PRECIOUS PHUKET

If Bangkok was named the most visited city in the world for two years in a row, Phuket is probably the most prevalent island in Thailand. Welcome to the precious pearl of Andaman, the exquisite jewel that keeps people coming back for more through these years. Welcome to my home, where the sun shines through the rain, where the turquoise water touches the Van Gogh sky, where the culture blends, the food speaks its own language, and the people greet you with pleasant smiles.

Whether you visit the largest island of Thailand alone, with your romantic partner or your beloved family, there are always plenty of things to you to see!

10 SPOTS TO VISIT IN PHUKET

#1 BIG BUDDHA

If you would like to see the whole panoramic picture or thebird’s-eye view of Phuket Island, from historical Phuket town to scenic beaches like Kata and Karon, then you should start by going up to our Big Buddha hill. It is considered one of the most prominent and illustrious landmarks because of its grand gesture. Sitting on top of Nakkerd Hills on the east coast between Kata Beach and Chalong Bay, the Big Buddha stands 45 metres tall and is visible from many directions around the island. Thais call this Buddha “Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha”. He was made of Burmese white jade marble in 2004. As the sun shines right to the statue, the Buddha reflects the light and sparkles exquisitely. It seems like the construction of the statue and the base is still in progress, similar to La Sagrada Familia Temple in Barcelona, except in Phuket, you can also be a part of the manufacturing process. There are many ways to contribute but my recommendation is to pay for a square textile made of the same material as the Buddha, and the officers will carve your name on the stone and paste it on to the base, so that you can be a part of the Big Buddha forever. It’s a nice touch and memory for your next visit, isn’t it? Dress code: Not too revealing.

Opening hours: 8:00 am-7:30 pm.
Tip: Sunset from the top is magnificent.

#2 PHUKET OLD TOWN

Although the beaches are the main focal points of visiting this island, nobody can deny that Phuket city and its culture are equally fascinating. My mother, a proud Phuketian, always shared a story of her life growing up in Phuket town. Long before the conglomerate shopping malls arrived, this area was the main spot for commerce and entertainment from Indian-inspired batik shops to Chinese tea houses, from elaborate goldsmiths to imported European footwear, from Peranakan nosheries to infamous brothels. These Sino-colonial (as some call it Sino-Portuguese) mansions were built in the last century during the tin-booming period, as the price of tin was skyrocketing. Many international investors, bankers, blue-collar labourers and construction workers flocked to the island searching for money and opportunities, which established Phuket island as a multi-cultural scene. As time goes by, objects change, people move on and cultures blend, but Phuket Old town remains as unique and lively as ever. Take a sun tan break from our gorgeous seashores to stroll along Thalang Road, Ranong Road, Dibuk Road, and Soi Rommanee, and witness colourful, lavish buildings and experience the atmosphere that transports you back to the golden days.

Dress code: Casual wear with lots of sunscreen.
Opening hours: From dusk to dawn.

#3 TAI HUA MUSEUM AND BAAN CHINPRACHA MANSION

Once you are in Phuket town, you might as well visit those historical museums and art galleries. One of my favorite museums in Thailand is Tai Hua Museum. Once a Chinese-language school opened to both Thais and Chinese immigrants, Tai Hua museum is now the most wellmaintained Sino-colonial mansion. For 200 baht/person, you will get familiar with tin-mining history, Phuket culture and cuisine through the eyes of Chinese immigrants, by promenading around the beautiful courtyard and the greenery garden. There are also several interactive exhibitions (more than 12 exhibition rooms) in both English and Thai. The museum is also used as function hall for parties and ceremonies. You may have to call in advance to check whether it is closed for a special event. When you finish wandering Tai Hua museum, you could probably learn about those prominent Chinese families who influenced the city’s prosperous commerce for centuries. Baan Chinpracha Mansion/museum is the subsequent place you should visit. The freeentrance house is still a residential place for the Chinprapa family. You will see the paradigm of a lifestyle and the design of an opulent Phuket family. The mansion is quaint, cool and lovely.

