THIS WEEKEND
Phuket

Best explored on foot, Phuket Town is the provincial capital of Phuket. Centuries ago, Chinese merchants settled here, and tin mining and rubber growing led to its prosperity. Contact with Portuguese traders led to the development of a particular style of architecture known as Sino-Portuguese. The town offers many tourist facilities including accommodation, restaurants and some of the best shopping on the island. You will also find Government Offices, the Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thai Airways, and the main Post Office here as well.
Most visitors only remain in Phuket Town long enough to jump on a beach-bound songthaew, which run regularly throughout the day from Thanon Ranong in the town centre to all the main beaches (B1525). If you do want to stay, the On On Hotel at 19 Thanon Phang Nga (tel 076 211154; under $10) has basic, just adequate rooms and internet access in its colonial-style 1920s building; Talang Guest House at 37 Thanon Talang (tel 076 214225; $510) has large en-suite rooms in an old wooden house in one of Phuket's most traditional streets; and Wasana Guest House is conveniently located near the songthaew stop for the beaches, opposite Thai Airways at 159 Thanon Ranong (tel 076 211754; under $15). The night market materializes around the square off Thanon Tilok Uthit 1 every evening at about 6pm.
Phang Nga Bay straddles the three main districts of Krabi province, and is one of the busiest day-trips out of Phuket. There are two popular spots here; with its signature rocky pinnacle, James Bond Island is spectacular. Named because it was used in the film The Man With The Golden Gun, crowds flock here hoping for a piece of movie action. Koh Panyi--Sea Gypsy Island--is also popular. Home to a remarkable Muslim village, the whole of it built out over the water on stilts, it is well worth a visit for lunch and souvenir shopping.
Located 17 kilometers south of the town, the bay at Kata is really made up of two smaller bays, Kata Yai and Kata Noi. Both are blessed with impressively long, relatively peaceful, sandy beaches. Here you can swim, sail, windsurf, sunbathe and even scuba dive, as there is an extensive coral reef off Pu Isle, just in front of the beach. Kata itself offers all tourist related amenities such as accommodation, tour agents, shops and restaurants.
With plenty of action and friends to be found, Patong Beach is a popular spot for those seeking an active, fun filled holiday. Water activities abound, as do restaurants offering excellent dishes of every known cuisine. Accommodation choices range from simple guest houses to luxurious hotels, and shops and support services are varied and plentiful. The nightlife is internationally renowned, and you will find pubs, go-go bars, discos, floor shows and much more.

What to see:

Wat Chalong
This Buddhist temple, located on the southern outskirts of Phuket Town, is greatly respected by the local Buddhist community. Considered the most beautiful on the island, it contains a gilt statue of Luang Por Cham, the monk who became a hero when he helped quell the Chinese Coolie rebellion of 1876, during the reign of King Rama V. The wat also has a statuette of the famous abbot Luang Por Gluam.

Phuket FantaSea
Inspired by Thailand's rich and exotic heritage, Phuket FantaSea is a unique cultural complex. It showcases the charm and beauty of Thailand, while enriching ancient Thai traditions with the wonder of cutting-edge technology and special effects. The result is a stunning 140-acre theme complex offering a multitude of activities. Highlights include the festival village, the Golden Kinnaree Buffet Restaurant (a 5,000-seat restaurant offering a grand buffet of Thai and international cuisines) and a breathtaking Las Vegas-style show, which starts at 9p.

Siam Safari Nature Tour
Since 1989, Siam Safari has been a market leader in eco-tourism and adventure travel in South Thailand. Its goal is that of providing authentic and educational tours. The company has received many awards including a British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow award and a PATA. Tours on offer include an elephant trek and mini eco-safari, an elephant and jeep safari, a half-day adventure tour, a one-day jungle safari and a one-day tour of Phuket.

Where to eat:

Ka Jok See
Every now and again one finds a "hidden gem," where all the ingredients for a memorable evening are in place. That is why Ka Jok See, arguably Phuket Town's most popular restaurant, has been drawing the locals, and a few lucky tourists, for the past 14 years. The building is an 18th century Sino-Portuguese treasure with simple decor, but a charming sense of style. Dishes such as the succulent prawns and Jurassic Salad are prepared in a traditional Bangkok style and cooked with a flair that raises even the simple dishes to new heights.

Baan Rim Pa
Dramatically perched on a cliff top, this restaurant has been setting the standards for service and style in Phuket for ten years. One of the island's foremost and favorite eating spots, the traditional Thai teak house hosts the wondrous open-terrace restaurant, built with spectacular views over Patong Bay. In the evening, the local pianist charms diners with his own interpretations of Mozart. Main meals start at THB195 and include the delicious Yaam Khong Talay Pasom (herb salad of mixed seafood) and Panaeng Ped (creamy curry with duckling).

Sea Hag Restaurant
Using only the freshest of ingredients, this simply designed Thai restaurant is a relatively new addition to the restaurant scene in Patong. While offering little in the way of decor, the Sea Hag has managed to build a reputation based on good food alone, which draws both locals and travelers. Dishes to savor include some hearty salads and satay , curry and whole fish. A variety of international dishes are also on offer, all will be enhanced by a drink from the fully stocked bar.


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