If you are doing your visa run through an agency, they II ship you in and out of town without having to spend the night.
Sllta : One of the comfier choices in Ranong (and popular with repeat visa-running expats), this off-the-road place has a clump of simple bungalows overlooking a small gardwzcar park.
Royal Princess : As good as it gets in the hotel category. Royal Princess has a gym, pool and mineral water bathroom, but the trimmings are starting to look a bit tatty.
Bamboo and thatch are the norm pn rustic Ko Chang and, for the most part, they're only open from November to April. Electricity is limited although a few spots use solar power.
Ko Chang Resort :Bright colours and bamboo slats perch on the rocks above a patch of peach xand. The pricier bungalows have split-level decks, and the bathrooms are some of the best around.
Cashew Resort : Cashew is Ko Chang's most venerable resort. Choose from cheap A-frame huts or larger, more robust bungalows.
Sawadee : This is about as upmarket as things gel on the little Chang. Dark-wood interiors contrast with attached bathrooms, which are set ablaze with a palette of bright colours. 1'he restaurant serves Thai standards under the stars.
Ban-cooled, rustic bungalows are the staple on Ko Phayam; electricity is usually only available from sunset to 10pm or 11pm. Most of the bungalow operations stay open throughout the year - although the shutters will come down if business becomes too slow. Most spots have attached eateries serving .standard backpacker fare.
Vijit : Towards the southern end of the bay, Vijit has a dozen basic bungalows around a sandy lot peppered with young trees. Each bungalow has been built in a slightly different .style, but all have schmancy indoor/outdoor bath rooms. At high tide, the beach here thins out. Contact the staff for free transport from Ranong.
Bamboo Bungalows : Opt for the more expensive, but sturdier (read; monsoon-proof) concrete-and-tile bungalows. It is run by an israeli-Thai couple, offers oodles of atmosphere and attracts plenty of backpackers - when they are in town. There's a solid eatery, a pleasant, leafy garden and you can hire body-boards if you fancy a boogie in the surl.
Mountain Resort : Located in a shady palm grove, this has some of the glossiest bungalows on the island - they are also some of the most pleasant. With only a handful of bungalows and lashings of peace and quiet. Mountain Resort is the northern end of the bay.
Beach-bars line both of the island's strips of sand; most of them look like piles of ocean debris.
Oscar's (: Located in the main village, this modern bar looks a little incongruous in its backwater setting. If you're after late-night (for a remote island) shenanigans, however, it is the place to go - the beer might even be cold.
LAEM SON NATIONAL PARK
Wasana Resort :Rather than staying at the cruddy (and overpriced) national park bungalows, try the Wasana Resort, ne.ir the park's front ticketing gate off Hwy 4. A perennial favourite amongst the more intrepid do-it-yourself backpacker crowd, this family- run resort features a small ring ot cosy bungalows wrapping owners, a Dutch-Thai couple, have plenty of great ideas for exploring Laem Son (ask about the stunning 10km trek around the headland) and can take you out on a day trip to the islands for 550B per person (excellent lunch included; four person minimum).
The road leading into the park is lined with charming fan bungalows ottering comfortable digs in natural surroundings. Try to arrive in the daytime, so you can walk along the short road leading up to the park and pick where you want to stay.
Art's Riverview Jungle Lodge : Art's has a pleasant range of simple, solid and airy rooms with mosquito nets. The more expensive ones have verandahs and hammocks, and all are in a beautiful, tranquil and lush .setting. You can watch wild macaques from the riverside restaurant.
Khao Sok Rainforest Resort : Huts perched high on stilts along the snaking river. In-house conservation programs target low impact hiking and forest restoration.
Morning Mist Resort : Plenty of twigs and thatch with views ol the jagged rock formations. Bookings should be made through the National Park Services.
Cliff & River'jungle Resort :A beautiful property set just below the jagged silver clitfs. The plunge pool and steam spa are extra perks.
