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Phuket – there has never been a better time to visit


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Phuket – there has never been a better time to visit

by Harris Woodman

 

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2020, it sure is an interesting and challenging time, which we all need to embrace both the good with the bad, some may call it one of the silver linings, others just a great opportunity to escape reality, but 100% there is no better time than now to travel and explore this incredible country that we are all so privileged to call home.

 

Just a one hour and ten minute flight from Bangkok awaits Phuket, known as ‘The pearl of the Andaman sea’. This name derives from having some of the biggest sea pearl farms in Thailand. Reputedly started by the Japanese, pearl farms have been handed down through the generations of Thais that took over when the Japanese left.

 

There is hope that restrictions on travel will ease soon, but with international flights stopped from entering the country you can enjoy the natural beauty of Phuket without the maddening crowds, and believe me the luxury hotels, tourist services, restaurants, businesses and locals will welcome you back with open arms. Just one click on an online booking engine and you will see that there are bargains and deals to be had on this beautiful tropical island. Escape the city and enjoy some me time on the beach, toes in the sand, coconut in hand and an idyllic beach all to you and your loved one/s.

 

For years aeroplanes have disgorged international arrivals at Phuket International Airport and tour buses and coaches have choked the narrow streets and surrounding hills. Similar to the streets of Bangkok, Phuket roads and sois are “sans” the minivans and coaches and are instead filled with locals and expats going about their business without the stresses on the roads. By their own admission the hoteliers, the tourism industry and the locals perhaps did not concentrate on domestic tourism as much as they should have done as they were far too busy filling the tills from guests around the world. Marketed internationally, however now the hotels are empty and want no they need… your business. Many hotels bravely opened on October 1st to test the local market with mixed results across the board, word on the street is that it has been a success. Locals and travelling local.

 

If Thais visited Phuket, they normally drive their cars and perhaps stayed in Thai hotels or on the outskirts of the city and drove in each day to enjoy the beautiful beaches, breathtaking scenery and sights and sounds of the city. ‘Farang’ flew down from Bangkok and further afield and enjoyed the ‘party throb’ atmosphere, the endless hotels, restaurants and nightlife whilst relaxing by day under the sun on the wonderful beaches. However there is little “throbbing” going on at the moment, Phuket is lacking a little atmosphere – but far better in my mind, however the beaches remain stunning and the service as always impeccable with a smile.

 

Now the international airport is empty and the hoteliers know that they must embrace Thai and expat residents and you can stay in a 5 star property, enjoy the very finest services and facilities and not get stuck behind a Chinese tour bus or pushed into the road by the hordes of Russian and Chinese travellers hunting in packs as they so often do.

 

Just as in Bangkok there are amazing deals to be had, the time to travel is now. Hotels and restaurants are thrilled to see you at their door, many spas are buy one get one free, transfers from the airport are often included and free rounds of golf in some hotels come with the packages. Everyone loves a freebee or a little icing on the cake and made to feel special! Speaking of golf, if you ever thought about playing, the time is also now. The golf courses are desperate to get you out there and most are heavily discounted – green fees and buggies included! The courses are in pristine condition, as no one has been tearing them up, except a few locals and the pros in the recent Singha International at Laguna Phuket.

 

Phuket is a rain forested, mountainous island in the Andaman Sea. Thailand’s largest island and has another 32 smaller islands off its coastline and it boasts some of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches, mainly situated along the clear waters of the Western shore. 

Phuket province is an area of 576 km2 (222sqm) a little smaller than the Republic of Singapore, and it is the second smallest province in Thailand. Formerly deriving its wealth from mining tin and harvesting rubber now it feeds the people from tourism. The island is home to many quality four and five star hotels and resorts, spas and restaurants.

 

Phuket City, the capital, lines its streets with old shophouses and street markets. Phuket Town shines with personality and nowhere more so than its ‘Old Town’. 

 

In this historically rich part of town, you will find shrines, temples (Buddhist and Chinese), ornate and beautifully preserved ‘shophouses’, quaint restaurants and cafés, souvenir and local craft shops, a myriad of attractive sights to enjoy whilst strolling and people watching in the cooler evenings after dinner. Weekends bring hustle and bustle to Phuket Town with the walking street market in the heart of the city, famed for local produce and entertainment supported religiously by local and expats of Phuket.

