Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, often referred to as the Pearl of the Andaman. It’s a popular spot for visitors to southeast Asia – and for good reason too. With an impressive coastline featuring long stretches of sandy beach strung together by dramatic rock formations, it’s been attracting people to its shores for decades.
When planning our time in Phuket, I had a difficult time deciding in what area we should stay. I did my research and Phuket town seemed like the most authentic option, but it was inland and away from the beach, and getting to the beach would be difficult without a rental car. Patong sounded like my worst nightmare, listed as Phuket’s main tourist center with clubbing and prostitution and catcalling touts but nonetheless we ended up staying there. Knowing what I know now, Kata and karon would have been a much better option.Also, most of the time, travelers get confused whether to choose east coast or west coast. In my opinion, I would stick to either the east or west coast instead of rushing between both trying to cram it all in.
We stayed at Sawaddi Patong Resort near Patong Beach. While we usually prefer to stay at smaller hotels, I thought Phuket was the place to stay in a resort. The hotel is very pretty with nice people and the beach is at a walking distance. The location of the hotel is perfect as well as it is central to everything, but far enough away from party noise. Although the highlight is Indian food availability in the restaurant.
Sawaddi Patong Resort- A beautiful hotel, and certainly my favourite in Phuket
On our first day in Phuket, we arrived in the late morning. I had again arranged an airport transfer with Yatra, which I recommend. Something I learned in Thailand is to arrange some things ahead of time, such as arriving airport transfers and some tours, but also leave your itinerary somewhat open as additional tours might be obtained for a lesser price. After checking into our hotel, we went out in search for lunch. We encountered a number of restaurants featuring pizza, lasagna, and spicy Thai food. Food is really cheap in Thailand. Street food costs as little as 20 THB, though on average you’ll spend about 35-50 THB per meal if you want something really filling. Most western dishes (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc) cost between 170-340 THB, though they can be higher in the fancier western establishments.
You are seriously spoiled for choice for food options in Phuket with probably a greater variety of cuisines than anywhere else in Thailand. From hawker stands, beach vendors, local noodle shops, great Thai and seafood restaurants right up to the finest International dining. I am a die hard Thai food fan and must say the local cuisine is delicious – most of the gravies are coconut based. Noodles & rice is usually served with a fried egg, salad & crushed peanuts. Veg food is easily available at most of the restaurants. You will also find a chain of KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks, 7/11, Family Mart & other convenient stores all around. After much desperate searching, we found a Thai restaurant that seemed like a good prospect.
Post lunch we decided to visit Big Buddha. We managed to get one tuk-tuk and booked it for a round trip. We had to shell 800THB which we later came to know was too much for that trip. Something else very different in Phuket from other parts of Thailand is the tuk-tuks. Many of the tuk-tuks we saw had had blinking lights and loud music, more for a party than for transportation. Anyhow, we reached Big Buddha, which has been in the process of being built for some time now.
Big Buddha as seen up close and View of Chalong Bay from Big Buddha
The 45 meters high Buddha statue (Phra Phuttha Mingmongkhon Akenakkhiri) is one of Phuket’s landmarks.Furthermore, the Big Buddha isn’t the only highlight but rather the terrific view! It offers you a beautiful view at the Chalong Bay, where you can dwell on the outlook. On the way to the Big Buddha you will pass many viewpoints. Sometimes with a restaurant or a coffee shop by the wayside. I recommend you to take a break or several to enjoy them.
After spending some time at Big Buddha, we headed towards our last stop- The Promthep Cape, Laem Promthep in Thai, a popular spot for watching the sun set over the Andaman Sea.It’s a very famous tourist spot and unfortunately the tourists come with entire busloads. Nevertheless, the viewpoint is still beautiful, especially at sunset and I don’t want to keep it from you.
The view from the most southern tip of Phuket, The Promthep Cape (Laem Promthep)
Our days were filled with activities, but at night in Phuket I started to see why everyone was a big fan of the area in which we were staying. When we left our hotel in search of dinner, we somehow ended up on Bangla Road. Night life in Patong is concentrated in and around Bangla Road that has Beach Road at one end and Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Road (Jungceylon Mall) at the other end. Let us call this other end ‘Jungceylon end’ because the main entry to Bangla is almost opposite Jungceylon.
Entrance of Bangla Road from the Beach end
The next day we headed to our pre booked tour to Phi Phi Island and Khai Island. We purchased our Phi Phi Island and Khai Island Trip snorkelling tour through SeaStar Andaman. It was about 1,900 THB per person. We were picked up promptly from our hotel around 7:50am, and whisked away to the ferry meeting point where they had a light breakfast and briefing before the trip commenced.It was very well organized. Our tour guide Joker ( who spoke English with a funny accent) had a great sense of humor and was very fun and professional. He distributed seasick pills at the start, and boy, did it come in useful!! It was a perfect day trip, only 45-60 minutes by Speedboat from Phuket. The boats are so modern and well maintained. Loads of snacks and water/Pepsi available all day and even afternoon tea at Khai Island.
