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Phuket Travel Guide
Info general
Our Favorite Hotels
Luxury Phuket
Why go?
Phuket, the Pearl of the Andaman, is Thailand’s largest island, with a curvaceous coastline of wide sugary beaches strung between jutting peninsulas and craggy rock formations. Though it has long been one of Thailand’s most popular destinations, it is easy to avoid the tourist traps. Venture into Phuket Old Town, a former South-east Asia tin trading hub and the island’s cultural centre. Its Sino-Portuguese architecture is currently being restored and spruced up - the droopy webs of telephone wires are being moved underground and designers, artists and baristas are making themselves at home amid the traditional shop-houses, temples and barbers that line the streets.
Why go?
Phuket Town
Phuket’s beach scene is also undergoing something of a revival, with swanky new hotels and beach clubs popping up along the west coast. If lying on a four-poster day bed on an intravenous drip of cocktails loses its polish however, there are plenty of quieter escapes. Head north to the Khoa Sok National Park and you can partake in the full jungle experience, complete with elephants, lazy rivers and treehouse lodgings. Sail east and explore the spectacular Phang Nga Bay, where sheer limestone karsts rise dramatically out of the water and, for a few baht, long-tail boats ferry sunbathers between desert island beaches. Head north-east and after a couple of hours you’ll hit the pristine islands of Similan and Surin, where divers can swim with leopard sharks, octopus and a concerto of colourful fish by day and camp on empty islands by moonlit night.
Phuket Town
May 5
When to go
Temperatures hover around 30°C all year round, but the high-season really sits between November and March when the rains die down and the Andaman Sea settles to a lake-like calm. Outside of these months the weather remains hot and humid, and there’s plenty to do in terms of activities, whether it’s diving amidst the limestone islands, birdwatching, relaxing in a spa or hiking through the jungle. July to October is a bit more challenging when it comes to the weather, as the seas whip up and red warning flags litter the beaches – good for surfers, particularly on the west coast, but not as much fun for those hoping to lounge. There’s also no guarantee of sunshine during this period, and it’s not unusual for it to rain for weeks at a time in late summer and early autumn.
When to go
Jul 19
Know before you go
Flight time: flying direct from London with Thomson Airways (see above) takes about 12 hours; if flying via Bangkok add an additional two to three hours to your journey time. Currency: Thai Baht Time difference: six hours ahead of the UK in summer and seven in winter Phone code: 00 66 Foreign Office Advice: on May 22 2014, the Thai military took control of the government and implemented martial law. This was then lifted in April 2015 and replaced with a more insidious, if less severe sounding law, called Article 44. Throughout the coup there has been very little military presence in Phuket; tourists are unlikely to see soldiers on the streets or notice anything out of the ordinary. It is worth bearing in mind though that it is illegal to criticise the coup and making any strong political statements could land you in jail. South of Phuket, the Foreign Offices advises against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla, on the Thai-Malaysia border Extra reading/apps: download the Thai Dictionary Free app for some handy phrases Emergency numbers/contacts British Embassy: 14 Wireless Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand; email: Info.Bangkok@fco.gov.uk; telephone: 00 66 (0) 2 305 8333; gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-embassy-bangkok British Honorary Consul, Phuket: 115-116 Plaza Del Mar, Moo 1, Pasak Koktanod Road, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket; telephone 00 66 (0)76 318 118 Tourist police: national number 1155; Phuket hotline 1699 Emergency services: 191 Tourism Authority of Thailand, Phuket office: 00 66 (0)76 212 213. Phuket International Airport: 00 66 (0)76 327 2307. Phuket Bus Terminal: 00 66 (0)76 211 480.
Know before you go
When is the best time to go to Thailand?