I ately, Phuket's gorgeous northern beaches art, a veritable who's who of world-class resorts. Penny-pinchers fret not, there are still 3 couple cheapies tucked into the mix.
Hat Nai Yang & Hat Mai Khao
Both Hat Nai Yang and Hat Mai Khao belong to the supremely serene Sirinat National Park . Camping is allowed on both beaches without a permit.
Nai Yang Beach Resort : This resort is clean, quiet and near the beach, and does a great barbecue in the evenings. Cheaper digs are fan-cooled, while higher-priced pads have chic Thai-style decor.
GolddiggeKs Resort :Despite its unsavoury name, Golddigger's is one of the best midrange options on this beach. The Swiss-run hotel has just 16 rooms, and their decor, spaciousness and choice furniture take them a step above most beachside sleeping spots in this price bracket.
Indigo Pearl : The most unique and hip of Phuket's high-end resorls takes its design cues from the island's Im mining history - although it sounds weird, this industrial theme fused with tropical luxe creates a spectacularly beautiful and soothing place to stay. Hardware, such as vices, scales and other mining equipment, is used in the decor to the tiniest detail - even the toilet paper rolls are fashioned out of oversized bolts. 1'he Sunday brunch (p672) here is epic.
JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa :Don't let the name discourage you: this Marriott once held the honour of being one of the best hotels in the world, according to Coiitic Nast I'mveler. Among the most appreciated assets are mammoth rooms boasting superior sea views, raised open-air pavilions, triangular hack cushions, massage mats and polished wood floors. A cooking school and pub with live music round out the deal. A rub-down at the spa is a must.
Hat Nai Thon
Improved roads to Hat Nai Thon have brought only a small amount of development to this broad expanse ot pristine sand backed by casuarinas and pandanus trees. Down on the beach, umbrellas and sling chairs are available from vendors. Swimming is quite good here except at the height of the monsoon, and there is some coral near the headlands at either end of the bay.
Naithon Beach Resort :This resort has large, tastefully designed wooden cotU.ges. The resort closes in the rainy season. It is on the opposite side of the access road from the beach.
Trisara : If you can afford to stay here, do so. A tranquil oasis far removed from Patong's chaos, uber-exclusive Trisara's villas take in some of Phuket's most stunning views and are nestled in an idyllic location between the jungle and the cerulean sea. Honeymoon anyone?
If we were forced to pick our favourite beach, it would probably be Bang Thao an 8km stunner with tlaxen dunes that glisten under the tropical sun. Most of Bang Thau's luxury superstars unite under the corporate Laguna Phuket, which looks exactly like a glitzy California gated community. If you have the bucks, and aren't too fussed about experiencing the local culture, then I.aguna is the place for you. See p672 for eating options around Bang Thao.
Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket : A city within a city, the 400-room Sheraton will appeal to families and energetic vacationers. The hotel features loads of water-sports, a huge beachfront and a gigantic pool (more like lagoon) - the biggest swimming pool in Asia.
Andaman Bangtao Bay Resort : Every bungalow has a sea view and there's a summer-camp vibe at this pleasant little resort. The design is very Thai, with woodcarvings on the walls and coconuts hanging from the eaves of the roofs, but for this price we expected a little more luxury.
Banyan Tree Phuket : One of Asia's finest hotels, and the first on Phuket to introduce bungalows with their own private pool, the Banyan Tree Phuket (in I.aguna Phuket) is an oasis of sedate, under-stated luxury. Accommodation is in rambling villas, the most indulgent being the 'double-pool villas' (aka the ultimate shag pad). A trip to the spa is a must - it's one of the continent's best. If you have the bling to drop on a place like this, do it now - Banyan Tree books up fast.
Surin is upmarket but completely unpretentious. A distinctly Thai spirit lingers here along with the lazy, pampered vacationers -which is probably why expats love this area so much. Trees line the pretty shore and dozens of cheap food shacks shelter beneath them. If you're looking for five-star luxury, you've come to the right place.
