Phuket: A Quick Guide to Asia's Premier Vacation Island

Photo by Anirut R. from Pexels

Phuket, formerly a backpacker utopia with brilliant beaches and affordable cuisine, has long been a stop on Asia's tourism circuit. Today, its numerous high-end villas and luxury hotels are luring new visitors looking for good dining, fantastic drinks, and new experiences. Here's a glance at what's new for Phuket tourists.

EAT

HOME Kitchen, Bar & Bed, located just north of Patong in a hangar-sized facility skillfully refurbished by the current owners, the Underwood family, into an intimate restaurant with waterfront views, soothing lighting, comfy sofas, and unusual home fixtures, is an eccentric addition to Phuket's restaurant scene. HOME serves foreign food such as Wagyu steaks, chocolate lava cake, and specialty drinks in addition to serving as an art center with an upstairs gallery highlighting local artists. On Tuesday evenings, eat at the chef's table with a set meal for less than 1,000 baht. If you like their décor, go to the Underwood's design studio, which is near IKEA in the island's center.

Couples looking for a more romantic evening might visit Benny's American Bar & Grill, which is situated on a quiet road between Surin and Bangtao, near the magnificent Amanpuri resort. Longtime Phuket resident Benedikt De Bellis, an Italian who earned his stripes among Phuket expatriates by managing established classics like Catch Beach Club and Siam Supper Club, built this hotspot offering superb cocktails, ribs, and other casual meals.

Need something lighter to eat after a night on the town? Atsumi Raw Cafe in Rawai has become well-known among vegetarians for meals such as Cauliflower Mint Cous Cous, Indonesian Gado Gado Wrap, and Thai Coconut Wrapped Dumplings, as well as an incredible assortment of juices and smoothies that cleanse, revitalise, and enhance immunity.

DRINK

Twinpalms just reopened Catch on Bangtao beach, which pleased Phuket's party animals. The original site of Phuket's first beach club, which brought luxury to late-night eating and drinking, was closed last year as part of a government clean-up that closed all enterprises on Surin beach. Don't worry, the new site is exactly as amazing as the old one, combining superb service, cuisine, and music into the early hours of the morning at a lovely oceanfront setting.

The Chalong Bay Rum Distillery, which makes unique handmade rum utilizing sustainable production that connects the classic French technique of distilling with Thailand's rich sugarcane legacy, would appeal to aspiring mixologists. Chalong Bay's creative artistry has developed an award-winning white rum of remarkable flavour utilizing 100% natural Thai sugarcane employing a classic copper still imported from France and a centuries-old distillation technique. Some are flavored with Thai ingredients such as kaffir lime, lemongrass, cinnamon, and Thai sweet basil. Small tours are available throughout the day, or you can just try their rum in inexpensive drinks or delectable handcrafted rum raisin ice cream in their breezy outside bar.

DO

The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, which borders the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, is a pioneer in ethical elephant tourism by providing a home for ill, wounded, and elderly elephants that have spent their lives working in the forestry and tourist sectors. You may feed, stroll with, and watch these magnificent beasts as they wander freely, socialize, and wash naturally in fresh water lagoons - a terrific way to engage children while simultaneously teaching them about ethical tourism and animal abuse concerns. The refuge, which has been open for less than a year, has already entertained superstars such as Coldplay, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Britney Spears. After that, go five kilometers up the road to The Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, which rescues native gibbons that have been confined as pets or sold to touts who display them around tourist locations.
Do you need some self-care? Former Aman Resort spa director Benjamin Carter has opened Health & Wellbeing Asia in Phuket, providing personalized lifestyle programs that include spa treatments, individualized workout courses, nutrition, naturopathic medicine, and advanced specialized massage. He collaborates with chefs at prominent hotels such as Trisara, Amanpuri, and J.W. Marriott to produce nutritious meals and detox drinks that are brought to your home. Prices begin at $1,000 USD per day.

If that seems too ambitious, Phuket now has a variety of yoga studios, such as Yoga Republic in Bangtao, which offers packages ranging from 260 to 460 baht each session, depending on the length of your stay.

STAY

The Nai Harn, one of Phuket's most luxurious hotels, reopened last year after an 18-month refurbishment. The resort initially opened in 1986 as a Mandarin Oriental, then as a Le Royal Méridien, and ultimately as the Royal Phuket Yacht Club. The Nai Harn establishes a new standard for luxury, as shown by its acceptance as a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. All rooms and suites have own balconies with views of the beautiful Nai Harn beach and sea.

Keemala, a five-star eco-friendly resort tucked in the highlands below Kamala beach, is another newcomer worth trying if you prefer solitude over sea views. Keemala emphasizes Thai culture, philosophy, and materials, all of which are beautifully brought to life via unique design and tailored experiences, as opposed to the impersonal character of big hotel chains. The pool villas at Keemala are designed with recycled and sustainable materials, for example, the restaurant's supplies are acquired from the hotel's organic garden, and the hotel and spa have a strict no-plastics policy. Rescued buffalos graze around the property, providing clever landscaping aid.

SHOP

Jim Thompson, a world-famous Thai silk brand, sells beautiful bags at outlets all across the island, including two in the Laguna Phuket resort complex's Canal Village. The Plaza, Allan Zeman's modest mall in Surin, has a few high-end retailers and art galleries worth visiting. Antique and art gallery hopping throughout the island is very enjoyable, with odd findings and uncovering abstract and popular artworks. During high afternoon hours, mass market retail malls such as Jungceylon and Central draw large crowds.

Boat Avenue Street Mall, an expensive outdoor mall near the Laguna Gate, is a newcomer to Phuket's retail scene. Zen Sisters, Dalaya, La Lita, and Marie France Van Damme are some of the boutiques that feature local and international designers that sell evening dresses, Italian shoes, jewelry, and bikinis.

The mall also features numerous high-end home décor businesses, including Quattro Design's flagship store, which is 900 square meters in size, as well as shops offering food and wine, spa services, and small cafés and food trucks. The Cut, Phuket's newest grillhouse with its own pool to keep the kids amused while parents enjoy superb steaks and drinks, anchors the mall at the lake end.
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