5 Different Things to do in Phuket

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Phuket: An Accessible Beach Escape

Back in 2013, I came to Thailand to escape the bitter cold of a Nanjing winter.

At the time, I was mostly looking for sun and good food, and I found both of those in spades over the course of two weeks split between Phuket, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, and Koh Tao.

It was a fun trip, but it was a terribly touristy one as well. I went to James Bond Island and fought the crowds for a chance to snap the iconic monolith, got sunburned snorkeling on Koh Phi Phi, drank my weight in fruit shakes, and even got food poisoning eating dodgy Mexican.

James Bond Island as seen from behind. Much less crowded.
James Bond Island as seen from behind. Much less crowded.

A year or so after the trip, I wrote about 5 Things to do in Phuket (aside from getting drunk), but I was never really happy with the list.

While I didn’t get falling down drunk on that 2013 trip, I also didn’t really get off the beaten track either. All I needed to complete my stereotypical Aussie in Phuket story was to buy a suit, get a happy ending, and see some poor girl fire ping pong balls out of her nether regions.

So, whether you’re flying straight from home or taking the bus from Bangkok to Phuket, here are five ways to get off the beaten path in Phuket.

5 Different Things to do in Phuket

On this trip, I once again found myself in southern Thailand’s den of inequity and debauchery, but I was determined to see more of Phuket than just its beaches, night clubs, and more obvious tourist attractions.

There’s more to the island that Aussie bars, happy ending massage parlours, cheap tailors, and crowded beaches.=, and while I didn’t manage to check off all six of the below, all six would be on my list of different things to do on Phuket.

#5 – Explore a Different Beach

Depending on where in Phuket you’re staying, chances are you won’t venture much farther than the Patong, Karon, or Kata beaches.

While I’ll admit that Karon and Kata both have their charms (while Patong is a lifeless stretch of sand and tepid bathwater), Phuket is an island and that means there are considerably more than three beaches on the island.

A rare quiet moment on Karon Beach.
A rare quiet moment on Karon Beach.

Thankfully for you, the bulk of tourists tend to congregate on these three beaches, so why not rent a scooter or hire a tuk tuk and head to Freedom Beach, Kata Noi, or Nai Harn?

It’s perhaps no surprise that only Kata Beach rates a mention on Into Phuket’s Top 10 Phuket Beaches.

#4 – Embrace Buddhism with Visits to Wat Chalong and Big Buddha

It’s easy to get lost in the crowded streets of Phuket with their restaurants, souvenir shops, bars, massage parlours, and 7-11’s and forget that you’re in Thailand.

Oh, you’ll hear people speaking Thai and still spot the distinct cultural quirks that make Thailand such a fascinating country, but you might as well be in any crowded city in the world.

big buddha phuket
Photo by Marco Streggato

While you’re not going to escape the tourist crowds with a visit to Wat Chalong or the island’s famous Big Buddha, you’re still going to find a measure of serenity that you can’t when an Indian guy with a thick Aussie accent is telling you how good you’ll look in a suit.

wat chalong
Brightly coloured Wat Chalong is Phuket’s most well known temple. Photo by Lee Phelps Photography.

Wat Chalong is even said to contain a splinter of Buddha’s bone, which makes it the most significant of Phuket’s 29 Wats (temples).

#3 – Take a Phuket Heritage Walk or Cultural Tour

Promoting responsible cultural tourism, locally owned Phuket Heritage Trails aims to introduce visitors to Phuket to something beyond the crowded streets through two different guided walking tours.

Their day long Meet the Locals tour features visits to the island’s oldest Sino-Portuguese mansion, delicious food, temple visits, and the chance to visit a traditional fishing village; while their half day Heritage Trails tour takes you through the heart of Phuket Town to see how the locals live.

The Phuket Heritage Trails site also advertises two upcoming tours that are sure to be every bit as culturally immersive.

Editor’s Note: I really, really wanted to fit one of these tours into my recent visit, but the next activity wore me out on the eve of my only free day. Next time!

#2 – Take a Cycling Tour of Koh Yao Noi with Amazing Bike Tours

Amazing Bike Tours offers a number of guided cycling tours around Phuket, including a number of overnight tours and a day long, 50km trek that takes you to some of the island’s less known corners.

In my case, I opted to tackle the 30km tour of Kho Yao Noi, a nearby island where tourism has yet to have the impact it has in Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. Indeed, while the island is home to hostels and cafes, there are still locals living without electricity amid their rice paddies and rubber tree plantations.

It was about 5km into the 30km exploration of Koh Yao Noi that I began to fear I'd bitten off more than I could chew.
It was about 5km into the 30km exploration of Koh Yao Noi that I began to fear I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

Over the course of one blisteringly hot afternoon, our small group whizzed through these rice paddies and rubber tree plantations, stopping along the way for local Thai snacks, a delicious seaside Thai feast, and a pair of arduous uphill climbs that I’m not ashamed to say I made on foot.

Away from the usual tourist crowd, it’s possible to really appreciate not only Thailand’s natural beauty, but the simple beauty of life before tourism brought in the big bucks.

Sleepy fishing towns built on stilts, quaint shacks with gap-toothed owners, and oblivious water buffalo all combine to transport you back to a simpler time when crowds of Aussie bogans weren’t messing things up.

#1 – Explore Phang Nga Bay’s Secrets with Phuket Sail Tours

No visit to Phuket is complete without spending a day or more out in the breath-taking karst formations of Phang Nga Bay, and there’s certainly no shortage of local tour operators who are only too happy to cram you onto a boat and ferry you between the more famous tourist attractions such as James Bond Island and Monkey Island.

Phuket Sail Tours eschew all of that. They avoid the crowded islands, they cap the number of people on their spacious boat, and they instead take you out to see things that other tour companies can’t or won’t.

My day long exploration of Phangnga Bay’s ‘secrets’ was without question my favourite experience in Thailand so far. I canoed through serene mangrove forests, swam in isolated coves, sunbathed on quiet beaches, indulged in one of the best Thai feeds I’ve ever had, and did so while making friends with the other 15 people on my tour.

How's the serenity? A stretch of unspoiled mangrove forest all to myself!
How’s the serenity? A stretch of unspoiled mangrove forest all to myself!

The smaller numbers and quieter route make for a totally different side to the often over-crowded bay, and you get a better feel for its natural beauty when you’re not being jostled by Chinese tourists or selfie-stick wielding Russian super models with their bulked up boyfriends.

It was a far more intimate exploration of one of Thailand’s most beautiful spots.

And did I mention the food with a view?
And did I mention the food with a view?

Your Say

Have you got a favourite off-the-beaten-path activity when in Phuket?

What little known secret do you wish more visitors to your city or country knew about?

More Different Things

Looking for more different ways to experience a famous city or country?

DISCLAIMER: I was invited by Amazing Bike Tours and Phuket Sail Tours to come along as their guest, but all opinions are my own.

Looking for more different things to do in Phuket? Check out Top 25 Things to do in Phuket by Crazy Tourist!

If you’re looking for the best hotel in Phuket, Karolina & Patryk have you covered too.

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2 comments

  1. Ahoy there, Chris. It was great to have you aboard. I am really pleased that you enjoyed your day on our Secrets Tour so much. Lovely photos and a great write up. Thank you for joining us.

    I hope we see you aboard again some time,
    Mark.
    Phuket Sail Tours.

    • G’day Mark,

      Thank you very much for the invitation. I do still have a second post specifically about the day in the works, so I’ll be in touch when that goes live 🙂

      All the best and thanks again!

      Chris

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