On the south western side of Thailand, the island of Phuket is renowned for being one of the region’s most beautiful and popular resorts. As flights to Phuket are reasonably cheap and there are plenty of things to do when you arrive, it’s little wonder that thousands of backpackers and thrill seekers flock there every year. Phuket enjoys miles of white sandy beaches and warm, crystal-clear waters that are perfect for spotting marine life. The coastline is a mixture of limestone cliffs, rocky outcrops and sandy bays. Inland, you will find coconut plantations, rice paddies and lush rainforest.
Phuket is also home to some of the most amazing events and festivals too. In February, for example, the three-day Old Town Festival draws on both the rich traditions and heritage of Phuket. It is held in the historical centre of the old town with the surrounding streets turned into walking streets. There’s rickshaw rides, the Phuket Baba Light Show, free boat rides along the canal and much more, not forgetting the fabulous street food, of course. Mid February also sees large numbers of sailors stopping off in Phuket to take part in the popular sailing event, the Phang Nga Bay Regatta.
In March, if the Bangkok Chess Club Open isn’t your thing, then the Thao Thep Krasatri-Thao Sri Suntorn festival certainly will be. The festival includes a tug o’ war, a mini marathon, takraw, which is volleyball played with the feet and an ‘uppasombot moo’ or Buddhist ordination ceremony. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the festival, however, is the spectacular historical open air show with a cast of 300 actors celebrating the two sisters who rallied the islanders and defended Phuket from Burmese troops. The attack took place over two hundred years ago and the festival is named after the island’s two heroines.
If you’re gay, into cricket or cycling, want to see turtles released into the wild, or simply enjoy getting soaking wet, then make sure you head to Phuket in April. Bike week, the gay festival and the cricket sixes tournament all take place in this month as does, Songkran, the Thai festival that celebrates the lunar new year in a riot of water throwing and other fun events.
If you want to go to Phuket in low season, there’s still plenty of great festivals and events on, with a fair amount of sunny days thrown in, too – low season isn’t all endless rainfall and tropical storms. August sees the Por Tor or ‘Hungry Ghosts’ festival, with lots of gifts and flowers given to ghosts each year in Phuket City. The Phuket Surfing Contest is held every September based around the coastline off Kata Beach, and the famous Vegetarian Festival is held in October (pictured above).
The Vegetarain Festival is a nine-day event is held in honour of a wandering Chinese Opera group who came down with malaria in the 19th century. The group prayed to the nine emperor gods, followed a strict vegetarian diet to purify their mind and body and all recovered. Now the festival is held to honour the gods, and to celebrate vegetarianism and surviving what was, at the time, a fatal illness. The Vegetarian Festival sees lots of street entertainment, parades, walking on hot coals, plus fabulous vegetarian dishes for you to sample as you wander round taking in the smells and the sights.
Don’t just think of Phuket as somewhere to go simply for the sun, it is also a wonderful destination to soak up history and celebrate culture too!