Deciding when to go to Thailand really depends on finding out first what the weather will be like where you're going. Thailand is home to a typical tropical climate in the far south, with central and southern Thailand not seeing much variation in temperatures year-round, while the north is more affected by the monsoon than the south. Average temperatures throughout the year hover between 18°C and 35°C, with the coldest months being from December to February and the warmest being from April to June. Monsoon seasons During the southwestern monsoon, which takes place from May to around late September/early October, the country sees most of its rainfall, with the weather being quite muggy and overcast and daily hours of sunshine decreasing to about six hours. At this time, the beaches on the west or Andaman coast receive the most rain. The northeastern monsoon, from November to around April however, brings much drier air and the north of the country, including Chiang Mai in the north-west, sees its coolest months. Temperatures here can drop to a minimum of around 13°C but reach a maximum of around 29°C. In the south, between September and December is when most rain falls on the east coast, affecting islands such as Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The good news for those heading to beaches in the south therefore, is that they should generally be able to avoid the rain by going to either the east or west coast at any given time of year.
When is the best time to go to Thailand?
10 incredible south-east Asia holidays that combine sun, sea and cities
Spirited cities, atmospheric temples, remote hill tribes, smouldering volcanoes, verdant rice paddies, vast lakes, nocturnal hikes through noisy rainforests, slow boats down the Mekong River – night markets, sky bars, street food, elephants, orangutans – there’s a lifetime of adventure to be found in south-east Asia. But at this time of year, when we’re scraping the ice off our windscreens before work and wearing 18 layers just to nip to the shops, it is south-east Asia’s dreamy palm-fringed beaches that hold the most allure. Of course, the ideal escape will combine the region’s most exciting cities, most wondrous wildlife and best cultural attractions with some well-earned flops on the beach. South-east Asia might hold special appeal to the gap-year backpacker but it also offers high-end options for those looking for a more grown-up affair. An escorted tour is an excellent way to take in the region’s highlights, marrying stays at beachside resorts and luxury lodges with city tours led by guides who know the area like the back of their hands. So where to begin? With its well-established hotel industry, excellent infrastructure and warm and welcoming population, Thailand has long been the queen bee of south-east Asian tourism: its sandy-square footage is also among the finest in the world. The maddening energy, sensational shopping and moreish cuisine of Bangkok can’t be missed; combine at least a couple of nights in the Thai capital with a trip to the lush mountains and magnificent temples of Chiang Mai before flying south for the diamond white shores of Koh Samui, the pink-dolphin flecked waters of Khanom or the scores of dramatic jungle-topped islands that litter Phang Nga Bay, from Phuket to action-packed Krabi to the near silent sands of Koh Yao Noi.
10 incredible south-east Asia holidays that combine sun, sea and cities
Thailand’s best beaches
Trailfinders’ nine-day Thailand Beaches West Coast tour kicks off with the tuk-tuks, klong (canal) boats and glittering temples of Bangkok but then it’s beach, beach, beach all the way. First stop: Ao Nang, a diamond-white stretch of sand surrounded by the rippling limestone cliffs of Krabi. Next, you’ll venture into the jade-green waters of Phang Nga Bay for one night on the serene island of Koh Yao Noi – all tiny fishing villages, rubber plantations and vast empty beaches – winding-up with some sleek beach club action on Phuket’s happening west coast.
Thailand’s best beaches
The best time to visit Thailand
When is the best time to visit Thailand? Here's where to go when and how to avoid monsoon season, from Bangkok to the beaches, Koh Samui to Koh Lanta The best time to visit Thailand depends exactly where you're going. The islands on one side of the country have a slightly different rainy season to those on the other; the good news is that this extends Thailand's dry, sunny season. So if it's rainy and grey in one place, it's a short hop over the coast to sunshine on the other side.
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The best time to visit Thailand
Phuket Island of the Golf
On SW6 Destinations | Thailand will find an unrivaled choice of great value golf packages combined with first class customer service. From a single round of golf to a great golf party or golf company we can organize a golf itinerary to meet the needs of each client.
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Phuket Island of the Golf
The climate
Phuket's climate is tropical, warm all year round, with a rainy season, due to the southwest monsoon, which runs from May to October, and a dry season from December to March. In April, before the monsoon, there is a certain increase in showers, while in November there may still be heavy rains, especially in the first part, or for a possible delay in the withdrawal of the monsoon, or for the passage of a tropical cyclone (v below). Even in the dry season, however, there may be some backhand, especially in December, when occasionally a particularly intense one can occur.
