Travel Guide: What To Do In Phuket, Thailand – A 12-Hour Itinerary

Surrounded by the azure blue waters of the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, and one of the country’s most popular tourist spots, renowned for its resorts, beautiful beaches and gorgeous diving and snorkelling spots. My first visit was back in 2015, and it was one of my most enjoyable trips – the island has something catered to everyone, whether you like partying, beaches, culture or food.

Four years later, I’m back for work – tasked with writing an article on what you can do in Phuket when you only have 12 hours. I’ve re-purposed it a little for this blog, so I hope you’ll find this guide useful when planning your own trip.

8 AM – Breakfast 

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Throw a rock anywhere in Thailand, and you’ll probably hit a 7-Eleven. They’re found at almost every street corner, and they take their ‘convenience store’ label very seriously. Thailand’s 7-Elevens are foodie heaven, with a MASSIVE selection of snacks, beverages, cakes, hot meals and whatever else you can think of.  I can think of nothing better to start the day off than with a bowl of Mama instant noodles, a bottle of Betagen (their version of Yakult) and a CP Shrimp and Fish burger. If you’re pressed for time, you can eat at the store itself, where the workers will even heat up your burgers/whatever hot meals you need for you. Talk about service!

9 AM – Karon Viewpoint 

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Known locally as the Hill of Three Beaches, Karon Viewpoint is one of the must-visit spots on any tourist itinerary. From a small area atop a hill, visitors will be able to see three of Phuket’s main beaches on the west side, namely Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon, which form a fork-like shape when viewed from a distance. Of course, you’ll be getting panoramic views of the sea and lush green hills as well. Entrance: FREE 

9.30 AM – Windmill Viewpoint 

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A short drive away is Windmill Viewpoint, so called because of a giant windmill that powers electricity around the island. This viewpoint is not as popular as the other, but no less breathtaking, which makes it ideal for photos (if you wanna capture a shot without crowds). There’s a gazebo here if you need to shelter from the hot tropical sun. Entrance: Free.

10 AM – Promthep Cape 

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Welcome to the southernmost tip of Phuket. Promthep Cape is particularly popular for its sunset views, but visiting during the day offers a different experience. There’s a lighthouse-cum-museum that you can explore, a shrine surrounded by elephant figurines, a restaurant serving seafood and Thai dishes, and a large old Bodhi tree within its grounds.

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Hundreds of elephant statues and figurines both large and small, surrounding a four-faced Buddha shrine. Apparently the locals leave their own figurines here for good luck. Entrance: FREE. 

11 AM – Big Buddha 

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Moving on to one of Phuket’s main attractions, the Big Buddha on Nakkerd Hill is one of the island’s most iconic fixtures. Towering 45 metres high atop a hill overlooking the entire island, the statue is made from Burmese white marble, which glitters as the sun reflects off its smooth surface. When I last visited four years ago, the place was still pretty quiet – but now there are hordes of tourists, so there goes the tranquility. It’s still worth visiting; just don’t expect to meditate in solitude here. There have been a couple of additions, such as a wide marble staircase flanked by nagas, and two stone Buddhas at the back of the main statue, which remind me of the temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt.

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N in the corner for size comparison, lol.

12.30PM – Lunch at Mor Mu Dong 

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Before the trip, I scoured the Internet for local places to eat at, and one of the suggestions that popped up was Mor Mu Dong. Apparently the place has a Michelin Bib, and even had celebrity food host Andrew Zimmern visiting it once. It still isn’t super well known among tourists, so come for an authentic experience. What makes Mor Mu Dong unique is the setting, as it sits next to a mangrove swamp, and you basically dine in these little huts by the water. They also have tables in larger elevated huts with super quirky ceilings – they seem to have stitched blankets/bed covers together to keep out the heat. I think the resto warrants a separate review on its own, but definitely try the stuffed fried mackerel if you can take spicy food! Prices are also very affordable.

2PM – Cashewnut Factory 

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Cashew nuts are grown in Phuket and the southern provinces of Thailand, and they make for great souvenirs to take home (if you’re from a Western country, they’re much cheaper here too). Phuket’s largest cashew nut factory is the curiously named Sri Bhupara Orchid Co Ltd. Owned by a Thai Chinese family, the business started off as an orchid farm, hence the name. You get a sticker when you enter and there’s a corner with staff skilfully removing the shells (they’re poisonous). It’s a lot of work, which is why cashew nuts are pricey. Aside from the original cashews, there are also loads of flavours such as wasabi, chocolate coated, lightly salted, honey glazed, tomyum, BBQ (my personal fave!) and more. Do all your shopping in one go as they also carry other products, most notably local snacks. PS: Prices are fixed, so no haggling. 

