Everything under the sun. Lapped by the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea, the white palm-fringed beaches shimmer invitingly in the tropical sunlight, skirting jungle-clad hills dotted with picturesque villages. This lush paradise off the west coast of Thailand's southern isthmus has the scenic attributes of a dream island for all seasons, spiced with Oriental mystique and bathed in smiling charm.
In centuries past, trading clippers braved local pirates to rite out storms and replenish supplies in Phuket's sheltered bays. They bartered European products for ivory, pearls, gems and ambergris. The island's rich natural resources and strategic location attracted in turn the Malays (who first christened in Bukit, 'hill'), the Siamese, Burmese, and even the British. But Bangkok won the day and the East India company's final choice feel in Penang. Until a decade ago, Phuket grew quietly prosperous on its tin mines and its rubber and pineapple plantations, remaining the secret refuge of a Noah's Ark of jungle creatures and the handful of hardened travelers undeterred by the long, hazardous trek over poor roads.
Today the Sleeping Beauty of the South has been roused by the arrival of winged leviathans disgorging hordes of sun-seekers from greyer climes. A string of hotels and the attendant holiday funfair have sprung up between the gracious colonial villas and along the beaches of the western shoreline: Mai Khao, Nai Yang, Bang Thao, Pansea Bay, Surin, Kamala, Karon, Kelim, and Patong. By day you need miss none of the wind-surfing-parasailing-boogie-board routine, nor the snorkeling and scuba diving which enable you to explore the wonders of the underwater universe on your doorstep. After a hard day's tanning the neon lights of Patong may flash less provocatively than in Patpong, but the seafood here will be even fresher. Off the mass-tourist track is the Amanpuri, the island's lighthouse for civilized pleasures in luxurious tranquility and one of the world's great resorts.
Sea and sand notwithstanding, the island itself offer a diverting blend of folklore and religious festival, village temples, markets, sea gypsy settlements and natural sights. The lure of the sea is irresistible, the myriad islands beckoning with secret tidal grottoes and deserted beaches. Koh Phi Phi Ley is little more than a sheer limestone crag where daredevil climbers harvest swallows' nests for the gourmet restaurants of Hong Kong. Around the perimeter of its twin island, Koh Phi Phi Don, are pretty coves and fine sandy beaches. The Similans constitute one of the most spectacular diving scenarios in the world, and the surrealistic limestone monoliths of (best visited by junk) form the exotic backdrop in which James Bond faced Phang NgaThe Man with the Golden Gun.
* Where to stay and hang out in Phuket
* Phuket Attractions
* Phuket Beaches