Discover Phuket: The Most Popular Thai Island

Whether it was a Facebook video, Instagram, or anything related to Thailand, chances are you’ve seen glimpses of Phuket. We personally witnessed some of those Instagram photos being taken on a white sand beach…with pink flamingo inflatable toys, ridiculous up-close poses, and patient (drunk off Chang beer) boyfriends.

Some quick facts about Phuket: this is Thailand’s largest island and around 600,000 people call this piece of land home. In addition, this breathtaking island, among multiple other Thai islands, suffered extensive damage from the tsunami on December 26th, 2004. Present day, it’s the Hawaiian Islands to those who want a more affordable beach vacation. All you can eat buffets at 4 star resorts for $30…or beaches with sand and water clearer than those in Bali. I tend to focus on the food but the beaches are pretty nice.

We’re fortunate enough to have experienced Phuket on two separate occasions: in June (rainy season) and in March (dry season). Both encounters provided two different viewpoints (obviously one involving A LOT of rain). We stayed at two different resorts while in Phuket. Yes, we avoided the hostels and reasonably priced AirBnBs…sometimes you gotta splurge. I’m gonna break down the two different resorts with the likes and dislikes of our trips. We hope that this will help you choose a place while in Phuket or at least you’ll enjoy the photos.

Modern Thai Villa

Months before our trip to SE Asia, our group of six friends sat on Morgan’s living room floor madly searching for accommodations. We quickly realized that Thailand’s prices are ridiculously inexpensive. We looked at the prices, checked the pictures…all took a nervous look around the room to see who would offer to put up their credit card…then booked a Villa for 2 nights. We couldn’t have been happier with our choice because this was an unforgettable stop in our trip.

Price (Value For Money)

We paid $50 each per night. $100…total. Although this isn’t recommended for every backpacker/budget traveler out there, if you’re looking for that place to spend a little more money, the Thai islands are the places to do it. The Villa included three separate bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a gazebo, and a private pool. Can’t forget about those complimentary robes and sandals that can even make the dirtiest of hotel rooms feel luxurious. We all wait to break our budget every once in awhile so make it count.

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Location

About a 10 minute drive inland from Rawai Beach. It’s on the SouthWest side of the island right next to the main pier. This pier is used for day excursions and trips to the Phi Phi Islands among others. The downside, is that you’re an hour drive from the airport that’s located on the northern part. The upside, you’re on a beautiful island so you’ll get over it.

The resort has a shuttle that will help you arrive at a nearby market along the water. This is where we found some of the best fresh fish and pineapple fried rice in Thailand! A girl in our group went with a waiter across the street, pointed at her soon to be dinner in a water tank, and 30 minutes later she had a salt and pepper flavored lobster. Thankfully she was generous and we all tried a bite…Thai people know how to cook their seafood.

Facilities

We only stayed at this resort for two nights. Our only full day was spent at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (read Morgan’s newest post!!!). Before we knew it, our time was up and we were off to another paradise island. We were able to use our private pool but I’m sure you will enjoy it much more than we did! The monsoon kept us inside for the majority of our stay. You’ll hear that word a lot, “monsoon”, if you travel during the summer months. Americans, don’t be afraid. It means heavy wind, rain, and some flooded streets. As long as you have shelter, you’ll be fine. Monsoon isn’t some scary bird or type of mosquito.

Airport Transportation

Now this is when your budget plays a small role. Spend a little more money here, save a little money there. Up to your preference. If you want a cheap ticket from the airport to the southern part of Phuket, you’ll pay 200 baht (~$6). You’ll be in a full van because the workers maximize that space…while crunching backpacks with hard suitcases in the back.

Positive: it’s fairly simple. You land, run to the nearest bathroom because your bladder waited until the plane’s descent to act up, grab your bags, buy a van ticket outside, and you’re off. ~$6 down, not bad.

Negative: depending on the location of the other passengers it could take you up to two hours. This van service could shave off about 20 minutes if they didn’t make a worthless stop…I’ll continue this a little later.

Shuttle Services (Getting Around)

As mentioned above, the Villa offers a shuttle to nearby areas. They only offer one way trips so you will be fending for yourself for the return. Our second night we were on a hunt for American food. The craving for steak, hamburgers, and fries kicked in sooner than we expected. Thankfully, we had a driver help us find the restaurant after our incorrect directions took us all over Rawai Beach.

