A beach paradise for all
Years have passed since the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami brought devastation to the island of Phuket. Life has long taken back its normal course and the Thai province has reclaimed its title has one of the world’s best beach resorts. Phuket is Thailand’s biggest island; it is also that with the largest population. But, beyond the stats and figures, it is first and foremost a place for everyone to enjoy, ideal for back and flashpackers alike.
If you’re looking for sparkling nightlife, head for Patong, Hat Kata or Hat Karon on the island’s west coast. There are all the bars and clubs needed for a great night out. But, Phuket is far from being only for the young party-crowd. Further up north on the west coast, in the area stretching from Ao Bang Thao and Hat Kamala, you’ll find plenty of peaceful resorts with private beaches for a more chilled experience.
Not only is Phuket a real paradise with beautiful beaches, it is also a great base to explore some of Thailand’s most reputed sights. The famous Ko Phi-Phi is only a 90-minute ferry ride away, while the fantastic Similan Islands can be reached in 2.5 hours in a speedboat. Ao Phang-Nga National Park, where some scenes of James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun were filmed, is also easily accessible.
When to go
Thailand’s Adaman Coast, which includes Phuket, is in the peculiar situation of being affected by both the southwest and northwest monsoon. As a result, the best time to avoid rain is between December and March. This is also the high season and when prices are at the highest. For this reason, some people prefer to chase a bargain in the low season – even if it means a few wet days. However, the rain isn’t the only drawback. Many resorts, ferry routes and sights, such as the Similan Islands, are closed during that time.
How to get there
The easiest way is to head for Bangkok and fly down to Phuket. The southern island is only 1.5 hours from the Thai capital. Many travellers like to use Thai Airways as the company flies direct from London and operates its own Bangkok-Phuket route, so you don’t have to worry about transferring your bags. Another solution to avoid the accumulation of stopovers is to get to Bangkok direct with Qantas, BA or EVA Air and then use one of the local carriers such as Bangkok Airways.
Phuket is a popular destination and as such can become pretty busy. However, you can easily beat most of the tourist crowds by adventuring outside the best-known beaches and looking for your own little corner of unspoilt paradise. Friendship Beach is one of the few wow spots on the island’s east coast and a great example of these little-known gems.