Think sun. Think golden sand. Think fabulous beaches. Think a vibrant party scene. Think awesome food. Think adventure. Or think PHUKET! And guess what? It is also affordable. And let us not forget the Thai massages. Need I say more?
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and is a hit with tourists visiting South East Asia. It offers everything, well almost and is a place which you can enjoy with both family and friends.
I have been to Phuket multiple times now and every time have discovered something new about the place. I feel one should spend at least 4 days to have the best experience. Here I list down the top experiences which you should have and which can be easily done in 4 days.
Also read my post on The Sanctuary of Truth, Pattaya here.
The beaches [Popular]
What’s the one thing I love in Phuket? Lazing around doing nothing on one of the beaches. You would be surprised to know that Phuket has more than 30 awesome beaches with white sands. I am listing out some which are easily accessible and have stunning views of the sea.
The Patong beach is vibrant and it would be difficult to get a place to sit (beach chair) on a busy day. Well, try to reach a bit early, grab a beach chair with a sun umbrella and take in the gorgeous views of the sea as the waves come crashing by.
Have some refreshing coconut water or cool beer and I can guarantee you bliss! When at the beach, have a relaxing foot massage and enjoy! And if you are one who loves to indulge in water sports, well, this is the place for you.
While Patong beach is the more touristy one, Kamala beach is a beautiful stretch of sand around 10 Kms north of Patong. A quiet beach, it is a great spot for sunbathing and indulging in some beach activities. The waves are relatively calmer during the high season (November to April) and it is good for a swim.
My favourite one though is the beautiful Kata Beach. This mile long beach with white sand and turquoise blue waters, is the best beach to relax at. It is quiet at most times, except of course, during the high season when most of the beaches in Phuket are crowded. It is also one of the more family friendly beaches and has a lot of amenities.
Old Town [Recommended]
Not many people know about this but Phuket’s old town is a hidden gem. It is really a shame that the this area often gets neglected in favour of the more glamorous parts of Phuket. For my first two trips to Phuket, I was obsessed with the beaches and the vibrant night life. In my third trip, I finally got a chance to explore the Old Town area and regretted not visiting it earlier.
Things to do in Old town
Soak in the colourful Sino-Portuguese architecture of Old Town while taking a leisurely stroll down the roads. Walk down the Soi Romanee, Thalang Road and the Phangnga Road and click some pictures for instagram! Along the way, you will find beautiful art murals transforming the streets into an open art gallery.
Have coffee and cakes at Chino Cafe Gallery
While at Thalang road, have a great cup of coffee and cakes at Chino Cafe Gallery while admiring the stunning photographs on the wall. Chimjae Walking Street, a narrow passage between Thalang and Phang Nga Road is a good place to buy some local souvenirs.
Visit Memory on On On Hotel
If you get a chance, do visit the historic Memory on On On Hotel where parts of the Hollywood movie ‘The Beach’ featuring Leonardo Di Caprio were filmed. The hotel has an old world charm, and is beautifully decorated with pretty colourful corners. It was the first in Phuket and dates back to 1927.
Fun at the Trickeye Museum
We had a lot of fun at the Phuket 3D or the Trickeye Museum. Kids specially were thrilled. There are around 100 painted and sculpted spots where a 3D illusion has been created using trompe-l’oeil techniques (‘deceive the eye’). There are some funny paintings and if you take pictures with them, they create a very lively illusion. See for yourself 🙂
Bangla Road-For the party animals
At the centre of Patong is the pulsating Bangla Road, the hot and happening night hub of Phuket. This almost half a kilometre car free street at the end of the Patong Beach comes alive once the sun goes down.
Bangla Road is packed with live music bars, night clubs, and lots of happening places to eat out. All the establishments try to attract people to them through loud music and glaring neon lights.
You can definitely have some fun in this high spirited place, depending on what your idea of fun is! Also famous are the Go Go bars here. They are a bit sleazy but a hit with the tourists.
The massage parlours are open till late. Before you head back to your hotel, get a Thai massage, or a manicure or pedicure at any of the good massage places.
Many salons have red garra or “doctor fish” on offer—little fish that nibble off the dead skin on your feet. In recent years, there has been a lot of debate on whether it is safe and ethical. My suggestion is-do your research and decide for yourself. We decided to go ahead and found ourselves with cleaner ‘soles’ (no pun intended). It was a ticklish experience though!
Needless to say, every time we are in Phuket, Bangla Road is our go-to night place.
Eat Thai Food [Recommended]
You will get the best of food when in Thailand. Whether it is the seafood at the expensive restaurants or the Thai street food, everything is delectable. I am however more a fan of Thai desserts and love the fried ice creams and the coconut icecreams and the Thai mangoes.
You will get a lot of choices when it comes to Thai food and something is bound to make your stomach very happy.
