The holiday season is just around the corner, and boy do we need a holiday. How about an old favorite like Phuket? The Thai island is just an hour and a half away by plane from Singapore, and, amazing beaches and resorts aside, is always having some sort of culinary and design renaissance, rewarding repeat visitors. Here's what to eat, buy and do on your next trip.
Run by the niece of the owner of the legendary Raya, this contemporary restaurant sits in a renovated 60-year-old home and garden in Phuket Town that’s filled with Sino-Portuguese touches. The menu spotlights Phuket staples like crabmeat yellow curry with rice vermicelli, somtam Phuket (papaya salad with shrimp paste), deep-fried salted pork belly and pork crackling chili paste.
242/2 Yaowarat Rd., Phuket Town, +66 (0) 76-605-954. Open daily 10am-10pm.
This Patong restaurant is led by a Croatian Masterchef winner. Nikola Lesar won the popular culinary challenge back in 2012, after which he moved to Thailand, trained on Le Cordon Bleu Bangkok’s Asian cuisine course and teamed up with pastry chef Mook Surajaroenjai. Together they present a variety of European-Asian creations, including killer desserts like chocolate panna cotta with banana and salted caramel ice cream.
Patong Beach, 36 Thaveewong Rd., +66 (0) 76-344-838. Open Tue-Sun 8am-10:30pm.
Thai tapas plates balanced out by massive drinks. The must-try is the Quiplicious set, which includes an assortment of bite-size Asian-inspired appetizers such as grilled pork skewers, red chicken curry and salmon with wasabi served on a banana leaf. Drinks throw Thai herbs into the mix, such as the Magic Drink, a naturally-sweet butterfly pea base zested up with honey and lime.
Montree Rd., Phuket Town, +66 (0) 89-472-0672. Open daily 10am-10pm.
Its name may be a reference to the Brazilian city of Rio, but this Phuket Town restaurant serves impressive Mexican bar food along with creative drinks from German mixologist Florian Niessing. The cocktail list showcases all sorts of home-infusions and updated classics like aged negronis. Bites include nachos, quesadillas, pizza and prawn ceviche.
371/22-26 Baan Phu Anda Hotel, Yaowarat Rd., Phuket Town, +66 (0) 76-218-403. Open Wed-Mon 7am-12:15am.
Dream Beach Club
This luxurious multi-level beach club takes over the space departed by Nikki Beach on the relatively untouched Layan Beach. Part of Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa, the beach club is all crisp white sunbeds and chaise lounges surrounding two swimming pools. Their Sunday Brunch (noon-3pm) features a seafood buffet with a global food theme that changes each week.
Layan Beach, Soi 2, Thalang, +66 (0) 76-609-888. Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm; Sat-Sun 11am-10pm.
Situated just five minutes from the airport on the northwestern tip of Phuket, this is the first beach club to arrive on tranquil Nai Yang Beach, part of Sirinat National Park. Here, you can catch the last sunset or a great meal with bonus views of airplanes landing or taking off, before the drinks start flowing and the first dancers take the stage at night.
65/23-24, Nai Yang Beach, Thalang, +66 (0) 93-582-7700, +66 076-510-130. Open daily 4pm-midnight.
Despite the Sino-Portuguese shop-house setting, this beer bar feels very of-the-moment—glasshouse entrance, dangling tropical plants, sleek wooden bar, concrete walls. You’ll find more than 80 different craft beers from over 20 brands behind the bar, including local brews.
91 Yaowarat Rd, Phuket Town, +66 (0) 96-404-9722. Open Wed-Mon 5pm-midnight.
Set right one Yaowarat Road in the middle of Phuket Town, this new bar is all about cocktails and flair. Try their Purple Rock (gin infused with butterfly peas and peach liqueur) and 43 Old Town which is vodka infused with tom yam ingredients mixed with fresh mango and passion fruit juice. What’s unique is it’s served in a tin pot.
43 Yaowarat Rd., Phuket Town, +66 (0) 81-476-7440. Open daily 6pm-midnight.
Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach
This completely refurbished resort in the north of the island comes surrounded by the lush tropical forests of Sirinat National Park. The 180 rooms have been joined by newly-installed one- and two-bedroom villas complete with plunge pools set right by the beach. Another highlight is the 100-meter-plus infinity edge pool.
