Phuket, the biggest of the 1000s of islands sprinkled around Thailand’s coastline, is a magical blend of everything a holidaymaker or expatriate could dream of. Swaying palm trees, white sand beaches, restaurants galore and exhilarating nightlife.
A multicultural tropical island, its history steeped in trading, tin mining and piracy, Phuket is quite simply paradise – an almost perfect mix of sun and sea, idyllic islands, great beaches, as little or as much to do as you want and sophisticated infrastructure. It’s not surprising that many of Phuket’s expatriates intended passing through, but went no further. Beyond Phuket, accessible by road bridge, are quieter Khao Lak, rugged Krabi, still sleepy Koh Lanta and the islands of Phang Nga Bay.
Until only a few years ago the area we describe as 'Greater Phuket' (pronounced Pooket) was served only by Phuket Airport. There is now a second international airport at Krabi and a third, near Khao Lak, is on the drawing board. Nevertheless, the majority of visitors to the whole area still pass through Phuket Airport and complete their journey by land or sea; Phuket Island is host to by far the greatest number of tourists and expatriates in the area.
Although Phuket, lying just 7 degrees north of the equator, has become well known internationally as a ‘sun-sea-sand’ tourist destination and expatriate haven, this stunning tropical island and the surrounding areas have managed to avoid many of the mistakes and pitfalls that usually go hand-in-hand with tourism development.
Phang Nga Bay, with its almost mystical limestone karsts (mountains rising vertically out of the sea), limpid green waters, sea caves and countless islands, islets and often deserted beaches.
The little-developed Koh Lanta (Lanta Island), which until just a few years ago could boast not a single 5-star resort.
Khao Lak (Phang Nga Province), with its long sandy beaches on the west coast of mainland Thailand near the border with Myanmar (Burma).
The rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, mangrove rivers and rocky islands of Krabi.
The National Park of Koh Phi Phi (Phi Phi Island) – actually two islands, the most famous of which, Phi Phi Le, was the location for the movie 'The Beach'.
To find out more about the areas within Greater Phuket, click on the links above or on the map below.
Unless otherwise credited, all photographs in this Regional Information section and its subsections are provided courtesy of Southeast Asia Pilot, © Bill O'Leary or Paul Lees.