Phuket: THE Travel Guide


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Please don’t eat us, giant piranha.

In December 2016, I visited Phuket in the Land of Smiles again, this time round with friends instead of family. I had a total blast during the time I was here and I’m sure you will too.

Phuket is known for its idyllic beaches, and close proximity to the tropical islands of Phi Phi. It has many beaches, but the most popular ones include Patong, Karon and Kata beaches. Patong caters to younger backpackers, with cheaper and more affordable accommodation, not to mention Bangla street pumping up  sick beats and parties every night. Karon and Kata beaches are quieter and more child-friendly, perfect for a getaway with the whole family.

Enjoying the sun, sand & sea on Coral Island 🙂

Being with 2 other 21-year olds, we unsurprisingly chose to stay at Patong Beach, where we could participate in activities in the day, and then enjoy the nightlife after.

I booked the majority of my activities with a fantastic person named Anna, she was recommended to me by one of the Phuket Pub Crawl guys and the prices were so much lower than the other operators around. This is not advertising for her or any thing like this, I just feel that her prices were very reasonable, provided you do a little bargaining. As such, the prices I will be putting below is the price which we had after bargaining. 

Anna’s Contact: +66 95 442 8659

We actually hired a driver for a day to bring us around the Big Buddha, Phuket Old Town and the viewpoints. Our driver’s name was Mann Pairat. He spoke reasonably good English and was really friendly throughout the journey. We paid THB 1200 for 6 hours (1pm-7pm, as we wanted the see the sunset from one of the viewpoints). I highly recommend him as your driver for a hassle-free and comfortable experience. His rates were also very reasonable compared to the other companies.

Mann’s website:  http://www.phukettaxifare.com/
Facebook Page: Link
Contact: +66 85 789 9428

Phuket Travel Video

Wei An made a video of our trip to Phuket. It isn’t a professional one, but it clearly showed what we did in Phuket during our days there.

Activities

1. Island Hopping

At the viewpoint on Similan Islands!

This is the most common activity that people go for when they stay in Phuket. I would say its a staple for most. Almost every tour operator offer tours to Coral Island, Phi Phi Islands or the Similan Islands. See the section on water activities to know more about my trip to Coral Island! I had already visited the Phi Phi islands when I was with my family a while back.

Thus, we opted for the last choice that I had not been to, the Similan Islands. This was the most exotic option for island hopping, but it was also the most expensive one. All in all, it was a great experience, albeit a very long one! I will be writing a blog post dedicated to it soon 🙂

View from the boat while island hopping!

The basic structure of an island hopping tour will include at least 2 snorkelling points, lunch, and a beach stop that gives you the option of chilling out, or snorkel again. Snorkel equipment (masks and snorkel) are often provided for free, with some tours providing fins as well.

Price: THB 2000 /person [Similan Island Hopping, this includes lunch as well]

2. Canoe in Sea Caves

Heading towards the sea caves in our canoes

This was absolutely surreal. Imagine being in a canoe with your guide, and being canoed INTO the caves, with just 30 centimeters of space between your face and the rocky ceiling. After around 10 minutes, you emerge into an emerald lagoon, with walls of rock surrounding you, extending high up into the sky. Look out for my upcoming blog post telling my experience with John Gray’s Sea Canoe company! They were amazing.

There were also 2 other operators offering this tour, however I had heard that John Gray was the most reputable one. Do take a tour! Not many people attempt to actually enter the caves via canoe, which is a waste. Because it should be on everyone’s bucket list. This is a full day tour, which starts from late morning till night.

You enter these limestone formations with your sea canoe!
View of the entrance of the cave into the lagoon

You can either take a tour like what I did, or travel to Phang Nga via motorbike or taxi, and rent canoes by yourself. I heard that you will pass by beautiful limestone mountains during the drive there.  I cannot guarantee that you will be able to canoe into the caves themselves though, as I hardly saw anyone in the caves’ lagoons that were not following tour groups around.

