10 Things to Do in Phuket

Living in Malaysia, Thailand is actually just a stone’s throw away. And now with Air Asia making travel so cheap, I find myself constantly drawn to Thailand’s largest and most popular island, Phuket.

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Phuket is as colourful as it is cosmopolitan and one of the world’s most famous dream destinations. Phuket has everything – from beautiful inland vistas, to dense rainforest, it’s literally a place where the forest meets the sea. Breathtakingly pristine beaches and the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea are hard to resist. So with so many things to do, between water sports, tasty seafood restaurants, gorgeous spas, resorts and hotels in Phuket, where does one start?

Whether it’s swanky resorts of the Laguna complex, the relaxed and less developed beach of Bangtao, or the night markets of old Phuket Town, Phuket has something to satisfy every appetite.

Here are our top 10 Things to do, in Phuket..

1. Visit the Fresh/Wet Market

There are two types of markets in Phuket. The first type is known as a talad sod (fresh/wet market) which is essentially permanent, and open every day and in the same place. There are many of these all over the island, but the one I like best in Banzaan Fresh market in Patong.

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Banzaan Fresh market in Patong – best place to buy your greens

Located in the heart of Patong, the market open 24 hours a day but the produce available varies depending on the time of day. The best time to shop is actually early morning from 2am to 6am, when much of the produce is at its freshest straight from local farms or the airport. Many local restaurant owners and distributors come to do their shopping at this time. On one side of the road is the open-air market selling mostly fruit and vegetables, and on the other side is the new indoor market, where you’ll find meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables and other food inside.

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the butcher, the baker the candlestick maker?

The second type of market is the talad nat, similar to the kind of weekend markets you’ll find elsewhere, where farmers bring their produce into town to sell. They are everywhere; throughout Thailand almost every village, big or small, will have one. They usually open in the late afternoon and are finished by 8 or 9pm. You won’t have to travel far in Phuket to find one of these markets open! Local shoppers flock to them because the produce on sale is usually fresher and cheaper than in the supermarkets.

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frogs.. BEFORE.

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frogs.. AFTER!!

2. Visit Old Phuket Town

If you have time, you should walk around old Phuket town by foot. Two styles of building in particular stand out: the shop-houses (Sino-Portuguese style) and the big mansions (Sino-Colonial style). Plenty of photography opportunities of old buildings, as you meander along the narrow streets. This place reminds me of Malacca in Malaysia! The beginning of the tin boom in the 19th century led to construction of many fine mansions and shops that are still well preserved.

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the Phuket Thai Hua Museum

The architectural style, typical of the region, is described as Sino-Portuguese and has a strongly Mediterranean character. Shops present a very narrow face onto the street but stretch back a long way. Many, especially on Dibuk Road, have old wooden doors with Chinese fretwork carving. Europeans, including the Portuguese and the British, had been interested in Phuket’s tin wealth since the 16th century.

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beautiful tiles and old wooden doors with Chinese carvings

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In the 18th century, much of the island’s tin mining was carried out by Hokkien Chinese who became the big players in building the old part of the city. In the early 20th century, under Governor Phraya Rassada Nupradit, major European mining companies were invited in, and the major public infrastructure such as roads and canals was built. No one knows exactly when the first building in this style was constructed, but old photographs from the reign of King Rama V (1853-1910) show that it was already well established by then.

3. Indulge in a Relaxing Spa Treatment

There are so many spas around the island offering facials, body scrubs, traditional Thai massage and much more.

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coffee scrub before, a milk bath, followed by a 1 hour oil massage – at Movenpick Karon Beach

From only 300 baht for a traditional massage to an all-round ultra-pampering treatment for 10,000 baht or more, you can be sure that there’s a treatment for you and the great thing is that you won’t have to travel far to find that massage as there are parlours dotted around every corner of the island offering a wide range of treatments and massage methods.

