A Glossary of Typical Thai Dishes



Exploring Phuket

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Phuket was called Junkceylon by early European traders, but its modern name may derive from the Malay word bukit, meaning hill. On arrival, many visitors head straight for a beach resort and do not leave it for the duration of their vacation – the best of the island’s beaches are strung out along the west coast. However, there are several historical and cultural sights to complement the beachside attractions, and the lush, hilly interior is also worth exploring

Hat Patong 

Phuket’s most developed beach is the 2-mile (3-km) long Hat Patong. Once a quiet banana plantation, it is now almost a city by the sea. The area has a lively nightlife, with a vibrant mix of hotels, restaurants, discos, and bars. During the day there are many water activities, such as parasailing, waterskiing, diving, and deep-sea fishing. Although Patong continues to expand, the beaches along the southern headland of Patong bay are far quieter, such as Freedom Beach, which is only accessible by boat from Patong.

Hat Karon and Hat Kata

South of Patong, and almost as popular, are the beaches of Karon and Kata. Karon has one long stretch of sand lined with accommodations, and a second beach at tiny Karon Noi. Kata’s beaches, along the bays of Kata Yai and Kata Noi, are smaller and prettier, sheltered by rocky promon[1]tories. There are a number of good restaurants on the headland between Karon and Kata.

Other Western Beaches

North of Patong, fringed by palm-covered headlands, lie the smaller beaches of Kamala, Surin, and Pansea. Hat Kamala is relatively undeveloped, with some Muslim fishermen’s houses and a few restaurants. Just to the south, however, is Phuket FantaSea, a huge Las Vegas-style cultural theme complex that hosts a spectacular live night-time stage show with music, dance, special effects, and elephants. Farther north from Hat Kamala, Ao Bang Tao offers a quiet, enchanting retreat, popular with families. Fronted by a few exclusive hotels, the beach is good for water sports. Round the next few headlands are three beaches: Hat Nai Thon, a gorgeous, un – developed stretch; Hat Nai Yang, which is visited by Thais on weekends; and Hat Mai Khao, a deserted 7.5-mile (12-km) stretch of sand.

Southeastern Capes and Bays

Hat Nai Harn, a bay near the southern tip of Phuket, is the home of the exclusive Phuket Yacht Club. The beach (open to all) is one of the most beautiful on the island. Cape Prom thep, 1 mile (2 km) away on the southern tip of Phuket, offers wonderful views, especially at sunset. North of Promthep, on the east side of the island, are Hat Rawai, and farther along, Ao Chalong. The sands around this bay are not as white as those on the west coast, but there are many excellent seafood shacks here. Ao Chalong acts as an anchorage for international yachts exploiting its sheltered location, and is also a departure point for boat excursions to the charming islands of Lone, Hai, and Bon, where there is good snorkeling. Farther up the coast at Cape Phanwa is the interesting and much-visited Phuket Aquarium, which forms part of the Marine Research Center.

Northeast Coast

Ko Naga Noi, an island off Phuket’s northeast coast, has a tranquil, sandy beach that makes a fine halt for swimming and relaxing. The island is home to the Naga Pearl Farm, whose owners give demonstrations of the process of culturing South Sea pearls. At Phuket’s northeasternmost point, on the Cape Khut headland, there are sweeping views of the monoliths of Phangnga Bay (see pp368–71). The placid waters of the narrow channel between Phuket and Phangnga province are exploited by Muslim fishermen who farm sea bass here


This town in central Phuket was the site of a famous battle in 1785 against the Burmese, which is commemorated by the Heroines’ Monument 5 miles (8 km) to the south. A short walk east of the monument is the Thalang Museum, which outlines the rich heritage of Phuket. Among the exhibits are 5th-century religious icons, Chinese porcelain, life-size figures recreated from the Burmese battle, and information on the sea gypsies. In Thalang itself there is a good market and, nearby, Wat Phra Tong.

In the center of the wat lies a gold-covered Buddha image, half buried in the ground. Legend has it that disaster will come to anyone who tries to move the image.

Khao Phra Taew Forest Park

Some 2.5 miles (4 km) east of Thalang is the spectacular Khao Phra Taew Forest Park. The preserve is important, as it preserves the last of Phuket’s primary rainforest. Within the park are two fine waterfalls. Ton Sai waterfall is the prettiest and is at its best from June to December. On the eastern fringe of the preserve is the Bang Pae waterfall. Near the latter is the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. This volunteer-run program aims to reintroduce domesticated gibbons into the forest by encouraging them to fend for themselves. Visitors’ donations buy food for the gibbons

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