Phuket is the largest island in Thailand with a land area of approximately 540 square kilometers (roughly the size of Singapore.) A quarter of a million people call Phuket their home with most being either Thai or Chinese.
Situated of the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea temperatures vary from between 21 degrees and 34 degrees centigrade, but due to its geographical location the months of November till April are traditionally sunny and humid whilst May till October sees the rainy monsoon season.
With a huge number of things to do on the Island and 35,000 tourists already visiting each day let’s take a look at the best things to do in Phuket:
1. Take a Trip to Kata Noi Beach
Kata Noi beach is a small bay just a short drive from Kata beach, it is a small beach but the scenery is breath taking, take some time to relax, walk along the beautiful sands or maybe go for a swim. From the Kata viewpoint you can look across at the bays of Karon, Kata and Kata Noi, The best time to visit the beach is between November and April as swimming can sometimes become dangerous during the monsoon season.
2. Have a Tour of The Chalong Bay Rum Distillery
For any keen rum drinkers the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery is sure to whet your appetite, the company produces high end white rum which is now starting to be noticed around the world. There is lots to do when you arrive at the distillery, you start by taking a tour where you will learn about the way the rum is produced before taking a look at the work that goes on behind the scenes. The final part of the trip is in the cocktail workshop and bar, here you will learn how to make various cocktails that all include Chalong Bay Rum and then relax while you sample them.
3. Come And See The Phuket Big Buddha
This huge Buddha is one of the most famous landmarks in all of Phuket, sitting at the top of the Nakkerd Hills and standing at forty five meters tall it is very difficult to miss. From the top of the hill you are able to get a panoramic view of the island. When you are at the Buddha you will notice that it is very quiet apart from the sound of dharma music and some little bells. The Buddha is made from white Burmese marble and sparkles elegantly in the sun.
4. Nai Harn Beach
Situated in the south of the island is Nai Harn Beach, it is a popular beach with thousands of visitors every year but it is still relatively untouched and maintains a lot of its originality. With beautifully soft sand and crystal clear water you will immediately see why the beach is so popular. Settled up under the shade of the large trees you will find various restaurants selling popular Thai cuisine as well as various souvenir shops selling local novelty items as well as beach wear and floats.
5. Take a Wander to Karon View Point
Sitting just to the south of Kata Noi Beach is Karon View Point, it is the most popular viewpoint in Phuket and is normally crowded with tourists on a daily basis. The viewpoint looks out over the Andaman Sea in one direction and the other direction points towards the three west coast beaches on the other side of the island. If you like looking at white sandy beaches and beautiful blue seas you will understand why it is so busy at the top.
6. Take a Trip to Wat Chalong
For over a century Wat Chalong has been open to visitors, when you arrive there is a lot to see, starting with Poh Jao Wat which houses two statues of elderly men, one is Ta Khee-Lek (a local who won various lotteries after he had been to visit the Poh Than Jao Wat statue, the other is called Nonsi. Probably the highlight of your visit will be the Grand Pagoda which contains a small splinter from the bone of Lord Buddha, The pagoda is beautifully decorated with Buddha images and pictures that depict his life story.
7. Go Shopping at Phuket Town Weekend Night Market
Known by the locals as Naka Market and sitting just a little way from Phuket Town is a night market like no other. There are all sorts of things to buy such as fruits, old curiosities, animals and clothes. A popular event with both the locals and tourists it is best to arrive late afternoon to ensure you get a good look around before it become packed. Make the most of the cheap local foods on sale like the golden buttered corn on the cob.
