Leisure and entertainment are two facets of Phuket’s characters, with dining and nightlife the other side to the island’s charm. Thailand is justifiably famous for both and Phuket has arguably the best selection of world-famous Thai food complimented by the finest international cuisine on offer in Southeast Asia. And the easy-going party mood of Thais makes Phuket a fun place to be by night.
Wining and dining on Phuket
Phuket’s sophisticated tourist infrastructure means there are plenty of first class restaurants to sample during your stay, with a good selection of international cuisine in each of the popular areas. Some enjoy prime beachfront locations, some are tourist traps and some are hidden gems. See our guide to the best Phuket restaurants.
Hotel restaurants tend to be overpriced so it’s worth exploring the plentiful choice outside, ranging from charmingly humble local places that cook up some of the best pad thai or massaman curry in all of southern Thailand, to some upmarket bistros featuring foreign chefs. In fact, outside of Bangkok, Phuket has the largest selection of silver service restaurants, and most visitors can afford this luxury at least once during their stay in Thailand.
On the whole, eating is fantastic value in Thailand, with a typical restaurant in Phuket charging around 150 to 400 baht for a dish, depending on whether it’s Thai or foreign food. Obviously the more touristy the location, the more inflated the prices, although prompt service isn’t guaranteed in locally managed places. Look out for the blue and green ‘Good Taste Clean Food’ health inspection signs if you have any doubt about hygiene. To get your taste buds watering, visit our section on Thai food.
Phuket bar and nightlife scene
Life is all about enjoyment, or helping others enjoy themselves. With its holiday atmosphere, Phuket offers plenty of excuses to get out and have some fun, and lots of places to go. Thai people love having fun (sanuk), and in tourist spots in Phuket you’ll find a bar to suit almost everyone. Watering holes are well stocked with good local drinks as well as imported beers and usually have a cocktail menu. See our guide to recommended bars in Phuket.
Patong is party central, and here you’ll find the most lively nightlife and busiest selection of bars and discos. Karon, Kamala and Kata each have their own smaller but equally enjoyable scenes, ranging from smart sports pubs, to venues offering surprisingly good live music and, of course, the ubiquitous girlie bars that are found wherever there are tourists. These are an attraction in themselves and are pretty harmless even if you disapprove of the dirty old men they seem to attract.
These girlie bars have been restricted to certain areas, the most obvious of them is Bangla Road in Patong, which is crowded with local ladies looking for evening company. There’s literally dozen’s of girlie bars to choose from but one of our favourites is Dingo’s, run by a pair of Aussies.
It’s perfectly safe to stroll along for some ‘people watching’ and although a bit chaotic, it’s not really that sleazy. Of course, you can ignore all this and seek out discos such as Banana Club, Dclub and Crocodile Bar, which are full of partying vacationers.
In other areas like Karon or Kata, you don’t have to walk far to find a lively place with people to chat with over a beer or cheap cocktail. If you really want to get into a local habit, try visiting one of the karaoke bars in Phuket Town where you can get a pretty hostess to do the singing for you; it’s a quintessential Asian experience! See our nightlife recommendations in Phuket.
Like so many other urban centres in Thailand, there is a thriving gay scene and Phuket is particularly noted as a relaxing and enjoyable destination for homosexual travellers.
You may have chosen Thailand for its tolerance and support of gay freedoms, and indeed you’ll find plenty of fun, funky and friendly venues in Patong’s Paradise complex, as well as a few others elsewhere.
Usually gay bars are clustered together and attract a large crowd of cute local boys who are easy to befriend with their famous soft Thai nature. As with the straight bar scene in Phuket, you get your cultured places and you get venues that are sheer pick up joints, just like the girlie bars. There is also a Gay Pride Festival in February. More on gay Phuket.
Recommended Phuket restaurants and bars
TOTO Italian Restaurant
Offering the best wood-fired pizzas in all of Phuket plus traditional Italian dishes and Mediterranean tapas, this is an extremely popular restaurant with expats and tourists. 24-30 Laguna Resort Entrance, Lagoon Road, Cherngtalay, Thalang, tel: (076) 271 430.
Caters to a largely Australian crowd and is a great place to catch sporting events – rugby and Aussie Rules football especially. Open: 09:30-02:30; Bangla Road.
The Soho Bar
An ideally located pub at Karon Beach, great atmosphere, decent crowd, big screen TV with world sport, wifi, great drinks prices, and usually lively. Run by a friendly bunch and popular with locals.