Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Two Sides to Phuket

Phuket – so beautiful, yet so ... meh. I want to love Thailand’s largest island for its beautiful, white sand beaches, its balmy blue water and its jungle-clad mountains, but it’s hard to see beyond the deck chairs upon deck chairs occupied by floppy, leather-skinned sunworshippers, not to mention the sleazy girlie bars, choking traffic and over-development.

That’s one corner of Phuket, at least. Unfortunately that’s the corner most Australian visitors see, centred around the hub of Patong. And let’s face it, a holiday in Patong is as much an institution for fun-loving Aussies as New Year’s Eve fireworks or the summer test cricket. Sun, beach, beer, chicks – Patong is bogan central, and proud of it. Party all night, sleep all day, get yourself a Southern Cross tattoo ... what an awesome holiday in exotic Thailand.

OK, I’m being a bit harsh, but Patong just isn’t my cup of tea. Nor is Kuta, or Kings Cross on Saturday night for that matter. I appreciate a party as much as the next person, but to me, the essence of Thailand is nowhere to be found in Patong.

Outside of this strip of chaos, however, there are so many gorgeous pockets of tranquillity that it’s easy to imagine the Phuket of yesteryear, before the condos and taxi mafia took over. Sitting on a wooden swing under a tree on the northern beach of Mai Khao; sipping organic, locally grown chilled coffee at a hilltop cafe; watching gibbons in a jungle sanctuary; chilling in a beach bar built into a banyan tree (Ska Bar at Kata Beach – awesome!) or paddling through the silent hongs of Phang Nga Bay on a sea kayaking trip. Even Phuket Town is a fascinating place to wander, admiring the restored Sino-Portuguese houses, indulging in a massage at Kim’s Massage (one of my faves) or dining out at Ka Jok See, the best night out on the island.

                               (the view from Tung Ka, the hilltop cafe in Phuket)

I also recently discovered the tranquility of Cape Panwa, located on a south-eastern peninsula about eight kilometres from Phuket Town. There are a couple of gorgeous resorts here; the friendly, rambling Cape Panwa Hotel, with terraced suites and pool villas overlooking a coconut palm-lined beach and an original Sino-Portuguese mansion (now a top-notch Thai restaurant and function centre); and the chic and stylish Sri Panwa, with each designer villa boasting private plunge pools and heavenly views of the Andaman Sea. This haven is a reminder that you don’t have to be too far from the action to find peace and exquisite beauty – it’s all about harmonious planning and respect for the environment.

(the divine Sri Panwa)

If you do insist on staying in the heart of Patong, however, you don’t have to completely sacrifice your sanity. The Duangjitt Resort and Spa is right in the thick of things, but its 36 acres grounds are so lush and spacious that you’d never know the buzzing throng was just down the driveway. Popular with tour groups and families, this resort features three tropical pools, a cute mushroom-shaped kids’ club, a beautiful day spa and a choice of rooms styles, from family suites to villas. Everything you need for a happy holiday, all just staggering distance from Patong’s nightlife and its jam-packed beach. Horses for courses, of course of course  – but in this case, the horses at least will be well fed, watered and rested.

                                            (One of the pools at Duangjitt Resort)


  1. Thank you for posting.
    Phuket is the beautiful place.
    And if you are looking for hotel in phuket for your holiday. Surin Beach Hotel will be the best choice for you too.

  2. Thanks for sharing your information. I actually just returned from my Study Abroad trip to Thailand. Although the majority of my trip was spent staying at the Amanpuri Resort and Villa near Phuket, I did spend a few nights in a couple of hotels in Patong Beach, and on my last day I actually did get a tattoo from the boss man at Southern Cross tattoos. ;)