Capri Beach Resort : A little temple to Italian kitsch, this welcoming spot offers great home cooking, snug rooms and more Italians than you can likely stomach. Expect opera, giant pepper grinders and high standards. It's a short hop from the beach.
Surin Bay Inn : Right next to Capri Beach, this is another welcoming midranger. There's an eatery serving fabulous breakfasts below; clean, spacious rooms above (although a sea view costs a bit extra); and a useful book exchange.
Benyada Lodge : Chic, modern rooms have black louvred closets, terracotta tiles and silk, pastel-coloured throw pillows scattered in the lounging corner. Service is stellar and we loved the high-end details, like ice water service every time you sit anywhere in the lobby.
Twin Palms : Twin Palms is the Audrey Hepburn of Phuket's hotels - it's classic yet contemporary, and oozes oodles of class. There's a pervasive feeling of space with minimalist, artsy swimming pools fringed by delicate white frangipani. Even the simplest rooms are extra spacious and have oversized bathrooms, sublimely comfortable beds and a supreme sense of calm.
Chedi : Any hotel located on a private beach this stunning would make our top picks list, but Chedi's bunga-lows, with their naturalistic wooden exteriors that hide within a jungly hillside, further enhance the property's Garden of Eden vibe. You'll have to be in decent shape for walking j around the resort, since it can be quite a hoof up hills and over wooden walkways to get I your bungalow.
Amanpuri Resort : Phuket's number one celebrity magnet, the Amanpuri offers lashings of glamour and palatial luxury (what else would you expect from the former'Shah of Iran's winter palace architect?). With a staggering 3.5 staff members assigned to every guest, this is as close most of us will get to royalty. Accommodation is in private villas and you can even book your own private cook.
Location, location, location. Sandwiched in between Patong and the tranquil north bays, Hat Kamala is a good spot to call home if you're looking to make naughty and nice.
Benjamin Resort : With c 1970 construction, but right on the beach, friendly Benjamin is showing its age despite the fresh layers of paint. Rooms all come with TVs and minifridges, and you'll fork over arr extra tew hundred baht for-a view.
Orchid House :Orchid. House is clean and cutesy with patterned tiles and gussied curtains. Blooming potted plants abound and there's a sweet downstairs bar-cafe. It one-ups Benjamin and is only about 20m further away from the sand.
Kamala Dreams : One giant stride from the sea, Kamala Dreams has sparkling surfaces and spotless (though slightly dowdy) rooms with tiled floors and bleached-white walls. The grounds are small but well kept, and are sprinkled with flowers and statues of Praying Buddhas.
Layalina Hotel :This tiny beachfront boutique hotel earns top niarks,especially for the split-level suites iyith very private rooftop terraces, perfect for romantic sunset gazing. The decor is decisively Thai, with honey-toned wooden furnishings. The only downside is the pool is, hilariously small - but that turquoise ocean 15 only steps away.
Phuket's Costa del Soul-less is a seething beachside city that crams thousands hotel rooms between its craggy headlands.
Budget rooms have pretty much gone the way of the dodo, although if you wander around the soi behind the Jung Ceylon shopping complex, you're bound to find something for less than 1000B.
Crown Backpackers : Expect bare-bones basics and late-night rumblings in this hostel in the heart of the Patong war zone...er... we mean bar zone.
Capricorn Village : Capricorn is a rare cheapie in Patong's inflated sleep-ing scene. Bright little bungalows with terraces wind back into a quiet garden. Guests can take a dip in the pool at K's Hotel next door.
Casa Jip : Italian-run and great value, this place has very big, luxurious rooms (for the price bracket) with comfy beds and a taste of Thai style. You get cable TV and there's even a special breakfast room service.
Swarms of low-priced accommodation hovers around Th Nanai. The following are recommended:
Khun Vito Guest House : Friendly Vito offers a dozen spic-and-span rooms.
