- Phuket is Thailand’s biggest island, stretching out for 30 miles by 13 miles
- Once strictly a backpacker destination, it has developed into a holiday hotspot
- Kate Johnson stayed at Dream Phuket, an enticing hideaway on Layan Beach
The busy beachside strip of Patong is a test of patience for those of us who have grown weary of sunset-to-sunrise shenanigans.
And we can do without those infamous scams such as the one I experienced some years ago when hiring a jet-ski and then being confronted by the owner brandishing a huge bill for damage I didn’t cause.
But that’s not the whole story. After all, Phuket is a big island, stretching 30 miles north to south and 13 miles across (joined to the mainland by the Sarasin Bridge), offering plenty of options for holidaymakers looking for almost-guaranteed sunshine.
It’s come a long way since it started with just a few beach front bungalows for barefoot backpackers in the Seventies. In those days, it was a beachfrontr bus ride from Bangkok.
One international airport later, and there are more than 750 licensed places to stay, with 47,000 rooms and another 35 hotels expected to be built in the next few years. Mick Jagger, Beyonce, Kate Moss and Rihanna have all checked in at one time or another.
I’m staying at Dream Phuket, a newish hotel on Layan Beach, a tranquil stretch of sand on the west coast. It has giant beds in large rooms, partly open-plan bathrooms, an enticing swimming pool, international cuisine, a roof-top bar with infinity pool and a spa. It’s not directly on the beach, but it has a separate beach club just two minutes away by shuttle bus.
It’s good news for the rest of us, as it means there’s no wait for the cheap massages on the beach. They’re seriously good; I have two in one day. During one, a vast man having a massage next to me snores loudly despite the fierce kneading.
Less than half a mile from our hotel is the Project Artisan, Laguna (theprojectartisan.com). A labour of love from a gentle Croatian couple with a deep affection for all things Thai, it’s a restaurant and deli, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The hotel also offers foot massages and mani-pedis, while there are plans for a cookery school and art club.
A boat trip is a must. Some prefer to barter for a place on speedboats, which take a well-worn route to celebrity-touched islands such as Phi Phi Le, where Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Beach was shot.
A place to make a splash: Dream Phuket has a large pool complex as well as a beach setting
I’m on a larger boat which motors to the less well-known Phang Nga Bay. You can kayak, swim off the back of the boat, or watch long-tailed vessels take visitors to the islands of Khao Phing Kan and Ko Ta Pu (The Man With The Golden Gun was filmed here) before returning as the sun sets.
The boat crew speak fluent English and Chinese and, at the end of the trip, the captain says: ‘If we have done anything wrong, we hope you forgive us.’
There’s nothing to forgive.