Tag - Phuket

Exploring the BEST Diving Spots in Thailand

Two fish at a coral reef in Thailand

Guest post by Michelle Williams

Diving in Thailand


iving is one of the major activities when visiting the islands and beaches of Thailand. The combination of clear and warm tropical waters, and the overall variety of marine flora and fauna makes Thailand a great destination for exploring the wonders of the underwater world.

A lot of the great dive spots are right off the beach, along rocky shorelines which makes diving in Thailand very beginner friendly. On top of that, you have numerous Thai dive spots that include old underwater wrecks.

All of Thailand’s top diving destinations will have dive shops and schools, making it unnecessary to bring your own equipment. Especially for snorkeling though, it is nice to have you own equipment when the opportunity arises. There are numerous options, should you want to use your own diving gear and perhaps you would also want to bring some underwater camera equipment to store your underwater memories.

Choosing the right diving location

It can be overwhelming to choose a holiday destination when you start researching, as you will surely be presented with numerous dive options in Thailand. Many of the diving destinations in Thailand are seasonal, meaning your time of travel will help determine which area to explore. Here, we break down the top dive spots to help you decide.

Koh Tao

Koh Tao is located in the Gulf of Thailand, not far from two other famous islands Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Among these islands, Koh Tao is particularly popular among divers.

The diving in Koh Tao is recognized for its relatively easy waters and friendly reefs, perfect for beginner scuba divers. The island is one of the top destinations for scuba diving instruction in the world and the number of open water dive certificates handed out here each year is staggering. You will find an abundance of PADI certified diving schools. Another important factor in Koh Tao being the go-to diving destination in Thailand is the fact that the island offers year-round diving in good conditions.

On a lot of the islands beaches, you can snorkel or scuba dive from right off the beach, as the island provides plenty of rocks and reefs teeming with life.

Koh Chang

Koh Chang lies in the eastern part of the Gulf of Thailand, not far from the borders of neighbouring Cambodia. Koh Chang and its surrounding islands are known for their lush green environments, being part of the Mu Koh Chang National Park.

Weather plays a role in this area, as the summer months and beginning of autumn sees a lot of rain. This means that from June to September the visibility decreases, so this is not the best time to go diving around Koh Chang.

Koh Chang has a number of wrecks for some exciting diving, as well as rocks in the shallow waters and reefs. The dive sites are mainly located to the west and south of the island.

Similan Islands

The Similan Islands is a cluster of islands in the Andaman Sea, east of Khaolak. These islands have maintained their charm with only very basic camping grounds and bungalows on a couple of the islands.

Usually visitors to the area stay overnight on liveaboard packages or daytrips from the mainland, where the main theme is diving, snorkeling and some romantic castaway experiences. So while getting to this divespot may require a bit more planning, you will get fantastic memories to take back home.

The diving season is seasonal here, spanning from October to May, while the best conditions for diving are between November and February.


Phuket is Thailand’s most famous beach holiday destination, so naturally the area offers much more than just diving. This makes it a great vacation choice if you want a lot of activity options for you stay.

Phuket mostly serves as a hub for multiple diving sites in the area, where you jump onboard a boat and go on day trips to the best diving spots.

Just like the Similan Islands, the diving in the Phuket area is best from October to May, where the waters are more calm and visibility is highest. section seperator

Diving in Thailand Resources

For more information about Thailand, head straight to our main Thailand travel guide. For more information on diving resources, here are some excellent links:

PADI’s Diving Guide to Thailand

DivingSquad’s Diver’s Guide

Ithaka’s Beginner’s Guide to Diving in Thailand

For a quick and easy overview of when to dive in each of Thailand’s top diving destinations, take a look at this table from Asia Dive Site:
dive seasons in Thailand

5 Offbeat Adventures in Phuket

Mangrove River with lush green jungle surroundings in Takua Pa (ตะกั่วป่า) in Phang Nga Province.
Sure, you go to Phuket for the beaches, the relaxation, and the pampering

But you also want to see something different on your holiday right? A great feature of Phuket is that you are in the middle of an experience hub, so no matter what you want to see and do, Phuket is a good starting point.

5 offbeat adventures in Phuket Island

Phuket Province consists of Thailand’s largest island, Phuket and 32 small islands along the island’s coastline. Phuket’s main attraction is undoubtedly the popular beaches. Especially the west coast beaches are adorned and daily trodden by thousands of happy beach goers. But Phuket Province has lots of other experiences to offer. Here are 5 experiences around Phuket beyond beaches.