Chalermpom : Standard-issue rooms are spotless.
Expat Hotel : At the end of a bar-packed alley, this popular spot is a hit with unfussy foreigners - there's a communal, buddy-buddy feeling between staff and guests. Monthly rates are available, too.
K's Hotel : Although K's caters mainly to Germans, everyone is made to feel plenty willkommen. Beer aficionados will adore the on-site bitrgarten. Upstairs, standard rooms have been gussied up with plasma TVs and stone-tile bathrooms. It's a popular spot for families.
Villa Del Mar : Like a weathered Mediterranean ship, Villa Del Mar has a lot of shabby-chic charm but can sometimes feel a bit mildewy.
Yorkshire Inn :About as Thai as the Queen Mother, this is one of a string of unabashedly British outfits courting homesick visitors. The Yorkshire offers a flicker of homey B&B charm, and can put together a mean fry-up -the Yorkshire pudding is a little less successful. The rooms are spotless and come with cable TV.
Baipho & Baithong : This much style isn't usually found in this price range - particularly since 'chic' isn't really in Patong's vocabulary. Zen trimmings mingle with modern urban touches in the dimly lit, nest-like rooms of these twin hotels. Guests can use the pool at the unsightly Montana Grand Phuket next door.
Baramee Resortel :Brand-new Baramee'is one of the best midrange deals in Patong. Spacious rooms have crisp white furnishings befitting a chic, top-end resort. Although not located directly on the beach, the hotel has many rooms with ocean views (the others look out onto a parking lot).
Holiday Inn : What? A Holiday Inn in a Lonely Planet guide? Don't worry - this hotel is way glitzier than those Holiday Inns near yolw hometown's airport. Beach-resort amenities come standard here, plus there's an upmarket spa to repair your post-Patong battle wounds.
BYD lofts : Style and comfort reign supreme at BYM whose urban-chic apartments feature loads of white (floors, walls, curtains), which feels angelic when compared to Patong's seedy street scene.
Baan Yin Dee :On a hill overlooking town, this is Patong's premier boutique getaway. It's small but perfectly put together: spacious rooms with balconies, magazine-worthy styling and bikini-clad model-wannabes lazing I out around the pool. If you're partying all night, come here to repair your soul (plus there's a fabulous restaurant that provides j hangover-curing culinary delights).
Le Meridien Phuket : Close to the Patong chaos, yet secluded on its own private (and spectacular) beach, Le Meridien offers everything that the international globetrotter could ask for, housed in a bright green compound that reeks of the 70s (in the most charming way possible). Tennis courts and swimming pools abound -a great hotel for families. It remains one of Phuket's most popular great escapes.
Avantika :) Down on the quieter south side of Patong, this beach-facing resort is a new player on pricey Phuket, sporting standard-issue high-end hotel accommodation. You'll be satisfied with your stay hut you won't be blown away. Prices drop to 3800B in low season - that's when Avantika really shines.
Impiana Phuket Cabana : And winner of the best beachfront location' award goes to impiana. This campus of comfy rooms is practically in the heart of the action.
The beaches south of Patong are not as stunning as their northern counterparts, but there are some good deals to be had along these flaxen strips of sand.
Stuck between Patong an3 Kata, Karon draws a bit of its personality from both, and that chilled-out-yet-slightly-sleazy vibe can make the beach feel wonderfully peaceful or denressingly backwater, depending on your attitude. Sleeping cheapies tend to be a bit of a trek from the beach. See p675 for eating options in Karon.
Karon Cafe : Way less sexy than its neighbours, Karon Cafe has clean, no-fuss roorfis above a friendly eatery.
Karon Living Room : Karon Living Room pro-vides sparkling clean rooms with air-con set to cryogenic levels. The rooms don't have oodles of personalised pizazz, but it's a solid pick at the low end of the midrange category. Pricing is sometimes all over the board so contact it ahead of time and ask about discounts.
