Visitor guide to Phuket nightlife

By Jan Schauseil

Patong’s Bangla road is the biz!

Sun, sea and sand? There’s no shortage of that on Phuket, Thailand’s leading tourist destinaton, also known as the ‘Pearl of the Andaman’. But once the sun goes down and you’ve slapped on some moisturising cream to soothe the effects of a whole day’s sun-worshipping, your throat will scream for some moisture, too. Luckily, there are plenty of venues to choose from catering to thirsty visitors.

For the newcomer, nightlife in Phuket is concentrated around four main areas: the famous Patong, Karon and Kata beaches and Phuket City. Patong Beach is where most first-time visitors head, so let’s kick off our tour here. Starting with bars, there are three basic kinds here: beer-bars, go-go bars and regular bars, the latter not offering ‘female take-aways’. The backbone of Patong’s bar scene is Bangla road and the many lanes which run off it. Just half a kilometre long, Bangla is pedstrian-only in the evenings, making it easy to walk from bar to bar. Other bar areas in Patong include: Sunset Plaza at the southern end of Patong Beach, opposite the Seapearl Hotel; the Sukhumvit road complex, opposite the C&N hotel on Rat-U-Thit road; soi Dongtan on the beach road just north of Bangla, and Sawatdirak road, which is the next road going parallel to Bangla.

If the bar and girlie scene is not for you, take in some quality live bands at one of Patong’s two Irish pubs, Molly Malone’s and Scruffy Murphy’s. Tai Pan, opposite the entrance to Bangla on Rat-U-Thit road, is also popular with music fans. This darkly-lit bar with countless small tables tends to get pretty busy later on in the evening. Jazz fans should make their way to Baan Rim Pa, a renowned Thai restaurant overlooking the northern end of Patong Bay.

Next up is Karon Beach, with its more laid-back and quiet scene. Most of the action here can be found around Karon circle and Luang Pho Chuan road, with Patak road (East), the main road running behind Karon, offering some quieter haunts. Most places are in close vicinity of each other and after a while, you may feel that they’re all more or less the same. In that case, head back to Patong, just over the hill. If your hotel offers a cultural show or your concierge has some suggestions off site it’s worth considering this charming and gracious display of Thai culture. Usually dinner and a show of dance, music and folklore are thrown in together as a great family package that most tourists overlook.

Thai cultural shows are a refined experience

Kata Beach is informal and laid-back, a good place to relax with a cocktail or beer at an open-air bar or restaurant. Most evening venues cater to families and couples, with outdoor cafes and local restaurants serving good value meals. Don’t miss out on watching the sunset from the Reggae Bar overlooking Kata Noi - the stunning view is well worth the short tuk-tuk trip.

Tired of the tourist crowds and fancy going local? Try Phuket City, where a strong local flavour dominates proceedings. You won’t find any beer or go-go bars in Phuket City, though there are lots of karaoke and hostess bars catering to local men. Should you want to visit one of these, take along a friend who can speak Thai as little English is spoken in these establishments. Rock fans will love Jammin’, playing a mixture of western and Thai rock, as well as Timber Hut, offering similar fare. Typical Thai discos such as Planet and X-club are loud, noisy affairs with a string of Thai bands trying to outdo each other in crazy outfits and volume. You won’t find many westerners in these haunts, though everybody is welcome.

For something completely different, take in an extravagant cabaret show and learn the true meaning of ‘cabaret’. The cast is all male, but you’ll be hard pressed to detect even a hint of masculinity in their movements, and lipsynching makes the illusion complete. Phuket’s foremost venue for this kind of entertainment is the long-standing Simon’s Cabaret, while the Andaman Queen Cabaret and the Royal Paradise Complex also put on magnificent spectacles.

Those who want to dance the night away can stay right in Patong, the entertainment centre of the island, where most western style discos are located. Banana Disco on Phuket’s Beach road is a real institution and always popular. It can get pretty packed here with party-goers, particularly after 23:00. A bar downstairs has a live band playing golden oldies. Tiger Entertainment on Bangla road is up a flight of stairs next to the Thai boxing at the eastern end of Bangla. Safari Disco, as its name suggests, is built around a ‘wild’ theme and has a reputation as a late night venue where many people go to carry on partying into the early hours. Its only downside is its distance from the rest of Patong’s nightlife spots.

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