Phuket Pictures Guide, Thailand

Patong town,  Phuket’s urban centre.

Beach Holidays in Phuket

Phuket is the largest of Thailand’s islands and the country’s most popular sand and sea destination, though much of it is tourism of the package kind. The beaches are largely similar, mostly with soft sand, clear warm water enclosed in pretty bays. Patong is the largest and busiest, attached to the lively but brash, noisy and unattractive town of Patong.

South of Patong are a handful of beaches that cater to up-market tourists while beaches in the north of Phuket become increasingly less crowded and offer less facilities the further away from Patong they get but are popular with seekers of quiet, good value beach holidays. Sand, however becomes coarser and waves more brutal.

Beware swimming when beaches have red flags flying which often happens in or near the rainy/summer season. Patong and Karon beaches are especially susceptible. There is a real danger of drowning from tide rips (strong currents), with an average of one tourist drowning a month in summertime.

Kamala beach, north Phuket, Thailand

Kamala beach, next place north of Patong on Phuket Island. Photo by Gossipguy.

Downsides

The bad news:

• the numbers of visitors on the beach/in the streets of the main towns  in high seasons is unsettling if you’re in search of a tropical paradise, or possibly exciting if you want loud noise, friendly girls and lots of beer. But remember, Phuket does offer a good selection of alternatives, see below.

• chunky waves can make relaxed ‘floating after a few beers’ bathing a bit of a challenge early in the season. Wait for them to calm down or learn to dive under them – which is quite good exercise as it happens…

• some beaches are colonised early by package people

• there is little shade other than pay-parasols

• Patong town is becoming increasingly sleazy, overdeveloped and not so cheap.

Phuket Beaches

Access to Phuket’s beaches is easy and roads are excellent. Recent development has spoiled a lot of the sights and tranquility of the island, but brought reliable power and water supplies, comfortable hotels and good varied food to beach resorts, and lovers of solitude can still find secluded spots, just.

Phuket town/port has no beaches or interesting night life, but good local craft shops and a lively market. It’s a useful transit point for inter-island ferries to places such as Phi Phi Don, Ko Lanta or Krabi.

The beaches worth occupying are mostly on Phuket’s (pron. Poo-kett) west coast, with the busiest being Patong in the south-centre.

Nai Thon beach waves, north Phuket, Thailand

That’s no tsunami but it’s got unusual power behind it as that quite  fit guy is about the find out. Hombre, dive, dive dive! (he didn’t and was knocked over)

The good news:

• the sand is superb, the beaches are big and support facilities excellent

• it’s easy to reach from Phuket international airport

• there are plenty of places to go by rental bike/car

• masses of night action available in town

• Noisy Longtail boats are not nearly as disturbing in Phuket as they are in the Phi Phi islands etc. because they are not entering small,  quiet bays but parking in discreet ports or singly anchoring off large beaches.

Nai Harn Beach, a couple of kilometres south of central Phuket.

Patong beach, Phuket

Patong beach chairs, phuket, thailand beaches.

Patong’s 3. 5 km beach early in the day, Phuket. Photo by jbremer57

Amazingly Patong is Phuket’s most popular beach destination. We can only imagine there are a lot of naive and soon-to-be-disappointed people out there apart from the horny older men of course who will be frolicking like ducks in a pond. We would humbly suggest couples and families get a hotel elsewhere and visit Patong, enjoying the madness, shopping, lunatic activities and feet-fish-nibbling for however long it takes to overcome you and then retire gracefully to your own tranquil bay elsewhere in Phuket.

That being said, Patong’s sand is a treat for the feet and the sea is more protected from wind and rips than most other beaches in Phuket. Easy access to varied food and drink is guaranteed, too, as shopping for fake Rolexes (if the second hand moves in jerks it’s a fake! ) and ‘silk’ shirts that turn out to be rayon along with any other counterfeit product you can imagine.
It’s fun for a while but the endless offers, entreaties, fake friends and whining demands soon overwhelm even the most hardened Marrakech rug shopper.