After the briefing, they take you through to where you catch your boat and have photos taken. Your shoes are then deposited into a bag before boarding the boat. We were packed into the speedboat. I felt that the boat was a little overcrowded. Counted 30 passengers and 8 crew members. We sat packed like sardines but nonetheless all of us were cheerful and eager to get out to sea.
Pretty serious look from two of us specially me ( one from the right)
Our first stop was at Pileh Cove . This was our first snorkeling spot. The crew were very quick to help assemble everyone into their gear.We snorkelled and I saw some Nemos which was really exiting! We stopped here for around half an hour and then we were headed to our next stop- Koh Phi Phi Don. It was gorgeous. We had our lunch ( included in the trip) here at some local restaurant. Lunch wasn’t amazing but nothing to rave about. After spending some time at the beach and drinking coconut water out of a coconut (I had so many of these in Thailand, and they make me very, very happy), we headed up for a beautiful view of the beach where we had just been relaxing.
Note: If one is really into snorkeling, you can rent Flippers from the office area before you depart for 100baht. Although it isn’t necessary.
Mesmerizing view of Phi Phi Don and Snorkeling at Pileh Cove
Our next stop was Phi Phi Leh and on our way we came across Viking Cave. The driver made a small stop in front of this high cave in Phi Phi Leh. Here one can see tangle of platforms and altars that thai people have erected to honor the spirits of the cave and before which they meditate before climbing their fragile scaffolding. A huge number of monkeys can also be seen in this cave.
Viking Cave near Phi Phi Leh
A good 45 mins later, we reached Maya beach on Phi Phi Leh and my goodness, the beach was so packed with other boats. Counted nearly 30 boats either parked, leaving or trying to enter the bay. Koh Phi Phi consists of 2 islands- Koh Phi Phi Don (the main island) and Koh Phi Phi Leh, where the legendary Maya bay is located and the Hollywood movie The Beach was filmed. It’s truly a beautiful place but it was particularly crowded that morning due to the tides… After that we headed for the lagoon for a swim and snorkeling from the boat (yes! we jumped in from the boat deck). Pristine clear water, lots of fishes around, corals, sea urchins, … wow! Do bring along an underwater camera… or get a water proof plastic case for your mobile!
Note: While in Phi Phi Leh, you can opt for a tour around Maya Bay and nearby lagoon with a longtail boat on your own. The views are breathtaking.
The Infamous Maya Bay
Trying my hands on the panorama view
The Welcome Board ( substantial proof of the beach 😛 )
Another lagoon in Phi Phi Leh
The famous & spectacular viewpoint of Ko Phi Phi
Next, we moved on to the last stop of our trip- Khai Island. It was an hour ride from Phi Phi Leh. We were really looking forward to more snorkeling and swimming but unfortunately this proofed to be a real downer! Sea was calm, island looked beautiful from the boat but after we disembarked, found that for some unclear reasons, we were constrained to the least ideal part of the beach (seems like we are not the only tour affected, others from other operators were similarly constrained). Sand was gravelly and lots of hidden rocks in the water. Bummer! When some of us walked to the other side, we were gently told off by the locals that swimming is not allowed in those areas! But the sand is just so fine and sea is so inviting! Anyway, we only had 45 minutes there so we just decided to make the best of what we have. Basically the last island was the opportunity to relax on the beach -if you could find a spot, or partake in jet skiing/snorkeling. Return was smooth and we sped back to the Jetty on time. On our way back, we booked the Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island Tour for the next day.
The snorkeling area in Khai Island
The usual swimming area in Khai Island
On our way back, the cloudy weather almost ruined it for us but the view was dope though
We reached our hotel at 6 and were totally exhausted but equally satisfied as we almost covered 4 Islands just in one day. We left the hotel at around 7 at headed straight to Naka Weekend Market. We took a cab this time and had to shell almost 800THB ( Too exhausted to bargain). On our way we passed the Tesco Lotus and the Wat Chalong (The most famous temple in Phuket & we missed it). It was an hour drive to Naka Weekend Market which is one of the biggest weekend markets of Phuket and takes place every Saturday and Sunday a little bit outside of Phuket Town. The stalls open about 4 p.m. and most of them close about 10-11 p.m.The market has so much to offer and if you love shopping, that’s the place to be. But you can also find a huge offer of food. Better plan some hours on-site for your visit. Being a huge Thai food fan, I was having a problem with the selection but at last I settled for a yummy Veg Pad Thai.
Too many options for a foodie in Naka Weekend Market
Delicious Veg Pad Thai
The last day we had our tour booked for Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island. As usual, we were picked up from our hotel at around 8. Mr.Joker was our guide for the day along with another guide named Alan. We were briefed about the tour and the Islands we would be visiting. We covered 6 Islands on that day.Big and bold on the horizon.
