One of Thailand's most popular destinations, the island of Phuket is known for its sun-drenched beaches and dizzying array of nightlife. Head to Patong to party or quieter Karon to soak up some sun, and don't forget to explore Phuket Town's Chinese heritage and unique architecture. From temples to Muay Thai and raucous cabaret shows, there's more to see and do than simply lie on the beach. However beach life is what the island is renowned for, so book your Phuket flights, pack your swimsuit and discover this absorbing destination.
High on the list of things to do in Phuket is spend some time in the party centre of Patong. By day it's your average tourist-lined beach but by night Patong transforms into the nightlife capital of Thailand. The almost 2.5 mile long beachfront is lined with clubs and restaurants which light up after dark, with the liveliest clubs concentrated around Bangla Road. If partying is not your scene, consider taking a trip out to breathtaking Phang Nga Bay, where a series of spectacular limestone islands jut out of the water.
Eat and Drink
Home to a large expatriate community, Phuket restaurants reflect the diversity of the island's inhabitants. Western staples abound but for a touch of the exotic, try dining on one of the island's famous floating seafood restaurants. Equally popular is the Mor Mudong Restaurant, dramatically situated among the mangroves in Chalong. Those with a craving for western food will find the greatest range in Patong, and the Bangla Road area is also the place to head for nightlife. There are countless bars and clubs located along the vibrant thoroughfare, most catering to a specific niche market.
Where to Stay
Phuket accommodation tends to sell out quickly during the high season so it's best to book several months in advance for some of the better known hotels. As to be expected, Patong offers a wide range of accommodation, from cheap hostels to upmarket hotels. Some of the best deals can be found away from the tourist hotspots, with a number of resorts dotted around picturesque Chalong Bay. The beaches at Karon and Kata are both quieter than Patong and affordable resort-style accommodation surrounding the two is plentiful.
Phuket shopping entails a mix of popular markets and established shopping centres. Traditional wooden puppets are popular souvenirs at the OTOP Market in Patong, while Thai silk is available at Central Festival Phuket in Phuket City and at Patong's sprawling Jungceylon shopping centre. Look out for 'batik' – a traditional Thai cloth typically used to make bright sarongs and bags if you're after an authentic Thai souvenir to bring home. The colourful fabric is readily available in the textile shops dotted around Patong, Phuket City and the southern seaside village of Rawai.
Phuket like a Local
Given that Phuket weather is so inviting, it's tempting to spend most of your time relaxing on the beach. However if you scratch beneath the surface you'll find plenty more to do. Consider kayaking around the limestone caves in Phang Nga Bay or stretch your vocal cords at one of Patong's popular karaoke bars. Beachside massages are common on the island but for a more holistic experience consider taking a relaxing yoga or meditation class. If you're architecturally-inclined, consider staying in the often overlooked Phuket Town, where you'll find the island's best examples of Sino-Portuguese architecture.