Beyond Paradise • Phuket

Blessed with golden sand beaches, thrilling water sports, amusement shows and a mind blowing night life, Phuket ranks high among the popular holiday destinations when it comes to being tourist-friendly. Here are the reasons why.

Ask any discerning backpacker about their first choice when it comes to experiencing exotic Asian adventure and Phuket will probably be among the top 3. There are a number of exciting places to visit in Phuket. From its world famous beaches to bustling nightclubs, Phuket has everything in store for you. As Thailand’s biggest island, it has all the flavours of fun. From beach bumming at some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia to partying at a luxury hotel, the list of activities in Phuket is practically endless.

In fact, the sheer number of places is so huge that it’s no surprise that most people get confused in figuring out which places to visit first. But wherever you start, one thing is certain – there’s no such thing as a boring day in Phuket. Such is the charm of this place that if you’re planning your next trip, expect the hordes of tourists that are cramming to take a slice of this paradise. Nevertheless, this Thai jewel will always be an excellent choice to kick-start your new year 2020 adventure.

Nature Adventure: Patong Beach

Patong is Phuket’s most popular and famous beach holiday destination most famous for its long white sandy beach riddled with restaurants, cafes, and bars. Patong has a notorious reputation as a party town with a rather vibrant nightlife. Here you will find hundreds of beach bars and dance clubs, massage places, Thai cafes and restaurants.

Patong evokes a certain sense of honesty about the Thai culture. And although it’s not ashamed to flaunt the wild side of its party scenes, the fabulous beach sunsets will almost always overshadow the extreme end of its character. Tourists can either join in the endless part scenes and dance from dusk till dawn or simply go on the tranquil route by strolling along its magnificent sandy beaches.

Patong beach is the lifeline of Phuket town. It certainly has one of the most happening beaches among Phuket’s shorelines and is definitely a top contender among the most sought after places to visit in Phuket. The vibrant golden sand beaches are dotted with cafes, shacks and pubs. It offers plenty of enthralling water sports with the surrounding cliffs adding drama to a backdrop with crystal clear waters. Its shining sands are a testament to the glamour of its shores. If you fancy the various water sports available in the area, the charges for each water sport may vary depending on the activity and the duration. Parasailing, for example, will cost more compare to a typical boat ride.

If these extreme water sports are too daring for you, there are still hundreds of beach activities to choose from – like sunbathing, snorkelling, swimming, jet skiing and the popular banana boat ride.

A Bird’s-eye View: Karon Viewpoint

Karon Viewpoint – which was previously called Kata Viewpoint – is one of the most popular attractions in Phuket. Located between the Nai Harn and Kata Noi beaches, Karon Viewpoint is also famous amongst locals as Khao Saam Haad which simply means “three beaches hill”. It offers a magnificent views of the Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon beaches at a distance. The most popular area amongst the visitors of Karon Viewpoint is the view of the three beach stretches, with the Mom Tri’s Villa Royale and the Hilton Arcadia on Karon Beach forming a backdrop from a distance. Ample parking space is also available at Karon Viewpoint and a gazebo with seats is also available for visitors who prefer to get out of the sun.

Karon Beach itself is surrounded by lush trees and plenty of grass. The tranquillity surrounding the area is never polluted by the sound of the cars – only the sound of crashing waves and the occasional cool breeze. As you arrive at the beach you’ll find rental chairs and umbrellas, drinks and even massage stalls.

The shoreline of Karon Beach is quite long but is still walkable both over the sand or at the sidewalk along the beach. The north end of the beach is much more tranquil compared to the south. Here you can treat yourself to an unforgettable sunset while sipping a cocktail in a nearby bar on the rocks. Karon Beach is also perfect for families with kids. There are plenty of family-friendly activities and things for the children to do. Activities that cater to little kids all the way to teenagers. Plus, you don’t even need to rent a motorbike, or get a taxi to enjoy Karon Beach as everything is within close proximity where you can explore the entire beach area on foot.

From swimming in the crystal clear waters to flying over the sea, there are plenty of water adventures that await you in Karon Beach. Why not go parasailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling or just floating on an inflatable bed. The sea is quite calm and the water is clear which is why there many stalls renting out all the water sports gears you’ll need for an endless fun in the sun. Snorkelling is one of the heavy favourites at Karon Beach and the best place to do it is in the south end of the beach where you can swim close to rocks. If you want to explore the depths of the beach waters, book a diving session in one of the many dive shops located along the shoreline of the beach.