Casa Brazil : Simple rooms have Curnivale styling, which makes this friendly spot a standout operation. There's a whimsically styled and very social cafe on the ground level, and the 20-odd rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated. It's a short walk to both Kata and Karon beaches.
Baan Suay :A popular spot with divers, Baan Suay offers comfortable, modern surroundings with a tinge of Thai decor thrown in for good measure. It's not the cheapest place on the block, but the service 's excellent and the wading pool is perfect for when the beach gets too crowded; Free wifi abounds.
Movenpick : Grab a secluded villa and choose from a private plunge pool or outdoor rainforest shower; alternatively, chill in the ultramod rooms with huge floor-to-ceiling windows (in some cases covering two entire walls). Besides a prime location across the street from a pretty stretch of beach, the Movenpick offers artistic decor, top-end linens, a big pool with swim-up bar and a top-notch spa.
Kata attracts travellers of all ages with its shopping, surfing and lively beach, and without the seedy hustle endemic to Patong up the coast. While you might not find a secluded strip of sand, you will find plenty to do and plenty of easy-going folks to clink beers with. The area has a large number of Scandinavian expats -you can't go 50m without seeing a cartoon logo of a horned helmet.
The beach is actually split into two distinct sections, separated by a rocky headland: Hat Kata Yai to the north and Hat Kata Noi to the south. Both offer loads of bleach-blond sand and attract chilled-out beach goers. Like Patong, these beaches are losing their under-1000B accommodation as the entire area gently creeps upmarket.
Lucky Guesthouse :Phuket penny-pinchers usually wind up at Lucky, which offers the basic necessities for beach holidays on a shoestring: a bed and a bathroom. The extra-friendly staff strive to help you to the best of their ability and can offer insider tips about the island.
Kata On Sea :On Sea'? Hardly. It's a steep 100m climb to this clutch of modest bungalows dotting a quiet green hilltop, but for the price, it's well worth the effort. Spacious bungalows have massive picture windows that maximise views. Air-con rooms start at 80UB.
Sugar Palm Resort : It's a 'chic, chill-out world' as this Miami-meets-Thailand-style resort claims. Sleek rooms mix beachy whisps of colour with the whites and blacks of an old-school photo. Outside you'll find a U-shaped black-bottomed pool - the perfect spot to shoot an MTV music video.
CC Bloom's : This American-run gay-friendly boutique hotel (strangely named after Bette Midler's character in the movie Beaches) has a fab location overlooking Kata. Stylish rooms are done up in creamy ludochine yellows. If you have a hankerin' for waves (it is a bit of a hike from the beach), a tree shuttle makes multiple runs to the beach.
Katathani Resort : Down on quieter Hat Kata Noi, this glitzy spa resort offers all the usual trimmings in stylish surrounds. It features a spa> a handful of pools; .1 beauty salon and heaps of space. Excelk.tL low-season'deals are on offer to top hagglers.
Mom Tri's Buathouse : For Thai politicos, pop stars, artists and celebrity authors the intimate boutiqus Boathouse is still the only place to stay on Phuket. Room were remodelled after the tsunami and are spacious affairs sporting large breezy verandahs. Critics complain the Boathouse is a bit stiff-lipped old-fashioned for this century, but no one can deny that the main reason to sleep at the Boathouse is for the food. The three on-site restaurants are the best on the island.
Mom Tri's Villa Royale : Tucked away in a secluded Kata Noi location with the grandest of view. Villa Royale opened in 2006 if- nearly insunt acclaim. The romantic place with fabuiou- food offers beautiful rooms straight on' of the pages of Architectural Digest, Guiltless pleasures include an attached spa and a saltwater pool a tamer version of the real tiling, which is just a few steps away.
Kats Noi Pavilion : Slightly generic, but the rooms are spic and spin.
Boomerang ViJIage ;An immensely popular spot strung up the side of a hill overlooking Kata (750m from the beach).
