outside, but as expected these places aren’t usually frequented by foreigners.