If you want pure indulgence in a serene setting then look no further than Phuket – Thailand’s largest island and often referred to as the jewel in the Andaman Sea. Located off the west coast of Thailand, Phuket is Asia’s most popular beach location and is famous for its hospitable people, island-dotted seas, and stunning beaches. Now thanks to a new direct flight from Doha to Phuket, it is more accessible for Middle Eastern residents than ever before.
So if you want to find out what makes this island paradise so popular, read our guide to the top 10 things to do in Phuket to ensure you have an unforgettable holiday.
1) Bask on the Beach – Phuket has an abundance of beautiful white beaches so make sure you do more than simply admire the stretch of coastline outside your own hotel. The winding coastal roads along the west of the island offer stunning views of the sandy seashore so pick your beach according to your bathing style. Those looking for family fun should head to Kata Beach – a pristine palm-lined stretch of sand with plenty of restaurants to choose from. Sunbathers who prefer the quieter side of life should pick the peaceful retreat of Kata Noi Beach and those looking for night-time action as well as daytime fun should head to Patong Beach – the ideal place to play and party.
2) Savour the Sunset – Grab that ideal romantic moment or simply the chance to see something truly beautiful by taking in the sunset at Propthem Cape. In fact no trip would be complete without a moment watching the colourful vista at this scenic spot. From your seating area on the rocky hillside you have a 360-degree panorama of the south of the island and a rare opportunity to watch one of the world’s most famous sunsets. But remember you won’t be alone. Every evening busloads of tourists and locals on scooters make the journey up the island’s southernmost hill to capture this picture-perfect moment.
3) Go Back in Time – Possibly one of the more unexplored areas of Phuket is the Old Town. Why? Because most tourists that head to this island are looking for a beach holiday or nightlife action rather than a historical journey into the past. So take yourself away from the masses and explore the Old Town’s streets lined with grand Sino-colonial houses once occupied by the wealthy Chinese tin merchants of 100 years ago as well as ornate shrines, temples, ancient shop houses, museums and quaint cafes and restaurants – all available to see in the heart of the provincial capital of Phuket Town.
4) Become A Thai Masterchef – When in Thailand you should taste the Thai food and once you’ve sampled the delights of the classic Pad Thai or a Thai Green Curry why not learn to make it yourself. Courses range from basic introductions to masterchef style culinary classes and one hotel that teaches its guests how to make the local delicacies is the Anantara Phuket – a five-star luxury villa hideaway. Provided with an apron, a hat, your own cooking station and carefully prepared ingredients neatly stacked into bowls – it’s a chance to cook the way the TV chefs do with no mess and the fun of creating wonderful flavours of tom yam goong (spicy seafood soup), Thai Green Curry or kulai buad chee (banana cooked in sweet coconut milk).
5) Enjoy A Magical Massage – Known in Thailand as ‘nuat phaen boran’, the Thai massage is believed to be one the most therapeutic rubdowns in the world. And whether you’re spending 300 Baht for a very public pummel in a makeshift hut on the beach or several thousand for a massage in the serenity of a luxury five star resort, the results are truly mind blowing. So book yourself in for an hour or two and enjoy the sensation of having your body stretched and soothed in a way that will leave you feeling and totally refreshed and taller at the end of it.
6) Shop ‘Till You Drop – If you’re travelling from the Middle East then it’s guaranteed you have a penchant for shopping and Thailand is a chance to get out of your comfort zone and explore the myriad of markets on offer. While the street markets lining the beach sell anything from clothes to watches and souvenirs, the fresh markets stalls feature fruit and vegetables and offer the chance to mix with the Thai locals. The main market catering to tourists is on Patong Beach Road and is best enjoyed in the evening when the whole area comes alive. For something a little more authentic try Phuket’s new weekend market, Chao Fah Variety, on the outskirts of Phuket City, which sells anything from furniture, clothes, crockery, gifts and art to books, street food, a massage or even a pet dog. You can literally find anything you want here so brush up on your haggling skills and remember to smile in order to secure the best deal.
7) Take In A Show – There’s nothing Phuket loves to share with its visitors more than a good old-fashioned song and dance. So book yourself onto one of the island’s many theatrical shows. Possibly one of the most popular is the Simon Cabaret. Performed on a hillside just outside Patong, it has been entertaining audiences with its hilarious and colourful content, dazzling lights and stunning costumes for many years. Phuket Fantasea is another famous show, billed as a cultural theme park – but its dated style and use of animals for entertainment such as elephants, tigers, goats and even chickens can leave some feeling short-changed.
8) Explore The Coastline – Whether it’s by boat, canoe, or even under the water, exploring the seas surrounding Phuket is something every visitor must do during their stay. So kayak through caves into cliff-lined lagoons known as hongs at Phang Nga Bay – famous for is beautiful limestone islands rising out of the sea –dive to see the colourful coral littering the sea floor, take a speedboat to Phi Phi island or cruise the Andaman Sea on a catamaran. Just make some space in your holiday schedule for some off land action.
9) Visit The Big Buddha – This white marble Buddha stands 45 metres high on top of the Nakkerd Hills and has become one of the island’s most important attractions. The site is yet to be completed but it’s still worth a visit purely for the sheer size of it and the stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Not only is the Big Buddha extremely peaceful, it gives visitors a real understanding of local Thai people who view the site as a symbol of hope and regularly visit the monument to make donations for building materials and write messages of luck on their purchases.
10) Relax and Recharge – A visit to Thailand is also a chance to rediscover the inner you. Take the time to indulge your inner self and surrender to the healing powers of yoga, meditation or simply chilling out on a sun lounger. And if reconnecting for you means taking part in something a little more action-packed then go horse-riding through the rainforest or along some of the more exquisite beaches, take a jog around the beautiful Pru Jae Son lake or cycle through the jungle on a mountain bike.
Where to Stay: Anantara Phuket
The five-star Anantara Phuket takes exclusivity to a whole new level. With 83 villas each featuring a private pool, outdoor terrazzo tub and separate outdoor rain shower, its serene luxury means you never have to leave the privacy of your own room. And with its own outdoor seating area, iPod and docking station, mini bar loaded with gourmet snacks and beverages and wait for it, even your own goldfish – it’s the ultimate relaxation location. And if you do venture out, there’s a host of activities such as authentic Thai cooking classes, a sumptuous spa or a moonlight canoe trip to keep you busy. So dive into your private pool, light your own scented candles or sprinkles bespoke salts into your outdoor tub for a truly indulgent Thai experience.
Best Time to Go: The peak season from November to April as that is the driest time of year. But if you want cheaper rates and don’t mind a bit rain, head to Phuket between May and October.
How To Get There: Qatar Airways
Fly Business Class direct from Doha to Phuket everyday for Dh8,500 return. Log onto www.qatarairways.com for more information.
By: Alice Haine