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Travel Guide of Phuket, Thailand for: Avista Hideaway Phuket Patong, MGallery by Sofitel 4.5

Patong, Kathu, Phuket

Phuket Summary



  • Party-hardy scene brings noise and rowdiness to certain parts of the island
  • Sex tourism and sex workers are a regular part of the landscape
  • Taxi and tuk-tuk fare is far pricer here than elsewhere in Thailand
  • Some popular beaches suffer from crowds and litter
  • Country has severe penalties for drug use and possession
  • Questionable ethics surrounding elephant and tiger shows and “sanctuaries”
  • Road accidents aren't infrequent

What It's Like

When it comes to Thailand, Phuket is considered Bangkok’s beachy cousin, and in many ways they’re related: They both offer frenetic nightlife; they’re both stuffed with incredible street eats; and they both hold cultural attractions that showcase their past, including dazzling monuments to Buddhism. But where Bangkok is an urban city with gridlock, pollution, and public transportation, Phuket is far more open and breezy (although horrible traffic exists here, too). Hoards of tourist do come as well, and they often congregate around Patong, but it's possible to shake them off and find your own less-crowded piece of paradise.

Located on the long peninsula that separates the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, Phuket sits just west of the country's mainland. This province has long been a popular stop along trade routes between Asia and Europe, and that European influence can still be seen, particularly in the Portuguese architecture of Old Phuket Town. Here, buildings in Easter-egg colors come adorned with arched windows, white molding, and decorative shutters that are more reminiscent of Lisbon than Southeast Asia. Boutique shops, chic cafes, and massage venues line the streets, making this a draw for many tourists. 

But Phuket has plenty of other historic attractions. The temple complex of Wat Chalong tops most must-see lists for its ornate buildings finished with pagoda rooftops and gilded curlicues. These structures, roughly dating to the 1800s, offer a glimpse into the country’s spiritual devotion. Another monument to Buddhism is the Big Buddha statue, which soars over the island in luminous alabaster. Keep in mind that you’ll want to observe proper protocol when visiting these two sites -- and any holy site in Thailand. That includes removing shoes indoors, refraining from public displays of affection, and covering up any revealing clothes, like shorts and tank tops. Signs in English laying out these rules are placed throughout.

Cultural highlights aside, most visitors are drawn to Phuket for two things: its nightlife and its beaches. For the latter, the island offers postcard-perfect beaches with clear aquamarine waters and long stretches of powdery white sand, often surrounded by lush vegetation or fronted by smaller islands and cliffs just offshore. Some beaches, like Patong and Karon, can attract crowds of tourists, vendors, and plenty of foot traffic. They’re lively and scene-y, but less tranquil. Still, less-crowded options exist, such as Ao Yon on the east side of the island or Mai Khao in the north. Another popular way to shake off the crowds is to take a boat excursion to the Phang Nga Islands, the striking limestone karst archipelago that sits off of Phuket's east coast. But depending on where those trips head, you might find yourself reunited with the same crowds you were trying to ditch, particularly if you head to the popular James Bond Island or farther destinations like Koh Phi Phi. 

Once the sun sets, many beaches become yet another party destination for the area’s throbbing nightlife. The most famous scene runs down Patong’s Bangla Road, a neon-laced roadway jammed with disco ball-topped dance floors, bilevel bars with drink specials, go-go dancers in skimpy outfits, and ladyboy shows. Those seeking a more American version of nonstop partying will find it at the Hard Rock Café, a few blocks off of the main nightclub strip. Of course, joining the drink-and-be-merry crowd is another set of travelers looking to indulge in sex tourism, which is a constant part of the landscape, too. Naturally the raging party that unfolds in Phuket night after night can result in noise and rowdiness. That said, families and travelers seeking a peaceful spot can still find it, even in the Patong area, by putting some distance between themselves and the blocks surrounding Bangla.

The food scene also caters to travelers around the clock, including night markets loaded with local food, mom-and-pop eateries, seaside restaurants, and peddlers walking along the beach selling fresh fruit, nuts, and even fried chicken. Mini markets and 7-Elevens are also well-stocked with Asian goodies like red bean paste buns or spiced peanuts. And in cafes, Thai iced tea abounds. Food prices here aren’t the cheapest in Thailand, especially compared to neighboring Krabi or the northern regions, but most Americans and Canadians will find meals supremely affordable. What isn’t as cheap are the taxi and tuk-tuk rates, which tend to be highly inflated for tourists. Alas, without an easy public transportation system, this is one of the few options to get around. We can’t endorse car and motorbike rentals as the traffic here can be aggressive and hard to navigate for non-locals. Be sure to negotiate a little with your driver before accepting your fare and getting in the car. 

Where to Stay

Over the last two decades, hotels have sprung up all over Phuket, catering to the booming tourism here. The good news is that now there’s a full range of properties available, from no-frills crash pads like Red Planet to upscale clifftop villas like IndoChine -- and everything in between. Families will also find a surprising amount of options, such as Deevana Plaza, although kids’ clubs tend to be playrooms without any supervision. Still, many properties offer family-sized rooms and pools with shallow kiddie sections.

Those looking to dive into the thumping party scene should park themselves in the south, around either Patong or Karon Beach. Tranquility can be found farther inland. Other secluded locations are located farther south or even looping around to the east side of the island. Some resorts in the area have their own private beaches, like Andaman White Beach, ensuring a more controlled environment. 

Phuket’s airport is set in the north of the island, an area that is more oriented toward commerce and the day-to-day lives of locals.

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