Phuket is Thailand's largest island, and is approximately the size of Singapore. Phuket nestles in balmy Andaman Sea waters on Thailand's Indian Ocean coastline 867 kilometers south of Bangkok. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoyed a rich and colorful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign traders' ship logs. The Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traded with Phuket. Other visitors were less friendly. Phuket's most famous monument is the memorial statue of the heroines Thao Thepkasattri and Thao Sisunthon, who rallied islanders in 1785 to repel Burmese invaders. Phuket is blessed with magnificent coves and bays, and powdery, palm-fringed beaches; sparkling island-dotted seas; sincerely hospitable people; superb accommodation and seafood; delightful turn-of-the- century Sino-Portuguese architecture; numerous sporting and leisure opportunities; a lush tropical landscape -- all of which comb ine to create a delightful ambience for truly memorable holidays.
The compact provincial capital serves mainly as a dormitory and commercial and shopping center. Splendid colonial-style residences built by late 19th century tin and rubber barons, and shop houses from the same period, with shaded walkways, provide distinctive character.
This provides a pleasant view of town while dining, and has a Fitness Park, a series of hillside sculptural tableaux, which enhance calisthenics.
The Thai Village
Also on Thepkasattri Road, the village serves daily a typical southern Thai lunch that is followed by a spectacular cultural show including Thai dances, sword-fighting, Thai boxing, southern customs and elephants. Handicrafts are also on display.
Thalang National Museum
Located near the Two Heroines Monument, this museum contains permanent exhibition of life in old Phuket, ancient artifacts and remains discovered on the coast and, materials used during war with Myanmar.
Phuket's glory is its magnificent coastline. Beaches range from gentle crescents of white sand with calm waters to rocky headlands pounded by raging surf. Counter clockwise, from Phuket's northern tip, where the Sarasin Bridge connects the is-land with the mainland, Phuket's major beaches (and temples and botanical gar-dens) are as follows:
Mai Khao Beach (40 kilometers from town)
This pine-lined stretch of sand is Phuket's longest beach. Each year, from November through February, gigantic sea turtles struggle ashore to lay their eggs on Mai Khao Beach.
Nai Yang Beach (30 kilometers from town)
This forms part of a national park. The tranquil surroundings are ideal for relaxation, picnics, swimming and snorkeling.
Wat Phra Thong
Inland from Nai Yang Beach, the temple enshrines a famous, partially buried Buddha. Local legends relate how a boy tethered his buffalo to a post protruding from the ground. Subsequently, both boy and animal fell mysteriously sick. Suspicious villagers uncovered the post and discovered it was the decorative topknot of a buried golden Buddha. They were able to unearth no more than the upper part of the image, over which they constructed the present chapel. Burmese invaders attempted to remove the image in 1785 but failed when vicious hornets attacked them.
Ton Sai Waterfall Forest Park & Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park
(22 Kilometers from town)
The 22-square-kilometer area teems with various mammals, including bears, porcupines, gibbons and macaques, reptiles and lizards, and over 100 bird species, in an idyllic setting cooled by sonorous cascades.
Pansea Bay, Surin Beach, (24 kilometers from town)
Sing Cape & Kamala Beach
These unfold in rapid succession. Swimming is not recommended at Surin Beach due to powerful surf and a treacherous undertow. The beach is a favored spot for witnessing sunsets. The northern end of Kamala Beach is suitable for swimming.
Patong Beach (15 kilometers from town)
Phuket's most developed beach offers numerous leisure, sporting, shopping and recreational options along its 3-kilometer-long crescent bay. There are several popular daytime activities - windsurfing, snorkeling, sailing, swimming and sunbathing. Patong is equally well known for its vibrant nightlife, among which seafood restaurants prominently feature.
Karon & Kata Beaches (20 & 17 kilometers from town)
Both beaches are impressively long, relatively peaceful and eminently suitable for swimming, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing and sunbathing.
Nai Han Beach (18 kilometers from town)
The white beach fronts a shallow lagoon between rocky headlands. There are several popular daytime activities - windsurfing, snorkeling, sailing, swimming and sunbathing.
Adjacent to Nai Han Beach, Phuket's southernmost point is the perfect place from which to view spectacular sunsets.
Rawai Beach (17 kilometers from town)
The palm-fringed beach is best known for 'sea gypsies'; a formerly nomadic fishing minority believed to be of Melanesian de-scent.
