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Home: Pacific Islands Travel: Phuket, Thailand Travel

Phuket, Thailand Travel

One of the highlights of Spring 2012 was my Phuket, Thailand travel during March 5-9. If someone asked me to come up with just one word that best encapsulates the spirit of Patong City in Phuket, Thailand, I would have to say "massage."

This place probably has more massage shops, health spas, and relaxation treatment centers per square kilometer than any other place on the planet.

It is impossible to walk down any of the main streets in Patong without catching a whiff of that familiar peppermint aroma that emanates from virtually every massage shop in the city. As a single guy, I never tired of the special attention I received walking past the shops when the gorgeous girls would beg me to come inside. smiley

Give me your money!!

What I did grow tired of though, and very quickly in fact, was the CONSTANT sales pressure from just about every streetside vendor in the city...from taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, tailors, restaurant touts, clothes stores, souvenir shops, food vendors, tour operators, to you name it. All with the not-so-subtle unspoken message: "Give me your money!".

Phuket sidewalk vendors
Sidewalk vendors in Patong City, Phuket, Thailand

One young shop clerk even joked that I should pay her because I wanted to take her picture. And I was even approached by some Brits on a couple of different occasions trying to scam me into investing in a vacation resort property. Geez, what's a guy gotta do just to have a peaceful vacation.  smiley

Having said that, if you are successful in somehow shielding yourself from all the commercial pressure, there is no question that Phuket, Thailand is an absolutely beautiful place. Phuket has a lot of the same charm that Koh Samui does, for example in the cute way restaurants display their fresh catch of fish right on the sidewalk in long tubs of ice, often in the shape of a boat.

fresh fish on display in Phuket
Fresh fish on display along a sidewalk in Patong, Phuket

Phuket Motorcycle Rental

One of the ways I escaped all this commercialism was to rent a scooter my 2nd day there so I could check out the southernmost tip of Phuket island, including the spectacular Promthep Cape View Point, famous for its gorgeous sunsets.

For only 200 baht (~$6.50) for 24 hours, I rented my scooter from Oot & Akiyo, a very delightful couple whose motorcycle rental & taxi business is right next to the Relax Guest House where I stayed.

Oot & Akiyo, Patong motorcycle rental shop owners
Oot & Akiyo, Patong motorcycle rental shop owners

On this 9-hr., 81-km scooter trip, I was able to visit Mt. Mai Thao Sib Song (Twelve Canes), 529 meters (1,736 ft), the highest mountain in Phuket. Actually, I was unable to access the true summit, which is adorned by an air traffic control radar run by Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation (thus has restricted entry), but I got close enough to drive through a lush, green Phuket jungle along the way and high enough to catch some stunning views of Patong Beach & the beautiful blue Andaman Sea down below.

Patong Beach from Mai Thao Sib Song
Patong Beach & the Andaman Sea
from Mt. Mai Thao Sib Song, Phuket's highest peak

After making a wrong turn on my way up to Mt. Mai Thao Sib Song, by pure accident I had the pleasure of passing by one of the most beautifully colored temples I think I've ever seen, Wat Mai Luang Pho Supha.

Wat Mai Luang Pho Supha temple
Wat Mai Luang Pho Supha temple

Evason Phuket & Bon Island Resort

I also took some time to visit the spectacular, 5-star Evason Phuket & Bon Island Resort on the southeast coast of the island, which has its own private beach and boat pier, as well as its own private island, the tiny, green Bon Island. The 64 acres of beautiful, green tropical landscaping for the entire Evason Phuket resort property is quite stunning.

Bon Island from Evason Phuket
Bon Island & Andaman Sea from Evason Phuket Resort

Just down the coast a ways from the Evason Phuket & Bon Island Resort is Rawai Beach, which I wasn't all that impressed with, although I've heard that this area is famous for diving, a major source of tourism money for Phuket.

After stopping briefly at Promthep Cape View Point to take the mandatory snapshots of the exhilarating view of the Andaman Sea (too bad my scheduling didn't allow me to be there at sunset), I also stopped at the Karon View Point, where I observed two rather bizarre occurrences.

In one case, a guy was posing for pictures with a huge, beautiful eagle perched on his shoulder. In the other case, at the top of the observation platform, there was a girl posing for pictures in her bikini....maybe for a magazine spread. Never a dull moment in Phuket.  smiley  On the way back to Patong, I visited a couple more beautiful beaches, first the Nai Harn Beach and then the Kata Noi Beach.

Andaman Sea from Promthep Cape View Point
Andaman Sea from Promthep Cape View Point

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Phuket a second time was out of curiosity to see how well it had recovered from the Dec. 26, 2004 Indian Ocean quake and tsunami which killed over 230,000 people in 14 countries, with 5300 of them in Thailand alone.

