Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, approximately the size of Singapore. It is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea.
Phuket enjoys great popularity as a travel destination. Most beaches are on the west coast, with Phuket Town to the south-east and the airport in the north.
Phuket nestles in balmy Andaman Sea waters on Thailand’s Indian Ocean coastline 862 kilometres south of Bangkok.
Phuket formerly derives its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoyed a rich and colourful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign trader’s ship logs.
Phuket is hot and humid throughout the year. The high season is generally considered to be from November to May. During the summer monsoon season, mornings and afternoons are still sunny and clear, but it tends to rain in the evenings and water clarity goes down. Locals consider May to October the "cool" season, and the weather is quite tolerable, much more so than in the tourism centers around the Gulf coast. It's comparable to Florida's summer weather in temperature and intensity of rain storms: 25-33 deg C, flying clouds, short and thunderous rainfalls in the afternoons and evenings. Surfing is possible off the western beaches.
Phuket is a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and even sea gypsies. The majority of the population in the rural areas is Muslim. Phang-nga however, does not suffer from any religious tension and the folk live in peace and harmony. Outside of the provincial town, the rural folk speak with a thick Southern dialect which is difficult for even other Thais to understand. The provincial town’s economy having boomed over the past decade has lead to a lot of the youngsters leading similar lives to those in Bangkok. Altogether, the lifestyle of the urban Thai-Chinese resembles that of Bankokians.
Festivals and Events:
Phuket Vegetarian Festival: an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the vegetarian festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite. During this time, local residents of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 10-day vegetarian or vegan diet for the purposes of spiritual cleansing and merit-making. Sacred rituals are performed at various Chinese shrines and temples and ascetic displays such as walking barefooted over hot coals and ascending ladders with bladed rungs are performed by entranced devotees known as "Ma Song".
Thao Thepkrasattri and Thao Sisunthon Fair: is held on March 13 every year to commemorate the two great heroines who rallied the Thalang people to repel Burmese invaders. Many activities and celebrations are organised.
Seafood Festival: held around May yearly, is designed to publicise the delicious seafood of Phuket and attract visitors during the rainy season. Activities include a Marine Tourism Resources Parade, seafood stalls, demonstrations of regional cuisines and cultural shows.
Phuket King’s Cup Regatta: is held in December. The Kata Beach Resort hosts international yachtsmen, largely from neighbouring countries who compete in the Kata Beach area for royal trophies.
Laguna Phuket Triathlon: is held in each December. The triathlon (a 1,800 - metre swim, a 5.5 -kilometre bike race and a 12-kilometre run and a 6 –kilometre fun run) attracts world-class athletes from all over the world.
Phuket Travel Fair: starting from November 1, is usually called the Patong Carnival, from the place where celebrations occur. Colourful parades, sports events, and a beauty competition for foreign tourists are major activities.
Chao Le (Sea Gypsy) Boat Floating Festival: falls during the middle of the sixth and eleventh lunar months yearly. The sea gypsy villages at Rawai and Sapam hold their ceremonies on the 13th; Ko Si-re celebrates on the 14th; and Laem La (east of the bridge on Phuket’s northerntip) on the 15th. Ceremonies, which centre on the setting adrift of small boats similar to the Thai festival of Loi Krathong, are held at night and their purpose is to drive away evil and bring good luck.
Phuket Town - The administrative center of the province, and the island's main population center. Has the cheapest accommodation
Particularly in the monsoon season, there are strong currents on many of the beaches and drownings are a depressingly common occurrence. Heed the warning flags on popular beaches and play it safe if off the beaten track. It is important to note that, while many tourists who flock to the beaches of Phuket are European, nudity is viewed as highly offensive to Thais. It is very rude to go topless to beaches. Thais are generally non-confrontational, but it is always best to be respectful while treading on another's home country.