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The climate
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The ASHLEE Plaza Patong Hotel & Spa
This property is 8 minutes walk from the beach. Only 8 minutes' walk from Patong Beach, The ASHLEE Plaza Patong Hotel & Spa enjoys rooftop swimming pool with sundecks and free WiFi. The hotel provides free shuttle to Patong Beach, Jungceylon Shopping Mall and Bangla Road. Elegant rooms all come with a private balcony and modern furnishings. All have a 32-inch flat-screen TV, minibar and personal safe. The ASHLEE Plaza Patong Hotel is a 2-minute walk from the Night Market, and a 5-minute drive from Karon Beach. Phuket International Airport is a 45-minute drive away. There are computer stations at the lobby. The hotel also has free parking. The hotel's restaurant serves international and Thai dishes. There is also a cafe offering ice cream, pastries and salads, as well as a bar lounge.
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The ASHLEE Plaza Patong Hotel & Spa
Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort
Featuring its own private beach, this stunning beachfront property boasts a large outdoor pool with air-conditioned rooms bordering it. It offers a wealth of fitness options, a day spa and 10 dining and bar options. A 37-inch flat-screen TV, private balcony and wooden flooring are standard in all spacious modern Thai-style rooms. Other comforts include a tea/coffee maker, free Wi-Fi and bathrobes. Set in tropical landscapes, Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort is just 5 km from lively Patong Beach. It is within 15 km from a golf course and 20 km of Chalong Temple and a shooting and paintball facility. Phuket International Airport is a 45-minute drive. Maintaining regular workouts is easy with a gym and tennis and squash courts. The hotel also features a variety water sports, concierge services and a kids’ club. Dining highlights include daily beach barbecues featuring live seafood catches as well as hearty Italian pizzas at La Fiamma. There is also a Japanese restaurant and a seaside bar. This property also has one of the best-rated locations in Karon Beach! Guests are happier about it compared to other properties in the area.
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Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort
CHEAP
Da Mario Hotel & Restaurant
This property is 3 minutes walk from the beach. Located1.5 miles from Koran Beach and less than 3.1 miles from Bangla Road, Da Mario Hotel & Restaurant offers comfortable rooms with air-conditioning and a private bathroom. During the stay, guests can take advantage of bicycle rentals, a tour desk and free WiFi. Complete with tile floorings, each bright guestrooms at Da Mario comes with a flat-screen satellite TV, a safety deposit box and a dining area. Guests can enjoy a minibar as well as hot drinks from tea/coffee maker. For additional convenience, this hotel provides laundry, safety deposit boxes and packed lunches services. Staff at the on-site tour desk can help arrange sightseeing trips as well as car hiring. Jungceylon Shopping Centre and Kata Noi Beach can be reached under 3 miles from the accommodations. Phuket International Airport is 18 miles away. Serving a range of delectable cuisines, the hotel’s restaurant and bar also features lively evening entertainment and a variety of refreshing beverage.
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Da Mario Hotel & Restaurant
On The Hill Karon Resort
Featuring a garden, terrace and free WiFi, On The Hill Karon Resort is situated in Karon Beach, 1 miles from Karon Temple Wat Suvarnkiri and 1.2 miles from Karon Night Market. Popular points of interest around the property include Mali Waterfront and Karon Roundabout. The property is 2.4 miles from Starbucks Kata Beach. At the resort, every room has a desk. On The Hill Karon Resort offers some units with sea views, and every room comes with a balcony. A continental breakfast is available every morning at the accommodation. Guests can dine in the in-house restaurant, which serves international and Thai cuisine. On The Hill Karon Resort offers an outdoor pool. You can play table tennis and darts at this 3-star resort, and car hire is available.