John Gray Website: http://www.johngray-seacanoe.com
TripAdvisor Review: here 

Price: THB 3500 /person ( a little exorbitant and probably the most expensive item in our entire trip, but it was totally worth every cent)

This tour was definitely worth every dollar 🙂

3. Explore Phuket Old Town

Beautiful Street Art

The Old Town of Phuket is easily accessible via taxi or motorbike. It boasts very quaint buildings and shops scattered all around. There are also many street artists who have decorated (or vandalized?) the walls of the buildings with their beautiful and creative street art.

More cool street art

We went to a random cafe nearby and started ordering our fill of cakes, matcha lattes and other sweets. Bring me back please.

Yum

The Old Town has a charming rustic feel to it. It is totally different from the hustle and bustle we felt in Patong, and as such, is not touristy at all. We hardly saw any tourists along the streets. Items sold here were also more affordably priced. I would recommend you spend a half-day here.

Trying to pose on a swing but failing terribly as usual

Directions: You can rent a motorbike for SGD 8 / day to get here. An alternative would be either to hire a driver, or take a taxi here.

4. Go to Viewpoints!

Katon Viewpoint

Phuket has a number of picturesque viewpoints that you can travel to. They each offer amazing photo opportunities that will help decorate your Instagram feed nicely.

1. Promthep Cape (more in the sunset section below, this one is amazing for its sunset views.)
2. Katon Viewpoint (this one had really pretty views of the bay)
3. Radar Hill (have not been to this one but I heard it had great views!)
4. Windmill Viewpoint (wanted to go here, but there wasn’t enough time unfortunately)

Tip: Try to go there early in the day if you can, when there are fewer tourists and you can take great photos without being photobombed by a bunch of other tourists from a tour bus

5. Visit the Big Buddha

Selfie with Buddha heh

The gigantic Buddha is located right at the top, overlooking the sea. It is an iconic cultural landmark that is included in many Phuket day tours. However I recommend that you either hire a driver to reach the place, or travel there via motorbike. This gives you more time to appreciate the surroundings, and soak in the Buddhist culture at the temples below the Big Buddha.

Caught.

We crossed an abandoned building while returning down from the Big Buddha and it made for some cool photos.

Angles.
Professional Photobomber

There is also a big gong that the top of the Big Buddha that you can rub on your hands on, to try to produce a loud whirling sound. I think it has something to do with momentum and proper contact, but I tried so many times and failed miserably. Here’s a video of me failing 🙂

I had heard that they required females to wear clothing that covered their shoulders and knees. Similarly, males were not allowed to enter if they wore singlets or anything exposing their shoulders. However, it seemed that this rule or system was not in place when I visited (which was a good thing for me as I tend to wear singlets naturally).

Tip: They also had a really good coconut ice cream shop right at the entrance! Do check it out 🙂

Yum coconut ice cream!

6. Have a spree at the markets

Clothes galore: All those singlets!!

Banzaan Fresh Market

We actually visited this morning market and it was a wonderful change of environment. This fresh market is easily accessible in Patong and offers a variety of fresh food for sale. It really showcases more of the local aspect as there were virtually no tourists there except us. All the locals were looking at us curiously. If you walk to the end of the market, it also has shops at the end that sell dried produce. We bought some dried pork slabs to bring back to Singapore.

Opening Hours: Daily from 07:00 – 17:00
Location: On Sai Kor Road, right behind the Jungceylon megamall in Patong

Naka Night Market

We also went to the Phuket Weekend Naka Night Market. This night market is one of the biggest weekend markets of Phuket and takes place every Saturday and Sunday.