The major beaches from north to south are:
- Mai Khao - near the airport, very quiet (aside from the planes!) and far away from it all
- Bang Tao - long, very quiet beach
- Surin Beach - an up-and-coming destination
- Laem Singh Beach - small bay with stunning views, between Kamala Beach and Surin Beach
- Kamala Beach - a quieter beach to the north of Patong
- Patong Beach - the largest beach resort, known for its nightlife
- Karon Beach - a quieter beach to the south of Patong
- Kata Yai Beach - busy, clean tourist beach with good surf
- Kata Noi Beach - quieter sister of Kata Yai
- Ao Chalong - home to Phuket's most popular yacht anchorage
- Rawai Beach - set off point for lots of local islands, popular with locals for eating on the beach
- Nai Harn - a quiet beach (probably the best) in the south near Phrom Thep Cape view point
Ko Yao — two islands halfway to Krabi, with four upmarket resorts
Kho Hae (also known as Coral Island) — Located on the Southeast of Phuket Island. Only 15 minutes by speedboat from Chalong Bay. Visitors can travel to the island whole year round. They can either visit for a day or stay overnight at the resort.
Kho Bon or Bon Island can be reached by longtail or speed boat from Phuket's major beaches. An ideal island for a day of snorkeling, relaxing and enjoy a good lunch at the English run restaurant. Stay for cocktails in the late afternoon and watch the sun go down at Laem Phrom Thep.
Amphoe Mueang Phuket
Khao Rang: A great view of Phuket Town, the southern part of the island, and some of the offshore islands, can be obtained by going to the top of Khao Rang Hill, on the town's northwest border. There are also several restaurants featuring spectacular views of the city, a health park for exercise enthusiasts, and a comfortable, expanse of grass at the top with a bronze statue of Phraya Ratsada Nupradit, the model Governor of Phuket during King Rama V's reign.
Saphan Hin: A land reclamation project provided abundant new land now used for parks and public facilities at Saphan Hin, located where Phuket Road meets the sea in Phuket Town. In the circle is the Tin Mining Monument, shaped like a large drill bit, dedicated to the memory of Captain Edward Thomas Miles, the Australian who brought the first tin dredge to Phuket in 1909. The monument was built in 1969 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of tin dredging in Phuket. A sport center is located in the park.
Old Phuket: The beginning of the tin boom in the 19th century led to construction of many fine mansions and shops that are still well preserved. The architectural style, typical of the region, is described as Sino-Portuguese and has a strongly Mediterranean character. Shops present a very narrow face onto the street but stretch back a long way. Many, especially on Dibuk Road, have old wooden doors with Chinese fretwork carving. Other streets, forming what might be called "Old Phuket", with similar structures are Phang-nga, Yaowarat, Thalang, and Krabi, and a walking tour of the area is easy and delightful. Some other old European-style buildings of note are the Provincial Hall, the Phuket Courthouse, and Siam City Bank.
Phuket Butterfly Farm: This is only 3 kilometres from town via Yaowarat Road and the Sam Kong intersection. It has a fascinating collection of such tropical creatures as butterflies, insects, marine life all arranged in natural surroundings. It is open daily from 9.00 a.m.-5.00 p.m. Admission is 300 bath for adults and 150 baht for children. Tel: 0 7621 0861, Fax: 0 7652 3609
Thai Village and Orchid Farm: This is located on Thepkasattri Road about 3 kilometres from town, serves daily a typical southern Thai lunch that is followed by a spectacular cultural show including Thai dances, Thai boxing southern customs and elephants. Handicrafts are also on display. The complex also houses a dining hall decorated with over 20,000 varieties of orchid and tropical trees. Digestion is aided by the lilting sounds of Thai classical and folk music played on tradition instruments. It is open daily from 9.00 a.m.-9.00 p.m. Cultural shows are performed daily at 1.00 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. Admission is 650 baht for adults and 330 baht for children. Call 0 7621 4860, 0 7623 7400 for details.
Ko Si-Re: Separated from the mainland of Phuket by the Khlong Tha Chin, a shallow mangrove swamp, this twenty-square kilometre island is connected by a causeway to the city. Wat Ko Si-Re, on the hill, has a large Reclining Buddha and provides fine views of the surroundings. Phuket's largest settlement of Sea Gipsies, or Chao Le, can be found on Ko Si-Re at Laem Tuk-kae. The muddy seabed means the island is not good for swimming. There are some popular seafood restaurants on the eastern shore.
