Phuket, Thailand

Your guide to Phuket. 

Known as the ‘Pearl of Andaman Sea’ Phuket offers a rich and colorful history coupled with sparkling blue waters, teaming with marine life. Away from its idyllic coast, Phuket’s countryside is rich with gems of its own to admire. Dense coconut groves, traditional rubber plantations and lush green hills hide ancient temples, Chinese shrines and ornate mosques—a glimpse into the island’s spirituality. While the chance to take a boat ride around James Bond Island or experience traditional culture at a Thai dance performance are just a handful of the ways to pass your time on this beautiful Thai island.

Exploring.

Phuket Town (pronounced Pooket) is unique in its blend of modern, colonial and Thai architecture. The atmosphere is remarkably laid back and just strolling around can make for an enjoyable afternoon. Phuket has a wide variety of religious establishments, among them the Dulyamiah Mosque, several Chinese temples and Wat (Buddhist Monasteries). Another attraction of Phuket are the countless tiny islands that surround it, some of which are swimming distance from shore. A trip out to the islands can really bring out the swashbuckling adventurer in you and soon make the humdrum world of electric bills and nine-to-five a faraway memory.

Eating and drinking.

If your idea of a good meal is one that makes your eyes water then you’ve arrived at the right place—Thai food is fragrant and spicy. Phuket is renowned for its shellfish (tiger prawns, clams and crabs are specialties) although the national dish is a type of rice, fried, and served with sliced cucumber and an egg. Other typical Thai dishes include Tom Yam (a spicy soup) and fish grilled in banana leaf. Drink-wise, the Thais are very keen on iced tea, coffee and fresh juice. For something stronger, the local brew is Singha beer while Mekong whisky is the most popular spirit.

Shopping.

Phuket is often referred to as the Pearl of the South, partly because pearls of all varieties are available here. Depending on your tastes (and the depth of your pocket) you can find natural, cultured, imitation and Mobe pearls, all of which make elegant souvenirs. Other popular buys are bronze and pewter tankards, vases, seashells, batik prints and handbags woven from lipao fiber. Jewelry can be good value and has been fashioned here for centuries while Thai silks and lacquerware are world famous. The local market is always fascinating for its native hustle and bustle and the exotic produce on display.

Beyond Phuket

Nine miles west of Phuket Town you will find Patong Beach, the focal point of Phuket tourism. The pace is fast and modern with bungalows, shops, and restaurants offering a variety of dishes. Just south of Phuket is the island of Hae which boasts excellent snorkeling around its coral beds. The Phi Phi Islands are 30 miles south and offer magnificent caves with ancient wall paintings. Further north is Phang Nga Bay with its incredible limestone formations. The area was epitomized in James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun and, as such, most locals now refer to it as James Bond Island.