The market offers a variety of goods. There were shops selling really cool t-shirts that had flashing lights that sync with the music around you (good for clubbing, but not much practical use otherwise). There were many shops selling clothing of all sorts. However, for clothing, we only found one shop that provided reasonable prices (THB 150/ singlet). The rest were selling them at twice the price.  Many of the shops there were selling similar items so you could go around haggling like us. There seemed to be a collusion of sorts though, when no shop offered less than THB 300 for an UnderArmour lookalike t-shirt. We actually bought personalized engraved passport covers for our families back home (See tip below)

There is also a section that sells really cheap and delicious food. You can have your dinner here, with stalls offering a variety of affordable bites, desserts and drinks.

Prices: THB 25 (Strawberry fruit juice), THB 25 /stick (chicken, beef, pork – essentially something like satay), THB 50 (fried calamari in a box)

Tip: Do not purchase the passport covers if you’re Singaporean. They do not fit our passports at all.

Tip: Head to Phuket Old Town to purchase cheaper clothing. The night market has a greater variety though. You might also want to fit this trip with a trip to Phuket Old Town as they are near each other.

Opening Hours: 4pm-10/11pm
Directions: If you are renting a motorbike, you can follow the directions below. If not, take a taxi like us! 🙂

If you are coming from Chalong, you have to take the same exit from the roundabout to the Big Buddha. Follow road Chao Fah Tawan Tok (4021) for 15 minutes. On your drive you will pass the Tesco Lotus and the Wat Chalong. After a while there will be the Thip Garden Phuket on your left hand side, a big garden center. Opposite that, you will have to turn right onto the street Wirat Hong Yok. Naka Weekend Market will only be a couple meters away on your right hand side.

If you are coming with a car it might be difficult to find a parking space, but with a motorbike that will not be a problem.

7. Get a traditional Thai Massage

Massage shop in Phuket, photo taken from Traveller.com.au

After a long day of walking, biking or travelling in general, it feels really good to get your aching feet or back massaged. The Thai masseurs here have gone through rigourous training to get certified, and you can feel it through  the satisfying kneads on your muscle knots, or the audible cracks as they straighten your joints. I usually opt for the Traditional Thai Massage, a full-body massage where they apply oil to knead your muscles more easily. There are many other choices including targeted treatment (Head, Shoulder, Back Massage), sunburn treatment (Aloe Vera Massage) and many more.

Prices: THB 200/h (Traditional Thai Massage) , THB 250/h (Back & Shoulder Massage), THB 400/h (Aromatherapy)

Tip: If you feel that the strength of the massage needs to be altered, do feel free to tell them! I’ve had many friends who were just too polite to do so, and thus wasted their massage because the pressure was too light or too strong!

Tip: Try to approach the more professional looking shops (clear , not frosted window panels) and where the female masseurs are wearing jeans or pants instead of long revealing dresses. If not, you might not get a decent massage!

8. Dance the Night away

Patong is famous for its nightlife. Bangla Street is the epitome of hedonistic partying in Patong, making it so popular with young backpackers. By day, Bangla Street is a normal walking street that leads up to the beach. Stalls on both sides of the street offer handmade Thai goods while the pubs and clubs sleep through the day. Music is toned down and Bangla street appears as a family-friendly destination.

By evening, the streets begins its drastic transformation, with clubs and bars pumping out loud reptitive beats and glitzy performers in all their costumes . There are also many street performers that take advantage of Bangla Street’s increased popularity at night to showcase some of their own magic tricks or acts.

We actually tried the Phuket Pub Crawl. Fun as it was, we thought that you could actually do the pubs yourselves as there weren’t a lot of games /activities to do. They do give you a paper with a list of what you can do. However, for the price of THB 1000, it just wasn’t worth it as there was minimal supervision and poor management.

There are two main clubs, Iluzion and Seduction, that people go to party the night away in Patong. I went to both just to get a feel of what was the difference, and sorry Seduction, but Iluzion won hands down. The DJs were great, the music was much more relatable (mainstream and funky) and the dance floor was much bigger. The best thing about the clubs in Phuket was that there was NO ENTRANCE FEE. Thus, I suggest pre-drinking outside for cheap, then heading to the clubs after. Do visit the clubs’ websites below to get a feel of the DJs that are going to be playing that week!