Phuket Zoo: Located on the way to Chalong Bay, the zoo contains a collection of Asian and African mammals and birds. Elephant and crocodile shows are performed every day. The zoo is open daily from 8.30 a.m. - 6.00 p.m. Admission is 500 baht for adults and 300 baht for children. Call 0 7637 4430, 0 7637 4424 for details.
Ao Chalong: This is Phuket's principal boat anchorage and the island's largest bay, 11 kilometres south of the town. It is very picturesque but not suitable for swimming. Boats can be chartered to go to some small island south of Phuket. A number of restaurants are on the road leading to the bay.
Laem Ka: Just south of the Phuket Island Resort Hotel and north of Rawai Beach is a small rocky bay, popular with Thais at the weekend.
Hat Rawai: This palm-fringed beach is best known for sea gypsies, a formerly nomadic fishing minority believed to be of Malanesian descent.
Laem Phromthep: Phromthep Cape is a headland forming the extreme south end of Phuket. "Phrom" is Thai for the Hindu term, "Brahma," signifying purity and "Thep" means 'God.' Local villagers used to refer to the cape as "Laem Chao", or the God's Cape, and it was an easily recognisable landmark for the early seafarers traveling up the Malay Peninsula from the sub-continent.
Ko Kaeo: Ko Kaeo is an offshore isle about 3 kilometres out from Rawai beach and can be reached in 30 minutes by boat. It offers picturesque beaches and underwater scenery. There is also a replica of the Holy Footprint on the island.
Phuket Sea Shell Museum: This museum is located near Rawai Beach on the island's southwestern shores. The emphasis is on shells from Thai waters, which are among the most sought-after by collectors, however shells from every part of the world are featured. There are numerous rarities and freaks including the world's largest golden pearl (140 karats), large sections of sedimentary rock containing shell fossils, and a shell that weighs 250 kilograms. The museum is open daily from 8.00 a.m. till 5.30 p.m. Admission is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children.
Hat Kata: Situated 20 kilometres from town, beautiful Kata is a scenic gem, its clear water flanked by hills, and picturesque Bu Island sits offshore. Kata retains a village feel at its northern and southern ends and is perhaps more family-oriented, its beach more peaceful than Patong.
Hat Kata Noi: Situated 20 kilometres from town or south of Kata is Kata Noi, a smaller beach with only a few hotels and little other development. The beach is superb. Many fish inhabit the rocks and corals along the beachless shoreline stretching south. To get there, one can take the narrow beach road up over the hill from Kata.
Hat Karon: The second largest of Phuket's tourist beaches, some 20 kilometres from town. Large resort complexes line the road behind of the shoreline, but the long, broad beach itself has no development. The sand is very white, and squeaks audibly when walked upon. The southern point has a fine coral reef stretching toward Kata and Bu Island.
Restaurants, bars, tour companies and other non-hotel businesses are at the north end, near the traffic circle, and at the south end, on the little road connecting the back road with the beach road. The narrow road between Kata and Karon has a number of small businesses as well as the Dino Park Mini Golf facillity. Karon is the most up-scale of Phuket's beaches. There is a regular daytime bus service to and from Phuket Town.
Hat Karon Noi: This is a 4 kilometre long straight beach with fewer visitors than its big sister, Karon. Nightlife is pretty much confined to dining and a few beer bars.
Dinos Park Mini Golf: Dinos Park Mini Golf is located beside the Marina Phuket Resort, Hat Karon. This 18-hole mini-golf course in a primitive atmosphere uses the light and sound techniques to feature dinosaurs and an erupting volcano. It is open daily from 10.00 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. Admission is 120 Baht. Green fees are 240 Baht for adults and 180 Baht for children. Tel. 0 7633 0625, Fax: 0 7633 0516.
