Although it is only about 400 meters in length, it is the heart and of the community of Patong Beach, both geographically and spiritually. It is the entertainment and nightlife capital of Phuket Island, the place men, young and old, come to enjoy the present, relive the past, recapture lost dreams and just have fun.
Branching off of Soi Bangla are numerous smaller sois or streets – Soi Crocodile, Soi Easy, Soi Gonzo, Soi Tiger, Soi Sea Dragon - where numerous beer bars, go-go bars, restaurants, massage parlors, a boxing stadium and a few high class discotheques are located.
In these places, people enjoy life to the fullest. These places have now extended beyond Soi Bangla to nearby streets such as Rat-U-Thit and the beach road. Soi Bangla is more than loud music, beer and beautiful girls, however.
It is also shopping and eating as numerous restaurants and shops – and the gigantic Jungceylon shopping complex - are just steps away on Rat-U-Thit Road. Those who come to Phuket will almost inevitably come to Soi Bangla. Most of them will leave thinking, "Gee, this place is really great!"
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The actual beach is a site few people would include on a top ten list. Most people, when they think about beaches, would probably select their favorite remote hideaway. And yet, Patong Beach is the most visited beach on the island. It is the beach where most people who come to Phuket usually first experience a beach. And, it is an excellent beach.
Crescent shaped and stretching 4 to 5 kilometers between mountain bases, it is covered with white, powdery sand and fronts deep blue, agreeably warm water. At most locations, one can rent chairs and beach umbrellas, and one can always relax by getting a beach massage.
In the day, one can enjoy various water sports if one wishes, or simply work on a good suntan. As evening comes, one can enjoy a beautiful sunset and enjoy a meal. Patong Beach can be a marvelous place, even if it is overcrowded in some places and a little noisy due to jet skiiers in others.
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Located near the intersection of Soi Bangla and Rat-U-Thit roads in Patong Beach, and the Festival Center, located northwest of Phuket town, are the two largest and most impressively modern shopping destinations on Phuket Island. Both are multileveled and contain numerous shops, restaurants,coffee shops, banks, health facilities and movie theaters.
The Festival Center is probably the most prestigious as it is anchored by the world class Central Department Store and most of its shops are boutique in nature, selling world class, elite and luxury brands. However, Big C and Lotus supercenters are both within easy walking distance for the more practically minded shoppers!!
Jungceylon, on the other hand, has numeous boutique shops but also has many stores selling discounted items or standard branded products. It is anchored by the top rated Robinson Department Store of Singapore and has a Tops Supermarket. All-in-all, 300 stores as well as two hotels and ten massage parlors are located within Jungceylon.
Its parking lot is the largest single parking lot on the island. Shopping is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy shopping – or eating – Jungceylon and the Festival Center are must stops.
The park is located in the northwest portion of Phuket Island. It covers an area of 90 square kilometers, of which 68 square kilometers are marine. What is so wonderful about this park – if you like nature, and peace and quiet - is that it includes Nai Yang Beach and Mai Khao Beach, both of which are much less developed than are most of the other beaches on the island.
Mai Khao Beach in particular, which is also the longest beach on Phuket, contains several kilometers of completely deserted beach, except for occasional hikers and, during season, giant turtles that come to the beach to lay their eggs.
Camping and shower facilities are available at Nai Yang Beach. Off the coast are excellent coral reefs and aquatic life. They are easily accessible to divers and snorkelers.
During rainy season, it is possible to surf at the northernmost part of the park. Like all Thai national parks, this park charges foreigners a fairly steep admission fee, but there are many side roads that lead into the beaches, so the fee can usually be avoided unless one wants to use the camping facilities.
Old Town Phuket is another Phuket Island destination almost everyone goes to eventually. Running for several blocks, and centered around Thalang, Dibuk, Ranong and Krabi roads, it is an up-to-date, modern place and yet it also retains much of the charm of the Phuket of the past. This is most noticeable in its architecture, which perserves Chinese, Malaysian and European influenced and designed buildings. These buildings are still in use.
The Catholic Church, Chinese temples, and Islamic Mosque are particularly impressive. The commercial life of the area, which is focused of small shops and restaurants, is primarily aimed toward the local inhabitants, which means that prices are low and quality is good.
At night, there are a couple of average sized open air markets – the fresh fish is great - to enjoy and shop at, and the area has an active nightlife centered around coffee shops and relatively sedate bars and nightclubs. These places are not like those of Patong Beach, but some have live music and dancing, and they are good places to meet local people who simply want to have a nice night out.
The Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is located in the north of Phuket Island about 20 kilometers from Phuket town and six kilometers from Thalang town. One reaches it by traversing through six kilometers or so of rubber plantations. It covers a 23 square kilometer area, is the last virgin rainforest on the island, and has three high mountain peaks, the highest being 422 meters high.
A variety of small animals such as gibbons, langurs, porcupines, slow lorises, monitor lizards, flying foxes, deer, cobras, pythons, wild pigs, and Malaysian sun bears live in the park as well as a vast array of birdlife. Phuket's two most famous waterfalls, Ton sai and Bang Pae, are located in the park.
The Gibbon Rehabilitation center, dedicated to care for motherless youthful Gibbons, and returning them to the wild, is located at the Bang Pae waterfall. Admission to the center is free. There are several trails through the forest and guides are available.
A downside to this wonderful forest and park is that foreigners are charged many times the rate which Thais are charged for admission, so beware and try not to let this spoil the pleasure.
Kata Viewpoint and Promthep Cape are probably the two best view points on Phuket Island. Kata viewpoint is located on the road that winds through the hills between Kata Beach and Nai Harn Beach, two miles south of Kata. From the top of the observation platform, one has excellent views of the Kata beaches and Karon Beach, the ocean and points inland.
One can follow this same road to the next location, Promthep Cape, located at the southernmost point on the island. It is a rugged and rocky hill that juts out into the sea. Local people used to call it "Laem Jao", or God's Cape, and it was the first point that merchant vessels approaching Phuket from the south would see, so it became a symbol of the island.
From an observation deck in the lighthouse, one can enjoy beautiful sunsets, an excellent view of Nai Harn Beach and Bay, and surrounding islands such as Koh Phi Phi. There are other good viewpoints on the island such as Kao Rung Hill in Phuket town.
Chalong Bay and Beach are located at the southern end of the island. The beach, which is best described as fair, is quiet and community oriented. One can swim here year round as it is not affected by the the rainy season. It is where the 720 meter Chalong Pier is located, a place for all who love boating and boats. Around the pier are numerous shops, and reasonabley priced restaurants and accommodations.
The bay is home to two yacht clubs and on weekends, it is full of sailing vessels. Toward the north end of the bay one will find the Phuket Zoo, which has a farily impressive collection of animals and animal acts.
The Sea Shell Museum, located on the southwest shore, is generally considered to have one of the best if not the best collection of sea shells in the world.
Wat Chalong, three kilometers from the Chalong trafic circle, is a site of spiritual and historic importance as the monks of the Wat were signficant in helping end labor and racial violence which broke out on Phuket Island in 1876.
Chalong Bay is an excellent place to enjoy oneself and to learn more about Phuket Island and Thailand.
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Thai Massage is not unique to Phuket Island but is available almost everywhere one goes on the island, including many of the beaches, and the prices are very reasonable! One can get treatments in simple, undecorated shops or in elaborate, temple-like structures, complete with water fountains, musical accompanyment and burning incense.
Different forms of massage are available, including simple traditional massage, which provides the body with stretching, pressuring and twisting, foot massage or reflexology, and various forms of oil massage. Massage is said to improve overall health and be useful in treating specific problems, but it is almost always relaxing.
Many people do it simply for pleasure, giving no thought to health. For men who are a little amourous or adventureous, full body massage, is available at a few hotels in Patong and Phuket town, although it is also probably available in the more exlusive resorts of the northwest around Bang Tao Beach.
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Weekend and Night markets are very popular throughout Thailand and on Phuket Island. The largest and most popular market on the island is held in Phuket town on the weekends. It is called "Chao Fa", or more simply, "Talad Tai Rot", and is located on Chao Fa West Road, opposite Wat Nakha.
Stores and stalls are continually changing but one can always find many people selling new and used clothing, bags, luggage, fashion products, jewellery, toys, books, religious items, home items and various electrial appliances. And, of course, there, is lots of food, much of it extremely delicious.
The various stalls usually begin operation about 4:00 AM and it is generally recommended that shoppers arrive fairly early as there are often traffic problems.
Patong Beach also has a very good market, or actually two. One is set up along the beach road and connecting sois nightly. Stalls sell a large variety of clothing, electronic goods, beachware and musical things. The other sets up on Rat-U-Thit Road three nights a week between 6:00 and 7:00 AM selling similar items.
Both, of course, come complete with numerous food stalls. The markets are an excellent place to practice one’s bargaining skills as good bargaining will almost always result in a lower price!