 

Built on the riches from the tin boom in the last century when the metal was an extremely valuable commodity. In this quarter of the town, you will see grandiose Sino-colonial mansions, once occupied by Phuket’s landed gentry. Street art tours are super popular and breathe life and charm into some of the older buildings. Small and safe enough to stroll round with the family. Obviously, the best time to do this is either early in the morning before the sun takes over or after the day has lost its heat. There are plenty of restaurants and street cafés to provide you with refreshments, so you do not need to burden yourself. Coffee culture is a big part of Old Phuket Town, many streets have numerous tiny shops run by the locals who are passionate about the art of coffee and have run their shops for decades. Patong, the main resort town, has countless nightclubs, bars and discos and of course the normal Thai attractions lining its streets and alleys, but it is relatively safe apart from the inevitable street hustlers. Sadly, these are almost all closed currently, but there is hope that restrictions will change, and things will slowly open up.

 

Phuket has the most stunning natural beauty around its coastline and boasts well over 30 first class beaches. This is Phuket’s key attraction and why it has become so popular over the years with international visitors starved of Vitamin D. The role of Vitamin D – the sunshine Vitamin – in keeping bones strong is already well established.

 

Phuket offers its visitors lively towns, world class shopping and a sheer abundance of entertainment alternatives. Whilst few of the beaches are busy nowadays, there are many quieter ones off the beaten track, not to mention the hidden and secret ones too.

The main beaches are Patong and Kata, Kata Noi beach is a pretty bay if you want to be near Kata but stay away from other sun worshippers.  

 

Karon, Kamala, Paradise, Bangtao and Freedom beach are some of the most beautiful beaches, blessed with soft white sand and swimming in clear blue waters. Nai Harn is a picturesque beach surrounded by verdant green hills and small islands of its coast – great for snorkelling.

 

Laem Singh has always been one of Phuket’s favourite beaches, likened to a Caribbean beach, a bit nostalgic, very green with its palm trees leaning over the sand and now you can have it to yourself. It looks and feels like a Robinson Crusoe hideaway, access was restricted to the public in 2017 but there are still routes to get there.

 

Ya Nui is tiny but has the charms of a private beach, tucked away in a cove between the Windmill viewpoint and the now famous Promthep Cape in the South of Phuket island. Mai Khao Beach is 11km long, the longest in Phuket. Pansea Beach shared by the luxury five star resorts ‘The Surin Phuket’ and ‘Amanpuri Phuket’ is one of the most amazing beaches. 

 

Nai Yang and Naithon beaches are hidden gem on the West coast. Panwa beach also known as Khao Kat beach is not a swimming beach like most but has the charms of a remote bay that not many would find the time to explore while visiting Phuket, located on the East coast but facing West.

 

The Shrine of the Serene Light is one of Phuket’s oldest Chinese shrines. It is effectively hidden from sight, having been built in a little courtyard next to The Memory at On On Hotel on Phang Nga Road in Phuket Old Town. Established in 1891, the shrine clearly shows its heritage with distinctive architectural design, with characteristics common in ‘Hokkien’ Chinese shrines like the terracotta tiled roof and single storey construction.

 

Full Story: https://expatlifeinthailand.com/travel-and-leisure/phuket-there-has-never-been-a-better-time-to-visit/

 

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-- © Copyright Expat Life in Thailand 2021-02-09
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A great time to visit many different places here. Sadly, they are like ghost towns. Most restaurants and bars are shut, as are most resorts.

 

Transportation options are limited. As are tours. Finding food can also be challenging.

 

Hotel prices are cheap. But there's a good chance you'll be the only one there.

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Yes, I am thinking of going, but how do you get around the island? I lived there before and had a notorcycle, is that or car rental the only way to avoid the rip off taxis?

 

Is there an airport bus now to the major resorts?

 

Are there still some buses from Phuket town to the resorts?

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there motorcycles for rent, cars for rent, the local songthaews are running from the beaches to town, the smart bus is NOT> plenty of tuk tuk /taxis waiting to rip you off.  🙂

its lovely here,  just be aware Patong, Karon, Kata are dead.  so dont choose there to stay>
stay in Laguna, Kamala, Rawaii

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21 minutes ago, zzzzz said:

there motorcycles for rent, cars for rent, the local songthaews are running from the beaches to town, the smart bus is NOT> plenty of tuk tuk /taxis waiting to rip you off.  🙂

its lovely here,  just be aware Patong, Karon, Kata are dead.  so dont choose there to stay>
stay in Laguna, Kamala, Rawaii

Thanks for the update. Not sure where I will be arriving in Phuket as coming from the other coast to stay in Bangtao or kamala, so:

1. Can you get a local songthaew from phuket town to kamala or laguna/bang tao area?

2. Are Taxis are the only option from the airport?

 

 

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2 hours ago, Jeffr2 said:

A great time to visit many different places here. Sadly, they are like ghost towns. Most restaurants and bars are shut, as are most resorts.

 

Transportation options are limited. As are tours. Finding food can also be challenging.

 

Hotel prices are cheap. But there's a good chance you'll be the only one there.