3PM – Phuket Old Town

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The best place for a dose of culture and heritage is at Phuket’s Old Town, which comprises several streets and alleyways. Like Penang and Ipoh in Malaysia, Phuket prospered because of tin mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. which drew Chinese immigrants to the area. As such, Chinese names are common for businesses here, and the Sino-Portuguese architecture featuring bright, vividly decorated facades are prominently featured in its buildings. In recent years, the old town has become a hodgepodge of old businesses, hipster cafes and artisan coffee places, with plenty of stalls selling everything from jewellery to cheap clothing.

5PM – Karon Beach

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You can’t go to Phuket and not experience at least ONE of its famed beaches. Patong is the beach for partygoers, but if you prefer a quieter, more family-oriented beach, Karon Beach is a much better alternative. White sands and crystal clear waters await! Because there aren’t many boats here, it’s much cleaner and safer as well. Entrance: FREE. 

7 PM – Karon Temple Night Market 

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Plan your visit to fall on either a Tuesday or Friday, because that’s when the Karon Temple Night Market takes place. Located within the temple grounds, the market features stalls selling cheap goods such as T-shirts, souvenirs and snacks. Of course, being the foodies that we are, we made a beeline for the food stalls, which sell everything from grilled pork skewers to halal food by Muslim traders, padthai fresh from the wok, and bugs. Tried some and it was surprisingly not as gross as I thought it would be – quite tasty, even! Entrance: FREE. 

8 PM – Drinks and Live Music 

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If you’ve had your fill of snacks and food at the market, then adjourn for drinks along Beach Road in Karon, which is lined with pubs, bars and eateries. We spent the night enjoying the sea breeze and live music at MINT by Movenpick (where we stayed – review up soon!), which serves cocktails and good wood fired pizza. Alternatively, head on to Karon Bazaar down the road for seafood fresh out of the tank and grilled over a charcoal fire.

OTHER TIPS  

  • Public transport in Phuket is not very convenient, so I suggest engaging a local driver for the day (average price 250 – 280 baht for 8 hours). Alternatively, if you know how to ride a scooter, most hostels/resorts offer scooter rental services for much cheaper. Tuktuks can also be quite pricey for short distances (average about 200 baht from Patong to Karon, which is just a few minutes away from each other). 
  • Weather in Phuket is cool and dry from November to February, which is high season. Hot season is from March to May (during our visit temperatures hovered above 30 degrees and can get very humid. N and I are both from tropical countries and even we had a hard time being out in the sun for too long), while rainy season is from May to October. PS: If you’re visiting the waterfalls, rainy season is ideal because they dry up in the hot season.  
  • Currency is Thai baht. Money changers are available throughout the island. 
  • Be mindful when visiting temples and sacred sites. Most temples will loan you sarongs at the entrance to cover up before entering if you’re wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts, but your own scarf will come in handy. 

Happy travels! 

Review: The Taaras Beach Resort & Spa, Redang – Day 1

Back in the year 2000 (when I was still a tween and VCDs were still a thing), I watched a Hong Kong romcom called Summer Holiday.  In the movie, a materialistic Hong Kong woman (Sammi Cheng) travels to Redang island in Malaysia to claim inheritance of a resort – only to find that she can’t sell it unless the owner of the other half, an island boy played by Richie Jen, agrees to relinquish it. In true blue romcom fashion, Sammi initially tries to seduce the guy, but soon finds herself falling in love. Story was kinda blah, but I remember the setting well – a beautiful tropical paradise, with clear blue waters, soft, sandy beaches and swaying palm trees.

17 years later, I finally got the chance to visit this place on a media trip – and to a five-star luxury resort to boot. I was understandably excited setting off from Merang Jetty in Kuala Terengganu.

Our organisers definitely weren’t kidding when they said they wanted us to ‘experience’ the sea. It was the tail end of the monsoon season, so the seas were rough. The small boat, which seated 10, bounced and rolled like crazy – at points I felt my butt literally flying off the seat. Now it’s all good and fun for the first five minutes, but imagine going through that for a full 1 hour 15 minutes. The waves were high and all of us got soaked to the bone. At the end of it I was very close to puking, despite the two seasick pills I popped before boarding.

Imagine our relief when we finally pulled in to Redang Island jetty, dotted with fishing and speed boats against a backdrop of tropical hills. Hotel staff were waiting for us with towels, and we hopped onto a bus to the resort, which was about 10 minutes from the pier.

