10 Reasons to Go to Phuket on Your Gap Year
The little island off the coast of Thailand is definitely worth a few days
10 Reasons to Go to Phuket on Your Gap Year
1. Patong Beach
The beach is crazy. It’s lined with bars and shops that really come alive at night and will be sure to suck the last of your bhat in. You can buy ‘Havianas’, ‘brand name’ clothing and ‘Prada’ handbags among trinkets, Hello Kitty stuff and all the beachwear you’d ever need.
2. The islands
From Phi Phi Island, to Coral Island to Racha Islands there are many islands to explore around Phuket, literally hundreds. You can join a group tour for a few bhat and make your way out on a longtail boat. On Phi Phi you’ll see where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed The Beach and join the throngs of tourists wanting to take a photo. On Coral Island you can relax on the white sand beach just 15 minutes from Phuket. And on the Racha Islands, 12km south of Phuket, you can make the most of the excellent diving and snorkelling day trips.
3. Delcious food
I can guarantee it’ll be hard to steer yourself away from the street food in Phuket – you can get fresh seafood, and traditional Pad Thai for less than 50 bhat. And you’ll never taste Thai food like it.
If you want to spend a bit more money and have a good meal out I can vouch for the hotel restaurants at Duangjitt Resort and Spa at Patong Beach and at the Movenpick on Karon Beach.
4. Permanent sunshine
Phuket is a land of vibrancy. The sun seems yellower than normal, the sea azure blue and the beaches, beautifully white. The weather is brilliant year round here; even the occasional rainstorm doesn’t last for long.
5. To see Promthep Cape
This is rumoured to be the most beautiful place in the world to witness a sunset. Gather there at the right time and you’ll be fighting the crowds – it’ll all be worth it though. The views over the cape are absolutely incredible.
While you’re at the viewpoint make sure to check out the lighthouse museum there that houses a few interesting historical maritime artifacts from years passed, and the elephant shrine on the way in. You’ll also find some handicraft stalls and local gift shops in the car park.
6. And Big Buddha, and the other temples
The Big Buddha can be seen from all over the south of Phuket Island. It stands 45 metres high up on the Nakkerd Hills and looks down over Chalong, Kata and Rawai. Up top you can contribute to the spiralling costs of the construction and sign a tile to be fitted to the statue, or buy a traditional Thai bell and sign it too. Walk around the base of the Buddha and you’ll hear the tinkling of the bells in the trees. It’s used as a symbol of hope throughout Phuket.
You should also check out the Wat Chalong Temple while you’re there too. And the other 28 colourful Buddhist temples on the island too.
7. To watch the Simon Cabaret
This transvestite cabaret show is an institution in Phuket. The trannies are beautiful and it’s hard to believe they weren’t born women – until you hear them speak that is.
8. And see Siam Niramit
Along with the legendary FantaSea show, the Siam Niramit production is a must see if you’re in Phuket. Allow for a few hours to experience everything the site has to offer – it’s not just the evening show. Arrive early and you can take a look round the lifesize museum of traditional Thai houses through the ages. You can also dress up in traditional Thai gear and experience the offerings of food through time too. There’s a hug buffet on offer so make sure you get your fill before the show.
The actual show features over 100 performers, OTT costumes and incredible set designs. Watch the show and you’ll learn more about the history of Thailand and the religious beliefs that have shaped it to be the way it is today. Trust me, you definitely need to see this.
9. To experience the nightlife
Get yourself down to Bangla Road and you’ll find enough nightlife to entertain you for weeks, if not months. The whole street is filled with the party atmosphere and you don’t actually need to be in a bar to suck it up. Street sellers offer the local beer Chang and the notorious ‘buckets’ on the street for consumption there and then.
Some of the most popular bars include Saxophone Pub and Restaurant – one for the jazz lovers – Molly Malone’s – of course, an Irish bar on a Thai island is a must – and the Aussie Bar – the best sports bar in town.
If it’s nightclubs you’re after check out the Banana Disco, the Famous Nightclub and the Seduction Club. All great nights out for people looking to dance the night away.
You should also stick around for a half moon party – things can get a little crazy in Phuket.
10. And have a go at the watersports
You’ll find scuba diving schools all over Phuket. A day trip out to the smaller islands is the perfect way to spend a few hours. There’s so much coastal area to explore in the Phuket region you won’t be short of new places to see and do. Colourful marine life flourishes everywhere on the islands. I wasn’t able to join in but on Patong Beach I saw lots of travellers taking advantage of the surfing and kitesurfing opportunities.