92 Moo 3, Nai Yang Beach, +66 (0) 76-625-5555.
This stunning hotel has unveiled what might be its finest work yet: 27 vast pool villas ranging from 170-620 sq meters. Still maintaining the signature design of Italian designer Paola Navone, all rooms (equipped with private butler) feature a largely white palette accented with aquamarines, Thai motifs and gray Sino-patterned tiles. One more reason to visit is the new COMO Beach Club on nearby Naka Yai Island, complete with saltwater pool, pavilions with private large daybeds and spa.
Cape Yamu, 225 Moo 7, Thalang, +66 (0) 76-360-100.
Apart from its 70 gorgeous suites and 35 pool villas, this resort is home to Thailand’s first luxury hammam, aka Turkish bath spa, which merges Turkish healing techniques with Thai ayurvedic methods. As for drinking and dining, take your pick from their eight restaurants and lounges before heading to their 55-meter-long infinity pool overlooking the Andaman Sea.
Cape Panwa, 84 Moo 8, Sakdidej Rd., Vichit, +66 (0) 76-318-888.
The newest extension of the ever-popular hotel Sri Panwa features 30 suites and penthouses, an Olympic-size waterfall pool and Baba Shishi Lounge, which serves stiff drinks to go with the sunset. Its two casual restaurants, Baba Chino and Baba Hot Box, serve up creative Chinese dishes and big cuts of meat, respectively.
Cape Panwa, 88 Sakdidej Rd., Vichit, +66 (0) 76-371-000.
This hotel in the Laguna Phuket area stands out for its crisp white design. Go for the Sky Suites, which feature large white terraces with their own black stone pools. The main swimming pool is dotted with pavilions featuring billowing white curtains and day beds. Dream Beach Club is just a five-minute drive away.
11/7 Moo 6, Chengtalay, +66 076-609-888.
An 18-month remodeling of the 30-year-old Royal Phuket Yacht Club resulted in this ultra-luxe, 130-room hotel. Suites are equipped with four-poster beds and “press for Champagne” buttons on their terraces—which you should most definitely do, since the cellar is curated by prolific wine know-it-all James Suckling, former senior editor of Wine Spectator magazine. Other stuff to get excited about include the beachfront terrace pool with sunken seats overlooking the Andaman Sea.
Nai Harn Beach, 23/3 Moo 1, Vises Rd., Rawai, +66 (0) 76-380-200.
This bold and blocky-looking hotel might look oddly functionalist, but where it stands out from other mid-tier openings is its location: just 15 minutes from the major sites such as Promthep Cape and Nai Harn Beach, plus 20 minutes from Patong Beach’s happening nightlife.
Karon Beach, 400/2 Patak Rd., +66 (0) 76-396-905.
The outdoor four-rai market boasts two zones: a container market and a flea market, which altogether boast more than 300 stalls selling local crafts and design products, along with food and even tattoos.
141/2 Yaowarat Rd., +66 (0) 99-152-1919. Open daily 5-10pm.
Operated by Phuket’s leading zipline service, Flying Hanuman, this park lets you fly through the canopies stopping off at either 16 or 30 stations. The main attraction is the Roller Coaster zipline, which flings you along an 800-meter-long line at speeds of 60km an hour. Take a stroll on the skywalk and dine at Wanon (meaning monkey) restaurant, which serves truly tangy Phuket food.
105 Moo 4, Chaofa Rd., Vichit, +66 (0) 62-979-5533. Open daily 8am-5pm for adventure services and 8am-10pm for Wanon Restaurant.
This local catamaran boat operator has unveiled two new luxury boat trips. The Posh Escape package takes guests sailing from Ao Por Pier to COMO Beach Club and Koh Hong, from where they can take a sea canoe trip into the caves and enjoy a magnificent sunset amid the limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay. The Baba Hideaway package, meanwhile, involves snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Maithon Island and a gourmet set meal at Sri Panwa.
129/8 Moo 1, Sakoo, +66 094-597-6111, +66 (0) 94-597-6222.