By Willy Thuan
After more than 20 years living on the amazing island of Phuket, I came to realise that some people get a very stereotypical vision of Phuket. The most surprising statements I’ve heard are probably ‘Phuket is too crowded’ or ‘Phuket is not Thailand’. What is not surprising is that people making these statements often stay on the 8 most touristic beaches. Ironically, 28 other beaches on the island remain peaceful or even deserted, and some of them are simply fantastic.
Yes, Phuket has become an international destination because it offers so much to so many. From very modern facilities to traditional temples, from superb restaurants and incredibly talented chefs to a delicious and cheap street food. From state of the art nightclubs to hidden beaches and picture-postcard islands; Phuket is unique.
Your experience depends entirely on what you want it to be. You need to step away from the tourist areas to find places that have barely changed. Once you do, you will be surprised to see that the entire northern part of the island is still very untouched. But you must make a little effort to enjoy it.
We share here some hidden places most travellers never see, little gems to explore once you have covered the big classic landmarks.
1 Mor Mu Dong restaurant:
Mor Mu Dong is a very local restaurant built over a mangrove and popular for decades with locals. Not only is the food great but, despite their growing success, they have kept the restaurant in a very basic style. You get to eat at small tables on the floor in a small wooden ‘sala’ overlooking the mangrove. They do have normal tables too, but it’s less fun. It’s a totally unique and memorable way to enjoy lunch or dinner.
- 32/9 Thanon Chao Fah Tawan Tok, Chalong
2 Golden Sitting Buddha of Khao Rang:
Everyone knows the giant marble Buddha sitting at the top of a hill in Chalong, but very few know the superb golden Buddha sitting at Khao Rang Hill in Phuket town. It is smaller and more modest in size but still beautiful and impressive, and a lot more peaceful. Don’t forget to continue to the top of Khao Rang Hill to see the panorama too. Both are nice photo opportunities!
3 Wassa Homemade bar:
There are quite a few impressive viewpoints around Phuket, but Wassa Homemade Bar in Patong Beach offers a nice terrace to admire the ever-changing sunsets of Phuket. This is a great way to end the day, sitting comfortably very high over the bay of Patong with a cold drink in hand with some local food.
- Located on Ha Sip Pee Road in the back of Patong
4 Sirinath National Park and Nai Yang Beach
Get away from crowded beaches and discover an enclave of Phuket which hasn’t changed much in years. Locals love to come on weekends to picnic and grill seafood under immense trees while kids play in the sea. It’s a national park so there might be an entry fee but you will love the unique, relaxed atmosphere. Access to Nai Yang Beach is of course free.
- West Coast, very near the airport
5 Banana Beach
Banana Beach is a tiny hidden beach near the airport where you will discover surprisingly blue water and a white sandy beach. Of course, it’s not entirely empty, but because it requires an effort to find it and a bit of walking down a slope, you’ll find only a few people there. Banana Beach is on the way to the also beautiful Naithon Beach, past Trisara Resort. Just stop when you see cars and bike parked along the road. Note that the beach is worth visiting during high season only.
- Between Andaman White Beach and Naithon Beach
6 Floating restaurants:
7 Wat Phra Nang Sang
Almost everyone drives past this this unusual and colourful temple, but almost no one ever stops. Wat Phra Nang Sang is said to be the oldest in Phuket, almost 550 years old. It is beautifully decorated and has a very unusual style with a surprising mix of different designs.
- Intersection of Thalang Road and
8 Samet Nangshe Viewpoint
Samet Nangshe Viewpoint is not technically in Phuket, but it is fantastic enough to mention here. Of course, we assume everyone already did a kayak trip to Phang Nga Bay but this page is about what to do off the beaten track. To get to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint there is a 25 km drive out of Phuket followed by a 20 min climb up a dirt track. The view from up there over Phang Nga Bay is worth the effort.
- 25 km past Sarasin Bridge that connect Phuket to mainland