however when you are near the coast the intensity of the heat is subdued a little by the very welcome sea breeze. December to April is the most popular time to visit as the weather is more settled in the dry monsoon season. Whatever you are looking for from a trip to Thailand, this region will almost satisfy your requirements. Some of the scenery is simply exceptional and perhaps none more than Phang Nga Bay. This is the Thai version of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam with limestone cliffs, eroded over thousands of years to form a series of "islands" including "James Bond Island". Daily cruises around the islands are available and are considered to be "not to miss" trips and one of the top attractions. One other trip, not to miss, is of course going to the Phi Phi islands which are also easy to reach either by ferry or speedboat. Phi Phi is mostly well know for its bountybeaches like the famous Maya Bay, and not to forget the memories of the Tsunami catastrophe in 2004.
Phuket town itself is a little different to a typical Thai town and is full of wats (temples), bars, massage parlours, restaurants and markets for a shopping experience. The "old town" is not typical of a Thai town in as much as it tends to be comparatively quiet making it pleasurable to amble slowly through the mixture of Chinese and colonial influenced buildings. It is even home to a small "red light" (a topic covered later in this article).
A trip to Phuket would not be the same if you missed the FantaSea Show at Kamala Beach on the west side of the island. Professionally organised and a lot of fun with a combination of Elephant and other animal shows, trapeze artists, dancing, lazer show and much more. Take note though, cameras are strictly forbidden! FantaSea is not just a show though; it is more a "cultural theme park", with shopping, restaurants, elephant rides but on a somewhat grand scale where everything is ornate and bright. To try and give an idea of the size of the "park", there is one buffet restaurant, "The Golden Kinnaree" that can comfortably accommodate 4,000 diners!
If you simply wish to relax on a beach there may be few better options than to visit Karon, on the south west coast of the island. There is a long beach here, a large range of restaurants, markets and bars where you can relax. Other attractions in Karon are the "Karon Temple" and the Dino Park "mini-golf" complex, an 18-hole dinosaur themed course.
Just a little south of Karon you will find the small town of Kata with the main attraction being a beautiful beach (there is actually two beaches), however on a cautionary note you need to be aware of the locals that enjoy riding speedboats and jet-skiing here as they do not appear to think about people that may be swimming in the water.
To the north of Karon is the perhaps the most well-known town of PaTong. Although there is a beach here it generally does not spring in to life until the evening when you could be forgiven for forgetting you are actually in the Far East, as neon lights galore light up the area accompanied by lots of bars and girls with a job to do (which is covered in the next section). Other attractions on the island include the "Elephant Nature Foundation", Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung (Phanom Rung Historical Park) - Religious and Historic Site with ancient ruins; these can both be found in Surin. Throughout Phuket Island you will find lots of accommodation including a good number of resorts in addition to hotels in all prices ranges and quality of most are of a high degree.
One final item that you need to put on your agenda when visiting anywhere in Thailand is to visit a massage parlour and experience a "real" Thai massage (not for the faint hearted or brittle boned!). Failing that, just treat yourself to any other kind of massage you may want, The Thai's are superb at massaging you to the point where you just do not want them to stop.
This final section covers the "nightlife" on Phuket Island and yes, Thailand's infamous sex industry has made it this far south. If you have no interest in this "attraction" then it is easily avoided. Most bars and working girls do not get going in to full swing until late afternoon. If you are approached by a "working girl" and she offers her services, a simple and polite refusal is all that is required. For those of you who want to know about the naughty nightlife scene, read on………………
Patong has gained quite a reputation and it really is THE place to be although there are smaller and more isolated areas scattered around the island that have bars and some "working girls". It is always worth remembering that most of these girls have one aim and that is to make money. It is easy to forget that as a young little beauty attaches itself to you almost instantly on arrival and she tells you that you are "handsome man" and is over you like a rash. They will go out of their way to make you feel like a king and you are their "special" ferang! It's all an act (well, in most cases) and they are very good at it. Many of the girls are likely to be hoping to meet the man who wants to marry them and that too is quite commonplace.
Bangala Road and many soi's off it are where the bars are concentrated (literally!) and the actual bars are not any different to what you would see in Bangkok or Pattaya, open bars with a central serving area, circled with bar stools. There are of course go-go bars here too and they offer a more relaxing experience as you can simply sit back in a comfortable sofa and watch the girls dance on a raised stage. If there is a particular girl you would like to talk to, you simply ask the mamasan (the lady in charge of the bar and girls) for permission and she will get the girl to come to you. Buy her a drink and get to know her a little (or as well as you can in a short space of time). If you like her, keep buying drinks for her and she will stay with you. If you decide you would like to take this girl somewhere else, you can but you will be expected to pay a "bar fine" for taking her away from entertaining other customers.
As with all large towns and cities in Thailand, Pa Tong has its share of ladyboys. Some go-go bars are ladyboy only and some are mixed with the girls. On the whole they are friendly and harmless (assuming you are not there for a ladyboy) and as always a polite refusal is generally accepted and they will move on. You should however, be wary of ladyboys that may approach you on or near the beach in hours of darkness, their motives are usually highly questionable.
You will find, in varying numbers, in any town on Phuket Island where there are tourist attractions and hotels or resorts, bars with girls looking to meet a Ferang so if Pa Tong is "too much" for you it is easy enough to get away from the out and out party atmosphere in to quieter surroundings. The locations may be different but the aim of the girls remains exactly the same.