Agree, done a few short trips around the island a few times, but you quickly get stuck in the hotel with everything around you completely closed. So either you eat at the hotel restaurant or go on a search for that one place still open that also has decent food. Plus being one of only few guests at a hotel sounds like heaven, but it is also a bit boring. Like you want a couple of other holiday goers around you who relax and enjoy themselves instead of feeling its a ghost hotel.

 

That said, some trips to beaches on Phuket have been great in the past weeks. Instead of thousands of people there are now 20-50 people and we can bring the dogs to beaches that are normally too busy. Still some beach places open for food and a huge menu, so the next outing will be soon.

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1 hour ago, Dazzler said:

Thanks for the update. Not sure where I will be arriving in Phuket as coming from the other coast to stay in Bangtao or kamala, so:

1. Can you get a local songthaew from phuket town to kamala or laguna/bang tao area?

2. Are Taxis are the only option from the airport?

 

 

Bang tao is dead, Chern talay, Laguna, Kamala are very much open>
songthaew runs from Kamala to phuket town via Surin, Chern talay, heroines monument , main road

Unless you want catch the airport bus to phuket town.  taxis are ur best bet

 

FYI: Kamala has 5 beach front restaurants , plus Cafe del mar and the intercontinental hotel restaurant.  Many bars, restaurants open on main road>  when i head to the beach everyday around 4 pm there are 12 sets of Beach loungers/umbrellas set up with maybe 4 occupied.,  never more tan 100 people on the beach..
there maybe 8 or so beach front small hotels open as well, some with pools.

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20 hours ago, snoop1130 said:

Phuket – there has never been a better time to visit

If you like ghost towns with closed and boarded up stores indicative of economic devastation - I'm sure Phuket as well as all the other former tourist detonations in Thailand are just your cup of tea.  The so-called second wave ended any plans I had for touring domestically along with other expat I know well. So why make plans again?  They'll just end up pulling a third wave out of their hats, start freaking out again and closing provincial borders.  No thanks.  No vaccinations until June for the general public?  And it will probably be a slow rollout at that.  No reason to make any further domestic touring plans until the end of the year or 2022.  And Phuket?  That about the last place in Thailand on my list of places to tour.

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"A rain-forested, mountainous island".

This guy is taking huge poetic license if he's been to Phuket, or he's never been here and it shows.

 

Phuket has hills that are covered in degraded forest and crops.

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2 hours ago, ChipButty said:

Laem Singh has always been one of Phuket’s favourite beaches, likened to a Caribbean beach,

 

Laem Singh beach access is closed for some years now, only accessible by sea (from Surin I think). But yes, it was my favorite spot also ... and a point break for surfer one day, a lagoon another day ...

Phil.

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1 hour ago, zzzzz said:

Bang tao is dead, Chern talay, Laguna, Kamala are very much open>

Bang tao was great last week: several beach side "restaurants" open and not too busy in that area (we sat at Paul Restaurant, next door did decent trade as well). 

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3 hours ago, CALSinCM said:

If you like ghost towns with closed and boarded up stores indicative of economic devastation - I'm sure Phuket as well as all the other former tourist detonations in Thailand are just your cup of tea.  The so-called second wave ended any plans I had for touring domestically along with other expat I know well. So why make plans again?  They'll just end up pulling a third wave out of their hats, start freaking out again and closing provincial borders.  No thanks.  No vaccinations until June for the general public?  And it will probably be a slow rollout at that.  No reason to make any further domestic touring plans until the end of the year or 2022.  And Phuket?  That about the last place in Thailand on my list of places to tour.

Your loss. I'm on Koh Lanta and it's fantastic. Plenty of restaurants open. Cheap rooms and wide open stunning beaches.

 

Negotiating now for a 3br pool villa directly on the beach. Amazing. 25 to 35k per month.

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The good Phuket life, disappeared already in 1992 after that it has only gone down Today Phuket is a gathering place for package tourists today

If you like swimming in other people's stool , Phuket is good you.

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22 hours ago, Bob12345 said:

Bang tao was great last week: several beach side "restaurants" open and not too busy in that area (we sat at Paul Restaurant, next door did decent trade as well). 

Pauls ( as well as Tonys) is on Layan beach ( laguna) not bang tao

Same goes for Bayan tree resort.. layan beach

 

Sunwing resort is on Bang Tao beach ;  

Many here seem to confuse the 2 beaches

 

Phuket is still good, yea its not the same as the 80's when you had to drive to phuket town to get food at Sin & Lee or buy the bangkok post or fresh milk and there was only 2 traffic lights on the island and you could not drive between Patong and Karon beach.

 

BUT even thru the 90's, the early 2000's and now, whenever i leave, i am always happy to return

 

One mans paradise is another's sh#@ hole

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