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PHUKET TRAVEL GUIDE

Spectacular scenery, stunning tropical sunsets and warm blue sea awaits you at Asia's most popular beach destination. This fun island provides an unbeatable combination of perfect silky soft white palm-lined beaches, superb hospitality and great value accommodation.

Whether it's world-class diving in the Andaman Sea, golf at international-standard championship courses or exciting eco-adventures in tropical forests, Phuket is a place to extend your horizons. Take an exhilarating speedboat trip to the surrounding islands, or enjoy a serene cruise around mystical Phang Nga Bay. Or why not simply enjoy Phuket's vibrant nightlife in Patong Beach?

• How to get there?

At nearly 850 km south of Bangkok, the only way to get there is by air, the either from Don Muang or Suvarnabhumi airports. From Bangkok by coach will take well over 12 hours.

• Food and Accommodation
Thai food - as exotic as it is - needs no introduction. Nowadays you can find at least one Thai restaurant in most western towns but Thai food in Thailand itself is a whole new experience.

The juxtaposition of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavours is what makes Thai cuisine so distinct and nowhere is it more noticeable than in the Thai national soup tom yam. Thai chefs are extremely talented in appropriating foreign dishes and making them their own - such as in a typical noodle dish. Forget green salad for a while - enjoy a hearty papaya salad, otherwise known as som tam, while Thai green curry is as distinct a dish as they ever get. Enhance your stay in Phuket with its delicious seafood.

Being the number one resort you are spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation. Stay right on the beaches in some amazing resorts, or head into town a little to some great value 2 and 3 star hotels and small guest house.

• Health and Safety
Still in Thailand so healthcare is among the best in the world. Phuket has a highly regarded tourist hospital on Patong Beach road where they are geared up for all the usual tourist injuries. For major treatments, and if you are able to travel, then Bangkok is, as usual., the best place to go.

Phuket can be very busy especially in the main entertainment places at night. Common sense prevails; only carry what you need. Cash (and not too much) and phone should be enough, or a small bag (not hanging over your shoulder. Leave the credit cards and wallet/purse in your room safe or hotel safety box. Petty crime does exist but it’s easy to make it difficult for the thief.

• Where to go

Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is unique. A day out here is an unforgettable experience that will definitely get you thinking. A distinctive feature of the bay is the sheer limestone cliffs that jut vertically out of the emerald-green waters. These islands are home to sheltered fauna that are possible to observe on certain tours. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just two of the more famous spots in this bay.

James Bond island, the now famous landmark, called Koh Ta-pu ('Nail Island'), first found its way onto the international map through its starring role in the James Bond movie 'The Man With the Golden Gun'. And this is where most tours seem to take all of the tourists - all at the same time. Talk to Travel Loop Adventure and we will advise the best time to visit. The entire area surrounding this island with its signature rocky pinnacle is indeed spectacular. An integral part of any tour is lunch at Koh Panyee, a nearby Muslim fishing village.

Old Town

Unlike many Thai provincial capitals, Phuket Town fairly shines with personality and nowhere more so than its Old Town. In this historically rich part of town you will find shrines, temples (Buddhist and Chinese), ornate and beautifully preserved 'shop houses', quaint cafés, tiny printing shops, impromptu private and public museums and even a mini ex-red light district.

Phuket Old Town was built on riches reaped from Phuket's tin boom of the last century, when the metal was an extremely valuable commodity. In this quarter of the town you will see grandiose Sino-colonial mansions, once occupied by Phuket's tin barons of 100 years' ago. Phuket Old Town is compact enough to stroll around in. The best time to do this is early in the morning or after the day has lost its heat. There are enough restaurants and cafés to provide you with refreshments so don't bother taking a picnic along!

The core of the Old Town essentially is made up of five roads and several 'sois' (small streets), these are Rasada Rd, Phang Nga Rd, Thalang Rd, Dibuk Rd, and Krabi Rd.

Bangla Road
There are few things in this world to prepare you for an after-dark stroll down Patong's Bangla Road. However, a sense of humour and an open mind are prerequisites if you're looking to have some fun. In fact, there's only one undeniable and obvious fact about Bangla – it's nothing like home. With its lady boys, exotic girls, and enough livewires to keep you amused, shopping or sipping on a beer at Bangla Road at night is a definite must-do.
Bangla Road really comes to life once the sun has set. The road is closed to vehicle traffic and becomes a 400-metre festival of neon lights, loud music, cheap beer and sexy girls. Jammed most nights of the year, it is quite a friendly and lively place to walk around as bars and clubs compete with each other for customers. If you’re looking for a fun night out in Phuket, Bangla Road should be your first (and, often, only) stop.