Patong beach in high season, Phuket, Thailand.

Patong beach in high season, Thailand. Photo by Neitram.

Superb soft sand and a pretty, protected bay hardly compensate for the hideous urban sprawl of this town of loutish touts, bar-beers (girlie bars), braying bikes and groaning herds of minibuses and rented jeeps.
Fundamentally this is an overpriced destination for sex-starved single males, action sport addicts and package tourists who made a mistake. i. e. Pattaya with more sand and less girls.

On the beach touts will be renting jet skis, para sailing and all the other modern marine water sports equipment, but beware rip-offs when operators claim damages to the kit that already existed.

Bangla road and bars in Patong, Phuket Thailand.

Plenty of colour, pity about the style. Bangla road and bars in Patong. Photo by Ben Reeves.

Bangla Road is the ‘straight’ night zone and dark heart of Patong, with endless girlie bars, hawkers and hustlers trying for a fast buck with chained exotic animals, watered drinks, raging rock (appealing to an older generation remember! ) and wonky, winking whores. The gay zone is Paradise Complex.
No Songthaews after 6pm so bring your own transport if visiting from another beach. And bike drivers wear a helmet! (to avoid paying the police along with all the other hustlers).

Vegetarian Festival

Phuket Vegetarian Festival, Thailand.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival, also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, is held between beginning and mid October. Photo by binder donedat.

During this  popular festival male religious devotees – usually of Thai-Chinese extraction – pierce their bodies in multiple locations with pins, knives, sharp sticks or whatever comes to hand, without the benefit of anaesthetics. Alternatively they slash/cut themselves widely. Bloody hell!

Phuket weather

The driest months by far and therefore the best are December (8 rainy days pm) to March (5 rainy days pm) but avoid the first part of December when weather can be erratic, cloudy and very hot (over 30C) with substantial waves (1m – 2m) hitting the shores and making sea lazing hazardous for adults and dangerous for small children. Unfortunately the waves tend to rise suddenly for a short distance, so they’re not wonderful for surfer dudes either.

Average high temperatures and average lows vary little in Phuket with highs constantly around 31C (88F) and lows around 28C (82F). The big climatic condition to be aware of is rainfall, with a vast increase from May- October.
September, by contrast, suffers an average 23 rainy days per month, though some of that might be just at night or in short, heavy bursts.
However, the rainy season also means, waves, rip tides, poor sea visibility for diving and snorkeling, clouds, wind and seaweed on the beach, as well as reduced services and facilities on both land and sea.

Accommodation

khao lak beach cottages, phuket, thailand

Khao Lak beach cottages, Phuket.

This is not a cheap region by Thai standards. Backpackers on a tight budget or travellers seeking a quieter life would fare better on other islands such as Ko Lanta or Koh Samet, but up-market travellers looking for a life of pampered luxury can’t go wrong with 5 star hotels in Phuket where exotic style and delicacy are a national trait, servitude an honour and exquisite cuisine an everyday experience. I have a dream. . .

Getting around

phuket leafy road biker, thailand

A small motorcycle is a great way to travel Phuket but beware gravel rash, it can seriously hamper your sea bathing (though it does help the healing process in small doses! ).

All motorised tourists in Thailand – bikes and cars – are required to carry an International Drivers’ License on their person  and it is also advisable to carry a copy of your passport information page and Thai visa.

Motorbike drivers and their passengers are required by law to wear helmets. A recent survey revealed that around a third of all bike passengers do not wear helmets.

The payment for breaking helmet laws depends on the officer issuing the fine, which side of the bed he got out of that morning, the season, the attitude of the biker and much more…

Thai police pay a lot of attention to foreigners driving bikes without helmets while turning a blind eye to locals doing the same thing.

It’s possible that they are concerned about farang hurting themselves but more likely that on-the-spot fines are paid fairly easily by visitors who are unlikely to argue, whereas extracting a few hundred baht from a local would be heavy going.

Fines for drunk driving in Thailand are  heavy and may increase during holiday seasons.