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milk bath.. feels like Cleopatra! Here are some great spas for you to check out, and here are my favourites:
i. The Spa at Mövenpick Resort & Spa Bangtao Beach (Tel: +66 (0) 76 310400 )
open daily from 10:00 – 21:00
ii. The Spa at Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach (Tel: +66 (0) 76-396139)
open daily from 10:00 – 21:00
iii. Spa Cenvaree inside Centara Karon Resort Phuket (Tel: +66 (0) 76-396200-5)
open daily from09:00 – 21:00
iv. Body and Mind Day Spa (Tel: +66 (0)76-398274) opposite Mali Waterfront Restaurant beside Karon Lake open daily from 09.00 – 22:00

4. Take up Thai Cooking Classes

I’m not a great cook. But if there’s one place I really don’t mind enrolling in a cooking class, it would be in Thailand. With the availability of the freshest ingredients and being taught to cook authentic Thai is such gorgeous and lush surroundings, you can be sure, your food will turn out well. Cooking with passion has never been so easy! Courses range from simple introductions that give you a taste of the basics of Thai cooking all the way to intensive classes that can turn you into a master chef.

The knowledge of Thai cooking is a souvenir that will last your entire life and enable you to re-live your Phuket holiday on the rainiest of days. Thai cooking courses are taught by experienced Thai chefs who can teach you about ingredients, techniques and the all-important balance of flavours. Cooking classes in Phuket are available all year round.

Here are some good ones to check out.
i. The Old Siam Thai Restaurant at Thavorn Palm Beach Resort (Tel: +66 (0) 76-396090)
ii. Mövenpick Resort & Spa Bangtao Beach (Tel: +66 (0) 76 310400 )
iii. Horizon Patong Beach Resort & Spa (Tel: +66 (0) 76 292 526-30)
iv. Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa (Tel: +66 (0) 76 284 555)

5. Spend the Evening at Siam Niramit

If you are in Phuket then you should have to go for the siam niramat because it truly shows the culture of Thailand. It is a great show on a gigantic stage, performed by ~150 or more performers.

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You start with a walk through the village – to see how the different Thais from different parts of Thailand live. And then an outdoor performance, followed by the indoor spectacular show.

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the outdoor village, tells the story of Thailand’s culture and different indigenous tribes…

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buffalo’s grazing

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local sweets and snacks that are unique to the people of Thailand

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The Northern Tribe of Isan

The stage show is similar to a Cirque du Soleil with magical mystical scenes, dance performance, story about the history of Thailand and how Chinese traders came to their shores, special choreographed music, magnificent elephants and many, many surprises – wait till you see ‘Hell’! Totally unreal! The costumes, the backdrops and the effects are terrific. A must not miss.

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6. Visit the Weekend Night Market

They say that if you want to get to know people you are visting in a country and to understand their culture, go down to the local markets. In Thailand that’s certainly true. You can soak up a whole lot of local vibe and see what the people get up to, just by walking around the local market.

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Thai markets are the perfect place to buy super sweet fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh meats, snacks & food, chunks of red or green curry, dried foods, unrecognizable merchandise, dodgy CDs, DVDs, and computer games and brightly hued T-shirts and jeans, hair accessories, handicrafts, not to mention secondhand shoes and even branded knock offs and all at bargain prices. This is truly where the action is, and you need to immerse yourself in some market energy, to know what the country is all about.

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7. Rock Climbing in Krabi

This is my favourite thing to do in Krabi! Just an hour by speed boat from Phuket, Krabi has a stunning backdrop of rock against the ocean aquamarine waters, dozens of pure white sand beaches. So why not try rock climbing? Railay beach has a couple of climbing schools that provide instruction and equipment on the limestone sheer walls.

Stay on Railay beach or nearby Ao Nang. You get to meet heaps of international rock climbers too so this is a great way to make new friends from all over the world. You can even camp on the beach for a budget stay, and climbing is completely free if you bring your own gear. Too good to be true!

