First Time Visitor Guide to Phuket, Thailand | @brittsbellavita Travel Blogger and Photographer
Phuket, Thailand is the epicenter of activities in Thailand. They have just about everything you could think of when you plan a trip to Thailand- elephant sanctuaries, buzzing nightlife, water sports, awesome night markets, oh and if New Years Eve is your favorite holiday then I recommend coming to the town of Patong to experience a once in a lifetime event!
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and resides on the West Coast amongst the Andaman Sea. It is also a great jumping off point to discover the many other small islands off the coast.
Why We Chose Patong Beach
We decided to stay near Patong Beach which is a busy beach town filled with resorts, nightlife and is the most touristy place to visit in Phuket. Although my husband tend to be more introverted and enjoy a slower paced lifestyle, we did choose Patong for a few reasons.
We Happened to Be Visiting for New Years Eve. When planning our trip to Thailand we had 4 days in the middle of our trip to decide on where to visit. Since we would be planning around New Years Eve I started to research and found that Patong Beach was known for their large beach parties, festive lantern lightings, and all around fun for this holiday. I figured this was a once in a lifetime moment and we might as well go big or go home, and I'm so happy that we did! The day after New Years Day was much quieter so it was interesting to see how many people travelled into the city for this event. Before visiting, I would recommend researching the many different holidays that Thailand celebrates to see if that is something you would want to be apart of while visiting.
Abundance of Activities and Tours. The amount of activities you can find on this island is endless and since we exhausted a lot of energy planning for our 3 week Asia trip, it was nice to have some tours set up so we could sit back and enjoy being tourists for a moment. Depending on where we visit, I spend hours researching and planning our days out, but Asia is such a foreign place to us when it comes to language and we didn't feel comfortable renting a motorcar so we felt safer booking tours.
Resort Town + Walk Everywhere. Patong Beach is filled with many resorts, restaurants and nightlife. I would describe it as a mix between Cabo San Lucas + Vegas. We found a hotel that was far enough up on the hill away from the nightly commotion of downtown but close enough to walk to everything and enjoying the swim up bar with a view of the ocean and town was a nice perk.
First Time Visitors. We were first time visitors to Thailand and we wanted to visit most places that were recommend to us from friends and other travel bloggers. We really did not know what to expect and wanted to play it safe for our first time around.
Close to Other Islands. We had already planned to visit the island of Koh Lipe and were trying to decide on where we should stay before. You can access the Phi Phi Islands, and many other beautiful Thai islands from Phuket via boat.
We stayed at The Senses Resort + Pool Villas, we booked a little later than I would have liked so our options were limited. As I mentioned, we were visiting during New Years, and most hotels in all of Thailand have a resort fee for this holiday, which can vary drastically for each hotel. They try to get you to attend their Gala Dinner or New Years Party so they will automatically charge to your bill whether you attend or not. When I researched The Senses Resort they did not have a NYE fee which saved us a few hundred dollars, plus I liked that it was up the hill from town so the music and nightlife from town was far enough away to enjoy a good nights sleep. We like to use either HOTELS.COM or AGODA.COM to book our trips.
I'm a huge sucker for swim up bars, so it was nice to enjoy the relaxing resort life and order a few cocktails in the pool. There wasn't many beach front resort options left so we chose to be walking distance to Patong Beach rather than finding a resort a taxi ride away.
We arrived the day before New Years Eve, and the DJ Beach parties go on ALL weekend, as you can see in the photo above the concert set up. Our first night in Patong, we caught sunset at the beach and its such a lively strip of town. There are tons of pop up bars and food stalls, people enjoying water activities, and generally just a good vibe!
Safety is very important as you can see ;)
Nothing better than a cheap cocktail made on the beach and enjoying the sunset on the sand.
Things to Do
They're are plenty of tours to take in Thailand and especially in Phuket. When we got to our hotel we discussed with the tour planner to get ideas of prices and options, and then looked around online on TripAdvisor to compare, our hotel did have cheaper prices so we booked direct through them since they discounted for booking multiple excursions.
Phang Nga Island Tour
We booked a full day tour in the Phang Nga region which included sightseeing to the famous James Bong Island, tour of the Ice Cream Caves, lunch on Koh Panyi a small fishing village built on stilts, beach time on a local island, and kayaking through limestone caves. It sure was a whirlwind of a day but was worth it to be able to explore so much in one day!
James Bond Island
This island became famous after the James Bond movie "The Man with the Golden Gun" filmed in 1974. The iconic rock formations and film history brings in many tourists to visit. Although a crowded location, you can wander around the island and see the many unique rock formations and natural beauty this island has to offer.
Koh Panyi is a muslim fishing village in the Phang Nga region and our tour stopped for lunch on their waterfront restaurant to enjoy a family style meal with our tour. It was such a unique experience as this entire community is built entirely on stilts. We enjoyed walking through the main alleyway and admiring all the different local shops.
How beautiful is this mosque and with the limestone background?! Jaw dropping!
Kayaking Limestone Caves
Our boat tour pulled up to these amazing limestone caves and we each got our own inflatable kayak and "tour guide." We were paddled around through limestone caves, and took in the beauty of the sea green waters.
We had so much going to the Elephant Sanctuary, these are such majestical animals up close and personal! Thai Elephants are a smaller elephant too so they are much less intimidating size wise than an African elephant! We go to prepare a meal for the elephants, feed them, and give them a bath. If you're wondering, NO we did not ride any elephants, which is something you should not participate in when visiting. This sanctuary rescued elephants from the tourism and logging industries to help provide them a better and more ethical life.
Okay so we went to the Baanzan Night Market almost every night because the food is sooooo good!! We didn't eat one bad meal in Thailand, and this night market was exactly what I was hoping to find while visiting. Everything is so affordable and my favorite was the a la carte sushi and coconut ice cream bar. If you are a true foodie, DO NOT SLEEP ON THIS MARKET! :)
All in all, the area of Patong has everything you would need for someone who looking to have the typical Thailand experience. As first time visitors to Thailand in general, you will get the most of your time visiting here, bonus if you come for New Years! With the buzzing nightlife, gorgeous beaches, endless food options, and all around good vibes you are bound to have a great time.