Hike to the Big Buddha [Recommended]
The Big Buddha is one of the most well-known attractions in Phuket. It sits above Nakkerd Hill, less than 10 km from Kata. It is the third-tallest statue in Thailand and can be seen from as far away as the Old Town. The views from the Big Buddha are spectacular as well.
The statue, declared as the “Buddhist Treasure of Phuket”, depicts Gautama Buddha in a sitting position and is 45 metres (148 feet) tall and 25.45 metres (83.5 feet) wide. Made of concrete and covered with Burmese white marble, it faces the Ao Chalong Bay.
Big Buddha is accessible via a steep uphill road so it’s best visited by car.
It is recommended to visit Big Buddha along with Wat Chalong and Karon Viewpoint since all three places are in the vicinity of each other. Also, if you are short of time, you can club a trip to the Old town with these three places and do them in a day. It can get tiring though.
You can check out guided tours on Klook.
See Three Bays from Karon Viewpoint [Recommended]
One of the most photographed part of Phuket is the view of the turquoise water and stunning beaches from the Karon Viewpoint. Also know as the Kata viewpoint, the view of the three bays of Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon is simply beautiful.
Your camera will be very busy here.
Wat Chalong Temple is as impressive as they get. A beautiful Buddhist temple, it is the largest in Phuket and has a 60 meter tall Stupa, the top of which houses a bone fragment of Lord Buddha.
Built at the beginning on 19th century, its real name is Wat Chaiyatharara. It is a good idea to go and pay your respect to the Lord and in the process also enjoy the beautiful architecture.
Take a day trip to Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island [Recommended]
Take this tour through any of the local tour operators or book through your hotel. You can also book on Klook which offers several Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island tours. Your local guide will give you an overview of the tour.
Phang Nga Bay is a 400 sq km bay between Phuket and the southern Thai mainland and is certainly a must do. The limestone karst jutting out of the beautiful blue green waters makes for an instagrammable view. It featured in the 1974 James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun”.
Spend some time exploring the beauty of the Hong Island.
Koh Phi Phi [Popular]
Those who have seen the movie “The Beach” (2000) starring Hollywood star Leonardo Di Caprio, would have seen the the Koh Phi Phi archipelago. It is a group of pretty islands and is good for a day visit.
However, I felt that it is too commercialised and very crowded. Having said that, there is no denying that this should be on your must do list.
It would, however, be a good idea to visit Ko Phi Phi during the leaner seasons.
Now this was real fun. I had never done this before and was really looking forward to it. So we went to ATV Adventure Kathu Patong. I sat with my son on one of the ATV’s and my daughter and husband rode the other one. It was fun riding on the dirt roads and we crossed many a puddles of muddy water. This should be on your must do list.
Experience Muay Thai fighting
This is a truly Thai experience. Buy yourself a ticket and go watch this passionate form of combat at Saphan Hin Stadium where fighters use their fists, elbows and knees to demolish each other. Muay Thai also known as the “art of eight limbs” requires rigorous mental and physical strength. You can usually find tickets starting around 1,300 THB.
Recommended for boxing lovers.
Do visit the Simon Cabaret, a vibrant attraction, located near Patong Beach. It is one of the most respected Lady Boy shows and has stunning sets and costumes and dazzling performances. The performers put on a truly mesmerising show with their graceful performances.
Want some retail therapy? Explore of the many night markets in Phuket for an authentic Thai experience. You will get anything you could possibly want (well, almost)! Cheap clothing, designer shoes, fashion essentials, electronics, souvenirs, savoury street food -well, the list is endless! And even if you do not want to buy anything, you will still enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Getting around in Phuket
Various means of transports are available in Phuket but my favourite are the Tuk Tuks. However, beware that sometimes they can turn out to be more expensive than taxis. The tuk tuk drivers charge a lot since there is less public transport available between the beaches.
Local buses connect some areas but are very crowded and make a lot of stops. However, if you are on a budget, these are the best mode of travel. You can use motorbike taxis fort short journeys.
It is also a good idea to rent a car for the duration of your trip since it offers lot of flexibility to explore this beautiful place.
Best time to visit
Phuket is best visited between November to March when the weather is pleasant and sunny. However, it also expensive to visit Phuket during this time. April to May is really really hot and very humid.
May to October is the lean season and also the time when monsoon hits Phuket. However, this a good time to explore since it is less crowded and also less expensive.
There are plenty of stay options in Phuket, in almost all the price ranges. From super expensive to super affordable stay options, from beach front properties to properties in the Old town side, Phuket has it all. My personal favourite is the centrally located Novotel Phuket Vintage Park, just a few minutes walk from the Patong Beach and very near to all the main attractions of Patong.
Find the best places to stay as per your budget here.
A complete package
Phuket is the perfect destination for those wanting to experience golden beaches, azure waters, great food and a vibrant night life. And the affordability factor is a big plus. Combine it with the warm Thai hospitality and it is as good as it gets.
Have you visited Phuket? What are your views about this stunning island? Do share them in the comments section below.
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