Iluzion’s Website: http://www.illuzionphuket.com
Tripadvisor Reviewhere

Seduction’s Websitehttp://seductiondisco.com
Tripadvisor Reviewhere

Tip: Try to pre-drink at those bars where they offer package prices. We went to a bar that offered 4 shots of tequila for THB 200. That was SGD 2 for one shot. Really worth it.

Tip: If you do go to those bars to pre-drink, please try not to play their drinking games. You will inevitably lose (in your drunken state) and will be forced to buy drinks for the bar assistants (what they call “lady drinks”) and they cost a bomb 🙁 but it’s all about the experience right? (Not.)

Tip: Some of the people will be holding placards or posters advertising free entry to some pub/clubs for a show. These are touts that earn a commision from extorting your money with exorbitant drink prices. Just walk away. There are too many of them to politely say “no” to. Even if you’re prone to the Asian politeness that we usually offer.

9. Do water sports!

Dont have a photo of us doing water activities because they made us put our valuables in our bags

A plethora of water sports awaits you in Phuket. From jet skiing, parasailing and banana boating, there are so many options, and so little time 🙁 You can easily book activities from the many tour operators scattered along all the streets. (Read above for which tour operator I took!)

I also heard the that diving in Phuket was good for first-timers, however I did not have time to do that. My friends were also not certified so it would have been not very nice of me to abandon them to dive, although I would have loved to dive in Phuket!

Coral Island Trip (Parasailing and Banana Boating)

Walking to find our own beach spot

We went to Coral Island as my friends wanted to try out parasailing. We opted for a package which includes parasailing and a banana boat experience. I actually did not want to go to Coral Island as I had already been there before, thus what I saw there really surprised me. I will elaborate further below. First, the activities themselves.

The banana boat is actually a long inflatable, in which there are rungs to hold on to. You sit on the “boat” and get whisked off by a speedboat. Midway, they try to topple the inflatable into the water by turning rapidly. It was so much fun! We had a blast, and the other two experienced their first time getting thrown off :p

The parasailing was really short ( minutes of flight time) but unique, midway through the flight, they slacken the rope and let you descend till your feet touch the waters (so cool), before tightening the rope allowing you to glide up again.

Beautiful beach all to ourselves (almost :p)

What I actually enjoyed most about this place was the fact that there were not many people around. As such, we had a good stretch of beach to ourselves. One of the reasons why could be the fact that most people (like me) thought that Coral Island was over-touristy, and as such had not chosen to visit. We had such a good time just chilling on the beach, and listening to music via our portable speakers.

Price: THB 1000 /person for the package (Do haggle!)

It was a gorgeous day.

10. Watch amazing sunsets

Phuket’s sunsets are really beautiful

Phuket has really great sunsets, whether you are on the boat, or on land. I highly recommend you to go to Promthep Cape for the sunset viewpoint as the combination of a little islet, lallang fields and the setting sun makes for an awe-inspiring photo.

Tip: If you are adventurous, you can try walking down all the way to the end of the Promthep Cliff. However, a photo enthusiast would most likely stay at the Cape itself as the path to the cliff provides a great element to the sunset photo itself.

Besides Promthep Cape, we captured beautiful sunset photos during our Sea Canoe tour. The merging hues of blue,  pink and purple were really a sight to behold. The sunsets in Phuket are definetely ones not to miss.

Food

We mainly dined at a select few restaurants/cafes during our trip.

No. 6 Restaurant

Simple Fried Rice with Egg from No. 6 Restaurant

Seemingly popular with both locals and tourists, there was always a queue whenever we walked past this restaurant. Well, in Singapore, there is always a good reason for a queue at a restaurant. This place certainly didn’t have the best food, but it was really delicious for its price. Having affordable dining options and quick serving times, it is no surprise that this place is always filled with people.