1) The Mangroves of Takua Pa

Takua Pa (ตะกั่วป่า) is a district in Phang Nga Province. It takes 2-3 hours by car to get there from Phuket, and on the way you will follow the beautiful coast as you go north. You will soon find yourself surrounded by lush green mangrove forests teeming with wildlife. The best way to experience the area is from a boat or a kayak. You quietly float along the mangrove rivers to the smells and the sounds of the jungle. It’s not always easy to spot, but there are exotic animals all around you. Luckily, the nature guides have a magical ability to point at certain spots in the trees, and PUFF! suddenly you can see a mangrove snake.

You can find day tours that take you to the Mangroves of Takua Pa in many tour agencies and hotel tour desks around Phuket.

2) Old Phuket Town

Old Phuket Town, Phuket’s historic district has gone thorough a renovation of the old Sino-Portuguese buildings. The focal point of Old Phuket Town are Thalang Road and Soi Romanee. Here, they have retained most of the old Sino-Portuguese houses and mansions. It is a good idea to walk down along the small side streets, where you will find many small charming buildings.

Old Phuket Town was built on the riches harvested from the area’s thriving tin trade that began in the 16th century. Since then, there was a significant trade with tin that attracted Chinese, Indians, Malaysians and Europeans to Phuket. The big tin magnates built the beautiful mansions about 100 years ago. Today, many of the old houses are now converted into restaurants, cafes, hotels, and museums.

Photo credits: Simon Ostheimer/CNNGO

If you like to know more about Old Phuket Town, see this interesting article and gallery by Simon Ostheimer: Old Town Phuket: Finally, a reason to leave the beach.

3) Phuket’s Colorful Markets

Markets in Thailand mean much more than grocery shopping. It is a very important part of social life. This is also the case for Phuket, and the area has a handful of good markets where you can find unique food and exotic fruits, souvenirs, clothing, small restaurants, entertainment, and more.

Phuket Weekend Market

This market is Phuket’s largest. It takes place in the south of Phuket Town, and it is only open on Saturday and Sunday between 16-21. The range of products is vast and includes clothing, fashion products, make-up, glasses, shoes, crafts, fishing equipment, toys and pirate DVDs. You can also find a lot of delicious snacks and food made on the spot. The market has many names. It is also sometimes called Talad Tai Rot, Chaofa Market, Talad Jatujak Phuket, and Talad Naka.

Banzaan Market

In Patong City, behind the large Jungceylon shopping mall, you will find Banzaan Market. This market is primarily selling fresh produce such as meat, fish, seafood and vegetables. If you want to cook yourself, this is the place to go hunt for ingredients. A small part of the market is dedicated to clothes, shoes, and toys. The market is clean and modern – and even escalators!

Indy Market

This market opened in 2010 and has quickly become a popular venue for Phuket’s youth. The market is located in Phuket Town in a side street (soi) of New Dibuk Road. Among the items sold at the market are snacks and dishes made on the spot, jeans, t-shirts, and sandals. Indy Market also features live music and street performances, so visiting here is a fun experience.

Photo credits (first and last image): Jamie Monk

If you like to do know more about the markets of Phuket, we suggest Jamie Monk’s Phuket Markets. It has good descriptions and great images.

4) Baan Teelanka – Upside Down House

Upside Down House is Phuket’s most quirky attraction, and it plays tricks with your brain. As the name suggests, this is an ordinary town house that is flipped over, thus turning upside down. You enter the house through the roof and come directly into the attic. From the attic you go up (or down if you will) the stairs to the living room. Once you are here, you start to get dizzy. You feel like you should be falling, but gravity has you firmly planted on the living room ceiling. In the room, you are the only object in the “wrong” position in the house. Everything else is in a correct position according to the direction of the house. Even the live fish in the aquarium swim upside down. Hmmm… The experience is fun and challenging, and there is ample opportunity to take trippy photos.

Photo credits: Baan Teelanka

Here, you can check out more details and photos of  the Upside Down House.

5) Biking in the interiors of Phuket Island

Biking is a great way to explore an area. You hear the sounds, you smell the surroundings, and you go at a pace that allows you time to take in your experiences. Most of the biking tours offered on Phuket take you through many of Phuket’s beautiful landscapes and natural attractions. The route takes you through idyllic rubber plantations, beautiful valleys and coconut groves. This is a great opportunity to get close to village life in Phuket. It is a relatively easy bike ride for all ages, however, a little bit of experience will help, since you often follow toutes along village roads and local trails. There are hills on these tours, but they will likely include the option of taking stretches of the trip from the convenience a van.

