Phuket Travel Guide
Luxuriantly verdant, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island (approximately the size of Singapore) and nestles against the Indian Ocean Coast some 870 kilometers south of Phuket derives its wealth from tin and rubber, is blessed with teeming marine life, and has enjoyed a rich and colourful history — the island’s most famous landmark is the memorial statue of the heroines Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sisunthon who rallied islanders in 1785 to repel Burmese invaders.
Phuket is blessed with magnificent coves and bays, powdery, palm- fringed white beaches, sparkling island-dotted seas, sincerely hospitable people, comfortable accommodation, superb seafood, lushly forested mountains, lovely waterfalls and parks, and delightful turn-of -the-century Indo / Portuguese and Chinese-influenced architecture which create an enchanting ambiance perfectly suited to total relaxation.
Indeed, Phuket is a major resort of international stature, possessing everything necessary for a truly memorable holiday.
HOW TO GET THERE
Government-operated buses and private airconditioned tour coaches regularly make the 14-hour journey between Phuket and Bangkok. The most convenient way of reaching Phuket is abroad daily Thai Airways Boeing 737 / AB300 flights which make the Bangkok – Phuket journey in 1 hour and 10 minutes. Thai Airways also lands four times weekly during Bangkok – Singapore – Bangkok flights, and Thai Airways regularly make flights between Phuket and Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. There are no rail services to Phuket.
First-class hotels located within town offer complimentary transport to their own beach clubs. Economy-class hotels are also available within town. First-class resort hotels with spectacular views offer air- conditioned accommodation, as do many cabin and bungalow complexes on Phuket’s most popular beaches. Yet other ‘native-style’ complexes, built of bamboo, rattan and Nipa palm thatch, Phuket’s coastal hills and beaches to offer comfortable and relatively inexpensive accommodation.
Phuket’s glory is its magnificent coastline. Beaches range from gentle crescents of white sand with calm waters to rocky headlands pounded by raging surf. Secluded coves lie hidden among densely forested headlands tumbling around white beaches. In several such places, visitors can feel years away from civilization.
Phuket’s Indian Ocean coastline boasts the finest beaches while the eastern coastline overlooks some 30 lesser islands occupying largely tranquil seas. Islands vary greatly size, some are large enough to sustain fishing communities, coconut plantations, deer and wild boar. Others are little larger than massive rocks. Others again resemble fortresses, are riddled with caves containing the birds’ nests prized by gourmets.
Counterclockwise from Phuket’s northern tip, the island’s major beaches, temples and botanical parks are as following:
The pine-lined Mai Khao Beach (34 kilometers from town) is Phuket’s longest beach, site between November and February each year, where gigantic sea turtle struggle ashore to lay theirs eggs.
Nai Yang Beach, to the south (30 kilometers from town) forms part of National Park and is peaceful, excellent for swimming and relaxation. Inland from Nai Yang Beach is Wat Phra Thong where a famous partially-buried Buddha is enshrined. Further east, (20 kilometers from town), the beautiful Ton Sai Waterfall Forest Park and Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park have innumerable birds, wild boars and monkeys to enliven botanical beauty cooled by sonorous cascades.
Further south, Pansea Bay, Surin Beach (24 kilometers from town), Sing Cape and Kamala Beach unfold in rapid succession. A public 9-hole golf course fronts Surin Beach where swimming is not recommended due to powerful surf and a treacherous undertow. The northern end of Kamala Beach is suitable for swimming.
Patong Beach (20 kilometers from town) is Phuket’s most developed beach. Cabin and bungalow complexes, hotels, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, shop and restaurants front the crescent bay. Windsurfing, snorkeling, sailing, sunbathing and swimming number among major activities.
Karon (20 kilometers from town) and Kata (17 kilometers from town) are the next major beaches. Both are long, largely peaceful and eminently suitable for swimming, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and sunbathing. Kata is partially fronted by Club Mediterranean Complex.
Nearing Phuket’s southernmost point, the white Nai Han Beach (18 kilometers from town) fronts a shallow lagoon between steep headlands. Swimming, windsurfing, sailing, sunbathing and snorkeling are popular activities.
The nearby Promthep Cape marks Phuket’s southernmost point is the perfect place from which to view spectacular sunsets.
To the east, the palm-fringed Rawai Beach (17 kilometers from town) hosts Phuket’s best known ‘sea gypsies’. several offshore islands have gleaming white beaches, and dazzling underwater scenery that attracts dedicated fishermen and scuba-divers.
To the northeast, Chalong Bay (11 kilometers from town) extends in a broad sweep and, a few kilometers inland, Wat Chalong enshrines statues of Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, Phuket’s most revered monks.
Finally, on the southernmost tip of Phanwa Cape (10 kilometers from town) is a Marine Biological Research Centre and Phuket’s Aquarium which displays several hundred exotic, grotesque and flamboyantly colourful marine species found mostly in Phuket’s teeming waters.
Standard western fare is found in major hotels and coffee shops. Thai, Chinese and Islamic food is available islandwide. Phuket’s seafood, probably Thailand’s most delicious, is prepared in a variety of succulent styles. Southern Thai food can be spicy hot but local specialties, such as spicy mango salads, are well worth sampling.
Tropical fruits abound, particularly local pineapples and coconuts. Phuket’s gift shops customarily stock popular handicrafts from all over Thailand, southern batiks and local products such as hand-crafted coral and shell ornamentation’s, exotic seashells and cultured pearls.
Phuket’s nightlife is sedate (compared with Hat Yai, Pattaya or Bangkok) and is concentrated largely in the town centre and Patong Beach in restaurants, bars (many featuring video entertainment), massage parlours, nightclubs and discotheques.