As Thailand’s most popular tourist destination, Phuket impresses with its sophisticated, well developed tourist infrastructure and hospitality services. This ranges from five-star hotels and world class restaurants to rowdy bars and even a transvestite cabaret; something to suit all tastes and budgets. There are more than half a dozen beach areas, each with its own atmosphere and character, of which Patong is the liveliest, while nearby Karon and Kamala are more family-orientated, yet busy all the same.
Phuket entertainment also has live music, movies, night shopping and several shows, including the highly recommended, family-orientated Phuket Fantasea. Thailand is gay friendly and there are several focal points around the island. Of course, it wouldn’t be Thailand without some ‘girlie bars’ and these are mostly confined to Patong. They’re easy to find and equally easy to ignore.
Where to Eenjoy Phuket by Night
Phuket is actually quite spread out, consisting of a series of bays on the west coast (where the action is), each with their own beach scene. Some are more lively than others, presenting several atmospheres to suit different tastes. Whether you prefer fine dining or a raucous pub, there are options to suit different moods. Each beach area offers plenty of hospitality options in varying degrees.
Patong Beach is party centre; a busy, heavily-developed area that will excite the party-goers and disgust those looking for quiet paradise. Here you’ll find the greatest concentration of bars and discos, as well as massage shops, restaurants and night market shopping. Bangla Road is the locus of activity, mainly because it’s lined with lanes full of girlie bars. The place is packed by night and can be either overwhelming, titillating or merely ‘interesting’, depending which way you look at it.
Karon is the second busiest tourist centre on Phuket, with its own cluster of bars and restaurants, while Kamala is similar but quieter. Kata is more refined and you’re more likely to find fine dining here than bar girls and beer-swilling backpackers. Other beaches, such as Surin and Rawai, are quieter but do have some options, but in Bang Tao you’re probably restricted to the entertainment and options provided by the Laguna complex resort.
Phuket Town is where the locals hang out. Most of it is dead by night, except the night market areas, and the entertainment on offer is generally in the form of Karaoke bars and the odd expat bar. In additional to dining or bar-hopping, you can just as well keep yourself busy all evening haggling with street vendors over souvenirs, have a relaxing massage, or seek out gay corners of the resort areas.
The eastern side of Phuket is growing in popularity, with the cheap rents and exclusive ambience around Royal Marina Phuket by Koh Kaew especially alluring. The Watermark Group (Tel: (076) 239 730) offer catering and events from their luxury operation here.