Naj Han & Rawai
Rawai was one of Phuket's first tourist developments, but this was mostly due to the fact that it was close to Phuket Town. As better beaches were discovered, tourist traffic in Rawai dwindled, and today it's a quiet spot. Tourists often chat about visiting the chow lair village here .it's worth giving it a miss, unless you're a fan of barking dogs and old car parts (most of the sea gypsies have moved).
Nai Han, on the other hand, is cloistered from the tourist frenzy, and hosts a beach full of local snack shacks. Except for the yacht club, there's not much accommodation with views of the beach. For eating options around Nai Han and Rawai,.
For something a bit quieter, grab a long-tail boat to nearby Ko Heh and stay at the secluded Coral Island. A lot of snorkelling day trippers visit the island, but after sunset it's absolutely serene.
Nai Harn Garden Resort : Back from the beach, on the far side of the reservoir, this resort offers a range of bungalows and villas in a spa cious garden setting. The atmosphere is a little suburban cul-de-sac, but standards are high, there are plenty of masseuses at hand -massage is something of a hotel speciality -and prices are fairly reasonable.
Sabana : Right on the yacht club's doorstep, Sabana is a less-expensive stunt double. The decor is all primary colours and Thai motifs, and while the Cheaper rooms are a little ordinary, the pricier Thai Sala' options are beautifully designed, here's also an on-site spa.
Royal Phuket Yacht Club : When the Le Meridien brand decided to let this property go, the owners changed the ‘le’ to a ‘the’ and kept on goin'. I here's not a yacht in sight, but the resort does feel grand in a country club kinda way. If you can cadge one of the low-season discounts, it really is excellent value.
Evason Phuket Resort :This spa hotel extraordinaire offers copious amounts of luxury. Hip and heavily designed, it is the type of place that appeals to rock stars and moneyed media types. Expect beautiful people tapping away at their wireless gadgetry beside the infinity pool, and immaculately turned-out staff. Room prices - opulent villas top the billing -stretch from pricey to impossibly expensive.
Phuket Town has a healthy assortment of budget-friendly lodging options. Although you're nowhere near the beach, foodies will adore the small bundle of kick-ass restaurants tucked between the town's vibrant architectural remains of its mirlticultural past. Get the low-down on Phuket Town's attractions on p652.
On On Hotel : This bare-bones.classic snapped up a cameo in The Beach (2000), playing a shitty backpacker dive. It's been a full decade since Leo's sandy foray, and the travellers are still comin' to experience the droopy-beds, creaking fans and hole-for-a- toilet bathrooms. Smell that? Yup, that's the gritty stink of Thailand's original shoestringer spirit.
Phuket International Youth Hostel : As a bona fide Hostelling International outfit, this contemporary spot offers comfy sleeps in typically sterile surrounds. 'Reliable' is the buz/woro here, and while you won't be daz/ku by charming decor, you will sleep safe knowing that you're not being stalked by bed bugs. It is 7km south of Phuket Town.
Talang Guest House : This decrepit shophouse is something of an archectural classic. Creature cor/siort? ,ite at a premium, but it bags extra points for character and charm. If you really want to soak up the atmosphere, check in to the floor room overlooking tiie street. It's a tan room with a large verandah and is ideal lor nostalgia junkies.
Crystal Inn :It may not age well, but for now this is a slick midrange option. With its attractive Rothko-esque murals, it's a stylish alternative to the midrange dreck nearby.
Si no House : Like a swank Shanghai bordello (in a good way...), Sino House's rooms are massive and dimly lit, and the attached bathrooms feature handmade ceramic basins and quarter-moon-shaped tubs. Staff members are friendly and speak excellent English.
Metropole Phuket : The Metropole fancies itself as the big cheese; however, it feels a bit more like the big cheesy. The seahorse fountain is a little kitsch and the rooms are a tad frumpy (think matching drapes and duvets - all floral prints). It's a decent choice if you need to be in central Phuket Town, and the top floor views are pretty darn cool.
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