Relaxing on a beach is a utter bliss in Phuket

By Dave Rudd

Relaxing on a beach is a utter bliss in Phuket

Thailand’s biggest island and most visited place presents the visitor with a mountain of options. There are many unique attractions on the island, from theme parks to shell museums, great shopping and dining, not to mention the many beaches and watery activities.

While you can of course simply chill out over the three days, those with itchy feet may want to check the island out. Trips to Phi Phi Island and Pha Nga Bay are also possible. Check out this following loose example of a possible three-day itinerary for Phuket:

Day 1

Chill on a beach. Best get it out the way first, although if you’re a sucker for beaches, it may be best to leave it for the last day or you’ll probably miss everything else. There are many beaches to choose from with the best of them lying down the west coast.

You’ve probably heard of Patong beach, but if not, this is Phuket’s liveliest and most expensive beach. Although the beach itself is nice enough, it is packed most of the year and is backed by a vast collection of bars, eateries and shops. If this is your thing, then Patong can’t be beat.

Either side of Patong are Kamala and Karon (north and south respectively), which are quieter and less in your face. One of the nicest beaches and having the best of both worlds is Kata, just south of Karon. You can spend the first day flitting between these three.

There is virtually every type of beach activity on offer and many folks on the beach take to jet-skis or parasailing. Snorkeling and diving options near the coast are also fair, although you’re better off getting on a day trip away from the masses. Golfers may want to check out the fine 18-holer to the east of Patong beach.

Note. Beware unscrupulous jet-ski operators, some of which will charge tourists for existing damage. Check over the jet-ski and point out any damage, having them note it down, and also take pictures with a digital camera before the off.

For a night of easy entertainment and dinner, consider heading out to Kamala beach (north of Patong) to experience Phuket’s top attraction, Phuket FantaSea. This glitzy place does a banquet hall buffet dinner followed by a show with dozens of elephants and stunning displays - you can forego the dinner and just pay for the show. Also onsite are video games and souvenir shopping. For more on hospitality.

Simon Cabaret is a riot of colour

Day 2

If you haven’t overindulged on day 1, the second day could be good for checking out the island at large and taking in popular sights. Hire a car or motorbike to get the most out of the island, sticking to the main dealers where possible.

You will invariably be staying on the west coast and, if you have a car or bike, it’s nice to have a drive down south to admire the other beaches and viewpoints. Rawai beach is right down the south and is known for its seafood and is a nice stop off an a roundabout trip to Phuket Town.

A few kilometres to the north of Rawai is the fun Phuket Seashell Museum. It rests in nice grounds and is beautifully done with displays of thousands of shells, fossils and clams from around the world. Another popular attraction about 15 minutes by car to the north is Phuket Zoo. It is slightly overrated and foreigners pay extra, although it does have some decent exhibits and animal shows.

Afterwards you could check out Chalong Temple (Wat Chalong) while cutting across back towards the west coast, or perhaps visit Phuket Town to the north. Aim to then get back before sundown at one of Phuket’s famous viewpoints. Views of Kata, Karon and Patong beaches are best had above the beach at Kata, while Phromthep Cape is the most popular.

If you fancy a night on the tiles, it is probably best to get it out of the way on day 1 or day 2 before you leave Phuket after day 3. The nightlife in Phuket is legendary and best enjoyed in Patong if you’re a raver. There are hundreds of bars along myriad streets just off the beach, with Soi Bangla being the main one. Karon is a bit more laid-back yet also sports the obligatory girlie bars and discos, while Kata beach is quieter.

For a show, the Simon Cabaret in Patong is worth a look for a bit of fun, as long as you don’t have kids in tow. It is all about men in drag, locally known as katoeys or ladyboys. Although not everyone’s cup of tea, the dances and costumes are really well done and the atmosphere is electric.

Day 3

You could enjoy a spot of culture on day 3 by taking in Phuket’s quieter side - visiting temples and gardens, perhaps followed by an afternoon of shopping in Phuket Town or Patong. Others may want to head out on a day trip and there are also plenty of options.

Phuket has dozens of temples, many of which are samey after you’ve seen the first one or two, yet the big Buddha statue on the hill overlooking Chalong is a must. You will need a motorbike or car to get there as it’d take you all day to clamber the steep slopes - the drive itself takes a good 30 minutes along a steep, winding route. It is well worth it though as the views are staggering and the statue gigantic.

The other must-see temple in Phuket is Wat Chalong near the east coast in the lesser visited part of the island. The rambling temple complex is known for revered monks Luang Pho Chuang and Pho Chaem and has an impressive viharn and stupa (spire).

Phuket Town is not far north of Chalong and is good for a couple of hours’ exploring its nether regions. Be sure to see the quaint Sino-Portuguese houses along Thalang Road and Yaowarat Road. Phuket Town also has good shopping, especially in antiques, although having a map to hand is a must.

If you’d prefer to shop at the beach, Patong and Kata are the best options; the latter of which is easier going. They both have street side hawker stalls and small shops selling all sorts of knickknacks and fancy items. Clothing is the best buy, particularly t-shirts and batiks, while handicrafts and jewellery are also in abundance. For mall shopping, look to Jung Ceylon in Patong and the Central Festival mall closer to Phuket Town.

Also near Phuket Town is the Phuket Orchid Garden and Thai Village. The huge Orchid Garden is the main highlight and the place also puts on cultural and animal shows; good for the whole family.

Those who decide to head out for the day have a few major choices: Phi Phi Islands, Krabi or Pha Nga Bay. They are all strikingly beautiful places and speedboat tours leave Patong in the morning and include lunch, swimming and visiting caves if you do Phang Nga Bay. Dive trips are also popular from Patong, Kata and Chalong.

Spare time

If you find you have some spare time, consider heading inland. Phuket is a hilly island and it is surprising just how rugged it is. A narrow road heads south on the route between Patong and Phuket Town for views over Patong. There is also a route through to Chalong from Kata over the hills, or you could head north along the west coast and then back to Phuket Town. All routes are usually pretty busy, are steep and also quite demanding, so take your time.

Phuket is also loaded with spa resorts, so you could forego a day of activities, shopping or adventure and have a detox or beauty treatment. Half-day packages are popular or you could pay by the hour. More on spas in Phuket.

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