Phuket is the biggest destination for tourism in Thailand. This is where you see all the good and bad of Thai tourism – from overdeveloped beaches and sex tourism, to tiny towns with no tourists and authentic Thailand.
You will discover great beaches and amazing activities on this island, and if you stay away from Patong Beach, you can avoid most of the over development and tourist crowds.
Phuket draws a lot of tourists, and if you really want to enjoy the area, get out of the main spots. Karon Beach is a beautiful area South of Patong and caters for families.
A night in a centrally located 2* hotel starts around 350THB (GB£8) for a room with air-conditioning and free WiFi. About half of this selection includes free breakfast. While still pricey, from my research, Phuket does actually have some of the least expensive 5* hotels in Thailand. I stayed at a 3* hotel on the beach at Karon Beach with a beautiful private pool view, including a full buffet breakfast/WIFI for only 7350THB (GB£170) for 8 nights.
Cost of Food
Compared to other part of Thailand that I have been to, food is a bit more expensive here. Lunch at a local Thai restaurant will cost around 150THB (GB£3.45). Dinner with drinks can typically cost around 270THB (GB£7.00) or more. Make-shift bars are numerous around Phuket were you can grab a beer for about 60THB (GB£1.30).
A motorbike taxi will cost on average 60THB (GB£1.30), with a 2 mile ride in a tuk tuk around the island costing about 335THB (GB£7).
KARON BEACH DISTRICT
Karon Beach is a good place whether you are looking for peace and quiet or a little bit of excitement. It is such a big place that it can easily accommodate both sorts of setting without one overwhelming the other. From Phuket airport the transfer in a taxi will be just under an hour.
Karon Beach is the second longest beach in Phuket. Karon enjoys a very wide stretch of white sand with a decent choice of dining and nightlife, yet it never seems to draw crowds of tourists.
Karon Beach is seperated into districts. Karon Centre and Patak Road is mostly a street going perpendicularly inland from the very fancy and convoluted ‘Karon Circle’ (traffic roundabout) to the temple. It is small, rugged and feels rather old. Around here you will find long established restaurants, convenience stores and ‘Hellooooo you want massage‘ parlours and lots and lots of bars in all sizes and shapes. Just like everyone else, walk up and down Patak road and pick one bar, ultimately they are all ‘same same but different‘.
Karon Beach Front Road goes all the way from the beginning of Karon Beach to Kata Beach (the next resort) and is mostly occupied by massive hotels with few small hotels squeezed between. At the beginning of the beach road you will find Karon Beach Square, the Night Bazaar, a temporary roofed market selling mostly T-shirts and beach toys, including all the usual fake brands.
Then you will reach the end of the Beach Road, when a small hill leads to Kata Beach (boundaries have never been very clear). Noticeable around here is the restaurant really built on the beach, a football stadium and one of the two nightlife areas around. This very narrow and hard to spot ‘Soi’ (an alley) is called ‘Bangla Plaza‘ and has always been here, but nothing to compare with Soi Bangla in Patong Beach nightlife. Not much more than few beer bars with colourful spotlights and even more colourful staff. Plenty of tiny shops and foot massage as well.
KARON TEMPLE AND MARKET
The Karon Temple and its Market has grown in popularity in the past years and because it only occurs only twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays), people start to plan their evenings around that event.
Night markets have always been popular in Phuket and all over Thailand, but a Temple market sounds so much more exotic. The market starts to set in mid-afternoon. There you will find a good mix of cheap and fun clothing, a lot of T-shirts and a large choice of local food to try, do not be shy to sample street food in Thailand, it is safe to enjoy and it would be such a waste not to pick here and there. In all the visits I have made to Thailand I have yet to get a bad stomach from street food.
PHUKET BIG BUDDHA
Phuket big buddha is a 147 feet tall white marble statue, is visible from anywhere in the southern part of Phuket. It might not be my favourite attraction on the island, but the views from up there are definitely breathtaking.
PATONG BEACH DISTRICT
Patong is the heart of Phuket and what makes it so popular to some is often what other people hate most about it. Patong is big, bold, crowded, bright and loud, yet millions people flock there every year. This is the main tourist section of Phuket, filled with crowded beaches, resorts, hawkers, stores, bars, and sadly, a lot of sex tourists. Unless you want to get drunk a lot, try to avoid this beach at all costs.
OLD PHUKET TOWN
Phuket Town is not huge but still too vast to explore it entirely on foot. From Karon Beach you can hop onto a blue transfer bus for 20BHT (GB£0.45) that will take you the 45 minute journey to the other side of the island. The bus drops you off at the main bus stop on Thalang Road in Phuket town.
Old Phuket Town has applied to become a UNESCO heritage site, following a large restoration and improvement plan around Thalang Road. Thalang road, the historical heart of Old Phuket Town. Many shop houses and mansions have been refurbished, repainted or entirely rebuilt.
Thalang road is exciting, but you will find many little gems hidden here and there in the streets off Thalang Road.
PHUKET NIGHT MARKET:
known as the Naka market, this market is located right outside of Phuket Town. It is a crazy assortment of local and secondhand goods, interesting objects, and a huge variety of food. The market is broken up into two sections- the covered section (everything from jeans to DVDs), and the open market (food!)
The Best Food Stall: to finish this blog I have to mention by far the best place for food in Karon Beach. Not only is it cheap, but the food is plentiful and freshly made.
HOWEVER, you cannot afford to be eating shyly. Its a matter of finding a chair and digging in amongst other travellers! To find it look for the ‘Paradise Inn Hotel’ and turn up this road. It is located about 100 yards up on the right hand side. You will know you are at the right place when you see three tables covered in blue plastic table cloths and some blue plastic chairs. Be warned the food stall is always busy so finding a spare chair can be tricky!
Nami Ice cream Parlour: if you are a fan of desserts and ice creams then you have to visit Nami Ice Cream parlour in Karon Beach. It is located on the left hand side towards the Karon Beach temple and night market.