The LUXE Mini Guide to Phuket

Phuket’s cerulean waters, heart-stopper sunsets and easy access have made it an Asian-getaway mainstay, and while the vodka-quaffing hordes mill around seedy Patong, there’s still plenty of stylish accommodation, dining and retail popping up across the rest of the island like polka dots on a teeny bikini.


Nov-Apr is officially the season, so expect to be vying with the crowds, but don’t let that put you off – the reality is there are still a few secluded spots for promising plenty of beach-lounger space and serenity… so what are you waiting for? Pack that kaftan and off you jet, set, go!


Dining

For relaxed, toes-in-the-sand beach eats try The Cove on Ao Yon Beach near Panwa or Kan Eang@Pier at Rawai for Thai-style seafood. But for something a lil’ more sophisticated try...


Tu Kab Khao

Hob-nob with the Phuket flitterati at this lovely, character-packed Peranakan-Thai manor where ornate blooms, elegant country-style furnishings and lavish table settings backdrop Khun Kim's southern Siamese flava-raves. Order the moo hong, a local dish of braised pork and crab curry, and thank us later.

Tip: Open layout and large tables make this place great for groups or celebrations.  

8 Phang-nga Rd / Taladyai / +66 76 608 888 / 11.30am-midnight daily


Suay

TV talent Noi is one of the most creative and best-loved chefs on the island, riffing on northern Thai recipes with a dash of Euro style at this warm, laid-back garden-villa in Phuket Old Town. Order the spiced-up squid pesto, or ask if the special sea bass steak (with salted egg, coconut prawns, green curry mousse and black rice risotto) is available – it's a one-of-a-kind treat you won’t find anywhere else in Thailand.

Tip: Best for dinner; caters to veggies and allergic Annies. There's a stunning second, venue in Cherngtalay attracting the glitterati of Phuket

50/2 Takuapa Rd / Talat Nuea / +66 87 886 6990 / 5pm-midnight daily / suayrestaurant.com

Suay Cherngtalay / Baan Wana Park / 177/99 Moo 4 /Sri Sunthorn / Thalang /+66  93 339 1890 / 
4pm-midnight daily

Mala Restaurant


Mala Restaurant

Relive your Enchanted Wood childhood fantasies at Keemala's Insta-ready resto, floating among the treetops. Once you've finished gawping at the ravishing locale, tuck into paddy-to-pantry fare spanning wellness bowls to Thai classics, as well as the star attraction, Indian cuisine – rumour has it, folks fly in from as far as Dubai to sample Chef Sunil's aromatic wizardry. Pair with imaginative cocktails or picks from the excellent wine list.

Tip: Uber veggie-friendly.

10/88 Nakasud Rd / Kamala / +66 76 358 777 / b’fast, lunch & dinner daily / keemala.com


Esenzi Restuarant


Esenzi

When only an OTT gourmet extravaganza will do, beach babe Iniala’s elevated salon is your go-to. Steered by Tim Butler (he of Bangkok eateries Eat Me and Bunker), flip-fresh fish is the main focus, plated fine-dine style against a sinuous, oceanic blue-on-blue backdrop endowed with stellar art. Wine comes courtesy of suave somm Fabien Etienne.

Tip: Prepare to blow some serious Benjies, but rest assured that 5% goes to nonprofit Inspirasia Foundation, which supports local charities. The resort itself is out of this world – ask to have a nose around the dazzling villa, or better yet, check in for the night.

Iniala Beach Resort / 40/14 Moo 6 Baan Natai / Khok Kloi / Phang-nga / +66 76 451 456 / 6-11pm Mon-Sat / esenzirestaurant.com


Atsumi Raw Cafe

Skinny gals and their reluctant boyfs flit to this casual, cosy, raw-ganic caff in Rawai. Thai-meets-global, spiralised delights include rawsagna, gado-gado wrap, sushi, and fresh smoothies and juices, natch. Should it all sound too virtuous, there's a decadent array of desserts – we love the raw chocolate cheesecake. Inside offers air-con comfort, but the thatched verandah overlooking a luscious garden is the better spot.

99/1 Moo 7 / Wiset Rd / Rawai / +66 76 289 224 / 9am-8pm daily / atsumirarawcafe.com


Pru

Trisara has jumped on the farm-to-fork bandwagon, but, as is habit with this gorgeous uber-luxe lair, they've outplayed the rest with an exceptional East-West menu, triff organic-heavy wine list, super-informative waitstaff and produce harvested from their very own farm. Ask to visit the latter when you make your booking and see for yourself.

Trisara / 60/1 Moo 6 / Srisoonthorn Rd / Cherngtalay / +66 76 310 100 / 6.30-10pm daily /  trisara.com


Bars

Ka Jok See

This old dolly’s been around the block a few times, but the sizzling ambi, decent Thai food and late-night table dancing must be experienced to be believed. Advance booking is essential, and expect a wait on the door, but once inside you’ll see why this Phuket pleasuredome is beloved by locals, celebs and in-the-know visitors alike.

Tip: This signless club is a bugger to find, so get written directions in Thai for your cab driver. Dinner is a set price and you can order as much you want. Great for groups.

26 Takua Pa Rd / Phuket Town / +66 76 217 903 / 6.30pm-late Mon-Sat


Catch Beach Club


Catch Beach Club

The buff, beautiful and tanned beeline for this enduring, easy-breezy, Miami-bent all-dayer for its consistently good food, easy 'tude and knack for partying in style. Opt for a day-long rental of your sunlounger and get money off your F&B… Ray-Bans at the ready!

Tip: Been before? Note that Catch has moved to a new location on Bang Tao Beach.

