1. Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is one of the most amazing places I had to chance to explore. I’ve been there countless times, by boat, car, on a bike, luxury yacht, longtail, kayak and even on a Chinese Junk and each time was a new experience… sunshine, cloudy or rain: Phang Nga wore a different dress for each occasion.
The fanciest way we explored Phang Nga was on a luxury cruise. It really added a surreal touch to to the day, drinking chilled white wine on the front deck and admiring the majestic cliffs rising high above our heads. Even better was the slow kayak exploration with the now famous John Gray Seacanoe, described at length on the Hong by Starlight page. Kayak silently gliding in narrow passages with just the sounds of birds, the cicadas and the gentle flic floc of the paddlers takes you into a magical landscape out of this world.
2. Old Phuket Town
Thalang road, the historical heart of Old Phuket Town, has saved most of its old Sino Portuguese houses and is now the best known street in town. Many shophouses and mansions got refurbished, repainted or entirely rebuilt. Travelers find Thalang road and Soi Romanee real nice, but you’ll find many little gems hidden here and there in the streets around.
3. Promthep Cape
Promthep Cape at the southernmost point of Phuket island seems to be an absolutely irresistible spot for a good old-fashioned sunset photo. This landmark has always been the meeting point for a good hundred tourists, mostly Thai, to line up on the west facing coastline with cameras ready. Huge colorful buses download a horde of daily tourists hungry for a picture and the place starts buzzing with flash all directions. It’s actually funny to see how many people take sunset photos with a flash!
4. Kata Viewpoint
Kata Viewpoint is a strange place: last time I took a photo of it, it was called ‘Kata Viewpoint’ and now they call it ‘Karon Viewpoint’! If you know just a bit of Phuket geography, you’ll realize how odd it is to rename it this way when in fact, it is far away from Karon Beach, and way past Kata Beach. Probably has to do with the Karon district or someone had too much time on his hands.
5. Big Buddha
Phuket Big Buddha, a 45 meter tall white marble statue, is visible from anywhere in the southern part of Phuket. It might not be my favourite attraction on the island, but the views from up there are definitely breathtaking. When reaching the top of the hill you will find a large parking and a road leading to a construction where people can donate, buy amulets and where occasional ceremonies are held. This place also serves as a museum narrating the history of the Big Buddha. You’ll have to walk through this building to access the stairs climbing to the Big Buddha.
6. Wat Chalong Temple
Wat Chalong, or Chalong Temple, built at the beginning on 19th century, is the largest and most visited Buddhist temple in Phuket. Its real name is Wat Chaitararam, but you probably won’t hear it or see it on any road signs. It’s not my favourite temple to photograph, but it is almost a must to visit.
The most recent building on the grounds of Wat Chalong is a 60 meters tall ‘Chedi’ sheltering a splinter of bone from Buddha. Walls and ceilings are decorated with beautiful painting illustrating the life of Buddha, as well as many donated golden statues.
7. Soi Bangla
Soi Bangla or Bangla Road is the heart of all Phuket Nightlife, and the battle for night supremacy is raging between Soi Seadragon and the new Tiger complex. Over the years, the center of interest has been moving up and down Bangla road depending on seasons and popularity but the ever changing face of Patong nightlife is definitely worth a look. Of course, wherever you go in Bangla, friendly girls will call you with a big smile and encourage you to have a drink and play few silly bar games, everyone is welcome.
8. The Phuket Fantasea Show
The Phuket Fantasea park is huge, colorful, bold and definitely crowded… More than 10 years after opening in Kamala Beach, Phuket Fantasea is still going strong, a giant melting pot of tourists of all nationalities, with one thing in common, they all came to see a dazzling stage performance narrating the Thai legend of Kamala, including a dozen of adult massive elephants.
9. Simon Cabaret
Simon Cabaret in Phuket has been a successful international attraction for two decades and there is no need to tell you what makes Simon Cabaret famous; It’s not the stage design or the feathers or shiny costumes, it’s not the performance, which by the way is good. No, it is all about the ladyboys phenomenon, and Phuket Simon Cabaret certainly can afford the prettiest ones. So yes, you should add it to your list of things to do while in Phuket. It’s definitely worth it.
10. Khao Rang Hill
Take a short break in your exploration day to get a glimpse of what Phuket Town looks like from the top of Khao Rang Hill (You’ll see it spelled Kao Rang as well). Khao Rang used to be a fitness park, but obviously has lost its popularity. All year round, people climb up there to admire bird views of the southern part of the island: Chalong, Panwa and even the Big Buddha sitting on top of its own hill. The best time to go to Khao Rang is for a shady lunch or a romantic dinner as three nice restaurants are built on the hill side, all offering a different angle.