10 things you need to do in Phuket, Thailand
Visit an elephant sanctuary
One of those bucket list things that just makes for the most amazing experience. Done ethically of course. Travelling around Thailand I saw quite a few non-ethical elephant tourist traps which offered rides and seeing the elephants chained up just made me sad. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is based in Phuket and Chang Mai and rescued elephants giving them care and a home to roam freely. You can spend a day walking with the elephants in their own domain, feeding them watermelon and bananas, playing in the mud and then bathing with them, it’s really interesting to hear their stories, where they have come from and how long they’ve been there. These elephants are different to African wild elephants as they’re more domesticated and friendly around people. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary raises money from ticket prices to ensure the elephants have the correct care and medication that they need after the trauma that they’ve been through. I completely recommend experiencing this. There’s been some sceptical reviews when you research the sanctuary but I have a really positive experience and think the animals are well looked after here. I booked my trip through Trazy, it works out cheaper than booking on the official website, they also provide pick up and drop off to your hotel.
Go island hopping
There’s over 100 islands in Thailand so seeing them all in one go is near impossible, also that means you can always come back and see more! On my visit in October I’d planned to visit Phi Phi Islands and Maya Bay, Similan Island and James Bond Island. James Bond Island became popular after The Man with the Golden Gun – in 1974. Located in the Phang Nga Bay, these islands are limestone tower karsts that emerge from the emerald green waters. Similan Island has gorgeous white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, but unfortunately is closed from May - October and Maya Bay was closed is closed indefinitely due to the damage from an overload of tourists. Luckily you can still do a boat trip to Phi Phi Islands and see Maya Bay from the boat without getting off. Phi Phi Islands is like something out of a movie, the glittering emerald tones just stand out and it really is breathtaking, I think the amount of people and crowds so ruin it a little bit, staying there wouldn’t really be my choice. Koh Samui is a beautiful island and perfect for a couple days stay, it used to be the party destination but has since calmed down, there’s also a big focus on dining here. Koh Yao Noi is perfect for those baecations or honeymooners, the accommodation on this side are slightly more luxury and the golden sands are perfect for those beach bum days and walks watching the sunset. Get Your Guide is a great way to find affordable transfers and day trips to all of the islands which include pick ups and lunch!
Get a Thai Massage
You can’t go to Thailand without finding a really good massage. A Thai massage will have you feeling like a brand new person, especially when it can cost as little as £10 for an hour! I absolutely LOVED the massages in Thailand and found that TripAdvisor was my best friend when trying to locate the best places local to the hotels I was staying at. Be sure to do your research beforehand so you know your experience will be a good one. Try the Siladon Spa Phuket, 5 Star Massage and Orientala Spa in Patong are both super cheap and really professional and clean inside.
Eat the local food
I mentioned some nice restaurant in Phuket in my Phuket Guide, I honestly don’t think it’s even possible to have bad food in Thailand. Most menus cater to an International menu as well as keeping it quite traditional with all of the local delicacies, if you love a bit of spice this is definitely for you. I think Chicken & Cashew Nut was on the menu for me most days, along with my go to beef and chilli, chicken satay, spring rolls and always a traditional curry with a side of roti canai. You have to try the night markets too for some really traditional local food. Chillva Market is a newer and smaller market in Phuket, it has an array of food, fashion and other stalls. It’s quite a colourful trendy market compared to the others. Phuket Weekend Market or Naka Market is probably the most popular in Phuket, it’s a lot bigger than Chillva and is open every Saturday and Sunday from 4pm – 9pm. Make sure you try the satay on the stalls, grab a fresh coconut and a roti canai (pancake) for dessert. A delicious cheap meal that doesn’t compromise on taste.
Laze on the beach
A holiday isn’t a holiday without some beach bum days, right? Kata Beach is where I spent most of my time whilst in Phuket. The beach is really big and doesn’t really feel super crowded, there’s loads of water sports available too like surfing and jet skiing, although I’d advise being really careful with these! Kata Noi and Cape Panwa are really beautiful beaches on a quieter and smaller strip of beach, they’re both more secluded so perfect for a relaxing stress-free beach day. Patong Beach is the most famous in Phuket, but it can get so busy, so whilst it’s near the nightlife and buzzing part of Phuket it can get very overcrowded and busy, which can take away from the relaxing feeling. Nai Harn Beach remains quite untouched and relatively quiet too, with crystal clear water and beautiful soft sands, it’s considered one of the most beautiful in Phuket.