Take a break from the beach and go explore the streets of Karon. There are plenty of things to do in Karon Beach that are perfect even for those cloudy days. What about visiting the traditional and beautiful Karon Temple? Or perhaps go shopping for some trendy clothes and fresh fruits at the Karon night market? The Karon Temple Market is open every Tuesday and Saturday from late afternoon until midnight. It’s certainly a good place to see how daring you can be by trying out the street food bugs, or simply just buy souvenirs. The temple itself opens daily and you can walk around and enjoy the peaceful surroundings any time of the day. The Karon Beach shopping area stretches along the two main streets, the beach front road and Patak Road that runs parallel to the beach road. On the beach road you can find many restaurants and all kinds of specialty shops. Patak Road is where the locals go, it has a wide range of shops, massage parlors, restaurants, banks and travel agencies.

Karon Beach nightlife will not disappoint the travellers either, who want to have some fun after the sun goes down. In front of the beach there are numerous pubs and restaurants that play live music and on Patak Road, just before Karon Temple you can find snooker bars and cheap cocktail drinks.

Gastronomical Delight: Soi Bangla Road

The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear Phuket is its famous nightlife. The dazzling after-sunset scene of beach parties is what Phuket is famous for worldwide. If the nightlife is what drawed you, then one of the most important places that you must visit in Phuket is the Soi Bangla Road – the lifeline of Phuket that sparkles in the evening.

The linear stretch becomes alive with glowing neon lights, loud party music, numerous not-so-expensive restaurants, pubs and, of course, attractive girls. Shopkeepers and bar workers distributing pamphlets and brochures of different shows and performances is a common sight. Leave your kids back at the hotel, as it is not an appropriate place for the little ones. Take a walk along the Soi Bangla Road to get a feel of it and enjoy a drink or two at famous pubs like D Club, Money Night and Moulin Rouge

Think of Phuket Island and Patong Beach is likely going to pop up among many seasoned travellers. However, it’s not just the beach that people remember but the walking streets that have gained quite a reputation for their colourful vibe after sunset. Technically, Soi Bangla Road will only be converted to a walking street after 6 pm and before then, please be extra cautious with the vehicles that continue to take the priority lanes. In the daytime, tourists during their very first day of their Phuket trip will not see much difference when exploring Soi Bangla Road compared to a typical busy street in Bangkok; except for maybe that large TV screen placed across the street. But at night, things become drastically different!

Tourists with kids appear to be more in a hurry to go back to the comforts of their hotels before the neon lights of the whole stretch of the street even begin to flicker. A lot of pubs and clubs flanked both sides of the street and that’s merely a visual attraction for someone like who doesn’t enjoy drinking that much. There are other shops apart from the bars, pubs and clubs. Some tourists even go as far as purchasing a cigar to complete the street vibe! Expect first time tourists to take a lot of photo, especially during the start of the night scene.

Luxe in the Sand: Phi Phi Island

The island with a rather funny name – Phi Phi – has some seriously breathtaking sights that are not a laughing matter.

The official name for the island is Ko Phi Phi Don (ko or koh meaning island in Thai). Phi Phi is located in the Andaman sea, on the western side of Thailand. While Phi Phi usually refers to Phi Phi Don, it is actually made up of multiple islands within the Phi Phi archipelago. Phi Phi Don has a smaller sister island named Ko Phi Phi Leh (sometimes spelled Le or Ley), which is also as equally famous. Phi Phi Leh lies 1.5 kilometers off of Ko Phi Phi Don’s southern tip and is home to Maya Bay, made famous by the film The Beach.

Together, the Phi Phi Islands lure hundreds of thousands of tourists to their shores each year. Unfortunately, tourism has left its mark on the islands’ surrounding area. It seems as though you can’t even throw a rock without hitting a hostel, a shop or a travel agency. The area is packed with all sorts of commercial shops.

However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid Phi Phi. The island still has a ton to offer and it is absolutely worth your visit. We’ve done some research for you and found that some of Phi Phi’s best sights, restaurants, activities, and hotels are quite scattered.

Yes, Maya Bay is one of the top things to see in Phi Phi, and yes, you’ll be sharing this little slice of paradise with several hundred other sunburned camera-toting tourists, making it a little less a private experience. That said, it’s still well worth visiting, that is if you do it the right way.

Timing is crucial. Hire a private long-tail boat and aim to hit the bay as early as possible, no later than 7:00 or 8:00 am. Ask the driver to take you to Maya Bay first, rather than as a last stop if you’re going to other spots as well. Alternatively, arrive in the late afternoon after most of the tourists have left which is around 4:00 pm or even after 5:30 pm. Taking a private boat as opposed to joining a tour also means that you can see the sights at your own pace.

For a fantastic view of Phi Phi Leh, Tonsai Village, and Loh Dalum Bay, set aside a couple hours to hike up to and enjoy Ko Phi Phi Viewpoint. The hike to the viewpoint can be steep at times and takes 20 – 30 minutes, but you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view. There are also some small shops selling cold drinks and snacks.

