Phuket Thailand is a world famous island situated
off the southwest coast of southern Thailand; or approximately
840 kilometres from Bangkok.
This is Thailand's largest island and it covers an area of some 540 square kilometres and is without a doubt one of Asia's favorite tourist destinations. The name Phuket in Malay is said to mean 'hill', which probably takes into account the island's mountainous terrain. Due to the size of this province it is divided into 3 districts which include: Mueng Phuket, Kathu and Thalang.
However, Phuket is characterized by its pristine beaches, lush green rainforests, waterfalls (including the Bang Pae Waterfall) and by the surrounding turquoise coloured water of the Andaman Sea. There are also some spectacular views that look out over the sea from vantage points including those at the renowned Promthep Cape.
The main reason people flock to this island in large numbers each year is to visit one of the 28 pristine white beaches and to unwind with the famous Phuket nightlife.
Phuket also has a good range of accommodation options available for families, ranging from high end five star resorts to modest priced hotels and bungalows, with many of these being built on beach front land (see image below).
The best time to visit Phuket is between the months to November to April as outside of this period you have to deal with Thailand's monsoon season, which creates unpredictable beach conditions.
Popular activities other than water sports (such as swimming, surfing, jet-ski riding, snorkeling) include cultural shows (including the Phuket Fantasea Show) clubs, pubs, elephant riding, restaurants, massage parlors, go-kart riding, golf (including Dino Park Mini Golf) and of course a couple of large shopping malls such as Central Festival (see image below) and Jungceylon which have modern cinema's and the common western food outlets such as KFC and Mcdonalds.
PHUKET THAILAND HISTORY
The island was once an important tin mining location where in the 1800s Chinese immigrants came to work in Phuket's tin and rubber industries. Phuket Town was hence created and this became an important coastal hub for trade while the fishing industry was undertaken by its local Muslim population.
one of the dynamics of this island which has aided its tourism growth
is that it is connected to the mainland by a bridge; hence it can be
accessed by road as well as aircraft.
The tourist industry in southern Thailand really gained impetus during the 1970s when the natural beauty of its beaches began to be noticed; Club Med being the first established hotel/resort on this island at Kata Beach. Prior to Club Med, the island had cheaper guest houses and bungalows which for the most part have now disappeared.
In 2004, Phuket was hit by a tsunami which caused tremendous damage to the island including Bang Thao, Khao Lak, Kamala, Patong and Karon beaches while hundreds of Thai and foreign lives were lost.
I first came here in 2005 during a period when the tourist industry was getting back on its feet and at a time when visible signs of the devastation were all around.
BEACHES, ISLANDS AND OTHER ATTRACTIONS
Today, Phuket has fully recovered and offers its visitors some of the best Thailand vacations available. From the excellent beaches, and day trips to the beautiful surrounding islands there is more than enough fun activities to keep the entire family entertained. The islands that can be accessed from Phuket include:
KAMALA BEACH PHUKET THAILAND
Kamala Beach is one of the more quiet Thai beaches along the west coast of Phuket in southern Thailand. Being located just six kilometres to the north of the bright neon lights and go-go bars of Patong Beach, Kamala offers a relaxed and mellow beach atmosphere when compared to other Thailand beaches like Patong and Karon Beaches. This is probably why this beach and the surrounding area has of late become a popular home for retirees and expats.
In fact when driving along the coastline through the densely forested hills, it is easy to drive right past this beach, due to both the lack of signage, and the fact that Kamala is situated a little off the main road. The town area basically consists of two villages, an original Muslim area and a newer southern area which includes most of the shops restaurants, hotels and bars (Click here to read more).
Traveling from Phuket International Airport a private taxi to Kamala Beach costs around 750 Thai baht.
KARON BEACH PHUKET THAILAND
Karon Beach which is located on the western side of Phuket is a favorite holiday destination for families. The beach itself which has beautiful white sand is situated approximately 40 kilometres from the airport.
This stretch of Thailand sand is special in that there is very little development along the length of the foreshore, while quaint looking fisherman's boats can still be seen parked along the beach. Despite this relaxed feeling, there are plenty of fun activities available on the beach to keep each of the family entertained (Click here to read more).
If you fly to Phuket International Airport then the best way to travel to Karon Beach is by taxi. The 60 minute journey will cost you around 700 Thai baht.
KARON TEMPLE MARKET PHUKET THAILAND
If you are staying near the northern end of Karon Beach, the Karon Buddhist Temple or Wat Suwan Khiri Khet as it is known is one of the island's best cultural attractions. This temple is but one of 40 Buddhist temples which have been erected on Phuket and was apparently built and dedicated to the Sapphire Buddha.