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On The Hill Karon Resort
Best Western Phuket Ocean Resort
This property is 5 minutes walk from the beach. Situated 200 m from beautiful Karon Beach, Best Western Phuket features 3 outdoor pools set in tropical landscapes. Featuring stunning ocean views, it has a beachfront restaurant and spa. Best Western Phuket Ocean Resort is a 12-minute drive from lively Patong Beach. It is 25 km from Phuket Town and 65 km from Phuket International Airport. Enjoy views of the tropical gardens or Andaman Sea from private balconies. In-room comforts at Best Western Phuket include a safe, bathtub and cable TV. For leisure, enjoy herbal steam baths and massages at the spa or have an active work out at the fitness centre. It has a tour desk and water sports facilities. Ocean View Restaurant offers fresh barbecued seafood with beautiful views of Karon Beach. Room service is provided. This is our guests' favourite part of Karon Beach, according to independent reviews. This property is also rated for the best value in Karon Beach! Guests are getting more for their money when compared to other properties in this city.
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Best Western Phuket Ocean Resort
Phuket Villa Patong beach rooms
Phuket Villa Patong beach rooms offers accommodation with free WiFi in Patong Beach, attractively located 750 yards from Bangla Road and 750 yards from Patong Boxing Stadium. The accommodation has a spa and wellness centre. Guests can have a cocktail at the bar. All units in the guest house are fitted with a flat-screen TV with cable channels. Selected rooms also offer a kitchenette with a microwave, a fridge and a stovetop. The rooms will provide guests with a wardrobe and a kettle. Phuket Villa Patong beach rooms offers a fitness centre. Jungceylon Shopping Center is 0.6 miles from the accommodation, while Phuket Simon Cabaret is 1.5 miles from the property. The nearest airport is Phuket International Airport, 14.3 miles from the property.
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Phuket Villa Patong beach rooms
Seductive Sunset Villa Patong A8
This property is 15 minutes walk from the beach. Situated in Patong Beach, 0.8 miles from Phuket Simon Cabaret and 1.1 miles from Bangla Road, Seductive Sunset Villa Patong A8 offers free WiFi. This property is 1.2 miles from Jungceylon Shopping Center. The provided villa is equipped with 3 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a dining area, and 4 bathrooms with a shower. A flat-screen TV with satellite channels is provided. The villa offers a year-round outdoor pool. Popular points of interest near Seductive Sunset Villa Patong A8 include Patong Pier, Banana Walk and Freedom Beach. The nearest airport is Phuket International Airport, 15.5 miles from the accommodation.
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Seductive Sunset Villa Patong A8
Luxury
The Naka Phuket Villa
1/18, 1/20 Moo 6,Kathu, Kamala, Phuket, Thailandia, 83150 agoda
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The Naka Phuket Villa
Bangkok-the best things to do
The Thai capital is an extraordinary place to explore, from markets and temples to delicious street food Bangkok is a major world capital of 11 million people mingling among lofty skyscrapers, ornate temples, street stalls, hotels, malls, bars and shops. It’s chaotic, creative, dynamic and intoxicating. No wonder it’s Thailand’s number-one destination. However, it can be overwhelming for a westerner dropped into the middle of it for a short stay. Assisted by knowledgable local guides, Audley Travel has put together a number of imaginative tours that help make sense of this vast city. One of its best introductions is Audley’s City Safari using the Skytrain service, the elevated rail system that criss-crosses Bangkok. Bangkok is at its best when the sun sets, the neon signs spark up and the major temples are illuminated You’ll take in all the major highlights with a private guide, including Chinatown, the Grand Palace, local markets, Khao San Road and also take a taxi boat to Tha Tien pier for a visit to Wat Pho, home of the Reclining Buddha. Bangkok is populated with temples, or wats as they’re known – there are about 400 in the capital alone with many of the best crammed around the Grand Palace. Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is the most important in Thailand, enshrining one of its most revered Buddha statues, carved from jade. The 18th-century Grand Palace itself is an imposing sight. A mile of walls enclosing a city of throne halls, royal chambers, servants’ quarters, ministries and a prison all waiting to be discovered. In the afternoon, hail a tuk-tuk to Soi Ban Batra to see a handicraft family famed for the art of making monks’ alms bowls, before boarding a boat for a journey along the historical Saen Saeb klong . Thompson was a wealthy American textile entrepreneur whose passion for collecting left a legacy now rated as one of the finest collections of south-east Asian art in the world. From Thompson’s home you can do a little collecting of your own at one of the five nearby mega retail malls. The city has some hugely diverse shopping options – there are some terrific markets (especially Chatuchak weekend market) or if you fancy having a suit run up swiftly to your measurements, numerous tailors will comply. Bangkok is at its best when the sun sets, the neon signs spark up and the major temples are illuminated. A guided night tour will reveal some of the most vibrant spots around Suan Plu, a busy area for bars and restaurants. The night starts with a stroll through the fresh market and a stroll through the back streets to a secret garden party. From there, it’s off to Uncle John’s, a local institution and one of Bangkok’s must-eat spots. The evening ends with live music and a cocktail or two at Smalls, a rickety three-storey jazz club. Another night tour begins in the heart of the city with cocktails at the stylish Park Society Bar before a tuk-tuk ride whisks you to another tasty culinary hot spot, Silom. Here, restaurants, cafés and street stalls compete for your taste buds and you can take your choice. Suitably satiated your guide will take you by Skytrain to the river where a boat ferries you to the bustling Asiatique night market. Sightseeing adventures: take a trip to Wat Chaiwattanaram Credit: Getty A bicycle is a great option for getting around the capital, especially Bang Krao Jao, the city’s secret garden just across the river. Only accessible by boat, this beautiful area of small villages, temples and tropical flora are the city’s green lungs. A guide will accompany you on the ferry to a pick-up point for bicycles and show you around the maze of waterways and lush urban jungle to an incense factory and a temple. There are a few key reasons to tear yourself away from the city’s delights and chief among them is Ayuthaya. Situated just north of the city it was the capital of Siam for more than 300 years, a huge island kingdom surrounded by rivers containing a million people. Then, in 1764, it was destroyed by Burmese invaders. Today the vast ruined complex of prang, temples, monasteries and palaces is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s perfect to explore by bike and once you’re on two wheels you can pedal off to Wat Yai Chai Mongkol and its towering chedi before biking through the ancient city’s walls to Wat Phra Mahathat, the symbolic heart of the old city where tree roots have dramatically wrapped themselves around a Buddha head. Take a ride: get around the city in a tuk-tuk Credit: Getty Make a circuit of the three royal palaces and Wat Chaiwattanaram across the river before the return to city life in Bangkok. The capital is famous for its floating markets but the best actually exist some miles outside. Amphawa is home to several markets, one alongside the very train tracks that bring you to the area. Depending on what time of the month you arrive you’ll either see Tha Kha, an authentic Thai floating market, or Ladplee Floating Market where traders sell fresh food, dry fish, flowers and local wares. The trip then concludes with a paddleboat journey through the maze of klongs, cruising past plantations and Buddhist temples. The Chao Praya River is the key artery of Bangkok and it splinters into a labyrinth of klongs which have brought it the title “The Venice of the East”. A longboat tour will give you a different perspective on the city. It begins in Thonburi, a quiet swampy area right opposite the main metropolis, but dense with banana plantations and coconut trees where many of the houses are built on stilts over the water. From here the boat wends its way up river a little way to the Royal Barges, a museum containing eight of the ornate royal boats, and the beautiful Temple of Dawn. Further north in Nonthaburi the skyscrapers give way to teak houses, noodle shops, fruit orchards and rice fields. Here, you can walk through the colourful local markets and discover a riverside temple with an impressive reclining Buddha.
