Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is one of the most beautiful, fun, and well-visited islands in Thailand, which makes it one of the best tourism hot spots in the entire world.

When you do get to Phuket, you’ll probably be exhausted from all the traveling, so check into your hotel, unpack your things, and lay down on your comfy bed for a moment.

OK now get up – there’s so much to do and see in Phuket that you won’t want to waste another minute inside your room!

The first thing you can do is check out the local beach there in Phuket proper, of course, which is an easy walk or moto ride away for most travelers. But while the beach is nice enough to get some sun, you probably won’t want to spend too much time there as the vendors, touts, and incessant jet skis will drive you crazy.

First, book a trip island hopping. That includes a day trip to nearby Phan Nga Bay to witness a unique geological formation that looks like rocky and vegetation islands made from tear drops that sprout right from the sea and get bigger as they rise into the sky. Two of the better formations are also affectionately called James Bond Island (since it was used in an old 007 film) and Koh Panyee.

While your out island hopping, whether for one day or a few days, stop by Koh Phi Phi, or Phi Phi Island (Koh just means island in Thai). If the perfect white sands, lush jungle, impossibly turquoise clear waters and rocky cliffs look familiar, that’s because it was the setting of the 2000 movie, The Beach, with Leonardo DiCaprio.  For more info, check out my guide to the islands of Thailand.

Scuba divers also won’t want to miss the jaw dropping beauty of the Similan Islands, which have some of the best coral reefs in all the world ready for you.

Once you get back to mainland Phuket, get your party on Thai style with the Bacchanalian madness of Bangla Road in the entertainment (and Red Light) district of Patong. I promise you that it will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before!

For a little bit more of a PG13 experience, check out the many night markets in Phuket, where you can spend pleasant evenings walking around under cooler temperatures and trying every Thai food imaginable (including insects!), as well as listen to music, and buy a dizzying array of not only local cultural crafts and art work but knock-off purses, t-shirts, watches, and everything else imaginable.

During the daytime in Phuket, make sure you get out to the site of their iconic Big Buddha sitting atop the Nakkerd Hills. This sterling white sitting Buddha stands about 120 feet tall and cost 30 million Baht to build ($1 million USD). Wat Chalong (Wat means temple in Thai) is also another must-see destination in the hills, and has been called Phuket’s spiritual center.

From the Big Buddha, you’ll also be able to go up into the hills of Chalong before it descends into a bay, where a small community is dedicated only to fitness, including dozens of Muay Thai camps where you can learn, train, and even fight in the style of Thailand’s art of eight deadly limbs!

After all of that running around, you’re probably exhausted so NOW you can relax, but only after learning to cook in the traditional manner at an authentic Thai cooking school.

Enjoy Phuket – and make sure you hit everything on this list!

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post, Business.com, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo, Hotels.com, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.

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