Phuket: The Pearl of the Andaman

By Tina Hsiao

Phuket is Thailand's largest island and the kingdom's premier beach destination, attracting some 4.2 million passenger arrivals in 2011. With April being the last month of high season, before the start of the six-month monsoon, now is the perfect month to visit, especially to experience Thai New Year (aka. Songkran).

The three-day celebration starts on 13 April and is known globally as a nationwide water fight, coupled with merit-making at the country's many temples. A boisterous affair, Songkran is celebrated by locals and visitors alike on Phuket and the nightlife in central Patong Beach is ground zero for the festivities. This year's festival will include traditional ceremonies, such as pouring water over Buddha images at the Mongkol Nimit Temple on Dibuk Road to bring prosperity for the New Year, as well as street parties in and around Phuket’s Old Town.


Amanresorts may have set the trend for luxe living onPhuket with the opening of its flagship Amanpuri in 1987, but since a slew of high-end properties has sprung up to cater to the ever fragmented five-star hotel sector.
At Indigo Pearl, architect Bill Bensley and locally renowned artist John Underwood took their design cues from the island's century-old tin mining heritage, resulting in an industrial glam masterpiece that features exposed wooden beams made of railway sleepers, polished concrete surfaces, wrought iron chandeliers decorated with recycled stained glass and punkah ceiling fans

The most convenient option is the Angsana Laguna Phuket, and the hotel's prime location means guests can hop on inter-resort shuttle boats and buses to enjoy some 30 restaurants and bars within the grounds, as well as fitness centres, squash and tennis courts, spas, retail outlets, a golf course and even a wedding chapel. This month will see the opening of the XANA Beach Club at Angsana, where sunseekers can sample fusion Thai-Mediterranean delights while lounging around by the water's edge.

To escape the crowds, The Naka Island is a tranquil tropical hideaway, located just five minutes off the coast of Phuket via private speedboat. As the only resort on the 2.56  square kilometre island, the Starwood property features 67 villas, each with private pools, open-air bathrooms, and salas (open air pavilions). There are three restaurants and a world class spa on-site.

Indigo Pearl. Tel: +66 (0) 7632 7006
Angsana Laguna Phuket. Tel: +66 (0) 7632 4101
The Naka Island. Tel: +66 (0) 7637 1400


Visitors looking to indulge in holistic healing sessions can head to the Six Senses Spa at Evason Phuket, where for the entire month of April it is celebrating the Thai New Year with a three-hour Songkran Package priced at THB 6,000 (RMB 1,236) net per guest. Alternatively, the Banyan Tree Phuket Spa offers a wide range of treatments, such as the signature Royal Banyan package, a three-hour treatment with Thai acupressure massage and herbal pouch techniques borrowed from those traditionally practiced in Royal Thai palaces.

For marine adventures, Kata Beach provides decent snorkelling opportunities off the beach, but for the most inspiring ways to experience the marine and underwater scenery, visitors have to go offshore. Siam Dive 'n' Sail offers diving trips to the dive mecca of the Similan Islands, while to appreciate the scenery above water, guided trips to nearby islands is what John Gray Sea Canoe does best.

Private charter yachting is increasingly popular on Phuket and the island is home to four world class marinas, two of which cater to superyachts. Day or overnight cruises can be arranged through professional charter companies to explore the neighbouring islands, including Phang Nga Bay, Krabi, and Koh Phi Phi, the latter famed as the set location for The Beach. Most operators offer fixed itineraries, but companies such as Thai Luxury Charters provide a choice of destinations within milage limitations zones that include all the popular sites, but also come with the added advantage of providing the option of going ashore at will to enjoy a deserted beach.

Six Senses Spa at Evason Phuket. Tel: +66 (0) 7638 1010
Banyan Tree Phuket Spa. Tel: +66 (0) 7632 4374
Siam Dive n' Sail. Tel: +66 (0) 7633 0967
John Gray Sea Canoe. Tel: +66 (0) 7625 4505
Thai Luxury Charters. Tel: +66 (0) 7635 0193


Fresh seafood is one of the most popular choices on Phuket, made evident by the rows of unpretentious seaside eateries that line Rawai and Chalong Bays. Kan Eang @ Pier has beenserving up succulent seafood since 1973 with fish, lobster, prawns,and crab, delivered live by local fisherman to the restaurant every morning. The restaurant uses coconut husks (as opposed to charcoal) to grill the fresh catches, which not only give them a distinctive aroma, but with its slow burning qualities also allows for the seafood to cook evenly all the way through.

Blue Elephant is synonymous with the authentic Thai culinary experience. Housed in the former governor's residence, Blue Elephant plates up elegantly prepared dishes, some recipes generations-old, others modern variations of the golden oldies. For Thai food enthusiasts who wish to bring a bit of Thailand back with them, Blue Elephant also offers twice-daily cooking classes.

As a testament to the quality of Italian fare at Acqua in north Patong, California Fitness founder Eric Levine and his bride handpicked Chef Alessandro Frau and his team to cater their star-studded wedding. The multi-award winning restaurant features an extensive cellar with 300 wine labels to complement the traditional, regional and modern interpretations of Italian food.

Kan Eang @ Pier. Tel: +66 (0) 7638 1212
Blue Elephant Phuket. Tel: +66 (0) 7635 4355
Acqua. Tel: +66 (0) 7661 8127



  • If you're planning to find your own way to the hotel from the airport, get a taxi at the official desk inside the airport. There are plenty of non-licensed "taxis".
  • The best way to see the island is by car, and rentals are easily arranged through the hotel concierge desk or via reputable rental firms such as Budget, Avis, Hertz, or Thai Rent a Car for approximately THB 1,200 (RMB 247) per day.
  • Motorcycle rentals are not recommended due to the high accident rates on the island.

As with the rest of Thailand, Phuket is a relatively safe place and only as dangerous as your lack of common sense.

Syndicate content