Almost all of the bars are outdoors, so the music from each one blends into a deafening mess of sound. Beer bars occupy most of the street's length, with several go-go bars and a few pubs, restaurants, discos and shops rounding out the attractions, both on Soi Bangla and down its side streets. Street performances are also common most nights, which can make dodging around the tailor shop salesmen, leaflet distributors, street vendors and ping pong show touts more difficult, but it is all part of the fun.

Big Buddha
Visible from most of the south of Phuket, the Big Buddha is a recent arrival to the island. The image stands on the top of the Nakkerd Hills and looks down over Chalong, Kata and Rawai. It cost 30 million baht to construct and is 45 metres high. Next to it stands a smaller, golden image that is actually made of brass and there is a shrine near the site's car park. The drive up to the Big Buddha takes you through the 'real' Thailand and the view from the top is enhanced if you take a map to identify the many, many sights.

The lofty site offers the best 360-degree views of the island, with sweeping vistas of Phuket Town, Kata, Karon beaches, Chalong Bay and more. Easily reachable via a six-kilometre road leading from Phuket's main artery route, it is a must-visit island destination.

Wat Chalong

Wat Chalong is one of Phuket's most important temples and visited by thousands each year. It's beautifully decorated with infinite reflections from hundreds of tiny glass pieces and several pagodas. On special holidays Wat Chalong hosts 'country fairs' with a real local flavour where you can buy just about anything and snack on Thai food to your heart's content. Wat Chalong has an interesting history and is Phuket Island's spiritual centre.

Wats - or Buddhist temples - are among the most important symbols of Thailand, partly because the majority of Thais are Buddhist and partly because they are so beautiful. In Phuket alone, there are 29 Buddhist temples spread around the island.

Wat Chalong has been extending a warm welcome to visitors for over a century. Locals come to pray and Westerners come to learn something about Buddhism. The temple is open from seven in the morning to five in the afternoon.

One of the temple's halls features a gilt-covered statue of Luang Poh Cham and this busy hall also contains statues of Luang Poh Chuang and Luang Poh Gleum, all ex-abbots of the temple.

The Grand Pagoda dominating the temple contains a splinter of Lord Buddha's bone and is officially named Phramahathatchedi-Jomthaibarameepragat. The pagoda is decorated with wall paintings depicting the Buddha's life story and also features various Buddha images.

Wats in general are sacred places for local people, so it is wise for the visitor to watch and emulate the way Thais behave inside temples. For example, you will see that people are careful not to stand over, or otherwise position themselves higher than any Buddha images except when pasting gold leaf to them - which in any case happens only in some wats, not in most.

Even through Thailand can sometimes be very warm, it is inappropriate to go into a wat - a place of worship - wearing clothes that reveal one's shoulders, chest, belly or legs.

You will be asked to take your shoes off when entering some of the buildings, including the sermon hall and the chedi.

Simon Cabaret Show

Walking into the Simon Cabaret show theatre in Patong is just like entering a movie house. There's the same Kenny G saxophone music, the same plush seats and the same dimmed lights. It's only when a basso profundo voice announces the show and the curtain rises on live performers glistening with sequins and shimmering with feathers that things are different.

Yes, this is real live show time and the flash and flesh are pure Vegas except for one thing – the 'girls' on stage are actually men. Since 1991 Simon Cabaret has been entertaining visitors with its mélange of camp, glitter and cornball and it still is one of the island's biggest draws.

Simon is all about clever choreography and fabulous costumes, rapid set changes and superb background sets. Some of the performers have been working the boards here for years but that doesn't take anything away from the show.

It all seems so effortless but about five numbers into the show the truth suddenly dawns that Simon caters to almost everyone. There are songs in Thai, English, Japanese and Korean.

This is not a sex show and the children peppered throughout the audience attest to that fact.

Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island is Thailand's island-superstar. It's been in the movies. It's the topic of conversation for travelers all over Thailand. For some, it's the only reason to touchdown in Phuket. Even with all the hype, it doesn't disappoint. Phi Phi's beauty is a large chunk of the allure. The islands, when approached by boat, rise from the sea like a fortress.

PHUKET TRAVEL GUIDE

Phang Nga Bay
PHANG NGA BAY
Old town phuket
OLD TOWN PHUKET
Bangla Road
BANGLA ROAD
Big Buddha
BIG BUDDHA
Wat Chalong
WAT CHALONG
Simon Cabaret Show
SIMON CABARET SHOW
Phi Phi Island
PHI PHI ISLAND