The quiet side of Phuket

Laem Singh beach is a hidden gem

Phuket is Thailand’s most popular vacation destination, attracting over five million people a year, so you’ll have plenty of company. If you’ve come to Phuket imagining a relaxing and chilled island paradise all to yourself you might be disappointed. It has its quiet corners but the most popular and pretty areas attract thousands of others and you’ll find the crowds, noise, activity and frenetic pace perhaps a bit much to bear. Here’s our tips on avoiding them.

If you’re after some peace and quiet in Phuket, stay away from Patong and Karon and their associated beaches and head to the southwest or northwest of the island for accommodation, and explore the island from there. There is plenty to see and do on Phuket and not all of it gets crowded with tourists.

There is plenty to see and do beyond the bars, clubs, and restaurants of Patong and Karon, with fancy five-star resorts offering complete pampering, to plunging waterfalls, quiet national parks, interesting museums, fantastic view points, a quaint old town, colourful mosques and temples, and even hidden beaches.

There are a couple of really good museums on the island, including the new Phuket Sea Shell Museum, not far from Rawai beach, which has shells from around the world as well as ancient fossils, giant clams, and rare golden pearls. Towards the north of the island, not far from the airport, is the Talang National Museum where visitors can learn all about Sea Gypsy culture.

There is an overpriced zoo on the island in Chalong (southeast) but the modest acquarium over on Cape Panwa is a refreshingly good value and peaqeful alternative. Speaking of animals, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project at Bang Pae Waterfall is a much better bet. In addition, eco-tours are popular on the island and Island Safari Tour is one of the better operations. Other outdoor family attractions include the beautiful Phuket Orchid Garden and Thai Village and the Phuket Butterfly Farm. More on day trips.

Like elsewhere in Thailand, Phuket is predominantly Buddhist and there are dozens of temples here, the most impressive of which is Wat Chalong, about one kilometre from Phuket Zoo. Highly revered monks Luang Pho Chuang and Luang Pho Chaem of the 19th century are linked with this fine temple, which can be picked out from afar by its huge landmark seated Buddha on the hill towards Kata beach.

See the gibbons at Phuket Zoo

Phuket Town itself is a bit of a noisy hodgepodge of a city and not all that enchanting, apart from the Sino-Portuguese mansions that hail from Phuket’s days as an important trading and tin mining centre. Thalang road, set back the town centre, has the pick of these old buildings and is best seen on a walking tour. More on Phuket Town.

One of the best ways to see Phuket is by motorbike when getting from beach to beach. Taking in the viewpoints is a lot easier on a motorbike than from a car. If you are not proficient on a motorbike, however, then it is best to drive or get a day tour.

As far as viewpoints go, the one between Kata beach and Phromthep Cape is the most striking, with fine views over Kata, Karon and Patong beaches. Khao Rang (Rang Hill) just outside Phuket Town is another good viewpoint, as is the off-road Buddha hill between Chalong bay and Kata beach. Anywhere on the west of Phuket sees fine sunsets, yet those at Rawai and Phromthep Cape are traditionally the best but also the busiest.

For beaches, Nai Yang in the north; Surin, Bang Tao and Laem Singh in the centre; and Kata, Kata Noi, and Nai Harn in the south are the quieter beaches of Phuket. With the exception of Bang Tao, Laem Singh and Nai Harn, they all have shops, restaurants and bars very nearby for those who fancy some convenience. More on Phuket’s beaches.

Even Patong has some quiet nightlife, which is mostly confined to the four- and five-star resorts on the headlands either side of the beach. For an overall quiet beach setting with reasonable tourist facilities, Kata Noi beach is hard to beat with its no-through road, beautiful sand, clear water and limited hotels, restaurants and bars.

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