“Play in the sun rays and party under the neon lights,” has become one of many descriptions along those lines which seek to encapsulate the attitude of Phuket’s most boisterous resort town, Patong. On the one side, this touristy locale boasts a three kilometer stretch of uninterrupted white beach, where the lazy waves of the baby blue Andaman Sea drop its cool and call it a day. On the other side, Patong claims a rambunctious nightlife scene; whence the valorous partiers of this world drop in and celebrate until the dawn of a new day. Be that as it may, sunbathing for a tan and chugging cocktails aren’t the only activities to be done or found in this favoured Mecca, for there are indeed, several other attractions worth considering when you deplane into this “Oriental Las Vegas”.
For a change of shore landscape, one less populated with immodest loungers, wondering vacationers, and loud vendors, catch a long-tail boat ride and sail over to Freedom Beach; a modest strip of sand that embraces a shallow marine, housing a kaleidoscopic array of sea vegetables, ideal for short diving excursions and feet wetting. Moreover, the hilly backdrop of the bay, blanketed with lush and dense tropical vegetation, buffers out the hullabaloo from Patong, making it a truly peaceful and tranquil spot; a retreat within a retreat so to speak. Another relatively secluded beach to visit is Paradise Beach. As pretty as a lagoon, the crescent beach is quite small, but that is of little consequence, for every nook and cranny of this opaline alcove is heavily bedecked with Venus’s accoutrements. To crown all, unlike other turfs in the provincial island of Phuket, the turfs of Paradise are not claimed by any stingy resort.
If swimming in salt water and getting gulps of it in your mouth – accidentally that is – is tiring you, know that fresh water can also be found and floated in near Patong. Thanks to seasonal tropical rainfall, Kathu Waterfall is perennially bubbling with life. There are other cascades as well, to be sure, but this favourite fall is by far the easiest to get to. Kathu is not one fall however, it should be noted, lest you were expecting Niagara Falls, but rather, it is a snake of a few drop-pools placed in rising succession, each tier accessible by stairs that ascend quite far up.
For the eco-adventurous sort, that is, the type that likes to explore the jungle like a Tarzan, then the Flying Hanuman attraction is a faux-gliding and mock-bush-bashing experience not to be missed. Strapped onto a secure harness, you are whizzed via the interconnected cables through the thick rainforest behind Patong’s concrete jungle, pausing now and again, on one of the many platforms dotted around the evergreen wilderness. On top of that, sky-bridges are to be crossed and abseiling down ancient trunks are also part of the course.
During the sultry peak at noon, an air-conditioned bazaar might be what is needed to appease the overloaded senses. Head over to Jungceylon, a themed shopping center centrally located in downtown. The two main complexes within the impressive compound are the glistening department store Robinson, and the mammoth supermarket Big C; the former to stock up on swimwear and sunscreen, whilst the latter for snacks and cold drinks. Another two hundred or so smaller boutique fill up the rest of the titanic space; from affordable clothes, accessories, cosmetics, to electrical goods, banks, and book shops. There’s also a cinema and bowling alley to rely on for those days when the inclemency dampens outdoor festivities.
For a truly productive afternoon, one laden with educational merit, make a visit to the Phuket Mining Museum. The architecture of this pink museum evokes comparison to the ostentatious Don CeSar Hotel in Florida; albeit, a more modest version of the latter perhaps. The curators of this institution have put a lot of thought, effort, and research into the exhibitions; in order to represent the inception and the following development of Phuket, from Siam’s mining settlement to Thailand’s sensual outpost, as accurately as possible. The tin mining era is captured in exquisite detail by dint of the multiple scaled models on display, many with figurines frozen in action. There are also a slew of life-size models, recreated scenes that depict the everyday family life of the people living in the mining circa, and the later bourgeoning years. Who knew getting a sneak-peak into someone’s kitchen could prove so scholastic.
Sea food, it should go without saying, is a main staple here in Patong. It is especially more pronounced at Kalim Beach, a short drive away from the town’s bustling center. Kalim has become a favourite amongst native and visiting foodies, as it is home to a spectrum of dining options; to suit all wallet size and gastronomy level. For those that like it cheap but good, there is a famous street food market that is habitually paraded by ravenous gourmands: noodle soups, stir-fries, roti, traditional ice-creams, and a score of other consumables can be sampled and indulged along this avenue without the monetary guilt typical with haute cuisine. But for the more well endowed, Kalim is renowned for its chichi eateries that boasts great views of the Andaman Sea and banquets fit for royalty: the much lauded Italian restaurant, Acqua, serves up several oceanic delicacies executed with culinary perfection; White Box, a fashionable restaurant frequented by the well-to-do set, serves up a stunning infusion of Mediterranean Asean dishes – think grilled red tuna with wasabi dressing; and Lim’s, a grande dame of Kalim restaurants, doles out modern Thai cookery with a touch of majesty. Of course, other recommended places for enjoyable meals lie in abundance in and around Patong; not a fan of bar-crawls, why not play food-hopscotch instead.
To have the best access to all of the aforementioned destinations, make sure you book into a hotel or resort that is conveniently located at the heart of the town, such as Grand Mercure Phuket Patong, so that jumping into the beach in the morning, eating grilled Sea Bass for lunch, floating in a natural pool in the afternoon, and dining in style in the evening, is a day plan that can be performed with that easy-breezy approach, which typifies the local Patongian style.