7 major reasons for Phuket's rocketing fame

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Why has Phuket's fame as a beach destination rocketed is just 30 years? In the 1980s it was virtually unknown in the world of travel and tourism, yet today it is ranked among the world's top beach destinations, drawing over 10 million visitors each year.

There are many reasons for this, and we suggest the following as the major reasons for Phuket's new fame:

1) natural beauty of its beaches

2) Thai culture and service

3) high quality of Phuket's true beachfront hotels

4) Thai prices

5) amazing geography of the Andaman region

6) Thai cuisine

7) that wild, wild nightlife in Patong

1. natural beauty of Phuket's beaches

Simply put, it was the stunning natural beauty of Phuket's beaches that has drawn millions of people from around the world, and continues to do so even as both the island and its reputation evolve and change. Some people say it is now overly developed, or its famous beaches are over-crowded. However, the island is bigger than many realize, and has many difference beaches, some of which still have little or no development at all. Today's Phuket offers holidays full of action, fun and wild nightlife, or a quiet, romantic getaway on an isolated beach like Mai Khao with few people around. So this large and diverse island will continue to satisfy many people with different needs for years to come.

2. Thai culture - it's gentle, it's polite, it's welcoming

How important is culture in attracting visitors? It's a huge draw in Thailand's case, with culture translating first as the friendliness and heart-felt warm welcome that Thais extend to foreign guests in their country. Over the years countless people have ranked this the most memorable aspect of their visit to Thailand. Countless tropical countries have beautiful beaches and warm water , but few can match the inner warmth that spreads from the Thai heart to their guests, breaking the chill in those arriving from colder, more stressful environments.

A warm, monsoon-driven climate and Buddhist philosophy are surely key influences at the root of the Thai's generous and understanding culture. Societies that have developed in warm climates are generally 'softer', nurtured by a more generous environment that provides food and comfort year-round without the need to hoard, plan and retreat for survival through icy winters. 1,500 years of rubbing against Buddhist philosophy has coloured Thai culture with compassion and sensitivity towards others.

3. high quality of Thai beach hotels, resorts & service

Thai hotels are second to few in the world. It's a bold statement, but when armed with experience, it is easy to make. The only level of the hoteliers trade where European hotels might outdo their Thai counterparts, is well, in a kind of snobbery and elitism. Europe and America have some very elitist hotels for the very wealthy that put on formal airs of a kind that Thais really do not understand. Here the service is more natural and less formal than in the colder countries.

While Thai service gets the greatest accolades from experienced travellers, the quality and variety of the resort hotels on Phuket are also world-class.

Thailand is a developing country with relatively high level of skills in design and construction, and the country has also attracted many skilled individuals from around the world, including hoteliers, architects and designers. International hotel chains have invested heavily along Thai beaches. The resulting blend of international standards with Thai Traditional design and culture has resulted in hotels of outstanding quality.

Phuket has many examples of these high standards along it beaches, in genuine hideaway resorts , many delectable romantic retreats and of course, plenty of good family beach hotels . This site can help you find the hotel best suited to your needs from any of these categories .

4. Thai prices are very competitive

Thailand offers great value for dollars spent – and not just in the cost of a beachfront hotel room. Thailand, while not the very cheapest destination in the world, offers some of the best value for dollars spent on a beach anywhere. Thailand's 'value' includes everything from that hotel bed through to the clarity of the water, the smiles of the staff and the taste of the food. Satisfaction and happiness are also calculated into the final 'cost' when a beach-lover returns from a trip.

With hotel costs quite similar in resorts around the world, Phuket surely wins most of its good value points from the many extras like service, Thai friendliness, Thai massage and the excellent cuisine.

Perhaps it is also the wide range of choices, also. Phuket still has cheap little backpacker-style bungalows (though not many left now), any number of mid-range and family hotels, a seductive choice of boutique resorts and several large international chain resorts with famous names like Marriott, Westin and Regent.

Cost is one of the major factors influencing the directions beach-lovers take the world over, and it is surely one that steers many to Phuket's sands each year.

The very best deals can be had in Phuket during the low season months, or the monsoon season, when hotels have low occupancy and drop their rates significantly. Some visitors deliberately choose this ‘low’ time of year so they can enjoy a top, luxury resort that they couldn’t normally afford. And many people are now catching on to the fact that the rainy periods are far shorter than the dry ones, and this can be a very pleasant time of year to visit Thailand. See why in our page called The Beauties of the Monsoon Season on the Andaman Coast.

5. amazing geography of the Andaman region

The incredible geography of the Andaman region gives Phuket a huge advantage, one that has helped drive it from obscurity to global fame in a single lifetime. Fame first came to Phuket due to its especially beautiful beaches . Then it spread to Krabi , Phi Phi Islands and other nearby islands. Today visitors are beginning to fan out across Thailand's Andaman coast in all directions. Phuket is the airport and starting point for almost all of them. Geography may even be called upon to save Phuket one day. The current boom in over-development here threatens an ugly conclusion – an island with a treeless, concrete interior and only a fringe of green around the beaches and outer rim. If the natural beauty that originally made Phuket famous is concreted over, what will visitors come for?

