Phuket consists of a chain of 33 islands in the Andaman Sea, and the main island Phuket Island is Thailand’s leading tourist destination, linked to the mainland by a bridge. It is a year-round destination, with temperatures consistently in the high 80s, although May and September feature fairly heavy rainfall. Phuket offers something for everyone, from relaxing beaches and cultural sites to adventure tourism and raunchy nightlife.
Beaches and Water Sports
Phuket Island has a number of excellent beaches, although the west-facing beaches are the safest for swimming. Hat Patong is the most developed beach, featuring sunbeds and umbrellas, beachfront bars and cafes; refreshment vendors patrol the beach throughout the day, as well. Hat Kamala, Hat Nai Han and Hat Surin are secluded beaches, ideal for peaceful relaxation, and Hat Kata is renowned for the excellent snorkeling along its coral reefs. Surfing is possible year-round, although the best time is between May and October; other water sports include kitesurfing, parasailing, scuba diving, jet skiing, kayaking, windsurfing and boating.
Phuket offers outdoor adventure activities ranging from white-water rafting in Phang Nga Province to rock-climbing, caving, mountain biking and horseback riding. The main island has six international-standard golf courses, including the famous Blue Canyon Club, and charter boats are available for deep-sea fishing. For a more traditional experience of Thailand, sign up for Thai cooking classes, go elephant trekking, watch an exciting Muay Thai boxing match, or enjoy a day of pampering and Thai massage at one of Phuket’s spas.
Phuket’s principal cultural attraction is the Wat Patong temple, which is the center of Thai Buddhism. Other sites of note include the old town area of Phuket City, the Two Heroines Monument and the Pun Tuao Kong Chinese shrine on Patong Hill. Visitors can learn about Phuket’s history at the Thalang National Museum and the Kathu Mining Museum; while the Phuket Aquarium houses a large collection of native tropical marine species.
Phuket offers a diverse range of shopping opportunities. Malls include the Jungceylon Shopping Center in Palong, which has more than 200 stores selling designer clothes and shoes, jewelry, perfumes and electrical goods. Local markets, such as the one at Chalong, offer colorful displays of fresh fruit, vegetables and spices, and visitors are welcome to haggle over the prices. Arts and antique shops abound, and locally produced handicrafts include filigree leather goods, silks, ceramics and items made from shells and coconuts.
Phuket is renowned as a party hot spot, and Patong Beach is at the center of the nighttime action, with a host of go-go bars, nightclubs, discos, jazz clubs and ladyboys cabaret shows in the Soi Bangla district. The open-air clubs are packed with international tourists every night of the year. One of the star attractions is the Simon Cabaret Show, which is Asia’s biggest transvestite cabaret show. Kata Beach and Surin Beach are quieter and more suitable for families, but still offer a varied selection of bars and restaurants, while Phuket City’s nightlife offers a more traditional Thai flavour. For a night out with a difference, visit Phuket FantaSea at Kamala Beach, which is a flamboyant nighttime theme park offering parades, shows and cultural attractions, shops and restaurants.