8. Hang Out at Tiger Kingdom
If you have ever wanted to get up close to a tiger this is the place to do it, the Phuket Tiger Kingdom hand raises Indochinese tigers in captivity from birth until their final days. The tigers typically get fed at around 19:00 hours but it is also worth a visit when they open first thing to avoid the crowds. The kingdom has two restaurants on site should you be hungry, one of which allows you to look out at the tigers. There are many rumors about Tiger Kingdom, one of them is that they drug the animals (which seems NOT to be true). Here’s a great article written by Vicky who volunteered at Tiger Kindom: Tiger Kingdom The Truth
9. Get Learning at a Thai Cooking Class
Phuket has so many different locations that offer cooking classes that it is certainly worth taking a lesson whilst you are there. You will notice that a lot of the local food you eat in Thailand is different to the Thai food you have in your native country, it somehow lacks the edge that it does when cooked in Thailand. By taking a class you will learn about the ingredients as well as picking up the useful skills to continue cooking when you return home. Many places offer morning, afternoon or whole day packages and you always get to eat what you have cooked.
10. Spend a Night Out on Bangla Road
When the sun goes down the Bangla Road gets closed to traffic and the road becomes alive. The street is full of bars, many of which are outside so you seamlessly move from one bar to the next. There are normally street entertainers looking for you to part with your hard earned cash in return for a few minutes’ entertainment as well as touts trying to get you into their ping pong shows or tailor shops. A positive vibe fills the air as you work your way down the street, all the beer girls and restaurant owners compete for your business keeping the prices low and the fun never ending.
11. Celebrity Spot at Surin Beach
Commonly known as ‘Millionaires Row’ Surin Beach is surrounded by houses for the rich and famous as well as luxury resorts. One look at the beach and you can see why the place is so popular with both the Thai’s and foreigners. Eating out in this part of the island is expensive and the majority of restaurants overlooking the beach serve high-end cuisine, there are also a lot of trendy wine bars to choose from.
12. Visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
Considering riding an elephant? Don’t!, visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary instead and you’ll learn why you should never ride an elephant. You’ll meet the elephants, learn all about them and support ethical elephant tourism.
13. Visit the Soi Dog Foundation
For anyone that has been in Thailand for any length of time will notice that there are stray dogs and cats roaming the streets everywhere, for any animal lovers the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket is worth visiting, Soi Dog sterilises approximately 12,000 animals a year making the streets and roads safer for everyone. You can volunteer your time to look after the animals or just go for a guided tour around the grounds of the foundation, whatever you choose to do it is a little bit different to the normal things tourists find to do in Thailand
14. Watch the Monkeys at Monkey Hill
Also known as Toh Sae Hill, Monkey Hill is the highest hill in Phuket Town, there are about 400 macaques living on the hill and they live in little groups all over the hill. The monkeys are not know to attack humans but it you should keep an eye on your belongings. The bottom of the hill houses a shrine that is popular with Thai people, a lot of whom come here to ask for lucky lottery numbers, the shrine is in honour of three different holy spirits, Toh Sae Dang, Toh Sae Dam and Toh Sae Kaow.
15. Make a Visit to Phang Nga Bay
Whilst visiting all the sites in Phuket you must take a visit to Phang Nga Bay, the bay is home to approximately 40 small islands that come straight out of the sea. The area is full of lagoons, caves and mangroves all of which you should take the time to see although seeing everything in one day could be a challenge. The bay is protected from a lot of the bad weather in monsoon season due to the way it is naturally protected because of its location. Visiting Phang Nga Bay with a tourist guide is the best way to ensure you don’t miss anything.
There are several amazing tours available (suggested to book in advance): tours to Phang Nga Bay from Phuket
16. See The Ladyboys at the Simon Cabaret Show
For over two decades the now very famous Simon Cabaret show has wowed tourists to Phuket with the most beautiful of ladyboys performing night after night. For one hour you will be treated to spectacular cabaret by the various performers including a big fat transvestite who always wipes her sweaty boobs on an unsuspecting gentleman sitting in the front row. The amphitheatre is very comfortable with large comfy seats, tickets can be booked here.
17. Sit Back And Enjoy The Phuket FantaSea Show
Offering entertainment on a grand scale the Phuket Fantasea Show is a 140 acre complex that is filled with a range of entertainment and activities for all. There is a 4000 seat restaurant serving up a humongous buffet of both Thai and international food, a Las-Vegas style theater show that showcases the best of Thailand’s myths and mysteries. A carnival village, shopping complex and handicrafts section also compete for your time and attention. With so much to do it is best to arrive early to give yourself the time to see it all.
