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The famous Phuket, an island I had heard of even before I had any interest in making my way over to Thailand. It’s New Year celebration is made famous by the one and only Paris Hilton and is an island that acts as a gateway to even more beautiful islands and beaches, while hosting events and day trips to close by locations.
But is Phuket really worth your time and money? Well you’ll have to read to the end and decide for yourself.
First, a little bit of a lesson on Phuket. The “h” in Phuket is actually silent and is pronounced like poo-ket. The island itself is actually massive (it’s the biggest of the Thai islands), and so being on the island and not seeing water is quite common. But this means that it’s large enough to have an airport, making it one cheap and quick hour and a half flight away from Bangkok.
Phuket is great because it’s got a little bit of something for everyone. Whether you want to party, relax on a resort, or feel cultured, then Phuket has got you covered.
The most famous beaches on the island are Patong, Karon, and Kata. Of course there’s more, but these are the main go-to’s.
What to do in Phuket
Bangla Road: Wanna party? Head to Patong beach, where just off the sand you’ll find a line of bars which will lead you right down the famous Bangla Road. Here you’ll find loud music, markets, street food, a Starbucks and McDonald’s, plus a ton of restaurants, and lady boys waiting for you to have your picture taken with them.
Tip: Those Thai buckets are as strong as people say they are…my first sip tasted like pure rum.
Wat Chalong: One of the more famous temples in all of Thailand, and a temple that is special to many Thai Buddhists who come to this specific temple over many others. It is incredibly stunning, extremely detailed, and makes for some great photos ops. It’s a bit less than a 40 minute drive (from Patong Beach), so if you’re up for some adventure then rent a scooter, or hire a car or tuk tuk.
Big Buddha: Buddha statues are everywhere in Thailand, but this one is still worth a visit. Standing at 45 metres tall the white Buddha towers over some of the best views of the island. The area around it is still under construction so you can have a chance to donate some dirt to help finish the landscaping, or buy a tile and write a message on it that will be used to finish the inside area under the Buddha. I recommend visiting Wat Chalong and the Big Buddha together as they’re fairly close to each other and make for a good afternoon or morning.
Island Day Trips: I took two day trips while visiting – one included visiting some of the Phi Phi Islands and the famous Maya Bay (the beach that was in the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio). This was more expensive out of the two, it included lunch on Phi Phi Don, snorkelling, visiting Monkey Beach, and swimming in a beautiful off island location. The tour lasted almost a whole day, about 8 hours including transportation to and from my hostel to the boat docks.
The second of the two was a James Bond Island tour, the main spot being the filming location of the 1974 film The Man with the Golden Gun. Other stops included sea kayaking in Phang Nga Bay (seriously gorgeous), a stop for lunch at a fishing village, and visiting some monkeys and a temple on land. The tour lasted about 6 hours including transportation.
Old Phuket Town: The pictures of it look so cute. But I wouldn’t know exactly what it looks like in person since I got lost as soon as I got off the bus. Take public transportation, the blue bus, it’s way cheaper. Go at night to see all the markets and experience some culture that you don’t necessarily get by the beaches.
Phuket FantaSea: For some nightly entertainment you can book a dinner and show or just show and watch a semi cirque du soleil style show, but this time with elephants, because you know it’s Thailand. You get to walk through shops and mini shows before dinner, then are ushered in to a huge buffet, and can take elephant rides all before the show.
May Thai Fights: Muay Thai is pretty huge on the island and you can go and check out some of the fights, though I didn’t get to go, I’ve heard that they’re great on Phuket Island and are a must see while in Thailand (I’ll go back and see some).
Simon Cabaret Show: Another popular show on the island for tourists is the Simon Cabaret Show. Be prepared to see lot’s of lady boys and be entertained.
These are the main attractions of the island, but it’s also perfect for relaxing on the beach (Patong, Karon, and Kata are the most popular), or some mild hiking up to great viewpoints around the island. Phuket literally has everything, from what’s listed above to elephant trekking, petting tigers, a shooting range, go karting, and more. I do not, in fact I highly encourage you not to participate in any activities that harm animals. Please do your research before.
would i recommend phuket?
It completely depends on what you want. I wanted a party island because I was heading on a 5 day vacay for New Years (I was living in Thailand at the time), and my first choice which was Koh Phangan was way move expensive than what I was budgeting for.
But speaking of budgeting…Phuket was definitely more expensive than I expected. I was coming from a small city in lower northern Thailand and was used to Thai prices, but I did not prepare myself for Thai tourist prices. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still cheaper than many countries, but I shoveled out a bit more cash than I had planned on.
Tip: Don’t be one of those people who feeds the monkey’s when you’re told not to. Their health is not worth the picture you want. I didn’t feed this monkey!
What disappointed me the most was the amount of western food I saw compared to Thai food (and more westerners than Thai people). I was in Thailand I wanted good Thai food! And beware that if you’re not eating from street vendors (Thai food) it’s quite pricey (especially for Thai food) in the restaurants.
The beach was amazingly close to my hostel which was located right in the middle of all the action on Bangla Road for a reasonable price (though I was sleeping on a mattress in the middle of the common room…that’s a long story). The beach was a 3 minute walk down the street, but was overly crowded, which I had read about before hand and expected so it didn’t bother me too much.
The only positives to Phuket are that everyone speaks English so communication is no problem, it’s close to other beautiful islands, and it’s built up for tourists, so it has plenty of entertainment.
So what’s my final recommendation? Skip it. It felt like a giant tourist trap. If I didn’t want a party destination for New Years I would have made the smarter decision and headed to the much compared to island of Krabi.
Overall it wasn’t a bad trip. But I did find it difficult to find other solo travelers so I did spend quite a bit of time on my own. My final verdict is that Phuket is not paradise, and there are much better islands to find some Thai beauty.
My biggest tip is to haggle! Haggle like crazy. I know I over paid for things (like the tours) because I can’t haggle if my life depended on it.
Be prepared for crazy driving. The island is very hilly and the shuttle bus drivers are insane.
Take a shuttle bus from the airport, it’ll drop you off right at your hotel/hostel and will only cost about 200 Baht.
Book your shuttle back in advance. It only gets more expensive the closer it gets to your departure date.
Public transportation doesn’t have set times or stops really, but it’s the cheapest way to get around.