if you think Phuket is a tourist trap, think again. With a new beach club, Thai tapas, a jazzy place to chill and more, these six things show why you’ll be returning to this beachside hangout.
1. In-house Muay Thai classes at one of the island’s top resorts
Tucked away on a secluded stretch of beach in the northwest of the island, understated luxury spot Anantara Phuket Layan recently added its own Muay Thai ring, named “Layan Stadium”. Just under half the size of a regular ring, it’s a great place to get an introduction to this acclaimed martial art, with private, hour-long classes starting from THB2,500++ ($100), up to THB22,400 ($880) for a five day couple’s course, including ringside seats at a fight at Patong Stadium. The in-house Anantara Spa, with its seven treatment rooms, is also a great place to recover after your training session. The resort has 30 rooms and suites and a further 47 pool villas, but if you just can’t get enough of Phuket, they also just launched four (of an eventual 15) exclusive pool residences (for holiday stays or purchase), each with its own 21 meter infinity pool. You’ll currently get 20% resort credit if you book a stay here.
2. A brand new beach club
Nikki Beach may have closed, but it looks like Phuket’s beach club scene is stepping up its game. Following the recent opening of Skye Beach Club, comes Dream Beach. This luxurious, multi-level beach club actually takes over the space departed by Nikki Beach, only 5 minutes’ drive from Anantara. Officially opened in December, the style can be described as sexy cosmopolitan, similar to that of the other Dream locations, so expect to see neon lights against crisp white sunbeds and chaise lounges surrounding the club’s two swimming pools. The club is laidback and loungey during the day before becoming more flashy after dark, moving the crowd up to its rooftop bar and nightclub. Hungry? The menu sticks to the high-end them and includes a THB30,000 ($1,180) wagyu burger, topped with foie gras and served in a gold leaf bun. It’s served with a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne.
3. A bootcamp for a good cause
Next time you’re in Phuket, stop by Nai Harn beach near Rawai to get a workout in and do some good. Clean The Beach Bootcamp occurs every other Saturday at 10am, and consists of a fun fitness class by the ocean followed by some cool-down yoga. Sessions are free, as long as everyone agrees to put on a pair of gloves and pick up some beachside trash afterwards. The founder, fitness professional Krix Luther, launched the bi-monthly event after noticing that the growing trash on the beach was making finding a spot for his regular bootcamps nearly impossible. Interested participants can check the schedule on their Facebook page here.
4. Rustic charm and French toast
Rustic-style bar and restaurant The Avenue (46/11 Moo 5 Vichit) is the latest addition to Central Phuket’s drinking and dining scene. Open from 7am-midnight, it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start the day with fuss-free choices like French toast with seasonal fruit or middle-back bacon, sausage and grilled tomatoes on homemade bread served with two eggs. Lunch spans sandwiches, salads and burgers . Come dinnertime the menu turns local, offering Thai dishes such as the yum kai yarng (spicy salad with grilled chicken,) and seafood tom yam. Drinks jump from French press coffee during the day to serious cocktails and a good selection craft beers. Happy hour takes place every Wednesday and Thursday from 5-8pm, with buy-one-get-one on all cocktails. Menu items run from around THB120-200 ($4.70-7.80)
5. A classy jazz joint
When Saxophone (41/3 Chana-Charoen Rd., Talat Yai), one of Bangkok’s oldest and best-loved jazz bars, opened up on Phuket last year, it brought with it the same low-key, red-brick vibe and high calibre of music (the guys on sax, clarinet and piano can seriously play). Open since 1987, the original is best known for its jazzy offerings led by Koh Mr. Saxman and well-executed cocktail menu. Stick to the reasonably priced beer and whiskey, order up some fried drinking snacks and enjoy.
6. Thai tapas in Phuket Town
The founders of Phuket Town’s super-hip Quip Bed & Breakfast and Quip Sky Bar recently opened Quiplicious (at the intersection between Montri Rd and Soi Surin, Talat Yai), a standalone restaurant serving tiny Thai tapas plates balanced out by massive drinks. The must-try is the Quiplicious set (THB380 / $15), which includes an assortment of bite-size Asian-inspired appetizers such as moo ping (grilled pork skewers), red chicken curry and salmon with wasabi served on a banana leaf. But if bitesize Thai isn’t your thing, hit the cafe up during breakfast for scrambled eggs served in a bacon bowl (THB90 / $3.55), or sunny-side up in a thin toast bowl (THB50 / $2). Drinks throw Thai herbs into the mix, such as the Magic Drink THB85 / $3.35), a naturally-sweet butterfly pea base zested up with honey and lime, or the Super Bowl (THB120 / $4.70), a potently sour combo of Asian citrus fruits and soda water served in a giant fishbowl. We also love that the wood-dominated space is decked out with all sorts of nostalgic bric-a-brac, ranging from vintage Thai dolls to old-school lunch boxes.
Tigerair and Air Asia have return flights for between $65 and $90. Silkair can get you there and back for around $190.