Prices: Sweet and Sour Chicken (THB 100), Glass Noodle Soup with Meat & Vegetable (THB 60), Mixed Fruit Shake (THB 50) you can also search for the menu online 🙂

Address: Tambon Patong, Amphoe Kathu, Chang Way Phuket 83150, Thailand
Directions: Located on the main road of Thanon Ratuthit Songropi Road, it is on the main road,  before you turn right into Bangla street up ahead.

Tip: When it gets too busy during lunch/dinner time, No. 6 Restaurant has a tuk tuk that offers complimentary transport up to their second outlet. Many tourists felt dubious, and thus did not take the tuk tuk. We did, and were rewarded with a nice view of Phuket while eating lunch, as the outlet was located on top of a hill. I would highly recommend going to the 2nd outlet if you’re not short on time/ really hungry, as not only do you get to savour your food with a view, you get better cooked food as well, possibly due to fewer customers at this outlet.

Pizzeria Hut 1

This mid-range Italian Restaurant was visited many times as it served amazing cheese-stuffed pizzas and amazing pastas. The waiting time for the food was so short, it was downright awesome. They even have a live monitor that shows you your pizza being made by the chefs!

Prices: You can view the prices on their website here

Address: Soi Sansabai, Tambon Patong, Amphoe Kathu, Chang Way Phuket 83150, Thailand
Directions: It was the 2nd shop on the right hand side of the street, assuming you start from the entrance of Soi Sansabai.

Night Market

Do check out the section on the night market above!

Transport

In Thailand, there are 5 common ways of getting around.

Motorbike

Motorbikes for rent everywhere in Phuket

First, you can rent a motorbike or scooter from the various rental shops around. This easy method will take you around many parts of Phuket quickly. Many tourists use this method but make sure that you are experienced in riding scooters and motorbikes before you attempt this! I have met many fellow travellers with bruises and cuts just because of their inexperience in dealing with the bike.

Price: THB 250-300/day (really affordable)

Tip: Do check whether your bike is working before taking off, the usual gears, brakes, lights, fuel gauge etc.

Tip: It is highly recommended to take pictures of your bike’s existing conditions so that you do not suffer the fate of having to pay extra charges when you return the bike (if the rental shop argues that you have causes “damages”) to the bike.

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuks are often the most used method of transportation in tourist hubs. You can literally find them anywhere in the streets. They are non-airconditioned trishaws powered by engines and they bring you to your destination relatively fast. They tend to honk at 2 instances : first, when they see tourists and this is a signal that they are free to pick up passengers. Secondly, they honk when they go around bends. This is to warn the other incoming vehicles of their presence.

Price: Depending on location, most places charge around THB 100 for a short ride in the same district (Patong, Katon, Kata etc.)

Tip: It is more economical to share a tuk tuk’s cost with other people as they charge by trip, and not by person. If you’re travelling solo and heading to a popular beach or other destination, try to get fellow travellers who are going the same way.

Taxi

Air-conditioned taxis also flood the sides of the streets in Thailand. They offer a more comfortable ride to your destination, and also tend to be more expensive.

Price:  It cost us THB 500 from Patong to Naka Weekend Market which was situated near Phuket Old Town.

Tip: Do try to ask the taxi driver to use the meter if possible, rather than negotiating a fixed price. It is usually cheaper just to use the meter.

Uber/Grab

I used these services when I was in Indonesia and they were really cheap. An UberMotor from one district to another cost around SGD 0.70. However, I have not used them in Thailand and I would probably think that they offer cheaper prices than normal taxis too. Anyone who as used them in Thailand do give me some info on them!

Hire a Driver

Lastly, there is also the option to hire a driver for the day. They usually charge by the hour, and there is probably a discount for hiring him/her for more than a certain number of hours. I wrote about my hired driver’s experience above.

Do have fun in Phuket!

Safe travels,
Jared

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