A well-known vacation spot for Europeans, Phuket is unfamiliar territory for Americans. And to this NorCal-bred girl it’s an island paradise . . . if you know where to stay.
The island is accessible via car through a bridge, though the easiest route to Phuket from Bangkok is through Don Muang airport (DMK). DMK is Bangkok’s old international airport and is comparable to San Diego’s airport in that it’s small and caters to mostly domestic flights. Flight time from DMK to Phuket is 1.5 hours at a cost of around $30USD (each way), with an option of going through several different carriers including Air Asia and Orient Thai.
Phuket airport is a bit of a drive from where most tourists stay, but many major hotels offer airport pickup. Thais that live on the island often speak a good bit of English as opposed to their counterparts in Bangkok. This makes taking a taxi easier. Phuket’s most popular beaches are all located on the west side of the island, with Patong Beach being the most popular.
To a traveller interested in culture, Patong is a desolate place. It has completely succumb to tourism and is comprised of seedy bars,nightclubs and other less-than-reputable establishments looking to lure young Australians, Russians, and Germans in search of cheap thrills. In a nutshell, Patong is a place for young people looking for a good time in an exotic country, on a beautiful beach. It is not a place to bring children (especially at night) and I don’t recommend staying here if you are in Phuket for sightseeing.
Nature lovers can try riding an Elaphant into the island’s tropical jungle or exploring the many islands scattered around Phuket. Many of these islands have their own mini-ecosystem with different plants and animals. Many of these islands offer the option to camp out (tents provided) for a small fee, providing you ample time to hike around. There are many commercial boat tours available and the guides tend to speak fluent English. Private boat hire on an authentic Thai longboat is also possible, though it will cost you a bit more.Phuket is what you make of it. I encourage people to not shy away from it because of its tourist-y repuation. Though well deserved, if you know where to look Phuket can turn into so much more.