It’s hard to think of Phuket without thinking of beautiful golden beaches. In fact, it’s practically impossible and there’s not much point in trying, as beautiful beaches are one of Phuket’s greatest attractions, drawing almost 1 million visitors a year and after a recent trip to the island with some friends, it’s not hard to understand why.
The first thing we did after settling in at Phuket was to head to the beach. There are over a dozen good beaches in Phuket, but there is no beach more famous and more popular than Patong beach, where we first headed. For most visitors it’s where all the best nightlife, sunbathing and people watching take place and the sole reason to visit Phuket in the first place. From experience, I can say there’s definitely worse ways to spend a vacation then getting a manicure and foot massage right on the beach while checking out the people action around you! The beach’s proximity to Phuket Town is also great, what with all the great shopping and entertainment it offered. Phuket Town itself has some great nightlife and no, I’m not referring to the seedier kind, which was definitely on offer in Bangla Road, but to some fantastic live music spots like Rock City or Saxophone (no prizes for guessing what kind of music was available at each place). There are also plenty of restaurants to try out – though I did feel a bit sheepish munching on pizza and steak when I was in Thailand, which in my opinion has one of the best cuisines in the world! Fortunately, I redeemed myself with far too much sampling at the various stalls around the town.
After a couple days of souvenir hunting in Phuket Town and spending far too much, we started looking for a spot somewhat more ‘deserted island paradise’ in feel, more peace and quiet and less reggae and string bikinis. Fortunately, there are plenty of beaches on Phuket just outside of Phuket Town which suit a slower pace and style and Kamala Beach, about 15 minutes north of Patong, is a good example. I’ll skip all the usual ‘golden sands, crystal blue waters’ descriptive bit about the beach because that basically applies to all beaches in Phuket. What’s different about Kamala beach is its low-key tone: there are much fewer crowds, some restaurants on the nearby Beach Road and not much else. There kind of accommodations nearby are also a hint: rather than the backpacker hostels near Patong, Kamala beach is strewn instead with up-market places like the Kamala Beach Hotel & Resort, which appeals more to the well-heeled set.
Like many beaches in Phuket, Kamala had been hit hard by the tsunami in 2005, but by now there was almost no evidence of it except for a memorial monument on the beach itself. There was also a rather sobering board with pictures of the tsunami aftermath at the Kamala Wat at the end of the beach, but during our entire stay in Phuket, we saw almost no sign of the ravages done by the waves and the locals we spoke to were relieved and grateful for the tourists, who were steadily returning to Phuket again.
At the recommendation of a local we’d asked to suggest another good quiet spot like Kamala, we headed for Surin beach, another 10 minutes or so north, and were glad we did. Unlike most of Phuket, this area is relatively undeveloped, with far fewer commercial businesses and more village houses visible when we visited. This is a beach where your closest deckchair neighbour might be a football field away, where you’re more likely to find retirees and long-term visitors than backpackers. Definitely a ‘rest and relaxation’ kind of place!
Word has it that Surin is what’s called an ‘up-and-coming destination’ but for the couple days we stayed, there were only a handful of people enjoying the sun on the beach with us. This might have been because the handful of hotels here, like the Twinpalms Hotel, were in the five-star boutique hotel range, making Surin a rather select destination; or it might have been because we were staying towards the beginning of the monsoon season, when the stream of tourists usually lessens. Then again, there were more than a few surfers doing their thing on the strong waves on our last day, so who knows? We were just happy to have the beach practically to ourselves for a day.
By the end of our stay at Surin, we were hankering for some more noise and action again, so back it was to Phuket for a few more days of indulgence before jetting back home.