PHOTO: The Trick Eye Museum in Phuket Town
We all can’t afford to stay in the lap of luxury in five star properties, and spend our Sunday’s at extravagant brunches costing more than 4000 ++ baht per person. Good luck to those who can! In Phuket you can have equally as good experiences that either cost you nothing or not much more. We are in Thailand after all!
Here is, in no particular order, our Top Ten Things to see in Phuket on a budget on the island of Phuket….
1. Simon Cabaret/Simon Star/Aphrodite
Nothing like a big lady boy show. The ones in Phuket are family-friendly, world-standard presentations with astonishing costumes, sets and, mostly, appalling dancing – there’s only so much you can do with a metre high headpiece and gaffer tape holding all your ‘bits’ in place. If you haven’t been you MUST. Hard to not to enjoy yourself. Does it rival the big shows in Las Vegas? No. Is it worth the 1000 baht and a few hours on a humid night? Definitely.
At the end of the show you will get the opportunity to have your photo taken with the performers. Although they don’t tell you before, you will be expected to pay for the pleasure. 100-200 baht is about the going rate. The three shows are in different parts of the island – the most famous Simon Cabaret in Patong which has been going for an astonishing 27 years without missing a beat.
OK, it’s not ‘cheap cheap’ but it’s worth every baht!
Right in the heart of Phuket Town and deserves your time. Bring a camera. You’ll walk around various elaborate large interactive art and find you can pop yourself into the scene in a very clever way. Tickets start at 500 baht and you can spend an easy two hours or so. There’s some car parking next door to the old Pearl Hotel otherwise go by taxi, plenty around that part of town. Popular with local and international schools for day trips too.
Almost anywhere, anytime. For less than 500 baht you’re going to get to relax and indulge in one of Thailand’s unique pleasures. In Patong you will hardly walk 10 metres without hearing the cry ‘massage!?’ But the better massages are out of tourist town, and usually much cheaper. Leaving out the more infamous massage available in less-reputable venues, there is usually a selection of different massages you can enjoy. If the sweet little Thai lady asks if you want it gentle or hard, be warned if you go for the ‘hard’ option you’ll be screaming at times! The Thai massage can be quite firm and a challenge for the uninitiated, and those ‘sweet’ 5 foot Thai ladies will wind you up in knots, despite their petite stance. Start tame and go for a 1 hour foot massage. Read up more about massage and spa locations around Phuket HERE.
Located on the ByPass Road in Samkong this is a curious wander around a house that’s, well, upside down. Too many photos would spoil the fun but you’ll fill an hour and snap off plenty of selfies in this attraction that will make you see the world from a whole different angle. Tickets for adults are 350 baht and children 190 baht.
5. Any Temples
Of course you should visit a temple, or ‘Wat’. Wat Chalong is largest complex of temples on the island. Buddhist temples have their own conventions and rules to read up about before you visit so you’ll get the most out of your visit. Some of the temples have become distinctly commercial in recent years so best to try and find the ones that will give you the most authentic experience. Free unless you choose to make a donation. THIS article about ‘Things NOT to do’ in Thailand will provide a bit of guidance for first time temple visitors.
6. Coral Island
So you’ve already come to a tropical island in Thailand. But many enjoy exploring the 30 or so other islands around Phuket. Some are a LONG way, some will have you travelling in a van for a a few hours before you even get on a boat. Others are really close, like Coral Island, just off the coast of Chalong. There are plenty of organised tours to Coral island and, depending on your tour and the beach you end up on, you’ll have a great day or an awful day battling crowds you probably thought you’d be getting away from. Coral Island has become really popular in the past five years so be prepared your tropical island getaway experience with a few others as well. We don’t recommend any particular tour company but here’s a start for you HERE… (in the website it says Coral Island is ’10 kilometres south of Phuket’. It’s not. It’s only a kilometre or so of the shore from Chalong.)
7. Khao Rang
A mid-island diversion from the history of Phuket Town and shopping at Central Festival, Khao Rang (also known as Rang Hill) is a popular viewpoint hangout for locals. It is located on the north side of Phuket Town and has stunning views over island. There are a number of restaurants and bars located on the hill offering local dishes and their most famous specialty is ice coffees. The most popular at Khao Rang Breeze Restaurant and Tunk Ka expect to pay slightly above local prices for food and beverages. They call it a hill, but it’s actually only 150 metres high which is not so tall at all, however the views are amazing from the viewpoint even at the low height and the landscaped gardens are beautiful under foot. Be careful of the monkeys up there who come out around sunset to forage for food… and iPhones!
8. Spend the Day at the Beach
It’s one of the highlights of coming to Phuket, so go and get some sand between your toes. Stunning beaches feature throughout Phuket, and at just 100 baht for a sunbed including the beach crew who sweep away your sand from your chair, it’s a steal. The Andaman Sea has crystal clear water during high season (December through May) however during the green season (June through November) the ocean is rough and it is not recommended to swim on the West Coast. With restrictions being enforced with the number of chairs allowed on the beach, and in certain zones, it can be fun trying to secure one later in the day. Layan, Kamala, Surin and Patong Beaches are all zoned for chairs. Also note that at Patong Beach there are dedicated smoking zones too so if you are going to indulge you must do it in the smoking zones otherwise large fines could be imposed.
Especially great on a wet day in Phuket or if you need to take a load off from all the shopping at Central Festival or Jungceylon going to the cinema is well priced and features all the latest movies, including in English or with English sub-titles. Starting at just 140 baht a ticket (on selected days) for a standard seat through to 350 baht for a lazy boy style chair, right up to 900 baht for first class (totally worth the money) it’s a cheap way to spend a couple of hours. First Class in Phuket is comparable to a standard ticket in most Western countries, the doors open one hour before and you can have refreshments and a light snack before heading in, included in the price. Waiters bring in “complimentary popcorn, soft drinks” as well as a blanket for your viewing pleasure and the lazy boy seats go almost flat so you can enjoy the movie in comfort. Thailand is very traditional, and respectful to the Royal Family, so before any movie they play the King’s Anthem. All patrons stop munching, stand up and pay their respects.
10. Bang Wad Dam
Located in the middle of the island, South to North and East to West, the Bang Wad Dam in Kathu is a water reservoir that services much of Phuket. It has a 6km circle road around it and is shaded from the sun by lush trees and fauna. It is incredibly popular with the locals and expats who are getting in their daily exercise. There is minimal traffic and, if you don’t mind the odd snake and creepy crawly, a perfect spot to to pound the pavements or ride your bike or motorbike. If your up early on a Sunday morning there are regular runs/walks as well as charity events to participate in. It is also recommended to run/walk all in the same direction – if you don’t know which way you soon will! Buy a fresh coconut or cold drink on your way round and support the local community.
- Donna Toon