‘Taara’ is Sanskrit for Goddess of the Sea – an apt name for The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort, which is owned by Berjaya Group. The lobby fits the tropical theme, with loads of wood and delicate Malay-style carvings. Peering out from the verandah, I spotted lush greens, swaying palm trees and dozens of villas leading out to the private beach. Visitors can choose from 183 rooms and suites: some with ocean views, others with garden and cliff scenery.

Had one unit all to myself – and best part was it was just a few steps away from the beach (although the view was blocked by a few other villas :P). I entered to a cosy looking and spacious living area, complete with sofas and a work desk near the window. There was also a basic toilet at the far end. A really nice touch throughout my stay was that they replenished my fruits/cookies and also had a platter of really yummy welcome chocolates.

The room was equally spacious, with a nice and soft queen-sized bed, sliding wooden shutters, closet and the usual amenties such as coffee making facilities, clothing rack and TV. The TV was fuzzy and had a lot of static though, and there weren’t too many channels to choose from. I guess they’d rather you go outside and enjoy the ocean breeze rather than be cooped up in your room all day.

Note: The Wifi at the resort is bad. I mean, yes, a beach getaway is about disconnecting from it all, but it would be nice if I could have sent work emails without having to use my data. Digi internet reception was fair.

The tub was so fancy it had three taps which I spent an eternity trying to operate because I couldn’t get it to adjust to the right temperature. They also provided bath salts so I could pretend I was in a real spa.

My villa was super close to the pool. Which, unfortunately, I didn’t manage to use during my stay. They had these fun, giant inflatables of swans and unicorns.

After the seasickness subsided, I was feeling ravenous. Lucky for us lunch was already served at the Asean All Day Dining area – a cosy restaurant with views of the pool and the beach beyond. There was a nice selection of local and international cuisine, along with dessert, appetisers and fresh fruits.

Cold cuts/salads, bread.

Noodle station where they cook your customised bowl of noodles to order. The tom yum soup was not up to par, so I abandoned my bowl.

(Right) Starting off with some cold cuts and salad. The meats were good. Moving on to the mains (left), the pasta was al-dente, with the carbonara sauce thick, rich and creamy without being cloying. Had it with stewed lamb (tender and not gamey), and curry chicken.


After lunch, we were taken to the Redang Island Resort nearby; another place run by Berjaya Group that caters to a mid-end crowd.

No private beach, but they have pretty good views too.

After the quick visit, back to The Taaras for some free and easy. I took the chance to head to the beach. The sky was cloudy, like it was going to rain soon, so the pictures didn’t turn out so well.

Dinner that night was at the Beach Brasserie; fittingly located just next to the beach where guests can watch the ocean waves lapping against the shore and the sunset. While live music played, we tucked into our course meal.

First up: appetiser of seared tuna, still pink on the inside, served with greens and balsamic vinaigrette.

The soup was hearty and warming, a thick and rich pumpkin puree with salty toast.

Clearing up the palette with a refreshing berry sorbet tart.

Our main of the night was fragrant rice and tender chicken in a mushroom sauce and a side of firm, white fish. The meal was good but after a long day, I was practically asleep on my legs and excused myself early to go to bed. Fell asleep as soon as my head hit the covers.

More to come!

Padang-Padang Beach, Uluwatu, Bali

Having a local bring you around places has it’s perks – they know places that aren’t overcrowded or too touristy….like Padang-Padang Beach in Uluwatu, Bali – which was our first stop on our first day on the island. Situated some distance away from town, (a good 40 minutes drive from where Toto picked us up from the airport), the beach is tucked in a little nook, which requires visitors to descend a steep staircase cutting through a natural rock formation.

Unlike Kuta beach and it’s throng of tourists, Padang-Padang was relatively quiet when we visited. There were a few angmohs sunning themselves, some young boys surfing, but other than that the white sand was pristine and untouched, and the water was an absolutely breathtaking shade of unpolluted turqoise. It was like looking at liquid gems. A picturesque shack that acted as a cafe, with surfboards propped up against one side of it, added to the whole island getaway scenery.

The beach itself wasn’t big – only spanning 100ms or so. There is a cliff overhung with greenery at one end, and huge rocks on the other, so the beach makes sort of a C shape. The waves are pretty high, making it a favourite for surfers. (note: Bali is famous among Aussies! )

The water was so clear and blue (but I didn’t have a change of clothes D:) , so I just sat there on the sand and took in the hot sea breeze.

Unfiltered.

The closest beach to my place is two hours drive, and the water is brown. This, in comparison, was heaven.

Unfortunately, there were no hunks in the crowd.

Getting There 

The beach is located at Jalan Labuan Sait, Pecatu Village. Public transport seems rare, but there’s a parking area for those driving scooters.