Dress code: Casual wear with local-made fan.
Opening Hours: 9:00 am-5:00 pm.

#4 CRUISING AROUND THE ISLAND

It would be a big mistake if you visit Phuket and do not try to go for a yacht voyage. Andaman Sea cruising is best during dry season, from November until the end of the April. The west coast of Phuket has clearer water and the most beautiful beaches in the country. On the contrary, the east coastline offers breath-taking views of tiny islands with more green landscapes. The countless, vivid, tall limestone cliffs at Phang-nga Bay will amaze you. These include the world-famous James Bond Island, the nail-like vertical island that featured in “The Man with the Golden Gun”, starring Roger Moore in the 70s. In Phangnga Bay, which is also a national park, you will discover hundreds of small islands, bays, caves and inlets, ideal for water sports like kayaking and observing the largest area of protected wildlife, indigenous mangroves and mysterious lagoons. Koh Panyee, dubbed as Muslim (rafting) island in the midst of the water, is also an interesting spot to visit the lifestyle of sea people in the south of Thailand.

Dress code: Bikinis, big sunglasses and lots of sun protection.
Opening Hours: From sunrise to sunset.

#5 SURFING, DIVING AND WATER SPORTS ACTIVITIES

If you are into sports and outdoor activities, then Phuket is truly an ecstasy for you. While many people long for relaxing time sipping coconut water on the beach in the scorching hot days, you can go surfing at Kata and Surin beach, where the wind is perfect for both surfing and sailing. The beaches are perfect for youngsters to play and meet up for fun times. Although jet-skiing is not allowed on every beach due to its loud sound, you can find the pleasure of the fast and furious sport on Patong Beach. Considered to be one of the top 10 diving destinations in the world, Phuket boasts stunning underwater world for all levels of experience, from the beginning scuba divers to the advanced diving experts. With the warm climate Phuket offers, the subaquatic produces striking coral reefs, turtles, stingrays and many other mysterious creatures. Another upcoming spot is a tiny lovely island called Koh He, 15 minutes off Chalong pier. Banana Beach is a perfect day-trip for snorkelling, diving, boat rides, motor boating and banana boat rides, and even parachuting.

Dress code: Swimwear.
Opening Hours: When the weather is warm.

#6 PHUKET FANTASEA

When you are looking for something to do with your family during night-time, look no further. Phuket Fantasea is the right mixture of fun for you. The entrance itself is very impressive. The garden area is lively and charming to people of all ages. Walking around the park will make you cheerful. There are abundant attractions to choose from. Similan Entertainment Center is a one-of-a-kind undersea arcade and shopping area where you can play games and test your skills in the colourful coral atmosphere. Golden Kinnaree Buffet restaurant is an option for those who would like to sample delicious Thai food and a range of international flare before seeing the show for many hours. The Palace of Elephant Theater is where the mythical Prince Kamala rules the kingdom with his human and elephant army. Each night, they magnificently perform to the large crowd with meticulous details. The Vegas-styled art theatre produces one of the best shows with elephants in Thailand. The highlight of Phuket Fantasea is “Fantasy of a Kingdom Show” which is inspired by the vivid heritage of Thailand. The audiovisual over-the-top performance incorporates Thai culture and mystical history with magical illusion, aerobatics, special effects, Thai dances and of course elephants, along with many other cast animals. The masterpiece is guaranteed to thrill you. Phuket Fantasea makes your fantasy become reality.

Dress code: Casual (Bring a scarf; it can be cold in the theatre).
Opening Hours: From 5:00 pm if you would like to attend dinner, until midnight.

#7 PHUKET SIMON CABARET

Ladyboy, Krateoy, or transgendered men may not be acceptable and still taboo in many countries around the globe, but it is a third gender in Thailand. Most of us receive them as a second kind of a woman. Growing up in Thailand, you get accustomed to having encountered with them in public, as your friends, as your co-workers, or as someone you see in the female toilet and you accept the fact that these are men sharing our same bathrooms. There are many venues for them to express their artistic side and perform across the country, but get lost in the world of extravaganza exotic show performed by beautiful boys – yes, you’ve heard it right. The stunning numerous sets of performances by men, Phuket Simon Cabaret is crowned as Thailand’s most famous Ladyboy show. Your evening will be filled with glamorous and sparkling entertainment with a bit of comedic flair. The world-famous theatre has the capacity for over 600 people. You’ll enjoy the burlesque, exotic dances, cultural performances, comedy and even Whitney Houston.

