Phuket is a spectacular playground of palm-fringed white-sand beaches, world-class resorts, lush rainforests and warm blue seas. Flanked by the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and one of Asia's most popular beach destinations.
Famous beaches such as Kata and Karon and natural splendours like coves, bays and secluded islands attract millions of visitors to the South East Asian paradise every year. Colourful and cosmopolitan, Patong Beach entertains visitors with vibrant nightlife – home to lady boys, beer halls and strip clubs; while Phuket City excites with a wonderful mix of traditional and modern, and peaceful and pulsating.
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Home to a strong tourism trade, Phuket is inundated with restaurants, bars, cafes and street-food carts. Neighbourhoods and streets bustle well into the night, lit up by eateries serving all types of cuisines – covering everything from western and Asian fares. Most hotels and resorts offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, however to gain a true sense of Thailand it’s a good idea to take the streets and discover the vibrancy of Phuket’s dining scene.
A hotbed of nightlife, hedonism and culture, Patong Beach is southern Thailand’s culinary epicentre. Saturated with a plethora of eateries, Patong hosts hundreds of cuisines in all types of locales from award-winning eateries to cheap street stalls. Situated in the heart of Patong, Bangla Road is the beachside town’s busiest thoroughfare – a strip of bars, tailors, restaurants, strip clubs and fast food shopfronts. Fronting onto the Andaman Sea, Beach Road is Patong’s most prominent street, featuring hundreds of eateries – from resort restaurants to street food stalls – amongst a bazaar-like atmosphere. Running parallel to Beach Road, Rat-U-Thit Road stretches for over two kilometres long, and also features an exciting array of international and traditional eateries.
Phuket City is more business than holiday, but still bustles with a huge variety of restaurants and cuisines. The city’s neighbourhoods and streets are alive with around-the-clock activity. Early mornings are abuzz with markets that hawk fresh produce and seafood; while the night is animated with busy restaurants, disco-techs and bars. Close by Phuket City, off the island’s east coast, Phuket’s floating seafood restaurants offer one of Thailand’s most unique dining experiences.
While a number of restaurants focus on western and European fares, it’s hard to go past traditional Thai dishes. A truly international cuisine, enjoyed by millions around the world, Thai food is a national treasure and a reason in itself to visit Thailand. Different areas of Thailand specialise in different dishes and specialities. Phuket is particularly famous for its seafood. Seafood in Phuket is generally barbecued, fried or steamed and is infused with spices and herbs like garlic, lemon grass, chili, mint, cumin, basil and coriander.
Phuket is a tropical shopping paradise. Beaches, streets, giant complexes and markets brim with shops that sell everything from fake Louis Vuitton to the real deal. Visitors often deliberately arrive with empty suitcases, with the challenge to fill them up with new purchases. Clothes, cameras, jewellery, watches, DVDs, computer games, silk, handbags, gold, gems, and even furniture can be found in stores all over the island.
The island of Phuket has a number of shopping hubs, most notably Phuket City, Patong Beach, Karon Beach and Kata Beach. Phuket City is a go-to for antique Asian art and crafts, clothing, household knick-knacks and Thai silk. Patong has a bazaar-like feel with thousands of street stalls, hawking an abundance of fake goods, mass-produced clothing and hand-made garments. Karon hosts a wide beachside shopping avenue, where a range of handicraft shops can be found. Just a few minutes south, Kata entices with an abundance of shops selling everything from souvenir to ready-to-wear fashion.
To experience the true essence of shopping in Thailand, a visit to a market is a must do. Markets can be found all over Phuket, and sell a variety of fresh food, as well as clothes, CDs, sunglasses, shoes and much more. The Phuket Weekend Market is the island’s most famous market, offering rows upon rows of clothes, footwear, handbags, jewellery, souvenirs, collectibles and crafts stalls.
Not as well-known as the markets, but just as impressive, Phuket also features a number of big-scale shopping centres. The island’s four main shopping malls include: Jungceylon in Patong, and Big C, Tesco Lotus and Central Festival just outside Phuket City. More like markets than western department stores, the shops in these centres showcase a hotchpotch mix of fashion and goods.
Department stores and shopping centres have fixed prices and don’t allow bartering. Markets, small stores, shops and street vendors around Phuket expect customers to barter – with discounts of up to 40% off the original price a common result.