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What’s so great about Phuket, anyway?

The island province is probably Thailand’s biggest tourist attraction so it’s easy to get there, there are many places to stay and lots to see and do. Oh, it’s very gay friendly too.

History

Phuket Travel

Sino-Portuguese Architecture

In the 1st century BC Indians founded Phuket town

But it wasn’t until the 3rd century AD that Greeks put the island on the map, literally. They recorded the name “Jang Si Lang” which overtime became Junk Ceylon on old maps of Siam.

The island became of further interest to foreigners due to its abundant natural resources and in the 16th century tin mining began.

During the reign of Rama 1, Burmese forces approached the island but before they could invade, Captain Francis Light of the British East India Company sounded the alarm. The governor of Phuket had recently died, so his widow and her sister rallied the locals to defend the island. Cleverly, local women dressed as male soldiers which made their ranks look bigger and after a month’s fighting, the invaders retreated. The sisters were given royal titles by the king as a show of thanks. Today they are immortalized in the heroines statue, a festival and roads named in their honor.

Phuket Travel

Phuket Town

Getting there

Air

Since the rise of the low-cost airlines, almost everyone flies to Phuket.

Air Asia has 18 flights direct flights per day between Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport and Phuket whereas Nok Air has 6 direct flights on the same route.

Thai Airways has 16 direct flights from Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi airport while it’s mid range subsidiary, Thai Smile has 4 flights.

Full-service Bangkok Airways has 14 direct flights on the same route with additional flights via Koh Samui.

Bus

Buses depart from Bangkok’s southern bus terminal as well as from Morchit (the northern terminal), however, the competitiveness of low-cost airlines have made VIP bus travel less popular. This is because a one way VIP bus ticket costs just under 1000 baht and takes 12 hours.

Train

While train fares in Thailand are super cheap, getting to Phuket from Bangkok by train is a very long-winded experience. The nearest station is in Surat Thani from where passengers must take a five hour bus ride. A one-way train and bus combination ticket from Bangkok’s Hua Lampong station will set you back a little over 1000 baht.

Getting around

From the airport

Phuket airport is in the north of the island so it is quite far from Phuket town and the main attraction, Patong beach.

Airport bus.

At present, this service only runs between the airport and Phuket town. Plans to extend the service to the beaches, has met opposition from the “tuk-tuk” drivers.

Shared mini vans

These shuttle passengers from the airport to their hotels for 100-200 baht per person depending on the distance.

Taxis

The provincial government has recently granted meter-taxi licenses in an effort to improve transport on the island. However, these taxis are forbidden from picking up passengers from the airport as a limousine taxi service has a monopoly there.

You can get around this by catching a waiting taxi on the road, just outside the small airport. Local taxi fares are around 50% more expensive than in Bangkok.

Tuk-Tuk

The islands red 4-wheel tuk-tuks are actually little Japanese-made delivery vehicles. They are open-sided and relatively expensive, charging 100 baht and up, even for short distances.

Motorcycle taxi

This is not the safest way to get around, but for short distances, they are convenient and often the cheapest and fastest alternative.

What to see

 Patong Hotels

The sunset from the popular west coast of the island

Things to do in Phuket

Phuket FantaSea

Phuket FantaSea 

http://www.phuket-fantasea.com/eng/index.php

This is the biggest and most touristy theme park and show on the island. Regular ticket prices for the show are 1500 baht per person but you may be able to buy some from an agent for around 1100 baht.

Things to do in Phuket

Cape Promthep

Cape Promthep

This long narrow peninsula extends from Phuket’s southernmost hill and is the islands most famous and photographed point. It is also the most popular sunset viewing spot on the island and accordingly, the car park at the top of the hill becomes very busy in early evening. The cape is also home to an air-conditioned lighthouse museum and a restaurant. The Phi Phi and Racha island groups can be seen from the museums balconies and the restaurant is reported to be pleasant once the bus loads tour groups have  left.

Panwa Viewpoint

You can get a 360 degree view over southern and eastern Phuket from the Kao Khad tower.

Things to do in Phuket

Karon Three Beaches Viewpoint

The Karon Three Beaches Viewpoint

Khao Saam Had, as it is known locally, is just south of Kata Noi beach. There is a large shaded sala (gazebo) from where you can see Kata Noi, Kata Yai & Karon Beaches in the same view.

When to go

Weather

Mid-December to mid-March is the driest time of the year while mid May and mid September are the wettest, giving Phuket t a reputation for having two wet seasons.

Festivals

Phuket Pride

Southern Thailand’s biggest gay event is held in the week running up to the last weekend in April every year.

Vegetarian

Phuket’s vegetarian festival differs from those in the rest of Thailand with many gory ceremonies to honor Chinese gods. These include major body piercing and fire-walking by spirit mediums that will definitely be disturbing to some viewers. Kids, don’t try this at home.

In addition, spectators have been injured at the festival: not by sharp objects or hot coals, but by the careless use of fireworks. So, beware of the lack of common sense of those around you.