Visit the many temples
One of my favourite things to do whilst travelling in South East Asia is temple hopping. They are all so beautiful and there’s a massive element of calm and tranquillity when you visit. It’s also a special way to be immersed with the local culture and respecting their long-standing traditions. The Big Buddha is probably the most famous and most important in Phuket, it’s located on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and can be seen for miles! Once up the winding road (beware if you feel travel sickness!) there you can enjoy 360-degree views of the island.
Wat Chalong aka Chalong Temple is an ancient temple built so beautifully just spending a couple hours walking around and learning about the history of the temple is a great way to spend a day. Both interior and exteriors are intricately designed with an exceptional attention to detail.
Wat Khao Rang is home to the famous sitting buddha, a simple and charming little temple that will be a bit quieter than the others.
Just a little outside of Phuket is Wat Suwan Khua - the temple of the Reclining Buddha was built in a cave which has historical, theological and archeological value. It’s quite popular with locals and tourists alike but it’s such a beautiful temple with amazing surroundings.
Phuket Old Town is great for shopping, the colourful and historical streets with their colonial and Chinese architecture really gave me a Cuban vibe. The Old Town is a really unique place to shop as there’s no big shopping centres or big brands, the streets are full of little textile, antique and souvenir shops and unique clothing boutiques. I could spend hours walking around browsing them!
Bangkok is a whole different ball game when it comes to shopping, as somebody who just has to visit a shopping centre on her travels I was really impressed with the amount of choice of the different and size of shopping centres in Bangkok. Siam Paragon is the most popular, mainly targeted for high-end, luxury shopping there is every shop you can think of in here as well as so many restaurants and dessert places I almost exploded! It’s so easy to reach on the Skytrain too.
Go to a beach club
Ok, so the beach clubs in Phuket have nothing on Bali. But they’re still a really nice way to spend a day in Phuket. Some of the best ones I found are: Cafe Del Mar, Catch Beach Club, HQ Beach Lounge ,Iguana Beach Club. I visited COAST Beach Club in the Centara Grand and had a really awful experience so I don’t recommend this one at all. Also, because I visited in low season the beach clubs weren’t exactly really full and busy, they definitely cater to people with more events etc. during high season.
Watch the sunset at a rooftop bar
Finding a great bar in Phuket isn’t hard and what’s better than a fancy cocktail after a hard day of tanning than watching the sunset at a snazzy rooftop bar. Baba Nest is probably the most famous and Instagrammable rooftop bar in Phuket, the pillows give it a casual cosy feel and the 180-degree sea views are epic! Be aware, they have a minimum spend of 1,000 THB per person (around £25) if you’re wanting to book a space, which can be annoying if you’re only going for a pre-drink or to chill out. The Kee Sky Lounge overlooks the busy Patong Beach, after a re-vamp last year the bar definitely has beach club vibes and is a cool place to enjoy cocktails and tapas before exploring the famous Bangla Road. Wassa Homemade Bar is a little hidden gem located on a hill at the back of Patong, the views are incredible! It’s really affordable and they also sell authentic Thai food. 360 at Phuket Pavilions is a MUST-VISIT, a cute and new romantic dining and drinks venue in Phuket, the bar has breathtaking views especially at sunset, and it’s perfect to go up there and watch the sunset before having dinner in the restaurant below.
Take a Thai cooking class
Something I wish I’d done on my visit, but I will DEFINITELY be returning to do. I just LOVE Thai food so taking home some tips from their traditional dishes would have been perfect. There are many hotels that offer Thai cooking classes so check with you hotel if they offer this service. Alternatively Get Your Guide is perfect for finding some great classes that include pick-up and drop off and are always really professionally done. Check out this Authentic Thai Cooking Class in Phuket that even includes a market tour.