Hat Nai Han: Some18 kilometres from town or south of Kata Noi and north of Phromthep Cape, Nai Han is not Phuket's longest beach, but it borders the most gorgeous lagoon on the island. The middle of the beach is dominated by the Nai Han monastery, which has obstructed excessive development and is the reason that the beach is generally less crowded than other spots on the southern part of the island.
A wide variety of water sports can be enjoyed, but swimmers should be alert for the red flag which warns of dangerous currents during the monsoon season from May to October. One can walk to nearby Phromthep Cape to observe sunsets, which are often fiery and spectacular.
Ao Sen: Often overlooked due to its proximity to Nai Han, and because the connecting road runs through and under the Le Royal Meridien Phuket Yacht Club, Ao Sen has a wan air of long lost glamour to it. Its chief appeal is the epic view it offers of Nai Han and Phromthep Cape.
View Point: This is located mid-point between Nai Han and Kata beaches. The scenic Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches, and Ko Pu Island can be viewed from this point.
Phuket Cultural Center: Phuket Cultural Center is located in the area of the Phuket Rajabhat University on Thepkrasattri Road. It displays history as well as the arts and culture of Phuket, such as houses, ways of life, and utensils of the city of Thalang in ancient times. Furthermore, the library collects books on Phuket’s history and culture. The center is open daily for free from 8.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m., except public holidays. For a group of visitors who needs a guided tour, please address a letter of request to the Phuket Cultural Center at 21 Thepkrasattri Road, Tambon Ratsada, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Phuket.
Phuket Aquarium: Phuket Aquarium at Cape Phanwa offers the opportunity to observe local marine life up close without the necessity of diving beneath the waves. More than one hundred aquatic species are housed at this facility, which is one of Thailand's principle centres for research into the whales, dugongs, sharks, dolphins and sea turtles that make their home in the water around Phuket. The centre is open daily from 9.00 a.m to 5.00 p.m. Admission is 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. To get there, one can take Songthaeo (local bus) from the local market on Ranong road in Phuket Town.
Hat Patong: 15 kilometres from town, Patong is Phuket's most developed beach which offers numerous leisure, sporting, shopping and recreational options along its 3-kilometre long crescent bay. Windsurfing, snorkelling, sailing, swimming and sunbathing number among the many popular daytime activities. Patong is equally well known for its vibrant nightlife, among which seafood restaurants feature prominently.
Hat Kalim: Just north of Patong Bay, starting from about the Novotel Phuket Resort Patong to Thavorn Beach Village, this area consists of rocky but quiet beaches, and an interesting road leading up into hills with high viewpoints and a few good quality restaurants perched on the edge and top. Some housing compounds are now being built on the hillsides and the whole area is steadily moving upmarket.
Hat Kamala: The 2 kilometre long beach north of Patong is a favoured spot for witnessing sunsets. The northern end of Kamala Beach is suitable for swimming.
Two Heroines Monument: Phuket’s most famous monument in Amphoe Thalang is the memorial statue of the heroines Thao Thepkasattri and Thao Sisunthon, who rallied islanders in 1785 to repel Burmese invaders.
Thalang National Museum: This is located near the Two Heroines Monument. The museum contain permanent exhibition of life in old Phuket, ancient artefacts and remains discovered on the coast and, materials used during war with Burma (Myanmar).
Wat Phra Thong: Situated some 20 kilometres from Phuket town past the Thalang district office, this temple enshrines a golden Buddha image that sprang up from beneath the earth long ago. The story tells of a young boy who tied his buffalo to what he thought was a post. After doing so, he fell down in agony and died. The father of the boy dreamed that the reason his son had died was for the sin of tying a filthy buffalo to a sacred object, that what the boy thought was a post was in reality the golden peak of the Buddha's conical cap. He told his neighbors the dream and they all went out to dig up the statue but had no success.
Wat Phranang Sang: This temple is located 20 kilometres from town on the Thepkasattri Road at Thalang district. An old and historical landmark of Phuket, the temple was once a fort resisting Burmese invasion around 1785. Inside the old chapel are enshrined the three oldest and largest Buddha statues made of tin. Called the Three Kings, they are positioned in the midsections of another three large statues.
Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre: Its duty is to promote, distribute and wildlife within Khao Phra Thaeo wildlife park. The park is located near Thalang district, 22 kilometres from Phuket Town. 22.28 square kilometers of virgin forest are coverd by this park, which also actively conserves a number of wild animals; they would otherwise be extinct in fast-growing Phuket. It is a center for study of the environment and the forest vegetation is spectacular. Giant trees supported by huge buttresses are thick with creepers and climbers of every description.
One species of palm, the Governor's Palm or White Back Palm (palm lang khao in Thai) is especially rare. Gibbons, civet, macaques, squirrel, flying squirrel, bat, flying lemur, chameleon, mouse deer, wild boar, and many species of birds inhabit the forest. Khao Phra Thaeo serves also as one of Phuket's most important water sources. Major attractions include:-
Ton Sai Waterfall: A small falls, over which pours a great volume of water during the rainy season. The trees, watercourses, and pools nearby provide one of Phuket's loveliest scenes. The park headquarters with an excellent view are also at Ton Sai.
Bang Pae Waterfall: Another waterfall in the sanctuary which is located at Tambon Pa Khlok past the Two Heroines Monument. There is an arboretum and a nursery to rehabilitate captured gibbons before returning them to the wild.
For nature enthusiasts, the sanctuary has mapped out some walking trails. Further information, please contact the centre, call 0 7631 1998.
Hat Surin: This beach is situated 24 kilometres from town. Evergreen trees line this small, curving bay, beneath the foothills north of Kamala. Surin is home to Phuket's first golf course, a nine-hole course laid out more than sixty years ago during the reign of King Rama VII. It is now largely in disuse except as a park. The steep incline of the beach, turbulent water, and big waves make Surin a dangerous place to swim.
Laem Sing: This beach is 1 kilometre from Surin Beach. The name means Lion's Point. The beach is in a small, curving bay with rocky headlands at the foot of forest-fringed cliffs and is among Phuket's most beautiful spots. Look for signs indicating the path down to the beach.
Ao Bang Thao: Bang Thao is a large open bay with one of Phuket's longest beaches. It was once used for tin mining, but has since been developed into a luxury resort. Most of it is occupied by the Laguna complex, a massive five-hotel development with golf course. There are, however, accommodations available outside Laguna at the bay's south end.
Dry season swimming is excellent, and at the bay's north end is a smaller bay, almost completely enclosed, at the mouth of which is some fine coral. Plenty of places to eat, tour companies, and other tourist facilities are available either at Laguna or in the nearby town of Choeng Thale.
Sirinat National Park: Located near the Phuket International Airport, some 30 kilometres from town, the national park covers an area of 90 square kilometres. The park stretches all the way to the island’s northern tip. There are a number of interesting beachs to visit:
Hat Nai Thon: nestled at the foot of high hills has a fine strip of sand. This quiet bay is suitable for swimming.
Hat Nai Yang: is where the park headquarters are located. The beach is blessed with shady pine trees providing excellent opportunity for swimming and relaxation. Off-shore is a large coral reef which serves as habitat for several species of sea life, particularly the sea turtles.
Hat Mai Khao: also known as the Airport or Sanambin Beach, can be reached by taking the Thepkasattri Road on to the Thao Thepkasattri Bridge, then take a left turn at the direction sign pointing to Mai Khao Beach. It is the habitat of the sea cicadas and turtles.
Hat Sai Kaeo: just the northern portion of Mai Khao Beach, is a long white sandy beach with groves of pines along the shore.
Mangrove Forests, situated on the island’s northern tip, cover a large area of 320 acres. A nature trail has been cleared for the convenience of visitors with signs indicating and explaining the various species. Camping is permitted on both Mai Khao and Nai Yang beaches. The Park's Visitor Center, located near the south end of Mai Khao, rents tents and provides some minimal facilities for campers. There are also some inexpensive bungalows for rent on Nai Yang Beach.