Ah Phuket.. pronounced Poo-ket and not foo-ket FYI, some have to learn the hard way! One of the gateways to Thailands island hopping, making it easy to hop on a ferry to your next idyllic destination. I had visited Phuket when I was 17 and stayed in a resort in Laguna but I couldn’t really remember if I liked the island or whether it was just the 5 star resort giving me a rose tinted aspect. For ease we had two nights planned to explore Phuket then get a ferry onto Koh Phi Phi.
As Thailand’s biggest island, a bit of research was needed to figure out which part to stay in; The largest pier is Rassada Pier where most of the ferry’s depart to other islands, which is located around 10 minutes drive from Phuket town, however this is not within walking distance to a beach so originally Phuket town wasn’t on our agenda to stay. For beach areas we were recommended the west coast of the island in either Patong, Karon or Kata beach so we booked Karon beach as this seemed to be in the middle of Patong and Kata.
This is a brutally honest opinion and just because the area wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t suit someone else. I personally didn’t enjoy staying in Karon; The beach wasn’t great and like most travellers we were hoping for an idyllic white sandy beach however it was far from that, the restaurants/main street felt extremely touristy with hardly any authentic street food vendors like we hoped, lots of litter and felt very much like a mediocre holiday resort with a touch of sleaze – not my kinda thing!
We had planned two nights in Karon but quickly changed our mind and decided to swiftly move on after one night.
How can I describe Patong… it was like Blackpool in Thailand, pretty tacky with a lot of sleaze. Apparently the nightlife is good and it’s the best place to head out for a wild night in Phuket but we avoided after driving through it and realising it wasn’t our style.
Having only driven through Kata on face value, it looked far more up our street than Karon or Patong; less touristy, less sleaze, more character and the beach looked a lot nicer. In hindsight I would of preferred to stay here rather than Karon for sure.
Onto the positive! We headed towards Phuket town after a tour around the island which took us to Kata view point, Rawai Beach, Gems International Jewellery factory, the Big Buddha and Wat Chai Thararam Temple which was interesting to explore other parts of the island after the lack of culture in Karon! As soon as we arrived at the picturesque streets of old town, we were greeted with the cutest Sino-Portuguese architecture and knew we made the right decision spending a night here rather than Karon. It felt full of character, not too touristy and with enough going on that we could fill our time exploring the market stalls, coffee shops, restaurants and bars.
We didn’t pre-book a place to stay in Old Town so below are a few we walked past or tried to get a room in that I would recommend to stay in, all of which are right in the centre. Based on a travellers budget and as a couple, I’ve broken it down to Splurges, Mid-range and Savers to suit every travellers budget.
Splurge – Hotels
- On On hotel – 2000BHT per night (around £47) for a double room
- Casa Bianca – hotel – 1900BHT for a double room (around £45) for a double room
Mid-range – Guesthouses
- Number 99 Guesthouse – 800BHT per night (around £19) for a double room with a balcony. This is where we stayed and it was a lovely room with a balcony looking right out onto the street. The walls and floors are very thin so expect some noise however this is one of the best rooms we stayed in for the price.
- Romanee boutique guesthouse – 1100BHT per night (around £26) for a double room
Savers – Hostels
- Feel good hostel – 300BHT per person per night (around £6 so £12 for a couple) for a 4 bed dorm room.
- Fulfill Phuket Hostel – 450BHT per person per night (around £9 so £18 for a couple) for a 4 bed dorm room.
There are loads of quirky little cafes, ice cream parlours and a few street food stalls in addition to an array of inviting restaurants down the streets of old town, there were so many to choose from! Here are a few recommendations that tickled my pickle:
After being recommend this restaurant, we had a look at the menu and admittedly it was slightly more expensive than other local restaurants so from a traveller perspective this was a splurge. The cocktails worked out to be around £7 so pretty on par to U.K. prices, the food was reasonably priced and the service was amazing. There was a live acoustic artist playing guitar which added to the atmosphere and our food was outstanding, we went overboard on food and ordered Massaman Curry, Wintermelon Chicken Coconut Curry, Shrimp Coconut Soup and Pad Thai. The total bill including my fancy cocktail and a few beers came to £26.
Stumbled upon a small restaurant called Flavor which had handwritten menus on the wall and is ran by a Belgian Chef. The menu looked simple but amazing with a few that caught my eye like Salmon steak with brown risotto and White Snapper with mango chilli salsa & Avocado vinegarette. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to eat there but I would recommend checking it out if you fancy a change from traditional Thai food.
This reggae bar was cool for a few drinks, with a selection of cocktails and food, it also had live music and the atmosphere picked up at night.
As much as we enjoyed old town, I do have to admit that I wouldn’t rush back to Phuket for a holiday unless it was just for a stopover before departing to another place. Completely personal preference but once I had a comparison with other Thai islands and spoken to other travellers, it seems to be a general consensus that it’s not somewhere we’d rush back to when there are so many other beautiful islands with a lot more to offer!