202/88 Moo 2 / Cherngtalay / +66 76 316 567/ 9am-2am daily / catchbeachclub.com


360 Bar at The Pavilions


360 Bar at Pavilions

On an island famed for its sunsets, this is hands down the best perch to drink in those mellow, sunblushed skies with cocktail in hand. Attached to chic sleeper Pavilions, 360 offers – you guessed it – full-angle panoramas of Layan Beach and its surrounds, plus a small but decent tapas menu to help counter the potent quaffage.

Tip: Stacked n' packed in peak season so book ahead, and leave the nippers with a sitter – this is a grown-up play date.

31/1 Moo 6 / Cherngtalay / +66 7631 7600 / 5.30–11pm daily / pavillionshotel.com


Siam Supper Club

Dark wood panelling, handsome long bar and a moody, jazzy vibe make this cocktailicious eatarium more New Orleans than Laguna Beach. Island personality Sean Power plays host with the most, pulling in habitués with his tried and tested formula of champion drinks list, superlative service, and hearty North American fare, with steaks and pizzas (oft with a Thai twist) taking pole position. Rocks on late.

Tip: Monday is live jazz night when musicians turn up the bee-bop-de-doo-wop.  

36-40 Lagoon Rd / Cherngtalay / +66 76 270 936 / 6pm-1am daily / siamsupperclub.com


Shopping

Wings by Hejslebjerg


Wings by Hejselbjerg

For kit to kill, be it drifty tropical togs or sleek urban galwear, Danish designer Mette’s original silk kaftans, kimono, ponchos and frocks in earthy tones and natural, graphic prints are simple, feminine and take you effortlessly from street to beach. Also shelves covetable brands like Buddha WearTrue Rocks bling, and LUXE-loved topper Mon Panama.

Tip: Found something you adore that doesn't quite fit? Clever Mette offers speedy alterations.

49/16 Boat Ave / Cherngtalay / +66 76 324 112 / 9am-9pm daily


Phuket Walking Street

Taking over the Old Town’s main artery Thalang Road every Sunday afternoon, this relaxed outdoor market showcases local goodies, handicrafts, and sizzling street food against pastel-pretty, Sino-Portuguese heritage shophouses. Halfway down, zip into Soi Rommanee; this former red-light district for Chinese labourers is now a vibrant laneway of jazzy bars and restos.              

Tip: Go late afternoon/evening. The street is closed to traffic, so leave your cab on Dibuk Road, next to the 72nd Anniversary Queen Sirikit Park (Larn Mung Korn), and walk over to the Standard Chartered Bank where Thalang Road begins.

Thalang Rd / Phuket Old Town / +66 81 677 9851 / 4-10pm Sun


Chillva Market

For more fashion-forward retail, hotfoot it to Chillva Market on Yaowarat Road. Open most evenings, this edgier Thai bazaar, defined by its shipping container complex stacks younger, trend-focused wares, plus a slew of eat spots and funky bars with live music.

Tip: Chillva has 2 zones: the w/end market is open Thu-Sat and the shipping containers are open everyday except Wed. Limited English spoken.

141/2 Yaowarat Rd / Phuket Old Town / +66 99 152 1919 / 5-11pm Thu-Sat


Activities


Phuket Elephant Sanctuary


Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Banish visions of crummy zoos and performing animals – this pioneering retreat gives retired and rescued Nellies a chance to roam freely in a natural habitat. Set amid lush jungle in the north of the island, the safari-esque compound is home to five elephants, with numbers steadily growing. Visitors get to interact with the gentle giants, with nary a novelty ride in sight. Sustainable, educational and inspirational – just go.

Tip: Wellies are provided for walking the terrain, just don’t forget to bring your own socks!

Paklok / Thalang / +66 94 990 3649 / 1 half-day tour daily, but check website for details / phuketelephantsanctuary.org


John Gray Sea Canoe


John Gray Sea Canoe

Be prepared to get a little wet as you paddle through the magical limestone mountains, eerie caves and hidden lagoons of Phang Nga Bay. Eco-vet John Gray created this definitive sea-canoe jaunt yonks ago and he's still the island's best – no other experience offers such deep insight into marine life, geology and Thai culture, with an added splash of fun.

Tip: Group or bespoke. Our fave is the 'Hong by Starlight' tour, which showcases the magnificent limestone karsts.

Call +66 76 254 505-6 / johngray-seacanoe.com

Mala Spa

Eco-resort Keemala's cocoon of bliss has bagged numerous gongs since opening in 2016. And no surprises, for this simple, thatchy perch amid the treetops offers a host of wellness treatments that blend mod thinking with trad healing rituals, using organic, paraben-free prods, visiting mind/body experts, and tailored fitness programs. And relaaaax.

Tip: Open to non-guests. Follow up with supper at the stagger onsite resto (see above).

Keemala / 10/88 Nakasud Rd / Kamala / +66 76 358 777 / keemala.com


Where to bed down?

Check out the ravishing, eco-luxe Keemala; glam mod-Thai panor-mama Andara both in Kamala, or kooky architect’s fantasy pad FOTO tucked in the hills above Kata Beach.

CONTRIBUTOR

Natasha Eldred



Actor turned PR diva, Natasha's lived on Phuket for over a decade. When she's not repping top-notch travel clients or scouting out the best restos, bars and beaches on the rock for LUXE, she devotes times to helping dolphins, dogs and elephants. Follow Nat on Instagram @ShineTravelPR

  • Natasha LOVES… Animals, beagles, walks in the jungle, people with big hearts, travel, SCUBA, champagne, and avocados

  • Natasha LOATHES... Not being invited to a party, butter, plastic straws, and establishments that keep animals in captivity for tourist entertainment


 

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