The answer is the 'other Phuket', the pivot and starting point at the heart of an amazingly beautiful and geographically diverse region. Phuket is surrounded by countless other stunning gems rising from the tranquil waters of the Andaman Sea. As this island becomes less attractive more visitors will use Phuket as the landing and take-off point for a holiday in satellite resorts like Khao Lak in Thailand's greater Andaman region. Many islands along this coast are in nascent tourism development right now, and those will become the focus of many future holiday experiences… packaged with arrivals and stopovers in Phuket.

6. Thai cuisine - it's simply superb, and everywhere

Thai food spices up the dreams of the world. Virtually every visitor arriving on Thai shores is already dreaming of tasting his or her favourite Thai dish right here in its homeland. And few are disappointed, for eating Thai in any of those thousands of Thai restaurants around the world is never the same. Thai food is great, but it is by far best when eaten here in Thailand.

It is thus only natural that when beach-lovers around the world are considering destinations for their next beach sojourn, Thai food is somewhere in the back of their minds, spreading some subliminal pro-Thai propaganda with nostalgia for favourite spices and flavours. Thai food surely helps influence people to choose Thailand as their next beach destination, and helps crank the satisfaction rating a little higher when the visitor is here enjoying the superior spicing and flavours of local dishes by local cooks at local prices.

7. that free-wheeling nightlife in Patong City

What is the single biggest attraction on Phuket? No, it's not a beach, as one might expect, but an evening stroll down a street full of bars, lady-boys, hostesses and wild evening shenanigans. Thousands of visitors wander the 350 metres down Patong's famous – or infamous for some – Soi Bangla to watch the spectacle of lady-boys prancing, girls gyrating on their poles and other tourists drinking and ogling. More people just wander and look than actually pull up a bar stool to join the fun.

Even those who disapprove of the wild nightlife here with its undertones of commercial sex come here in droves. The evening walk down Soi Bangla is a part of virtually every organized tour of the island. A large percent of visitors staying on quieter beaches far from Patong still come to this glitzy, noisy scene for at least one night during their Phuket vacation. They enjoy fine dining here, do some shopping and visit Junk Ceylon. But it's really the chance to see or taste a little of the wild nightlife that draws them away from distant beachfront comforts to Patong for an evening.

beware: only 4% of Phuket's hotels & resorts are beachfront

In so famous a beach destination it might come as a surprise to know True Beachfront qualifies only about 4% of more than 2,000 hotels on Phuket as 'true beachfront'. Yes, the island with by far the most beach resorts in Asia has extremely few right on the beach. The reason is simple: roads. And many of the roads along the beaches are now big and busy, a fact that is often left out of the websites and brochures of the hotels there. So beware when booking hotels on Phuket. Too many people have been disappointed.

First time visitors thinking about making a trip to Phuket should do their research. We offer advice on how to find the right beach – and true beachfront hotels – to suit your needs, while our maps will help you avoid those beach resorts that pretend to be on the beach, but aren't.

other dangers like conmen, tourist rip-offs, sharks, jellyfish, malaria & dengue fever?

Worried about sharks, snakes, insects or jellyfish in Phuket?

Relax. It’s smart to be aware and read a little about the dangers for tourists in Phuket, but for the average visitor who uses common sense to avoid everyday pitfalls, there is little to worry about.

Shark attacks are virtually unknown in Thailand, where most of the sharks have long since been grilled or turned into curry. There are tens of thousands of crocodiles in farms in Thailand, all waiting to be skinned, but none left in the wild. Snakes are not so uncommon, but poisonous ones like cobras are now quite rare in built-up area of Phuket. If, by remote chance, you do see a snake slithering through the gardens of your resort hotel it will most likely be a harmless paradise tree snake on the hunt for geckos.

Snakes were once prevalent on Phuket, but with urban development and plantations having replaced virtually all original forest little habitat remains for them, and they’re now quite rare. Visitors will occasionally see a small greenish snake in resort gardens, the paradise tree snake that hunts for geckos and is harmless to humans.

Deadly box jellyfish are one danger that visitors to beach resorts in the Gulf of Thailand need to be aware of, for they have killed a number of people there, but here on the Andaman coast there is little to worry about. Only one fatality has been recorded on Thailand’s Andaman coast in the past twenty years, and that occurred in Koh Lanta. Compared to the danger of drowning, or falling off your hotel balcony, the jellyfish danger is statistically close to zero in Phuket.

Malaria is found in some remote mountainous parts of Thailand, but not in Phuket. Dengue fever, however, becomes a problem in the early months of the monsoon season, and visitors arriving in May and June should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Humans pose the most serious dangers faced by foreign visitors to Thailand, so it pays to always use common sense and basic precautions. The most important are these two: drive carefully, on the correct side of the road, and don’t get too intoxicated and stay out late at night.

by John Everingham