Karon Temple is not only architecturally beautiful but also includes immaculately kept landscaped grounds and a market area which is open to the public on Tuesdays and Saturdays each week of the year.
The market slowly springs into life around 4 PM in the afternoon and by the evening transforms into a bustling hive of activity which continues until closing time which is about 11 PM at night. Here local vendors with their individual stalls sell a variety of products including fresh fruit and vegetables, cooked meals such as rice, pork and curry and of course cheap consumer products such as shoes, cosmetics, clothes, jewelry, books, toys, sunglasses, and DVDs. The prices at this market are very reasonable with meals such as curry noodles served in a plastic bag cost 30 Thai baht.
While most of the stalls are under cover and provide protection from the sun and rain it still gets quite hot so it makes more sense to visit after dark.
The Karon Temple Market is conveniently located approximately 200 metres from the Patak Road Circle near the northern end of Karon Beach.
KATA BEACH PHUKET THAILAND
Kata Beach which is located on the southwestern side of Phuket, still maintains its village like feel despite being located on one of the most popular islands in southeast Asia. While it may only be 1 kilometre in length, this beach is a gem for both families and couples who are seeking a more relaxed beach environment because this is probably the quietest of the three main beaches located on Phuket.
Being located close to Karon Beach, Kata is also much safer for swimming than some of the other Thai beaches due to its unique shape, which seems to shield it somewhat from the ocean. Lined with palm trees and beautiful white sand the beach looks like the letter w from the air as it is split into two beaches being Kata Noi and Kata Yai. The latter beach is the largest of the two and the most frequented by tourists and has softer sand (Click here to read more).
From the airport a minibus journey to Kata will cost around 180 Thai baht. From Phuket Town a journey on a small bus will cost about 30 Thai baht.
PATONG BEACH PHUKET THAILAND
Patong Beach is the most popular holiday destination for tourists visiting Phuket. Located approximately 35 kilometres south of the airport, Patong is well known as the party capital of southeast Asia.
The area has been highly developed in recent years and is surrounded by an abundance of quality resorts and accommodation, shops, restaurants and a world famous nightlife which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year (Click here to read more).
If you fly to Phuket International Airport then the best way to travel to Patong is by taxi. The 45 minute journey will cost you around 600 Thai baht, or $20 US.
SURIN BEACH PHUKET THAILAND
Surin Beach is one of the smaller beaches on Phuket yet it provides visitors with million dollar views. Situated approximately 15 kilometres north of Patong Beach on the west coast of Phuket, this one kilometre stretch of beach has a similar relaxed feel as it's neighbouring Kamala Beach, but is a little smaller and has less tourists.
This shady little beach which is lined with palms and casuarina pine trees also has a quaint wooden boardwalk at one end which allows beach access for small boats and local fisherman. However, like much of Phuket, development has made its mark in this area. Hence, the beach is surrounded by a variety of restaurants, beach clubs and hotels. These include the high end Chedi, Twin Palms, and the Hilton not to mention the million dollar houses located along Surin which is now aptly known as 'millionaire's row'. This is a far cry from the quiet Surin Muslim village which has been the backbone of Phuket's Muslim community (Click here to read more).
Traveling from Phuket International Airport in southern Thailand it is only a 20 minute taxi journey to Surin Beach and fares costs between 300-450 Thai baht.
BIG BUDDHA PHUKET
The Big Buddha Phuket (or Puttaminmonkol Akenakkiri) statue is without a doubt both a cultural and religious icon of this popular southern Thailand holiday destination; attracting thousands of visitors each year.
situated atop of the highest point of the 380 metre high Nakkerd Hills
of Ao Chalong in Phuket, this 45 metre high white marble Buddhist statue
is positioned in an easterly direction looking out over the picturesque
Chalong and Phang Nga Bays (Click here to read more).
The Big Buddha Phuket is located approximately 6 kilometres from Chalong. The best way to get there is by taxi or tuk tuk. Admission to the site is free but remember that this is a religious site and you should dress modestly. The site opens between 8 AM and 7.30 PM daily.
The best way to travel to Phuket is by plane or bus. Flights from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Phuket's International Airport occur daily with a number of local airlines servicing the island including Nok Air, Air Asia and Thai Airways.
Being an international airport direct flights are available to Phuket from a number of countries including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan to name a few. There are an abundance of taxi's and mini-vans located outside the Phuket airport to transport you to your hotel.
Buses to Phuket depart Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal daily with the journey taking approximately 13 hours.