What to buy

If you have forgotten to bring a hat or sunglasses, you can buy them from street vendors. The prices are higher than in Bangkok so you should bargain.

What to do

Life’s a beach

Gay Phuket

Paradise Gay Beach

There is a lively gay section of Patong beach (known as Paradise beach) in front of the beach rescue tower to the left of the immigration office and tourist police.

Take a tour

Phuket is at the center of many interesting places so there are many options for day trips.

Khao Lak in Phang Nga Province across the bridge from Phuket has peaceful unspoilt beaches and gorgeous resorts.

Things to do in Phuket

James Bond Island

Phang Nga Bay is home to thousands of rain forest covered and mangrove fringed islands. Take a walk around the fishing village of Koh Panyi which is entirely on stilts above the water. Another big draw card is the spectacular landscape of James Bond island where the movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed.

Phuket Travel

Koh Phi Phi

Phi Phi is like nowhere else. It is truly amazing. The day cruise stops at Coral Island for snorkeling and at Phi Phi Ley to feed monkeys. Then you will have free tome to enjoy the beach at Phi Phi Don.

Koh Raya/Racha is less well-known but has a growing army of fans.

There is also a gay day tour to Koh Yao Yai that includes a BBQ lunch and alcohol. Bookings can be made at Connect.

Go scuba diving

Phuket Travel

Similan Islands

There are many scuba diving tour operators in Phuket who can take you on day, night or live aboard trips. Interestingly, they have boats  boats going to the famous Similan Islands and the Burma Reef.

Zorb

Have you heard of Zorb? It’s one of the most unusual things to do in Phuket.

Check this out.

You can try it at Kalim.

What to avoid

The Bangla Road girly bar area is full of beer mat stealing red necks.

Traps for young players

Fake goods sold as the real deal.

There is not much to do in Phuket Town unless you are into Sino-Portuguese architecture and quirky shops. So, it’s best to book your accommodation by the beach.

Where to stay

As transport is relatively expensive in Phuket it is recommended to stay close to the places that you will visit the most frequently. For gay men, that is most likely around Soi Paradise in Patong. This is because most of Phuket’s gay bars and clubs are in this soi and the gay beach is adjacent. It is also in walking distance from the Jung Ceylon mall.

Ban Thai 

http://www.banthaiphuket.com/

This is a beautiful hotel with Balinese-style architecture and a very long pool.

La De Bua

http://www.ladebua.com/

Conveniently, located on Ratutit 200 Pi Soi 1 between Soi Paradise and the gay beach. A nice hotel with good discounts through Agoda.com.

Sira Boutique Residence

http://www.phuketsirahotel.com/

This boutique hotel is great value. Located at the north end of Patong and up the hill.

Where to eat & drink

White Box

http://www.watermarkgroup.eu/whiteboxphuket/

On the rocks at the end of Patong beach, this place has fantastic views and is romantic on a quiet night. It is very modern looking and plays chilled lounge music that will give your Shazam app a workout. The food is as beautifully presented as it is delicious. The cocktails are killer too!

La Dolce Vita

https://www.facebook.com/LaDolceVitaPatong

This restaurant serves good Italian food and reasonable prices and friendly service.

Connect Guesthouse

This guesthouse, restaurant and bar is in n the center of the action on Soi Paradise (and one of the only ones open all day). Importantly, this is a great place to get information on gay Phuket.

Where to Party

Kiss

Kiss is a long established dance club that has reopened across the street from its old location.

Zag club

http://www.zagclub.com

The newest club in Soi paradise is in space where Kiss used to be and is receiving good word of mouth as a happening place.

Boat

http://www.boatbar.com/

At the end of Soi Paradise towards the Paradise Hotel, guys tend to go there later in the night when other bars are winding down.

Tour Guide

My friend Best can take care of your hotel, tour and show bookings. You can visit his site here:

http://www.beocute.com/

That’s my take on Phuket. How about you?

Do you have any must see or must do recommendations?

Special thanks to Thanaphol Thangchokdee for his brilliant pictures.

 http://badasscontent.com/c7f9e562c2d34ada974293a02935be8c

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6 comments on “What’s so great about Phuket, anyway?

  1. Pingback: Phuket Gay Pride Festival 2013 | farangfreedom

  2. Haris Boonsop
    April 26, 2013

    What can I say. You toured people around Phuket without them needing to go there. Very informational posts. Tourists wanting to visit Phuket would find your article really helpful, especially those visiting for the first time. I just want to add another option in getting around Phuket, tourists could also rent a private vehicle at very affordable rate. So far, this is the most cost effective way to tour the island without being too budget conscious.

  3. Farang Freedom
    April 26, 2013

    Thanks for your feedback and recommendation K. Haris.

  4. Pingback: Phuket, Thailand | Mrs D

  5. Pingback: Travel flashback: Thailand, Fall 2010 | Librarian for Life and Style

  6. Pingback: Bangkok’s Trash Problem | farangfreedom

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