18. Be Impressed At The Phuket Trickeye Museum
The Phuket Trickeye Museum is the first of its kind in Southern Thailand, The museum is an interactive museum set up with the purpose of stimulating your imagination and creativity. The museum was designed so that the visitor engages with the art in a new way by actually becoming part of the art in the brief time you look at it. There is plenty of 3D art to see and be amazed by, whether in the permanent installation or one of the changing temporary ones. Tickets can be purchased online: Trickeye Museum Ticket
19. Check the View at Khao Rang Viewpoint
Located in the northwest of the city center, the Khao Rang viewpoint offers an excellent place to look out over the town, neighboring islands and hills that make up the ‘spine’ of the island (where the Phuket Big Buddha sits.) There are three restaurants and bars at the viewpoint along with a panoramic terrace where all the mentioned views can be had. For those feeling energetic there is also a fitness park to be explored as well.
20. Be Inspired At Jui Tui Shrine
Following a series of renovations the Jui Tui Shrine house three large statues, each of a different Chinese god, the most prominent of these is Tean Hu Huan Soy, the god of performing arts and dancing, Next to his statue are a dog and a chicken as they were said to be his favorite childhood pets. The shrine itself was not always in its current location but following a fire many years ago that nearly destroyed it they decided is should move. To the left of the shrine is a firecracker house, you will often see people throwing burning firecrackers during various celebrations.
21. Walk Around Phuket Old Town
Phuket Old Town is the provincial capital of Phuket, it is a historically rich part of town where you will see an abundance of temples (Chinese and Buddhist), beautiful ‘shophouses’, small printing shops and a disused red light district. The Old Town was created during a boom many years ago when metal was a valuable commodity. The town itself is not that big so you can easily walk around it rather than taking any transport and has a large selection of restaurants to stop for something to eat.
22. Discover The Shrine of the serene light
Built by a local family nearly 150 years ago and hidden away at the end of an alley way is the Shrine of the Serene Light. With Taoist etchings covering the walls and a vaulted ceiling there is much to see. Recently renovated the shrine has been completely repainted on the outside but kept completely original on the inside. There is always burning incense and freshly laid flowers, a live in caretaker makes sure that things are always kept just the way they should be.
23. Dine In Luxury at Mom Tri’s Kitchen
Sitting in a property formally owned by the Thai royal family is Mom Tri’s Kitchen, a paradise for couples looking to enjoy a romantic meal. The restaurant is situated right on the waterfront overlooking the Andaman Sea and the white sand of the Kata Noi Beach. With over 700 wines to choose by the bottle and 18 to choose by the glass they leave no taste buds left wanting. Naturally for its location the restaurant is at the higher end of the prices in Phuket but for a one of celebration it is highly recommended.
24. Go Wild In Patong
Patong Beach is known as the heart of Phuket, tourists swarm here in their thousands and parking is often impossible but it is worth the experience at least once on any trip to Phuket. There are two things people come to Patong Beach for, its beach and the wild nightlife. The beach is about 2 kilometres long and you can try parasailing, jet skiing or just rent a sunbed to relax for a few hours. The nightlife centers aound Soi Bangla and you can witness many a ladyboy strutting their stuff whilst enjoying a drink or two.
25. Help at The Gibbon Rehabilitation project
Over 3,000 gibbons are killed each year in Thailand by hunters and this figure is on the rise, the Gibbon Rehabilitation project was set up to help look after the sick and unhealthy survivors with the intention of rehoming them back in the wild in the future. The project is always looking for volunteers to work at the project on a variety of tasks, such as working in the souvenir shop, fixing broken fences, feeding the gibbons or carrying out research. If you are expecting to see a normal zoo then you may be disappointed as the project is very much about making the gibbons better to return them to the wild.