Phuket, Let’s Go. 3 Things to Do Once You’re There.
Phuket was the second stop on our Southeast Asia honeymoon adventure – drastically different from the serene, laidback Chiang Mai! The mountainous island in the Andaman Sea is a tropical paradise, boasting glittering, clear beaches with fine white sand, thrilling water activities and a seriously insane (I’ll explain) nightlife.
Be sure to do your research before selecting an area to stay in Phuket. You’ll regret missing this step.
Patong Beach, considered the heart of Phuket, is best described as wild, chaotic and, well, perhaps a bit grimy. It’s big, bold, crowded and loud. You can buy just about anything on the streets, and you will see just about everything – ladyboys, masseuses (“happy ending” and non) and severely drunk tourists at 9 a.m., for starters. You may even be introduced to the infamous ping pong bars. If you don’t know what these are, Google them (NSFW!).
Most people either love Patong or hate it. We decided we had enough after a full day exploring; hate is a strong word 😊. If you visit, don’t miss the outdoor Malin Market. We ate some fantastic street meat (e.g., chicken, beef, crocodile…the usual) and fresh fruit crepes. We also indulged in 1.5-hour massages at Sweet Lemongrass – the best one of our entire trip (and there were many, trust me). If you’re looking for a quiet, romantic getaway or family-friendly vacation, avoid staying in Patong like the plague. For people watching, however, we’d give it an A+.
Karon Beach is aptly considered the “little sister” of Patong. It’s quieter and tamer, and you see many of the same things on a much smaller scale; this is where we stayed. Walk around for at least one evening downtown, and do not miss EAT. bar & grill on Patak Road, offering fresh, seasonal fares and some of the best steak we’ve ever had. I know it sounds counterintuitive to seek out non-Thai food in Thailand, but I promise you’ll need a break at some point. The founder, Christer, a Swedish chef and restauranteur, is always around chatting with patrons, and the kitchen is open, so you can see every single ingredient going into your ridiculously delicious and beautifully plated items.
Quieter, more remote areas to consider include Nai Yang and Nai Harn beaches near the airport; Khao Lak in the north; or Rawai in the south.
When it comes to activities, tourists typically engage in water sports and island day trips while visiting Phuket. Unfortunately, unseasonable monsoons changed our plans, and we missed out on long-awaited, prescheduled excursions. I can’t speak from personal experience, but here are a few activities that came highly recommended:
1) Take a Dive Trip: The water is crystal clear and underwater life is abundant. My husband had plans to dive at Shark Point, named after the Leopard sharks which live on the sandy bottom (notice I said my husband, not me). This specific itinerary was canceled due to rain, but he was still able to make it to King Cruiser wreck, close to Anemone Reef.
2) Explore Phang Nga Bay: A few companies (such as Simba Sea Trips) offer full-day excursions to the world-renowned, breathtaking Phang Nga Bay. Here, you can discover caves at Koh Phanak, canoe at Koh Hong, visit James Bond Island, and swim at Treasure Island, all nestled within a bay famed for its ‘krast’ limestone islands. The itinerary typically closes off with a visit to Koh Yao Noi, bordering the scenic island of Krabi. Koh Yao harbors an ancient, agrarian lifestyle with rice paddy fields, coconut and rubber tree plantations and Long Tail boat building. Super bummed we missed out on this one!
3) Island Hop: Six islands are within close reach of Phuket: Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Leh, Koh Khai, Koh Yao, Mosquito and Bamboo. Most notably, tourists travel to the Phi Phi islands. Phi Phi Don is larger and almost always crowded. Phi Phi Leh hosts the famous Maya Bay, where Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach” was filmed. We didn’t personally have plans to visit these islands due to lack of time in Phuket. And, honestly, we heard they are very busy and quite overrun with tourists.
Perhaps we were biased by the rainfall, but overall, Phuket was not our favorite destination in Thailand – that is, until we experienced our romantic getaway in the neighboring Naka Yai Island. Read more here.