Bangkok-the best things to do
Patong studio Phuket Palace
This property is 12 minutes walk from the beach. Located in Patong Beach, within 350 yards of Phuket Simon Cabaret, Patong studio Phuket Palace is an accommodation offering sea views. Situated on the beachfront, this property has a tennis court. The apartment is fitted with a satellite flat-screen TV. Guests at the apartment can enjoy a continental or a buffet breakfast. Speaking German, English and French at the 24-hour front desk, staff are willing to help at any time of the day. Patong studio Phuket Palace offers guests a spa and wellness centre with a fitness centre and an outdoor swimming pool. Both a bicycle rental service and a car rental service are available at the accommodation. Jungceylon Shopping Center is 1.1 miles from Patong studio Phuket Palace, while Bangla Road is 1.2 miles from the property. Phuket International Airport is 16.2 miles away.
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Patong studio Phuket Palace
Burasari Phuket
This property is 2 minutes walk from the beach. The tropical Burasari Phuket is located along Patong Beach, a 10-minute walk from Jungceylon Shopping Mall. The resort offers free WiFi, 2 outdoor pools and a restaurant. Burasari Phuket is a 10-minute walk from nightlife district Bangla Road. The resort is a 40-minute drive from Phuket International Airport. Upon request, the hotel provides airport transfer service at a fee. Resort Burasari's rooms are air-conditioned and come with private balconies or terraces. Satellite TV and tea/coffee maker are provided in all rooms. Slippers and free toiletries are available. Guests enjoy free minibar. Selected rooms feature direct pool access. Guests can relax on sun loungers by the pool, and enjoy the surrounding greenery. Spa by Burasari provides traditional Thai massage and beauty treatments. The hotel also offers a tour desk and car rental. Union Pay is accepted here. Kantok Restaurant serves authentic local dishes and a daily breakfast buffet. It offers outdoor dining and evening dance performances. Refreshing drinks are served at Misty Bar, Pool Bar and Juice Bar. This is our guests' favourite part of Patong Beach, according to independent reviews
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Burasari Phuket
AMARI PHUKET
This property is 1 minute walk from the beach. A stone’s throw from Patong Beach, the luxurious Amari Phuket enjoys spectacular views of the Andaman Sea from its private beach. It boasts 2 outdoor pools, a first-class spa and 2 dining options. Free Wi-Fi is available in the public areas. Located in southern Phuket, 1.5 km from Bangla Road and Jungceylon Mall, Amari Phuket provides free shuttle services to Kata Beach. It is a 55-minute drive from Phuket International Airport. Bright and airy, rooms come with private balconies and beautiful views. Amenities include a satellite TV, DVD player and tea/coffee making facilities. Breeze Spa features a wide range of beauty treatments. Relaxing massages and therapies can be enjoyed from sea-facing pavilions. The hotel also provides an outdoor spa pool and a fitness centre. La Gritta serves Italian dishes featuring gourmet pizzas, fresh pasta, delectable desserts along with an extensive wine list. Seaside international dining is available at Rim Talay and the spectacular Jetty Restaurant. Drinks and quick bites are served at both the Rim Talay Pool and Samutr Bars. This property also has one of the best-rated locations in Patong Beach! Guests are happier about it compared to other properties in the area. Business travellers particularly like the location — they rated it 9.1 for a work-related trip. This property is also rated for the best value in Patong Beach! Guests are getting more for their money when compared to other properties in this city.
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AMARI PHUKET
Myanmar
Myanmar – the country formerly known as Burma – is in a thrilling (although often baffling) state of flux as it unfolds its petals to the world following the easing of decades of political turmoil. With each passing month new corners of the country open up to tourism, with freshly sealed roads now leading not just to Mandalay but all the way from the Himalayan foothills on the northern border with India to the southern port town of Myeik, a jumping off point to the Mergui Archipelago, where you’ll find a tangle of barely touched tropical islands haloed by peroxide blonde beaches. If it’s wildly remote shores that float your boat, then you should also consider Indonesia; its necklace of 17,000 islands, spanning some two million square kilometres from the Malay Peninsula across the equator and all the way down to Australia, are startlingly beautiful, astonishingly varied and still, surprisingly, extremely underdeveloped. Dive in and you’ll be richly rewarded with fantasy-like scenery – volcanic craters brimming with psychedelic waters, Komodo dragons plodding past palm trees, sunsets that turn the sea to liquid gold – as well as beaches in every shade imaginable, from the baby pink sands of Flores to Seminyak’s shimmering silver shores to the Tangkoko Nature Reserve’s kohl-black coast. While Indonesia’s out-of-the-way islands are ideal for adventurers, the Philippines is a spot that is gaining popularity for its party scene as much as for its multitude of immaculate beaches. Highlights in the capital city Manila include racy rooftop bars and a jumping live music scene. Beyond the capital, there are thousands of idyllic islands to choose from but Palawan, with its endless beaches, sensational snorkelling, heart-melting sunsets and louche low-key nightlife is the one to aim for in 2017.