Dress code: Be sparkling if you’d like to take pictures alongside these ladies.
Showtimes: 18:00, 19:30, 21:00.

#8 WAT CHALONG

Out of 29 temples on the island, the most important temple to local Phuketians is Wat Chalong before it became very popular among the mass tourists. This temple is dedicated to the most highly venerable monks in Phuket history: Luang Pho Cham and Luang Pho Chaung, who helped the citizens during war in 1876. My parents took us to the temple countless times to make wishes and we would return to say thank you by giving back to the temple when our wishes came true. Many Thais practise Buddhism this way. Not only do we use the temple as a meditation sanctuary, we persevere for peace, hope and happiness. Wat Chalong is not merely a temple but also a revered museum, with many interesting smaller halls, pagodas and Buddha images. If you would like to see one Buddhist temple in Phuket, this is the chosen Wat for you to visit, pray and make merits. Placing a few pieces of gold leaves on Buddha image or getting your fortune read might make your day even more cheerful while you’re on the island.

Dress code: Although it is hot in Phuket, it is best not to wear something too provocative. Don’t wear expensive shoes as you have to leave them outside before you enter the temple and halls.
Opening Hours: Early morning until the evening.

#9 FLYING HANUMAN

Many people only know that Phuket is the land of beautiful beaches. They tend to forget the island is located close to the equator with abundant rain for six to sevenmonths every year, which helps in producing rich evergreen tropical forest, other attractions far beyond the sea and sand. Don’t let the sound of flying monkeys (Hanuman) scare you. Even if you are not an adventurous person, you will enjoy the dense jungle, lush greenery and even delicious southern Thai food along with international cuisine at the restaurant in the forest trail. There are 28 adventure platforms, 15 ziplines, one beautiful sky rail, and two sky bridges in an 80,000 square metre plot in Kathu area. If you are a nature lover, Flying Hanuman is a habitation for you because none of the zip-lining adventures have harmful effects on any trees, animals or surrounding nature. Although it is very humid, the landscape will blow you away, yet somehow can calm your nerves before and after the excitement of the day’s activities.

Dress code: Sportswear with sneakers. Something comfortable to move around in, and sunscreen.
Opening Hours: 8:00 am-5:00 pm.

#10 BEACH, BEACH AND BEACHES

Last but not least, the momentous ground to visit is the precious beaches of Phuket – from Maikhao, Naiyang, Naithon, Layan, Bangtao and Surin, Kamala beaches in the north to Patong, Karon, Kata and Naiharn beaches in the south. The west coast of Phuket is situated by the Andaman Sea, boasting world-famous coastlines and diving paradise. The north of island is considered to be quieter and home to 5–star establishments, hotels and private villas to Thai and international celebrities. MaiKhao is so pristine that it has become a sanctuary for sea turtles for centuries. Naiyang, a popular beach for locals and a home to my soul, is a part of National Park. Consequently, a large portion of land is very protected and shaded with tropical casuarina trees, perfect for a Thai-style picnic. And to me, this is the best place for sunset on the island. While Naithon offers precious beach on one side, lavish cliffs to the left make this area even more spectacular. Many films have been shot here for decades. Layan is probably one of the most tranquil beaches in Phuket. Bangtao is perfect for water sports and fashionable for youngsters. Surin is ideal for family and children for many years. Kamala became popular in recent years with trendy beach clubs and on-shore restaurants. The south of the island from Patong to Naiharn area is famous for lots of beach activities even nightlife. No matter which beach you choose to release your frustration and tiredness, you’ll find Phuket’s sea, sand and sun to be your most desirable paradise for this holiday.

Text by Dussadee Oeawpanich
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