Photo credits: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Phuket – more than beaches

We hope you were inspired by these offbeat adventures in Phuket. There are many, many more than we have showed here. The small tour agencies and tour desks around Phuket Island have a good selection of tours for everyone, so if you have not booked in advance, it should not be a problem for you to find excursions that match your wishes.

Patong Beach – is it really that bad?

Tiger Disco on Bangla Road in Patong City at night with neon lights and bar girls.
Patong Beach, Phuket’s untouchable

No matter how good a deal they get and no matter how charming or stunning the hotel is, Patong is rarely an option among the travel agencies I have worked with. It’s like an untouchable no one wants to come near. The perception of Patong Beach run along the line of these comments:

Patong is over-crowded
The place has lost all charm and authenticity due to uncontrolled tourism development
Patong and especially Bang-La Road is a noisy inferno of bad taste
We can’t send our quality customers to a place full of go-go dancers, touts, prostitutes, sketchy old men, and intoxicated tourists

Patong Beach certainly has a reputation to deal with…

But is it really that bad?

Patong Beach with many sunbathing tourists but no sunbeds or sun umbrellas

Patong Beach anno ’15: No sunbeds or umbrellas!

The quick answer is yes and no. Patong is Phuket’s most popular beach destination. The beach itself is a long stretch of fine white sand and swimming conditions are good. You will not have the beach to yourself, but the beach has recently become somewhat free from sunbeds, beach umbrellas, and vendors since the Thai military government decided to enforce beach clear-ups and clean-ups. Travel Fish has more on the subject. The bay is rather protected, so bathing conditions are quite good all year. You will only find three resorts that are actually located directly on the beach. Otherwise the beach is separated from Patong City by a road.
Check out this 360° view of Patong Beach from

Patong City has hundreds of hotels, and the range is very broad. You can find 5-star luxury hotels with pool villas and stunning sea views, fully equipped apartments, and small budget hotels hidden in the small sois (side-streets). Not surprisingly, Patong has a wide variety of restaurants choices, but it’s actually not easy to find a local Thai restaurant which serves traditional and spicy Thai food. By guarantee, you can find a bar within a few minutes walk – the frequency increases, the closer you get to the centre of Patong City.

If you stay 5 minutes walking distance away from the city centre, you can easily find calm areas with a pleasant atmosphere. If you like shopping, many streets have small shops and stalls on the side. There is the big shopping mall Jungceylon for brand shopping, and then there is Banzaan Market, which will give you a little local flavour with its fresh market. Patong Beach is a central starting point if you want to go on excursions around Phuket or explore other islands in the area.

Bangla Road – the infamous heart of Patong

While a preference for some segments, the downside to many, is that Patong is full of tourists, touts, noise, and a nightlife and bar scene that is just too much. Most of the damage, though, happens on or near Bangla Road. When the sun goes down in the Andaman Sea, Bangla Road awakes from its sleep. As you walk down the street, you will be met by loud music blasting from everywhere, blinking fluorescent lights, touts inviting you to more or less shady bars, go-go girls dancing on the tables, and tourists walking up and down street, looking somewhere between amused, shocked, amazed or just plain drunk. Bangla Road is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you are guaranteed a unique experience.

Sending seniors to Patong Beach – really?

I  recently assisted a travel agency in sending a few groups of very decent seniors to Patong Beach for a month of warmth and relaxation away from the cold winter. Admittedly, we were a little anxious about the feedback, but had done our best to give a rounded and just description of the destination. We got excellent feedback.

The sentiment was that if you stay a full month at the same beach destination, it’s nice to have some restaurants, tour options and life around you. If you don’t want to engage in the nightlife in the centre of Patong, don’t. And besides, staying at a more quiet and secluded beach would be okay for the first 4-5 days. What about the remaining 25?!

Read more about Patong Beach and City from these two excellent Phuket websites:

Phuket 101 – Lots of top 10’s, nice blog features, great images, and detailed descriptions – Great resource, especially if you find yourself in Phuket. News, events, listings, and general info.

Photo credits:
Cover photo of Bangla Rd. at night: Heber from
Photo of Patong Beach: Diego Bianchi from

Are You into Beaches and Sports?

Beaches and sports. 4th Asian Beach Games, Phuket Thailand 2014

Attention beach sports fans

Phuket was chosen as the venue for the 4th Asian Beach Games taking place 14 – 23 November 2014. Participants will compete in 26 different sports some of which we didn’t even know existed. So if you would like to experience some beach woodball, kurash, kabaddi, sambo, and more common beach sports such as beach football, basketball, handball, wind surfing, water skiing, sepaktakraw, climbing and more, Phuket is the place to be.

Find out more about the beach games on the official website here.