Phuket is divided into three geographical sections, Mueang Phuket, Kathu and Thaland. Mueang Phuket covers the southeastern region, Kathu the western coastline and middle sections of the island and Thalang the northern areas of Phuket.
The most familiar area for tourists in Phuket is Patong, located on the west coast. Patong is charming but quite crowded during the high season during which one might opt for keeping some distance to the hub. High season Patong is characterized by the dozens of street vendors competing for the attention of the herds of European tourists, trying to sell them everything from t-shirts to watches and from electronics to ferry tickets. The most popular beach in Phuket, Patong Beah, lines the coast of Patong. Patong Beach’s clear blue water and long sandy beaches are uncorrupted in their irresistibility; the beach is a delightful oasis despite its buzzing surroundings.
Bangla Road, which cuts through Patong, is at its heartiest at night when the bars and clubs are filled with bubbly party folk. The atmosphere of the Bangla Road nightlife has nothing to do with a regular Friday night out; this is holiday style partying. It might be quite difficult to find authentic Thai culture in Patong since the area is dominated by Western style restaurants and bars. It is still, though, worth wandering into at least a few times, both day and night, to capture the wonderfully weird flashiness of the area or even catch one of the quirky shows aimed for the tourists.
Patong is especially attractive for students at the weekends because of the outrageous clubbing opportunities: The area has the largest and most impressive nightlife spots.
The island of Phuket is, though, much more than Patong. Kathu, the town located in the middle of the island that hosts the Prince of Songkla University campus, will probably become the most familiar to Asia Exchange students during their exchange in Phuket. Kathu is Patong’s opposite in many ways, mostly by having almost exclusively local inhabitants as well as having a much more chilled nightlife. One doesn’t have to worry about being circled by street vendors there; Kathu charms its visitors precisely with its relaxed vibe and local color. For example, there are various excellent Thai food restaurants scattered around Kathu. Students usually find Kathu very homely and most of them choose to live there. In addition, Kathu is one of the most inexpensive areas in Phuket – dramatically cheaper than, for example, the Patong area. A delicious meal goes for a euro, and the villas, very popular among students there, are very affordable when compared to the Western prices for similar style luxury accommodation.
Other local areas, in addition to Kathu, are the capital city of the island, Phuket Town, and the city of Chalong. Both of the cities are located in the southern end of the island. Phuket Town and Chalong are larger than Kathu and, thus, have a bit more shops and sights. Still, the shopping and the atmosphere in general are a far cry from the more hectic and touristy Patong. Even though Phuket Town and Chalong aren’t tourist hubs they do attract some visitors. For example, the weekend night market in Phuket Town is very popular. Phuket Town and Chalong are both near Kathu and the campus area and within easy access from the university and students’ housing. Phuket Town has nowadays become increasingly popular among backpackers and, following, has a fluid, interesting and laid back visitor base.
The southern corners of the island host possibly the best beaches in Phuket, for example the Kata Noi and Nai Harn beaches. On sunny days it is almost impossible to peel oneself off these beaches. They are absolutely stunning in their serenity, colors, and sun-kissed sand, and, in addition, are refreshingly cooled by the gentle winds blowing in from the ocean. The little towns located near the beaches are perfect spots for afternoon browsing and beers on one of the countless charming little terraces. The Kata beach does attract tourists, too, but it is still much calmer and quieter than Patong beach.
The northern coastline of Phuket receives often much less attention even though it has many excellent beaches that are dramatically emptier than some of the southern beaches. If you want to find your own beach, yet untainted by someone else’s footsteps, you have to go wander around the northern coastline. There are also little local towns in the north, the Phuket international airport as well as the bridge leading to continental Thailand.