The best time to travel to Phuket is during the dry season – November to April. However, work trips tend to be off-season and so I am here in September, the height of the monsoon. As I type this it’s actually dry and sunny, but it has rained during my trip quite a lot. I have been told though that this is the rainiest September in years and it has not been a washout by any means. For the thrifty traveller, hotel rates can be around 50 per cent lower at this time of year so you can get a bargain or treat yourself to an upgraded room. I travelled with a group of Flight Centre agents courtesy of Etihad and Centara Resorts.
We stayed at the 5* Centara Grand Beach Phuket, located on the beachfront at Karon Beach. Karon is a tourist town with plenty of shops and restaurants but without being as seedy as near neighbour Patong. There is a good mix of accommodation with the big chains such as Centara, Hilton, Movenpick etc. but also locally owned hotels. From Phuket airport it is around an hour’s transfer south. In Karon itself there is a road running along most of the beach so the Centara Grand is one of the few absolute beachfront hotels in the area.
The great thing with the Centara Grand is that it’s great for families, with kids club, lazy river and waterslides, but for couples there is an adults only pool and the option of spa rooms (with Jacuzzi on the balcony) and pool suites which are more secluded and quiet. The property is a ten minute walk along the beach into town as well.
In addition to the Grand, Centara have two more properties in Karon. We went to see these the day after we arrived.
Centara Villas is a 4* property set into the hillside about 5 minutes drive from the Centara Grand. It’s far smaller, with only around 70 rooms, all in a Thai villa style. All the rooms are the same inside but you can choose to upgrade to Oceanfacing, Spa (again with the Jacuzzi on the balcony) or Pool Villa. This resort is steep with lots of steps so not one for those with walking difficulties. This would be great for couples who want a quiet authentic Thai feel. Although not beachfront, from the pool area there is a path leading down to the public beach, so access is easy enough.
4* Centara Karon Resort is right in the heart of Karon town, less than a five minute walk to the public beach. This is probably more of a family resort but does have four sections: the Terraces, lead-in rooms good for friends and couples on a budget; the Lagoon which has more spacious rooms for families (and the pool here is full of kids! Not for those wanting peace and quiet); the Tropicale section which is much quieter, and The Cabanas featuring pool cabana style rooms. Despite being surrounded by shops and restaurants, there is very much a resort feel and with rooms off-season starting at around £50 per night B&B, it’s perfect for a budget break, and is excellent for families.
We only had one full day in Phuket, so what better way to finish it off than with a night out in infamous Patong! Yes,there are ping pong shows and seedy bars. Yes, it is loud and busy, and I wouldn’t want to stay there for long, but a few hours on Bangla Road can be fun. We headed to Monsoon, a bar with live music and cheap drinks (beers for less than £2, spirits and mixer for around £4). Fun was had by all and we headed back home around 2am to get some rest before our next adventure: Elephant Hills (next blog post).