8. Visit James Bond Island

This is called Khao Tapu to the locals – meaning screw top. If you notice the rock formation looks like a screw. James Bond Island found fame through the 1974 Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun”.

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The film starred Roger Moore and Christopher Lee but it was the scenic topography that helped make the film into a firm Bond favourite. It also turned the previously unknown Phang Nga Bay into a major tourist attraction. Initially there was talk of the James bond movie being filmed in Hanoi, Vietnam, but they decided on Khao Tapu, Phuket instead. Hence the name James Bond Island.

9. Canoeing at Talu Island, Phang Nga Bay

Discover the mysterious world of the “hongs” in Phang Nga Bay. Secluded inside towering karsts lies a unique world accessed only by sturdy inflatable sea canoes – a perfect eco-friendly way to experience these incredible natural wonders.

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canoeing and kayaking at Talu Island

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this is where it gets interesting.. low limestone rocks mean you need to duck low, to enter the karsts

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You need to lay low in your canoe in order to get insides the karsts as the lime stone formations hang low, only a few inches above the sea level. Once you get inside and beyond, it’s a silent sanctuary of overhanging trees and green foliage.. it’s so serene and beautiful it actually feels like you’ve stumbled upon an ancient lost world.

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the hidden wonder.. inside the heart of the limestone karsts

It was raining all day when we went on our kayaking trip so we had to keep our camera’s in plastic bags, given to us by the tour operators. (Next time I will bring my waterproof camera!) Located about one hour north of Phuket airport, sea canoe trips operate daily. This is a lovely place to practice your kayaking skills.

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kayaking away..

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eerily captivating limestone formations

10. Visit Panyee Floating Village

This village is coincidentally enough, a Muslim Village. The settlement at Ko Panyi (or Panyee) was established at the end of the 18th century by nomadic Malay fisherman. Panyee Village is known as Pulau Panji in Malay language. It was during this time that the law limited land ownership solely to people of Thai national origins, and due to this fact the settlement was, for the most part, built on stilts within the protection of the island’s bay, providing easy access for the life of a fisherman.

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With the increase of wealth for the community, due to the growing tourism industry within Thailand, purchase of land on the island itself became a possibility, and the first structures of relevance were built; a mosque and a freshwater well. The village includes a floating football pitch. Inspired by the 1986 FIFA World Cup, children built the pitch from old scraps of wood and fishing rafts. As of 2011, Panyee FC is one of the most successful youth soccer clubs in Southern Thailand.

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The hundreds of huts, shacks, restaurants and houses where the villagers live are built on stilts over the surrounding shallow sea. No one seems quite sure how many wooden and concrete piles hold up this extraordinary community, but it is certainly a fascinating and unique feat of informal engineering. The village has its own school, a mosque, a health center, lots of small souvenir shops, stalls selling dried seafood, snacks, and a handful of large restaurants, all facing the sea, where tourists can enjoy a fresh seafood lunch. The latest development on Koh Panyee is the construction of bungalows that offer overnight accommodation for as little as 300 baht.

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Comments

  1. wah ur spa treatment very different from my typical thai massage.. those 200 baht wan. :P

    • KY, oh I can do that sort too! In fact, I can do any type of massage so long as it’s good, and the person knows what they are doing LOL :P

  2. omigosh, skinned frogs! i know they might look gross, but i actually think they’re appetizing! :D

  3. Eewww…I quickly scrolled down the pic of the gross gross skinned frogs! :-P

  4. What an awesome post with so many great things to do in Phuket and such great pictures that bring the story alive. I feel like I have already been.

  5. i’VE BEEn to Phuket but never do any of them .>.< *Cry & run*

  6. Great ideas lovely photos :) love it thank you

  7. That’s one very impressive list. I haven’t made it past the Bangkok airport yet but one day I will see some of these beautiful sights.

    • Well, I can understand why you haven’t made it past Bangkok though.. Bangkok is great – loads of shopping. But Phuket is more definitely for the beach bum in all of us;)

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