Myanmar
Mysterious Burma
Wild Frontiers’ southern Burma and the Islands of the Andaman Sea tour spans 13 epic days exploring Myanmar’s lesser-known cultural treasures and virginal southern islands. Commencing in Yangon, the journey wends its way through the charming market town of Hpa An and splendid Mawlamyiang (home to beautiful old pagodas and an astonishing 560ft-long reclining Buddha) before arriving in the southern port town of Myeik. From here, your group of no more than 16 will set sail on a privately chartered boat for a five-day journey around the 800 impossibly perfect islands of the Mergui Archipelago.
Mysterious Burma
Bali and beyond
Why have one tropical island when you can have three? Explore’s new 12-day small-group tour covers the Indonesian islands of Bali, Flores and Komodo. Between them, you’ll experience spiritual highs, rice paddy-stepped valleys, exotic wildlife, remote tribal villages and a trek to the three-coloured calderas which cap Kelimutu volcano. Downtime comes with a two-day cruise departing from Flores dropping anchor on Rinca Island to look for 300lb Komodo dragons before sailing onwards for some R&R on the self-explanatory Pink Beach. For a night to remember, ask the crew to make you a bed on the deck and sleep under a blanket of a billion squillion stars.
Bali and beyond
Introducing Phuket & the Andaman Coast
The Andaman is Thailand’s turquoise coast; one of those places you see on a postcard that makes you want to quit your job and live in flip-flops…forever. For once, the beauty exceeds the hype. Pure-white beaches, some of the world's softest sand, cathedral-esque limestone cliffs and hundreds of jungle-covered isles extend down the Andaman Sea from the border of Myanmar to Malaysia. Phuket is the glitzy show-stealer, but head north and you'll uncover world-class dive sites, little-visited isles and Ranong's Thai-Myanmar flavour. To the south, you can lazily island-hop past karst towers down to the Malaysian border. The catch? The Andaman Coast is no secret and its beaches are becoming increasingly crowded with backpackers, package tourists, high-end jet-setters and everyone in between. Flashy resorts are pushing out the bamboo shacks and authenticity largely now hides in the backwaters. But your postcard dream is still here – if you’re willing to look.
Dangers & Annoyances
Rising during the May-to-October monsoon, large waves and fierce backwaters sometimes make swimming dangerous. Dozens of drownings occur every year on the beaches of Phuket, especially Laem Singh, Kamala, Karon and Patong. Listen to the red flags that signal serious tears. Jet skis keep an eye out for Jet Ski when you are swimming. Although the governor declared Phuket Jet Ski illegal in 1997 and were re-banned as part of the recent clean-up island, the application of the rule is another problem. Long queues can be dangerous; do not expect the boatman to see you! Even motorcycles that rent a motorcycle can be dangerous. Thousands of people are injured or killed every year on the Phuket motorways. If necessary, make sure you know at least the basics and wear a helmet. Rent rarely includes insurance. Assaults we have had reports of late night motorbike robbery and stabbings on the road leading from Patong to Karon and from Kata to Rawai-Hat Nai Han area. Random sex assaults on women can also happen. Think twice before sunbathing topless (a big no-no in Thailand anyway) or alone, especially on secluded beaches. It can also be dangerous to run alone at night or early in the morning.