Aroy Kaffeine is Phi Phi’s number one restaurant on TripAdvisor, and it’s definitely worth checking out when you’re on the island. They offer great breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with delicious coffee, cocktails, and a large selection of Belgian and other European beers. Not only does Arroy Kaffeine offer high-quality food and drinks, but the owner and staff are very friendly and the restaurant is clean and modern. Definitely a must-try.

While lounging on Phi Phi’s white sand beaches and snorkelling in its clear, turquoise waters is enough to make most travellers happy, a few days at Zeavola Resort will take your holiday to the next level.

Zeavola is an award-winning 5-star sustainable luxury resort located on stunning Laem Tong Beach, which lies on the northeastern side of the island. Only accessible by boat, the resort offers a true escape from Phi Phi’s crowds and the rest of the world. The resort embodies barefoot luxury: guests traverse the resort’s lush gardens on white sand paths; suites are made of teakwood and ooze romance with features such as outdoor showers, bamboo blinds, and mosquito nets draped over four-poster beds; and there are two fantastic restaurants, a spa, a dive centre, and a swimming pool. Keep in mind that the high season in Phi Phi is from December to March – the dry season. Prices are higher during this period but it rains less than in April to November. However, don’t let the rain keep you away during this time: some days it might not rain at all, or it might shower in the evening or for a couple hours in the afternoon. Plus, this time of year there are fewer tourists and lower prices!

Shop ‘til you Drop: Old Phuket Town

The old Phuket town with its century old traditional houses, streets and urban infrastructure, takes you way back to the colonial era. If that sort of stuff charms you, it is certainly one of the not-to-be-missed places to visit when you’re in Phuket. The houses were built in Sino-Portuguese fashion with colourful walls, narrow streets, quaint café, bakeries and small eateries together augment the lure of the ancient township.

Things to do includes exploring Buddhist and Chinese temples, abandoned mansions and public museums like the Thai Hua Museum. Take a walk along the Soi Romanee Street to see the sino-Portuguese style shop houses. Also, do not miss the Thalang Road for your much needed retail therapy. This road is lined with small boutique shops and specialty outlets.

007 Hideaway: James Bond Island

Located in Phang Nga National Park is an island famous for its name. James Bond Island displays excellent profile of karst (limestone) topography. Tourists are treated to a breathtaking site of stalactites, stalagmites, pillars and helictites here. It was formerly known as Khao Phing Kan. Then in 1974, the island was featured in a couple of James Bond movies like Tomorrow Never Dies and The Man with the Golden Gun – hence giving birth to its popular name for the island. Since then, it has become one of the popular tourist places to visit in Phuket, Thailand. If you wish to have some fun time with your family and friends then this could easily be an ideal destination for you.

There are several James Bond Island tour that are available online, most of which takes place in the amazing Phang Nga Bay. The Island that gives the tour its James Bond name is actually called Ko Tapu, a 20-metre tall rock formation that was used as the backdrop to some scenes in the James Bond movie, “The man with the Golden Gun”. This movie, despite being shot nearly forty years ago in 1974, is still drawing many people to Phangna Bay. The Area, being a National Park is still just as beautiful and hardly hasn’t changed in all those years. There are several other Islands in the bay, Khao Phing Kan, which is actually two Islands being the main ones. This tour takes you for a trip around the bay and gives you some time on the beach to enjoy the perfect water and white sand beaches.

You also get some time canoeing if you prefer. The canoeing is on inflateable canoes and a paddler is included in the cost, so you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the wonderful scenery as you paddle your way around the mangroves and into some of the caves. Depending on the tide during that day, it may be possible to paddle right through a cave that passes under one of the mountains.

Although the paddler is included in the price, they sometimes expect a tip. During lunch time, try some authentic Thai cuisines at the colourful Floating Village. Lunch is provided in a sort of dining hall type of place where the food is your average Thai meal but is more than adequate. There is usually plenty of good choices including options for Halal and vegetarian diners and seasonal fresh fruits are sometimes provided. Drinking water is pentiful and other drinks can be purchased at normal prices.

After lunch, you get hop aboard a minibus to Suwankuha Temple, otherwise known as The Monkey Temple. This Temple is a very remarkable place, and once you have got through the tribe of monkeys on the prowl outside, it’s actually a wonderfully quiet and serene place built inside a complex of caves. The whole place is decorated with stalagtites and stalagmites and has some very ancient Buddhas. The feel of these cavernous spaces set deep into the cliffs has a real aura of peace and tranquillity and its easy to see why it was made into a temple. Deep inside the cave there are steps that goes even deeper into the rock formations. Do exercise caution as the steps can be a bit slippery.

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