Chalong Bay (11 kilometers from town)
This beach has several restaurants selling some of Phuket's best seafood.
A few kilometers inland from Chalong Beach, this Buddhist temple enshrines statues of Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, Phuket's most revered monks.
Phanwa Cape (10 kilometers from town)
The southernmost tip of this cape is home to a Marine Biological Research Center and Phuket's Aquarium where visitors may inspect several hundred exotic, grotesque and flamboyantly colorful marine species found mainly in Phuket's teeming waters.
Pearl farms are located on islands neighboring Phuket, including Nakha, Rang Noi, Rang Yai and Bon. Special permission is needed to visit them.
There are now 4 challenging, 18-hole golf courses in Phuket, including the followings:
Phuket Country Club in Kathu
Blue Canyon in Thalang district nears the airport
Banyan Tree Club at Bangtao beach
Phuket Century Country Club in Kathu.
All courses offer reasonably priced golf club rentals, green fees and caddy services.
Three riding clubs, one on Patak Road, on the way to Kata Beach, Ban Sai Yuan on the way to Nai Harn Beach, and Laguna Phuket, Bangtao Beach, offer facilities for beginners and experienced riders alike.
This popular sport is enjoyed at most major beaches. Boards may be rented by the hour, half-day, full day or week. Expert tuition from Thai teachers is free.
Enjoyed mostly at Nai Han, Patong and Kata beaches. Toppers and dinghies are available at Patong. Catamaran, Hobie Cats and Top Cats are available at Kata.
Popular at Patong (on half an hour or an hour basis). Automated cable water-skiing is available at the Phuket Waterski Cableway behind the Phuket Century Golf Course in Kathu district.
Deep Sea Fishing
Daily tours are available, making early morning departures and late afternoon returns, mostly to lesser islands to fish for Red Snappers, Rainbow Runners and other game fish.
This can be enjoyed throughout the year, and is mostly safe. However, undertows can be problematic during the Rains Season. It is best to seek the advice of local people regarding swimming conditions.
This can be enjoyed in sheltered bays all around Phuket. It is particularly enjoyable at easily accessible reefs at Patong, Karon and Kata beaches. Fins, mask and snorkel can be rented on a daily basis from shops all over the island.
Expeditions regularly leave Phuket for dives around neighboring islands, and further a field, most particularly around the enduringly popular Phi Phi Islands in neighboring Krabi province, some 2 hours east of Phuket. Similan Islands, in Phangnga province, some 110 kilometers northwest of Phuket, and the Raya Islands, 1-3 hours due south of Phuket depending on the type of boat. Several dive shops concentrated in the Patong, Kata and Chalong areas have Asian and European expatriate(s) (speaking English and several other languages) and bilingual Thai dive instructors who offer inexpensive beginner's courses.
Yachtsmen visiting Phuket can enjoy a full range of services, including dry dock facilities and boat repairs, and safe and secure moorings, principally at Ao Chalong, the Phuket Boat Lagoon Marina and Laem Prao Marina. Yachts of ever shape and size can be chartered, either as bareboat or with full crew. Please check with the Phuket Immigration Office for detail regarding bringing in a yacht, or leaving by yacht.
Chinese Vegetarian Festival
Each year, beginning on the first day of the 9th lunar month (usually October), Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a 9-day vegetarian diet, a form of purification believed to help make the forthcoming year 'trouble-free'. The festival is marked by several ascetic displays, including fire-walking and ascending sharp-bladed ladders.
King's Cup Regatta
Early each December, the Phuket Yacht Club hosts international yachtsmen, largely from neighboring countries that compete in the Nai Han Beach area for royal trophies.
Each December, the triathlon (a 1,000 meter swim, a 5-kilometer bike race and a 12-kilometer run) attracts world-class athletes from all over the world and qualifies winners for the prestigious Hawaii iron man Triathlon.
Excursions & Tours
Phuket is the ideal place from where to visit popular attractions in neighboring provinces, either on day tours or as overnight excursions. Principal destinations include:
Located northeast of Phuket, and containing scores of limestone islands, some riddled with aquatic grottoes, (see Phangnga information for further details) this picturesque bay is an enduringly popular excursion. Hotels and tour companies throughout Phuket offer tours.
Phi Phi Islands
These picturesque islands in Krabi province (see Krabi information for more de-tails) are probably Phuket's most popular excursion.
Phuket dive shops operate daily excursions to the Similan islands (see Phangnga information for further details) during the high season of November-May when underwater visibility is at its best.