Breakfast

If you enjoy fresh fruit, room service, and eating breakfast by a private pool…this is your spot. Each morning our group went to town on some freshly cut papaya, dragon fruit (if you don’t know this fruit, you need to look it up), and pineapple. Add that to the classic English breakfast (slowly getting used to eating beans with eggs) with some delicious OJ and you’ve got a combination that Chef Ramsey would enjoy. Best part: breakfast is included!

Weather

This is important. The rain and thunderstorms will occur from July to October. You wouldn’t believe our excitement when we realized the season ended come November. The amount of times we were caught without an umbrella is ridiculous. No matter if you leave your accommodation while it’s sunny out, it will be raining by the time you return. Carry an umbrella…walking around in wet jeans is never fun.

Does Anyone Speak English?

It was sometimes challenging trying to communicate with the employees at this resort. This lead to some issues regarding payment and ordering a taxi to the airport. The English speaking employees are likely full time during the popular season for tourists so our issues probably arose based on the timeframe.

On to the next one, on to the next. Let’s move on to our most recent adventure.

Katathani Phuket Beach Resort

Just a couple clicks away and you’ll thank your wallet someday. This resort, although by far the most expensive place we stayed at, was magnificent. A beachfront hotel and spa, located on Kata Noi Bay, is summed up nicely by their hotel’s homepage: “for those who want to get away from it all yet can still have it all”. It’s impossible to write a negative review about the resort itself, the only downside is the price. You can find much more affordable hotels and even hostels near this beach. Just rent a motorbike and park next to the hotel. Morgan and I stayed here during the last week of February. Technically March is the beginning of the warm season but the weather was absolutely perfect nonetheless.

Price (Value For Money)

Here’s the buzzkill…you will spend a whole lotta baht. This time, we were traveling with a group of seven. We were split into four separate rooms with different styles, locations (this resort has two separate hotel lobbies), and prices.

The rooms were booked months in advance to take advantage of better deals (with resorts like this, planning ahead saves a lot of money). Each room fluctuated in price throughout the stay depending on the day of the week. The overall range was $150-$350 per night…still cheap compared to US prices at a beachfront hotel but will still scare off many backpackers.

If you’re looking for that last hoorah for an extended adventure, this should be it. Save money where you can (alcohol, restaurant meals, etc.) to afford an unforgettable night at this resort.

Location

The resort resides on the southern part of Phuket, directly across the island from the Modern Thai Villa. It rests right along our favorite beach in Phuket. It’s not too crowded, has white sand, and the sunsets are breathtaking. We’ve seen many sunsets throughout our travels, but these were unlike any other.

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Also, if you’re a snorkeling fan, you’ll love swimming out near the sides of the little cove to see a variety of colorful fish.

Facilities

Seriously…the home page description couldn’t be more accurate. Our group barely left the grounds. With six outstanding restaurants (Fisherman’s Wharf serves delicious lobster and other fresh seafood…the Italian restaurant La Scala bakes a bolognese lasagna that will make you question if you’re in Italy), four separate pools, a gym, a tennis court, and the list goes on and on. The resort is an endless collection of buildings that make it almost impossible to leave during your stay.

Our group did run in to some troubles with the size of the resort. I mentioned earlier that there are two check-in lobbies. The main section of the resort is in front of the beach and the other is across the street. We had two rooms in the portion that was removed from the beach. It still has a gigantic pool area but you’ll be walking around 5-10 minutes to get to the main resort area. Our recommendation is to call reception or send an email asking which part your room will be located in. If you’re in a rush and can’t wait for the hotel’s response, pray and then use google maps to check.

Although we 100% prefer the main resort area, if you want to save some money the back resort area is still magnificent. The biggest advantage of the back area is the mini mart attached to the lobby…it’s open until 10pm unlike the main mini mart that closes at 6pm. Unfortunately, sun burns don’t set in until around 6pm. This requires Aloe, cold beer, and/or a Magnum ice cream bar (depending on the person and severity of burn). All those pink lobster beach goers from the main area will be making the trek to your lobby while you can just hop in the mart on your way up to your room.

