The Quick and Essential Guide to Phuket

A teardrop-shaped Andaman Sea island, Phuket is known as the “Pearl of the South”. As Thailand’s most established beach destination, Phuket’s advantage is its huge selection of resorts, bars, restaurants, attractions and activities.

There are plenty of things to see and do, from elephant rides and visiting Chinese temples, to learning to cook Thai cuisine. You can lounge by the pool with a cocktail in hand or enjoy one of the many options for active travellers, from hiking and canoeing to hard-core sports like rock climbing and kite surfing.

The amazing limestone scenery of Phang Nga Bay is eternally impressive, whether it’s your first time or tenth. And there are plenty of restaurants and bars that cater for a range of budgets. When the sun goes down, Phuket’s nightlife fires up. The entertainment options are numerous, from family-friendly shows to adult entertainment: Patong is the centre for ladyboy cabaret shows and nightclubs.

There are festivals all year round, including the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, a nine-day celebration that offers a unique insight into the local culture. While in a state of trance, spirit mediums cleanse the soul by climbing ladders with rungs made of knives, and piercing their bodies with hooks, skewers and other sharp objects.

Catch Beach Club, Phuket

Sexiest bar

In 2016, the Thai government shut down some of Phuket’s most famous Beach Clubs, in a bid to return the beaches to locals. However, you can still sip a Cosmopolitan while cuddling on a comfy lounge – Phuket has reinvented its beach clubs so everybody is happy. HQ was created by the team behind the what was probably Phuket’s most famous beach club, Catch, and you can enjoy the same funky tunes and comprehensive drink and dining menu just a five-miute drive down the road from where Catch was, at Kamala Beach. At Angsana’s Xana you’ll discover a happening day-to-night beach party vibe, VIP cabanas and a 35m swimming pool lined with sunbed-pods. The DJ here pulls a hip crowd. Most people turn up to mingle and soak up the tropical beach club vibe. Bars and restaurants are opening up all the time in Phuket and it is worth doing a bit of research before your trip to discover the latest ‘hippest place’ to see and be seen.

Best shopping

Like most beaches, Surin has its fair share of vendors and market stalls. But there’s also an array of shops and galleries selling quality clothing, gifts and crafts. Surin Plaza is a good bet for jewellery shops, boutiques and antiques. Alexander Lamont has a range of beautifully designed furniture and home decoration accessories. Travellers with four-legged friends should head to Lemongrass House at Surin Beach. Here, they can pick up handmade aromatherapy products for dogs, such as shampoos, balm and coat oil. For stylish holiday resort wear, Bliss boutique, owned by Australian Cassie Harper, has a lovely range of kaftans, dresses and shirts. The island-style designs are perfect for the steamy weather.

Best romantic dining

Listen to the lapping of waves at Da Maurizio Bar Ristorante, a romantic spot for dining by the sea. It’s an interesting mix, but it works: restaurateur Maurizio Laureri has headed up establishments in London and New York; the menu showcases fresh, organic and local produce; but the resulting cuisine is contemporary Italian. Another option for romantic dining is Boathouse Wine & Grill on Kata Beach, which has a delectable menu of classic French and authentic Thai food.

Best spa

The award-winning Banyan Tree Spa offers treatments using Ayurvedic oils and herbs from India, to refresh the mind and detoxify the body. Sign up for a couple’s treatment in an open-air Spa Pavilion or join a yoga class to calm the mind.

Couples will love

Siam Supper Club for its sexy red leather couches, cool jazz and fifties-themed black-and-white shots of Hollywood. It’s a hot spot for live jazz and casual comfort food in the bistro.

Don’t miss

Watching a Muay Thai match. The incredible agility and mesmerising skills of the ultra-fit Muay Thai fighters are sure to impress. There are regular matches at Saphan Hin Stadium, where the atmosphere of the crowd is energising, or try Patong Beach for local matches between skilled martial arts experts.

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