Shop Till You Drop

I had the pleasure of spending three days in Phuket back in 1996, and I must say it has in fact made a miraculous recovery. Not only that, I can honestly say the place is BOOMING! It's almost like you can even smell the money in the air, as there is no question the economy is a rockin' and a rollin'.

Two examples of the booming economy are the two humongous shopping malls I had the pleasure of visiting, one being the Jungceylon Shopping Mall in Patong and the other being the Central Festival Shopping Mall in Phuket Town. And from the various tourists that I spoke with and from the various languages I overheard, I suspect most of this influx of money is coming from Europe, especially Germany.

Central Festival Shopping Mall, Phuket Town
Central Festival Shopping Mall in Phuket Town

After returning back to Japan, I've read that Phuket aggressively promotes their tourism industry abroad, with the aid of the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) & the Phuket government. Recently for the 6th time, Phuket participated in the Internationale Tourismus Borse 2012 (ITB 2012) in Berlin, Germany, one of the largest travel & tourism trade shows in the world.

Twenty-eight (28) Phuket tourism operators leased a 180-sq-m exhibition space there to promote tourism to the European market. A number of cities now offer direct airline service to Phuket (but some are seasonal only), including Frankfurt, Zurich, Stockholm, Oslo, Paris, Moscow, Copenhagen, Doha, & Abu Dhabi, without having to change planes in Bangkok.

Phuket is the wealthiest province in Thailand, which one probably could've already guessed, with all the high-rise hotels and condos everywhere in Patong. And within just the 2.5 sq. km. (1 sq. mi.) main commercial district in Patong City, there are a remarkable 78 ATMs where you can use your Visa card. Wow!

Bangla Rd. Nightlife in Patong

And I would be remiss not to mention the exciting nightlife one will encounter along Bangla Road in Patong. It's kind of like a Mardi Gras on steroids, where just walking down the street you can clearly see scantily-clad Thai go-go girls dancing on the bar tops and twirling around poles in the many beer bars along this strip.

Tiger Live Band bar
The Tiger Live Band bar on Bangla Rd. in Patong

I've heard that Patong doesn't even rank compared to the Pattaya nightlife, but it's certainly one of the most exciting nightspots I've personally ever seen in Asia and much better than what I saw at Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui 3 years before.

I could go on for hours about all the wonderful things to do in Phuket, but just a few more things worthy of mention include the Dr. Fish pedicure spas (where tiny guppy-size fish nibble the dead skin off your feet), which seem to be more popular here than they were when I enjoyed one in Koh Samui 3 years before, elephant trekking, safari tours, rafting, and canoeing.

Dr. Fish pedicure spa, Patong, Phuket
Dr. Fish pedicure spa, Patong, Phuket

Another popular tourist activity is to visit the nearby beautiful islands in the Andaman Sea, including the Similan islands and Phi Phi Island, where Leonardo DiCaprio's "The Beach" movie was filmed. Had I had more time and money, I think I would've enjoyed joining one of these all day island tours, most of which start from around 3000 baht (~$100), which includes lunch and transportation to/from your hotel to the boat pier in Phuket Town.

Let's Relax Spa, Patong

Oh, before I forget, on my last full day in Phuket, while it was raining, I decided to pamper myself at the Let's Relax Spa where I purchased the 90-min., 700-baht Dream Package, which included 45 min. of foot reflexology, 15 min. of hand reflexology, and finally a 30 min. back & shoulder massage. And let me tell you, when I left that place, I felt like I was in heaven. It was without question the best $23 I've ever spent in my life.  smiley

Let's Relax spa, Patong
Let's Relax Spa, Patong

One final note, if you're the theme park type, you might want to check out the $100-million Phuket FantaSea, the ultimate nighttime cultural theme park in Kammala, a 15-min. drive north along the coast from Patong. The 140-acre Phuket FantaSea encapsulates the charm and beauty of Thai culture with a shopping street, 4000-seat dining facility with Thai and international cuisine, and a 3000-seat Las Vegas-style theater. The 1900-baht adult admission (1700 THB for kiddos) includes the Fantasy of a Kingdom Show, the Tiger Jungle Adventure, buffet dinner, many free street and stage shows, parades, and live band performances throughout the night.

Phuket FantaSea
Phuket FantaSea, the ultimate nighttime cultural theme park

Relax Guest House

I was very pleased with my choice of accommodations. The Relax Guest House is conveniently located in the Royal Paradise complex and is very reasonably priced. I paid 700 baht (~$23) per night for my room, which included a BIG "double" bed (I'm guessing actually queen size), air conditioning, cable TV with over 60 channels, and it even had a refrigerator.