Airport Transportation

The shuttle system is the same as Modern Thai Villa. You can choose a taxi, private van, or shuttle from the airport. All prices are still cheap when compared to the US, but the cheapest is the shuttle. Depending on the other passengers, this could take up to two hours from the airport.

Now I’ll finish where I left off with the annoying detour the shuttle company makes…about 30-45 minutes in to the ride, the van will make an unexpected stop. You have now entered the first tourist trap you will likely encounter while in Thailand. The van will either park in front of or behind a tourist center office. It’s meant to be a harmless stop where the driver will double check the passenger drop-off locations. But it’s really a cheap way of getting roped in to booking an expensive tour that you don’t need while in Phuket. You’ll be sent inside and asked to sit down opposite a travel agent with enticing brochures laid out like an excursion buffet. Don’t do it. If you don’t sit down, you’ll be out sooner than you can say “all inclusive ocean sunset dinner with a certified captain”.

You can find better deals through your accommodation, online, Klook, etc. The stop isn’t that big of a deal, just don’t freak out like my group did the first time in May. We located all the tiny window shattering hammers in the van for possible protection. I was the sacrificial lamb to check out where we stopped. It didn’t help that the driver parked in the back alley in the pouring rain. Doesn’t hurt to always be prepared…but it hurts when your voted off the island.

Shuttle Services (Getting Around)

Again, you won’t want to leave. Our group left twice over six days: a half day trip to the Phi Phi Islands and the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. If you’re staying nearby, rent a motorbike either at your hotel or from a reliable street store. The resort is extremely helpful when scheduling airport transportation or rides to different areas on the island. Trust the staff and ask them anything. Their friendliness and hospitality make the experience.

Breakfast

You might be Russian, Portuguese, or Australian…each nationality might have different expectations and desires from a beach resort than I. But…I can guarantee I know where you’ll be at some point between 6:00-10:30am. You’ll stop by the breakfast buffet. Endless fruit, crispy bacon, egg bar…and a chocolate fountain. Yes, a chocolate fountain to dip croissants in or really anything you wanna get wild with in the morning. Pineapple slices covered in chocolate should be as popular as strawberries.

Weather

Perfect. Absolutely perfect. The sun was shinning without wind…every single day.

Be prepared for some mosquito bites and sunburns but the peaceful bliss outweighs these avoidable issues. Just bring deet and apply sunscreen like it’s your job. We were fine only using mosquito spray at night if we chose to eat dinner outside. Don’t make yourself inhale those terrible deet fumes all day long.

This type of weather creates more than hilarious sun tans and burnt feet on the sand; it enables all type of water activities inside the cove. If you want to go to jet skiing, inner tubing, wake boarding…even parasailing, this is your chance. Relax and enjoy your time here, I guarantee you deserve it.

Does Anyone Speak English?

Every single staff member speaks English. The reception was able to easily understand our questions and provided accurate information about tours and excursions. Even the masseuses walking around the pools spoke a little English! You will have no problems here.

Final Hints/Tricks:

Raincoat (monsoon season – easier to carry around/pack than an umbrella)

Motion sickness (7-Eleven only sells drowsy medicine so bring non-drowsy before traveling…no one wants to fall asleep while snorkeling. Plan ahead because you’ll likely experience choppy water on boats and/or uncontrollable Tuk Tuk rides)

Airport Shuttle (if you ever need to transfer from the two main airports in Bangkok (DMK and BKK) there is a free shuttle bus that takes one hour. We had some group members fly in from Phuket at DMK then had a flight out from BKK. Save the hassle. Just show your flight itinerary at Gate 6 Arrivals, hop on the next shuttle (every 30 minutes), and you’re on your way)

Congratulations, you’ve done it! Slowly making my posts shorter.

Here’s a little rhyme for ya: Phuket attracts all walks of life. Endless coconuts opened with a knife. Get a massage for 200 baht, take a break from the blazing hot. It’s amazing the warm season doesn’t burn grass, please remember sunscreen to protect your …

Hope you enjoyed the post! Follow Morgan and I on Instagram for our most recent travel photos. Feel free to leave a comment to let us know what you think about Phuket!

⁃ Kyle

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