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10 Reasons to Add Phuket to Your Travel Bucket List

The dazzling island is so diverse, it can easily become your favourite holiday destination…

With jade-hued waters, white-gold sands, heritage sites, bustling markets and amazing rainforests teeming with wildlife, Phuket had been attracting millions of visitors every year for decades before COVID-19 hit. And now that one of Thailand’s most popular (and biggest) island destination is ready to welcome back international tourists after 18 months, there’s even more reason to plan a holiday there. The beaches are once again pristine, abounding with sea life, and the surrounding islands are rejuvenated with lush greenery unseen before.

Anantara, the luxury hospitality brand that connects modern travellers to genuine places, people and stories through personal experiences, has rounded up 10 must-dos on a visit to Phuket. 

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Head to the Sino-Portuguese shophouses in Phuket Town

Phuket has come a long way from its beginnings as a tin-mining settlement, but with a little imagination you can almost see the merchants displaying goods inside the ornate Sino-Portuguese shophouses in Phuket Town. Converted into trendy restaurants, guesthouses and boutique hotels, they have since received a new lease on life, with many restored to their former glory.

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Decorate your Instagram page with the giant lilies at the Ma Doo Bua Café

If you’re a nature lover who is especially drawn to the strange and unusual, you will love the Ma Doo Bua Café. A must-visit destination for botanists and Instagrammers alike, this lakeside eatery is home to a colony of giant water lilies strong enough to hold the weight of a child (or a very light adult).  

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Add this bridge with a romantic story to your itinerary

Phuket has its very own Romeo and Juliet, who met their untimely end on the Sarasin Bridge. Connecting the mainland of Phuket and Phang Nga in southern Thailand, the bridge opened in 1967 and is considered by some as most beautiful one in the country. In 1987 it entered the collective memory when the tragic romance between two young lovers was made into a film titled "Saphan Rak Sarasin" (Sarasin, The Bridge of Love.) Whether you come here to reflect on life, love or have a photo shoot at the pretty pergola overlooking the river, Sarasin Bridge is guaranteed to make an impact. 

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Watch in amazement as sea turtles get released 

Five of the world’s seven existent species of sea turtles, the Leatherback, the Loggerhead, the Olive Ridley, the Hawksbill and the Green turtles, can be found in the waters of the Andaman Sea. All are classified as either endangered or threatened, but Mai Khao beach is one of the few on Phuket that continues to welcome nesting turtles. This is thanks to the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which focuses on enhanced nest protection and improved incubation conditions. Anantara Mai Khao’s Annual Turtle Release takes place around the Songkran holiday in mid-April and brings the entire community together. 

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Learn about the island’s rum-making secrets 

To explore a more contemporary side of Phuket, head to the award-winning Chalong Bay Rum Distillery. Plan to spend a few hours here as you tour the facilities learning the centuries-old French technique of using copper stills, before joining a cocktail-making workshop centred on Chalong Bay’s pure sugarcane juice rum. Distilled and bottled in Phuket and packed with local botanicals, it skillfully showcases the terroir of the island.

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Embrace an authentic lifestyle 

Koh Panyee, a 20-minute longtail boat ride from the main island, is a small fishing village built on stilts. The local Muslim community members are always welcoming and ready to show you around their unique homes in the shallow waters. The floating village has a school, a mosque, small souvenir shops and restaurants. Residents are also football mad and have their very own floating football stadium. Their love of the game has even made them one of southern Thailand’s best football teams. 

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Get up close and personal with gibbons

Gibbons were poached to the brink of extinction in Phuket’s jungle over 40 years ago. Today, they are illegally kept as pets or used as props in tourist photos, feeding the demand for baby gibbons. But there is a way to engage with these gorgeous creatures in an ethical way. Phuket’s Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, a research division of the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand, rescues gibbons and rehabilitates them so they can be reintroduced into their natural habitat. Visit the centre to learn about the work it is doing, as well as observing the animals at the designated viewing areas. 

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Follow in James Bond’s footsteps for the day

After catching a private jet from Bangkok to Phuket, you get whisked by chauffeur-driven limo to the 8-bedroom Villa Similan, the largest and most luxurious of the Anantara Layan Phuket Resort’s residences. Enjoy martinis (shaken not stirred) by your own private butler before being presented with THE actual golden gun from “The Man with the Golden Gun.” A glamorous yacht cruise around Phang Nga Bay, where the 1974 movie was filmed, with free-flowing Krug champagne, tops off this top-notch Bond experience. 

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Shop and eat like the locals at Sunday Walking Street Market

Phuket’s famous Sunday Walking Street Market on old Thalang Road has something for everyone from secondhand goods to clothes and souvenirs. And the best part of it is the amazing array of local food to sample. Even if you aren’t looking to buy, the electric atmosphere and historic setting is guaranteed to charm. 

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Connect with nature

Take a hike to the island’s last virgin rainforest, Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. The natural paradise is known for its wide array of birds and wildlife, but the main attraction is the Bang Pae waterfall offering a cool spot to swim after a long hike.

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