Phuket is well-known as an international resort destination. The scenic beauties of Phuket with its dazzling white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise water, and limestone cliffs in fantastic shapes rising from the sea are tourist magnets; the term tropical paradise is justified.
Once you have seen the island’s beaches, you can understand the intense migration and the corresponding building boom. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island about the size of Singapore, with population around 70,000. It is connected to the mainland to the north by the Sarasin Bridge.
The Pleasures of Phuket: Phuket town grew along with the development of tin production in 19th century. The most interesting architecture is concentrated in the northeast section, where the early 20th century tin barons built their mansions along the lines of European manors. Toward the center of town, several buildings retain the architectural blend of styles known as Sino-Portuguese: the Chartered Bank, Thai office, and the Provincial Town Hall, which was used in the movie ‘The Killing Fields’. A drive up Khao Rang will give you the best view of the town and its surrounding. Phuket’s countless restaurants specialize in generous amount of fresh seafood and Malay-style meal that reflects Chinese and Indian influence in its bold flavors with the use of curry powder and turmeric. The Phuket shopping center is a modern, theme-park like recreation of the Sino-Portuguese style, full of souvenir shops. The shopping areas are located on Ratsada Rd, Montri Rd, Yaowarat Rd, Phang-nga Rd, Thalang Rd, Thepkasattri Rd, and in Patong, Kata, and Karon Beaches. The most attractions are still centered around its renowned beaches: Diving, snorkeling, sailing, water-skiing, sea-kayaking, deep-sea fishing, and romantic cruises on chartered boat. Phuket’s glory lies in its beaches and it has a wealth of them.
Phuket Beaches: There are thirteen major beaches and they ranges from strands of several miles long to smaller crescents. Most of all of Phuket’s best beaches are located on the western side of the island, each with a distinctive character of its own. A narrow road connects the strings of beaches and cuts down travel time along the coast considerably.
- Patong Beach: Stretching for 2 ½ miles around the bay, Patong was one of the first of Phuket’s beaches to develop and is still the only one to offer Bangkok-style nightlife. Residential condominiums, hotels-large and small, restaurants, shops, discos, and bars line its main street, overlooking beautiful clear turquoise sea. Patong is a center for diving on the island, along with a wide range of water sports facilities such as motor yachts, sailboats, catamarans, and jet skis. The natural grandeur of the forested backdrop and gently slopped seabed with usually calm water make Paton Beach very popular for sun aficionados and water sports enthusiasts. Patong provides variety of after-dark activities.
- Mai Khao and Nai Yang: The northern most of Phuket’s west coast beaches, Mai Khao and Nai Yang are quiet and undeveloped. The beaches stretch for more than 10 miles altogether. The water is not as clear as other beaches especially at low tide. Giant sea turtles come ashore to Mai Khao to lay eggs from October to February. In April at the Songran Festival is the site to watch the release of turtles to sea.
- Karon: This stretch of beach consists of two beaches: one an idyllic little cove popularly known as Relax Bay, the other stretches magnificently with palms and pines standing tall over the rolling sand dunes providing the tropical seascape of beach paradise. It is one of the best beaches with clean sea water and powdery white sand, ideal for swimming, diving, and sunbathing.
- Pan Sea: Pan Sea Bay is located between Bang Thao Beach to the north and Surin Beach to the south. Pan Sea is one of the most enchanting and scenic beaches. It is good for swimming and snorkeling during the dry season.
- Kata: Like Karon, Kata is divided into Kata Yai (big Kata) to the north and Kata Noi (small Kata) to the south by a rocky headland. Both beaches are suitable for holiday makers looking for tranquil surroundings with plenty of sunshine, white stretch of sand beaches, a calm clear sea, and a colorful underwater world.
- Surin: A picturesque strand with steep hills that rise sharply at the back. Surin beach is upscale but unpretentious. It is especially popular with Thai day-trippers on weekends and holidays and the beach can get crowded even though the beach has steep slope and the tide is strong. This tree line shore is the site of many luxury residential condominiums and apartments.
- Nai Han: Located at the southwestern edge of Phuket; this is one of its prettiest beaches. The undeveloped beach of Nai Han is a strand of sand nestled between two tall hills, fronted by a calm sea and backed by a lagoon; an idyllic setting if there ever was one. Dangerous under-tow currents to watch-out for, anytime, especially during the monsoon season (May to October). Look for red flag.
- Rawai: An attractive strand of beach fringed by coconut palms, but with extremely narrow beaches and shallow water full of sediments make the beach less popular with swimmers. Boats can be hired here for offshore islands diving trips.
- Laem Phrom Thep: This is an elevation at the far southern tip of Phuket popular with local and tourist alike with its panoramic views of the sea and spectacular sunsets. People gather here each day to take the famous Phrom Thep sunset photo.
- Ao Bang Thao: The pretty southern stretch of the beach is the preserve of local fishermen and a favorite hang-out for local expats. The beach seems to go on forever, and the far south of the beach, teeming with colorful long-tail fishing boats, give the place a sense of old Thailand.
Phuket is the biggest draw of southern Thailand. A boom in real estate has spurred developers to build countless of shop houses, hotels and condominiums among many of the elegant old millionaires’ mansions and along the gorgeous beaches. Go with the tourist flow or go off on your own and explore this beautiful island; it is big enough for everybody. In fact, Phuket is Thailand’s largest and is one of the most populated islands; but the island’s modern tourist frenzy is only the latest development in an eventful history that goes back hundreds of years.