Koh Panak is the first island one reaches after departing the Marina pier. Not just one of the biggest in the Bay, it’s also one of the most amazing. The many secrets of this island, however, are well hidden and one passing close by in a boat might cruise the length of the island without recognizing any of the places photographed here. One can do Kayaking/ Canoeing here but as it was too crowded, our guide advised us to do it on Ping Gan Island ( which was an awesome experience). We stopped here for 15 minutes as we also had other Islands to cover.
After Panak, our next stop was at Hong Island. Koh Hong is an island that has a large collapsed cave (hong) in the centre that has become a lagoon. There is a small cave or tunnel through which canoes can fit to access the interior lagoon. There is also a ‘dry’ tunnel higher on the rock, from an earlier period in history when the water levels were higher. The higher tunnel allows access on foot to view the lagoon.
People queuing up for Kayaking at Koh Panak
We motored along for a while until we came to our third stop at Ping Gan Island. There is a ‘drive-up beach’ on the island that provides access to a cave. The speedboat pulled up on the beach as we arrived and started unloading passengers on small canoes. Each canoe can hold up to 3 people including the boat driver. One can also opt to drive the canoe themselves. There is a small cave or tunnel through which canoes can fit to access the interior lagoon. There is also a ‘dry’ tunnel higher on the rock, from an earlier period in history when the water levels were higher. The higher tunnel allows access on foot to view the lagoon. My boat driver had given me a flashlight so that I could see inside the otherwise dark cave. We had a 30 minute stop here. I definitely recommend canoeing at Ping Gan and explore the mangrove swamp. It’s totally worth it!!!
Canoeing at Ping Gan Island
Our next stop was the renowned ‘James Bond Island’, made famous after being used in the 1974 James Bond movie – The Man with a Golden Gun. It’s locally called Tapu Island or Nail Island (well justified by its funny elongated and unbalanced shape). It is a famous spot for a day trip. This place gives you amazing photos opportunities (which we liked a lot). What we didn’t like is that it’s super touristic so expect a lot of people at midday which spoils a bit the exotic feeling. The beach here has been taken over by souvenir vendors, so it has become a real tourist trap. We stopped here for an hour after which we headed towards the next stop.
The Infamous James Bond Island
The central part of Koh Panyi is a concrete floor connecting dozens of tiny souvenir shops, and from there, a narrow maze of uneven planks lead to the populations houses. Start exploring and you’ll get easily lost in the network of walkways and tiny shops… all selling tee shirts, batiks and stuff made of shells. I guess some people buy those. Once you start walking away from the center, space opens up between wooden houses, corrugated iron or a bit of everything, and you can see a bit more the sea and the sunlight. We stopped here for around an hour.
Koh Panyee Island
Our last stop was Khai Island again!!! It was a total rip off but nothing could be done at that time. This time we tried our hands on Jet ski for 1400THB (another rip off ). We returned to the Marina Pier and instead of going directly to our hotel, we went to Kata Noi Beach. On our way, we stopped at Karon viewpoint or previously known as Kata viewpoint. This was the last place on our list.
Note 1 : Most of the above activities can be booked by agents available at the resort or by several of the local agents who run stalls at Patong. You will find them selling tickets with different combination of activities.
Note 2 : Although tipping is not mandatory in Phuket, but a little generosity from your end would bring a big smile on the service providers face. Around 50 to 80 THB for the staff at your hotel or resort, around 100 THB as a service tip at restaurants, to tour guides, masseurs, etc.
Note 3: 7-Eleven are convenience stores in Thailand and will never disappoint you; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week your trustable partner for food, drinks, snacks and other travel must-haves….
Have you been to Thailand ? What are your favourite memories ? Share them with me please. Your valuable feedback and comments would be highly appreciated. Also if you have any questions regarding Phuket please let me know.
I have also included a list of emergency numbers and hospitals at the end of the blog which might come handy in case of any emergency.
Bangkok Phuket Hospital
2/1 Hongyok utis Rd, Phuket City
Located in Phuket City.
Tel: +66 (0)7 625 4421
Mission Hospital Phuket
4/1 Thepkrasattri Rd
Amphur Muang, Phuket 83000
Tel: (66-76) 237220/5 – 211907 or 212149 – 01-4299627
Sawatdirak Road, Patong Beach, Phuket 83150
Tel: (66-76) 344225 – 340617 For EMERGENCIES call 340444
Dr Thiti Clinic
1 Visit Road, Rawai
Near Chalong Circle
Tel: +66 (0)81 691 9185
Dr Niran’s Clinic
5/12 Moo 8 Chaofa Road,Phuket 83100
(opposite Esso Chalong)
Tel: (66-76) 283002 – 283008
Bangkok International Clinic
Canal Village, Laguna Phuket
390/6-7 Srisoonthorn Rd, Thalang, Phuket 83110
Tel: (66-76) 325442 – 325442
- Police 191
- Tourist Police 1155
- Phuket Tourist Rescue Centre, Chalong 076 383 907-9