Whether you are in search of world-class eateries, vibrant local festivals or merely a chilled cocktail whilst watching the sun set over the Andaman Sea, Phuket has it all. Thanks to the island’s size and diversity, it is also very easy to avoid the mass tourist crowds, especially if you stay in a private rental villa.
Home to a fascinating range of historical treasures, world-class beaches and world class restaurants, even repeat visitors never tire of things to see and do on Thailand’s most visited isle. The island’s many rental villas offer the perfect base to make the most of such an eclectic destination.
Beyond the beach, a perfect Phuket stay should certainly include at least one day visiting the island’s museums and temples – a fascination insight into the island’s colourful history and enduring traditions. Food should also feature highly on any visitor’s Phuket wish list, as should a gentle stroll or two around some of the island’s many shops and markets.
Later, when sunset beckons, heading to a chic beach club to bask in the blazing colours is fast becoming a holiday ritual for many Thai, international visitors and residents, and plenty stay on for an evening of fabulous food, inspiring tunes and top shelf beverages to the fuel the party. After all, there’s plenty to celebrate when you choose Phuket for a holiday.
West Coast Wonders
For many travellers, a fresh ocean breeze, the light scent of the sea air and the soft feel of talcum-powder sand between your toes can only mean one thing – heaven. Visitors that come back to the “Pearl of the Andaman” year after year may argue that Phuket is the next best place. Sunset is one of the best times to enjoy Phuket’s stunning coastline, and the beaches on the island’s west coast offer a whole host of ideal spots to absorb the crimson remains of the day. Home to a number of restaurants and bars, Kata beach is a classic beachside town, which allows you to combine sunset with a bite to eat. Meanwhile, Patong beach is the destination of choice for visitors that fancy a bit of bar hopping once the sun has gone down. For a more romantic, sunset stroll by the surf, head to Kamala or Bang Tao beach, where you are more likely to find a quiet spot to enjoy the scene in peace with your loved one. Naithon, Surin and Mai Khao beaches are also well worth experiencing, either during the day or once the sun dips into the horizon. Renting a private villa on the west coast gives access to all these beach destinations, although once installed, you may find it difficult to drag yourself beyond the serene surroundings of your private pool.
Whether you prefer the atmosphere of a modern, air-conditioned shopping mall or that of a bustling outdoor market, Phuket delivers. Central Festival Phuket and Jungceylon are the two main indoor shopping complexes on the island. The former is located in the centre of the island and home to over 120 independent boutiques that sell everything from clothes to computers. Even better, there is nearly always a sale on. Situated in Patong, Jungceylon boasts two gleaming department stores – Robinsons and Big C, in addition to a plethora of smaller boutiques. Shoppers that want to test out their bartering skills at an authentic Thai market may prefer a trip to the Phuket weekend market, where an intriguing array of goods and food is on sale in a vast, covered street side location south of Phuket Town. Alternatively, Phuket Walking Street is an authentic shopping experience for the whole family. Spread out along the beautifully renovated and lit historical Thalang Road every Sunday evening, visitors can discover the range of handicrafts, food and original clothing made by local designers.
Dine in style
Visitors that fancy a break from spicy Thai street food are spoilt for choice on Phuket thanks to a wide choice of more up-market eateries that are peppered across Phuket. Many of the island’s resorts boast top class restaurants where you can indulge in a gourmet meal, no matter whether you prefer Thai, Italian, Japanese, Indian or virtually any other global cuisine. Independent restaurants also draw the foodie crowds. Joe’s Downstair’s is one of the island’s best known fine dining spots north of Pating Beach, where guests can choose from a table inside or one with splendid views of the Andaman Sea. A little further north, Aqua is a popular choice for high quality Italian cuisine in chic surroundings. Meanwhile, visitors in the mood for something ultra special can now make their way to Natai Beach over the bridge in Phang Nga, which is home to a newly-opened restaurant called Aziamendi, launched recently by Chef Eneko Atxa, who also has three michelin starred restaurant in Bilbao, Spain.
A trip to Phuket would not be complete without a visit to the oldest part of the island, often called Phuket City, where the stunning architecture will transport you back to the charming Chinese influenced island of 100 years ago. The Sino Portuguese shops houses that sprung up in what is now known as Phuket Old Town were the result of wealth amassed by the island’s tin mining industry, which actually dates back to the 16th
Century. A wander around this part of Phuket is most rewarding in the early morning or early evening. During the day, a trip can include a trip to the tin mining museum in Kathu, as well as visits to other historical sites.
Phuket also plays host to several awe-inspiring local festivals. The famous Vegetarian Festival is a captivating event for visitors, particularly when it comes to watching the festival’s participants engage in ancient riteals such as fire walking and facial piercing. Meanwhile, music lovers arrive in droves for the Phuket Jazz Festival, which attracts a number of world-class performers.
After a long day sight-seeing, there is no better place to relax than at one of Phuket’s elegant new beach clubs. The island’s beach club phenomenon has really taken off in the last couple of years and there’s now a good choice of sand-side venues to choose for a cocktail, a feast or a party. Surin Beach’s Catch Beach Club is one of Phuket’s most established and glamorous spots for an evening drink, particularly if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Patong. Nearby Zazada Beach Club is a relatively new arrival further up the same beach and an ideal spot for visitors that want to be served their Mai Tai by a waiter dressed in a traditional Thai silk costume. Re Ka Ta beach club is a new addition to the Boathouse resort in Kata, and is a popular spot of sociable beach lovers to make some new friends over a sumptuous barbecue on the beach. Other ultra chic beach clubs on the island include Diamond Beach Club, Xana Beach Club, which hosts big name international DJs and the recently opened Nikki Beach, Phuket’s very own version of the famous Miami-based global beach club brand.
by Max Vee