After I discovered that I was comfortable traveling around Thailand alone, I decided to extend my trip by three weeks and visit the southern part of the country. I booked a flight with the affordable Nok Air from Bangkok to Phuket, and began my online search for an accommodation. I wasn’t sure if I should stay in Patong Beach, along the western coast of Phuket, or in one of the other resort towns. I found a cheap and friendly accommodation through Airbnb, however, so Patong Beach it was.
“It’s a huge party town and you won’t get any sleep!” a concerned friend admonished. Past my party prime, I felt slight apprehension, but decided to risk it. What I discovered was a lovely, relaxing town by day, and yes, a debaucherous party town by night. I’ve compiled a list of daytime activities to try before you hit Bangla Road for the evening.
The Artist House
First, I must recommend my accommodation. For only 30 USD (under 1000 THB) per night, The Artist House provides a spacious room with private bathroom, daily breakfast, wifi, air conditioning, and 24 hour concierge service. Though it’s about a 20 minute walk to the beach, it’s far enough away from the party scene. In great contrast to the large, commercial hotels that line the beach, this guesthouse only has eight rooms. The most enjoyable aspect is the receptionist and staff. I always stopped to chat with them on my way in or out, and they couldn’t have been more kind.
Phuket Botanic Garden
What a hidden gem in Chalong Bay! It’s quite an adventure to arrive by tuk tuk and the journey makes a nice day trip. The tuk tuk drivers all have brochures about the local tourist attractions tucked into the pockets of the backseat. When the driver stopped to get gas, he tried to sell me an additional trip. I pointed to the Phuket Botanic Garden brochure, “Only this one!” He understood. Upon arrival at the Garden, he said he would wait for me in the parking lot.
The cost of admission was steep, at 15 USD (about 500 THB), but in retrospect, it was worth it. The entire attraction is comprised of individual gardens, each appropriately geographically or botanically themed (i.e. Bali Garden, English Garden, Orchid Garden, Cactus Garden, etc.). There are several hidden spots where you can cool off amongst the winding pathways, including a butterfly garden and a café to enjoy a Chang beer.
Jungceylon Shopping Mall
Just to clarify, I am NOT a mall person. I would never travel trans-Pacifically to spend my time in a mall. Every tourist town has a mall, but Jungceylon is an especially welcome respite from the humidity in Patong. Also, you know you can count on the bathrooms being clean and stocked.
Phuket’s only microbrewery is hidden within Jungceylon. To maximize my budget, I allowed myself only one or two beers per day, also using the rationing as a female safety tactic. Full Moon Brewwork rivals any microbrewery I’ve visited in California. Plus, the food is delicious and served in generous portions. I visited three times, a visit for each of their three unique and frothy selections. Jungceylon Mall also boasts temporary exhibits, such as the children’s art show that was featured during my stay.
Eateries off Beach Road
Any tourist town will have an abundance of restaurants, but many times visitors choose to eat the food that is peddled by the beach vendors. I made a point of trying a new restaurant every day, and while it may have been a more expensive strategy, I never tired of the Thai food.
One of my favorites was 1-2-3 Restaurant, a hotspot by night, as I noticed when I walked back to my hotel each evening. I found that late afternoon is the best time to visit, as they are transitioning to their nighttime setup. I had personalized attention from several servers and witnessed the immediate creation of my papaya salad. I highly doubt any restaurant prepares a vat of papaya salad, as the Thais take pride in their fresh dishes and meticulous preparation, but it was satisfying to be assured of its freshness. I was even presented with a complimentary dessert of watermelon and pineapple. I found that the smaller and less trendy restaurants, though not the cleanest, served the tastiest food.
A relatively new shopping area, Banana Walk was built after the 2004 tsunami. Several of the storefronts haven’t even been leased yet. The top floor of the mall is especially desolate, but provides some elevated views of the sunset. I sought refuge from the almost daily downpours within Segafredo, The Coffee Club, Nail Club (for pedicures), and yes, Sizzler. I hadn’t eaten at an American Sizzler since I was a child, but the novelty of a Thai Sizzler was just too good to pass up. They offer a complete soup and salad bar, stocked with Thai specialties, plus the famous cheese bread. All you can eat for about 6 USD (about 200 THB)!
Of Course, The Beach
I’m not referring to the Leonardo DiCaprio movie (though visiting Koh Phi Phi is another pleasant day trip from Patong). Just sitting on the beach in Patong is pure entertainment, but also intense relaxation. Every time I felt I should be sightseeing, I reminded myself that it was completely acceptable to lie on a chaise, enraptured by a book or people watching.
The vendors provide delightful entertainment and I would anticipate the most unusual of wares as the next vendor approached. I always smiled and declined their offers, but beware, if you show interest they will not relent. If you are a solo female traveler, it’s prudent to prepare a tale of how your boyfriend/partner is back at the hotel. However, this scheme backfired on me. “But I saw you yesterday, sitting there, alone too.” Whoops. I did indulge in foot massages by the incredible Nora and an aloe vera skin treatment by the personable Sheila. You don’t even have to leave your chaise for these services.
If you love a good party, Patong Beach is your place, but try to rouse yourself early enough to experience some of these daytime activities. It reminded me a bit of Mallorca in that respect. Parting was bittersweet, and I spent an entire day making the rounds to bid my favorite people farewell. Naturally, I didn’t list every possible option or restaurant in this article. Once you arrive, you’ll find what suits your interests and your budget from the bevy of choices.