Relax Guesthouse, Patong, Phuket
Relax Guest House, Patong, Phuket

It's only a 5-minute walk from the Bangla Road nightlife area and Jungceylon Shopping Mall & only 10 min. to the beach, and the hotel staff were exceptionally cordial. My only complaint is about the other noisy guests, many of whom came in after midnight drunk.

The Relax Guest House has a very unusual room numbering system, with the floors named by alphabet letters rather than numbers. The first floor is the 'A' floor, second floor 'B', third floor 'C', and top floor the 'D' floor. There are only six rooms on each floor, and on each floor the six rooms are numbered 1 through 6.

So if you miss the small letter sign on the wall in the stairwell, it's very easy to confuse which floor you're on. Just my luck that on one of the four nights I stayed there, one crazy guy came back to his room drunk at 3:00 in the morning and was banging on the door of Room 3 on my floor, begging his girlfriend to open the door.

He thought the room was his, only to find out he was banging on the wrong door. He was on Floor C when he should have been on Floor D. Oops, WRONG Room 3. Needless to say, he woke up our entire floor. Ugh!

Hotels in Patong, Phuket

If you have a fat wallet, there are a number of rather impressive hotels to choose from in Patong City. Besides the high-rise Royal Paradise Hotel (Phuket's tallest hotel, from the top of which I caught one of the most exhilirating sunsets I've ever seen in my life--see photo album below) very near the Relax Guest House, a few other noteworthy Patong hotels include the Patong Resort (and its condo sister, Patong Tower, the tallest building in Phuket), the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket, the Courtyard by Marriott Phuket at Patong Beach, the Andaman Beach Suites Hotel, the Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa, the Horizon Patong Beach Resort & Spa, and the Duangjitt Resort & Spa.

Royal Paradise Hotel, Patong Beach, Phuket
Royal Paradise Hotel, Patong Beach, Phuket

My Phuket, Thailand Travel Photos

The pics in the collage below are a sampling of my Phuket, Thailand photo album hosted at Flickr. Clicking on the collage will open up the album on a separate page. I hope you enjoy them!

Phuket, Thailand photo collage

Click here to view all of my 267 Phuket pics at Flickr, taken Mar. 5-9, 2012.

My Phuket, Thailand Travel Video

(Note: Some scenes may be inappropriate for younger viewers.)
(View video in separate window here)

Phuket video cue marks (in min.):
0:00 Bangla Rd. nightlife
7:00 Soccer practice
8:25 Hotel tour
9:20 Shopping street
11:20 Beach Rd.
12:05 Patong Beach
12:30 Paraglider launch
13:45 Beach Rd. sidewalk grill
14:15 The Terminator cyborg
14:55 Colorful fruit stand
15:40 Jungceylon shopping mall
20:05 Evason Phuket Hotel
21:00 Promthep Cape View Point
21:55 Karon View Point
22:45 Lucky balloon launch
23:45 Dr. Fish spa
25:15 Banana chocolate pancake
26:50 Thai boxing match loudspeaker truck
27:20 Thai massage girls
27:40 Bangla Rd. lady boys
28:15 Patong Beach panorama
29:20 Traffic signal countdown timer
30:05 Two Heroines Monument
30:20 Churning of the Milk Ocean monument

Phuket, Thailand Google Map

If you've ever wondered exactly where Phuket, the largest island in Thailand, is located, it's in the Andaman Sea off Thailand's southwest coast about 863 km (536 mi.) south of Bangkok. It's also about 250 km (155 mi.) northwest of Langkawi, Malaysia, another of my favorite exotic Pacific island travel destinations.

To get a better feel for Phuket's location in the Andaman Sea, zoom out in the Google map below. Google Maps recently added the Google Earth feature to their maps, which offers a very impressive 3D view if you have Google Earth installed on your PC. Using GE's tilt & rotate features, you can actually fly around Phuket as if you were in an airplane:

What a romantic, exotic place Phuket is! My only complaint is there were too many western tourists..... like me. smiley 

So this passage from Wikipedia doesn't surprise me at all: "In July 2005, Phuket was voted one of the World's Top 5 retirement destinations by the acclaimed Fortune Magazine. There are thousands of expatriates living in Phuket, many of them retirees." Ouch.

Four days in Phuket was not nearly enough time, and I can hardly wait to go back.

I hope you have found this page both informative & entertaining, and that it will benefit future visitors to this Pacific island paradise. It is also my hope you will find time to check back again soon to this Phuket, Thailand travel page as I update it in the future with more details on some of the other local sights.

Thanks so much for visiting and please come back again soon...


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