Phuket is another of those favourite go-to places for a quick weekend getaway from Singapore. It has also become a favorite holiday destination for both backpackers and families from across the world.
Phuket’s easy accessibility has also led to its downfall, especially amongst those looking for an idyllic getaway or looking for somewhere different and unusual.
It has developed the reputation of the bad-boy beach resort of Southeast Asia, best known for the raucous and sometimes seedy nightlife of Patong. Phuket, alongside its older brothers Bangkok and Pattaya have become the poster boys of commercialised Thailand.
But there is a reason (actually some very good reasons) why this island became such a popular tourist destination in the first place. And you don’t have to look hard to find them. If you’re looking for an easy-to-get-to beach escape (or a mid-week getaway!) from Singapore then you could do a lot worse than Phuket.
And even if you don´t live in Singapore, Phuket can be an easy-to-get-to starting point for am island hopping adventure through the Andaman Sea.
From amazing white sandy beaches of its own to an array of paradise-like islands off its coast you can choose between finding a luxury hotel to relax and unwind or use it as a base to explore islands like Koh Phi Phi (where the movie The Beach was filmed) or the Similan islands (a favourite for snorkelling and underwater life).
Dan and I went for Hari Raya Haji Public holiday in September 2016 and opted for a combination of the above. It was smack bang in the middle of monsoon season so the weather was a bit variable – we had one full day of sunshine, a day where it alternated between beautiful sunshine, dark clouds, sunshine then dark clouds again; and then one day where it simply bucketed it down the whole day.
Despite all of that, we still had a great weekend, which just goes to prove that there is enough to keep you occupied whatever the weather throws at you. And going off season meant we picked up a good deal with our hotel.
Where to stay in Phuket
There are lots of beaches to choose from and it will depend on whether you want to party (Patong); if you’re looking for a romantic getaway as a couple (Surin or Bangtao) or longing for a family break with plenty of things to do with the kids (Kamala).
On my first visit to Phuket, I fell in love with Surin beach – quieter than some of the other choices nearby but with a small and beautiful beach, and I’ve stayed there almost every time I’ve visited, other than a boys’ trip to Patong one Christmas.
Surin used to be where the trendy beach clubs of Bimi and Catch were situated but they’ve since been torn down and Catch has relocated to Bangtao beach just to the North, which is another good option. Even without the beach clubs, though, Surin just has something special to it and if you can splash out and stay at the Twin Palms Hotel (above), then you won’t regret it.
Our top 3 things to do in Phuket
1. Day Trip excursion – there are lots of day trips from Phuket to choose from, including exploring nearby islands like Koh Phi Phi and James Bond island to snorkelling at the Similan islands. Whichever option you go for, wait until you get to the resort to book. You’ll be able to haggle and get a good price compared to booking online in advance. The tour company will arrange collection at your hotel, picking you up around 8am or 8.30am and driving you to a departure point where you will be joined by lots of other tourists going on the same adventure.
The trips themselves are geared up to show you the main sights so don’t expect to find yourself on a private island or secluded stretch of beach with just your group. At some of the more popular spots – like Maya Bay on the Koh Phi Phi tour or James Bond Island itself, there are literally queues of boats waiting to take their group ashore. It may sound a bit like a commercial conveyor belt but you still get to see some amazing scenery and sights.
2. Old Phuket Town – it wasn’t until my third visit to Phuket that I discovered the old town, which is a stark contrast to the sights you will see at the infamous Bangla Road in Patong and other Phuket beach resorts. Thalang road, in particular, has some really stunning European influenced architecture with brightly coloured shophouse fronts and windows as well as a nightly food and craft market. A great way to spend an evening if you don’t want to party the night away in Patong.
3. Beach time – and what is the point of escaping to Phuket, if you don’t get to spend at least a day lazing at the beach. Find yourself a nice spot, put the towels down and settle in for a day of sunbathing and frolicking in the water. Be careful though – red flags are there for a reason and there can be riptides, and we were unfortunate enough to get caught up in one, which led to a bit of a dramatic incident and one we would not want to repeat.
At Surin beach, although there are no beach beds, you’ll be able to hire a little pyramid pillow which adds to the comfort and there are always a few locals selling cold beers and waters to keep you hydrated. If you want to mix it up one day, visit Kata beach 5 mins to the south where we found an amazing beach bar serving Strawberry Margaritas and Thai Spring Rolls – a strange yet satisfying combination.
The travel facts:
- Best time to go: November to March is the best time to go while May to October is monsoon season.
- Travel time from Singapore: 1 hour 50 mins direct flight from Singapore
- Duration: 2-3 days is plenty of time to unwind for a weekend and then its either back to work in Singapore or if you’re on holiday, move on to another location as part of an island-hopping tour of Thailand.
Find out more about us and read our other diaries from destinations across Southeast Asia.