The island of Phuket has long been misunderstood. Firstly, the ‘h’ is silent. And secondly, Phuket doesn’t feel like an island at all. It’s so huge (49km long, the biggest in Thailand) that you rarely feel surrounded by water, which is probably why Ko (‘island’) was dropped from its name. Branded the ‘pearl of the Andaman’, this is Thailand’s original flavour of tailor-made fun in the sun.
Phuket’s sin city of Patong is the biggest town and busiest beach. It’s the ultimate gong show where beachaholics sizzle off their hangovers and go-go girls play ping pong…without paddles. But there’s space for all kinds here. Phuket Town has morphed into an artsy, culturally rich capital, while Rawai on the island’s southern tip remains blissfully laid-back, despite development. The twin west-coast beaches of Kata and Karon reel in holidaymakers who like their trips easy. An upmarket twist awaits along Hat Surin and Ao Bang Thao, while, further north, things quieten down as you thread through Sirinat National Park and Khao Phra Thaew reserve.
Ultimately, the island’s affinity for luxury far outshines its other stereotypes. Jet-setters swing through in droves, getting pummelled during swanky spa sessions and sipping sundowners at fashion-forward nightspots or on rented yachts. And you don’t have to be an heiress to tap into Phuket’s style-packed to-do list. With deep-sea diving, high-end dining, luxury shopping, fabulous white beaches and some of Thailand’s swankiest hotels at your fingertips, you might forget to leave.