Kathu in Phuket, Thailand is a tourist hot spot. Every year throngs of tourists flock to the famous Patong Beach. The city offers a mix of activities including historical sites, sport and adventure, markets, and a pulsing nightlife. The Kathu District is a vibrant place, rich in culture, offering tasty food, and brimming with energy.

Early Morning: Breakfast

In Thailand, there is little distinction made between breakfast and other meals. Locals generally eat the same types of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most restaurants and hotels in Kathu cater to international visitors by offering English and continental breakfasts. Cafe Siam in Patong is the perfect little breakfast spot to start your day. This cute café is part of a boutique guesthouse and serves up great breakfasts. They’re known for their excellent Italian coffee and healthy Acai Bowls with fresh fruit.

bang tao beach
The Bang Tao Beach in Kathu.

Mid-Morning: Cool Off At The Beach

After breakfast, take a 10-minute stroll from Cafe Siam to Patong Beach. Use the morning to relax on the beach, work on your tan and cool off from the tropical humidity. Patong Beach is Kathu’s main drawcard, so be prepared for the crowds. It’s a bustling area full of shops, restaurants, and activities. You can play a game of volleyball, jet ski or parasail, browse the street markets, or just laze on the pure white sand. Alternatively, take an island boat tour to some of the breathtaking islands off the coast. The Phi Phi Islands are the most popular and include Maya Bay, the filming location for the movie “The Beach,” starring Leonardo Di Caprio.

Lunchtime: Enjoy a Sit-Down Meal

Once you’ve soaked up the sun and the vibe of Patong Beach, you may want to have a leisurely lunch. Hop on a tuk-tuk, songthaew minibus, or motorbike taxi to take you to Blue Mango Bar and Grill near Tri Trang beach. This is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Phuket. It’s situated on a hill overlooking Patong Bay and is a respite from the hustle and bustle. Blue Mango offers a mix of Italian-Mediterranean, and traditional Thai food, beautifully cooked and presented. Finish off with their amazing Chocolate Fondant dessert that’s always a winner. If you want a light meal, there’s also a pool bar menu offering light snacks and sandwiches.

Kathu waterfall
Kathu Waterfall.

Afternoon Activities

After lunch, explore Kathu Waterfall. Kathu Waterfall is a series of drop pools on different levels rather than one big waterfall cascading into a giant pool. The fullness and strength of the falls are most impressive during monsoon season, between June to November. If you’re feeling energetic, you can attempt a climb to the top. It is a strenuous climb but there are steps to aid you and shaded areas to take breaks along the way. Once at the top, you will be at one of the highest points in Phuket, approximately 1700 feet above sea level.

If water sports are your thing, then travel one mile further down the road to Phuket Wake Park, a cable wakeboarding park. If you’ve never tried wakeboarding,there is no need to sit on the sidelines. First-timers can do a 30-minute training session before tackling the big cable. If you’re not keen on wakeboarding, relax at the on-site restaurant with a coffee, fruit shake, or beer and watch others in action.

If there’s still time before 5 p.m., visit Kathu Shrine to immerse yourself in some of Kathu’s Chinese history. The shrine is a holy place and visitors should conduct themselves in a respectful way. If you’re in Kathu in October, you can experience the lively and colorful Phuket Vegetarian Festival. Today the 10-day festival takes place at various shrines across Phuket but Kathu Shrine was the first to begin the festival. If you’re squeamish, be warned that part of the festival’s rituals includes participants piercing their cheeks with sharp objects, including knives and swords.

Shopping in the Evening

No trip to Kathu is complete without experiencing shopping at the street markets and practicing your bartering skills. Head back to Patong Beach. As evening descends, the entire stretch of the beach road comes alive when the night market kicks off. The streets start buzzing, it is chaotic and the air is almost electric. Approach bargaining in a friendly and lighthearted manner and vendors will be more inclined to give you a good price.

Nighttime Nibbles: Sample the Street Food

All that shopping will work up an appetite. Forget a fancy restaurant. The night market, with its many food stalls, is the best place to grab a delicious bite to eat. You’ll find the best Thai street food, as well as Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Middle Eastern cuisine. The egg roti pancake drizzled with chocolate sauce and condensed milk is sold everywhere, as is the French crepe-style pancake with banana and Nutella filling. Both are a great sweet treat and a must-try if you’re new to Kathu.

Late Night Partying

Phuket has a reputation for being a party city and much of it centers around Patong in the Kuthu District. Book a ticket for Simon Cabaret, a spectacular transvestite extravaganza. It’s the biggest and best cabaret show in Phuket. You won’t be disappointed — it’s glamorous, flamboyant, and funny. There are three shows at 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. that last an hour. Tickets cost 1,000 Baht (US$30) and you can meet the cast and take photos with them after the show.

After the show, move on to Bangla Road. This is party central in Kathu. You can easily spend the rest of the night until the wee hours of the morning here. If you want to take a walk on Phuket’s wild side, this is it. It’s packed with beer bars, clubs, go-go bars, and the infamous ping-pong shows. All along the strip, you’ll find girls and “ladyboys” trying to entice you into the bars and clubs. You could also opt to do the Bangla Road bar crawl, but don’t be surprised if you wake up the next day thinking you’re in a scene from the movie  “The Hangover,” complete with a monkey on your shoulder.

mining museum
The Mining Museum.

Traveling to Kathu

To visit Kathu you will fly to Phuket International Airport. This is Thailand’s third busiest airport after Bangkok’s two airports, seeing more 15 million passengers pass through its doors. Phuket is a popular tourist destination in the Asia-Pacific region, attracting visitors from all over the globe, so expect a busy airport. If you’re traveling to Phuket via Bangkok, there are frequent flights from Bangkok to Phuket from both Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang International Airport.

Airport Terminals

Phuket Airport has three terminals: Terminal 1 is for international flights, Terminal 2 for domestic flights, and a third terminal is for charter flights. The international terminal was upgraded in 2016. There are 15 check points to help process travelers through immigration quickly. However, this can still take a while due to the sheer volume of passengers who arrive daily, especially over the high season from December to May. Make sure you fill in your Passenger Arrivals Document before landing, to avoid any delays.

Airport Amenities

Thailand uses the Baht currency and you can exchange money at the airport. However, foreign exchange counters tend to have long lines after each flight lands. It is better to change monies either in your home country before flying to Phuket or at your hotel, a bank, or any exchange shop in town once you arrive. Alternatively, you can withdraw funds from any of the ATMs in the arrivals hall, as long as your bank card has the “Cirrus” logo.

Free Wi-Fi is available at the airport. SIM cards are sold at the airport and you can choose from various cell phone and internet packages ranging from one to 30 days. For any medical emergencies, a first aid service is located in the departure hall.

Wat phra nang sang
The Wat Phra Nang Sang.

Getting to Kathu District

Phuket International Airport is situated in the north of Phuket Island and it takes about an hour to travel to the Kathu District in the south. Make your way to the international departures area, where the transfer and public transport services are located. Here you will find several transport options:

Phuket Airport Bus

 If you’re heading to Phuket Town, the bright orange Phuket Airport Bus shuttles travelers from the airport to the Phuket Bus Terminal. The cream-colored buses with a blue stripe run a service to Patong, Kata, and Karon beaches. The fare to Patong is 150 Baht (US$5).

Minivans

Minivans offer shared rides and they only leave when the van is full. Note that they usually make a stop at a travel agency where they will try to sell you a tour or push you to book a hotel room. Politely decline and give them the name of the hotel you’re staying at and the driver will take you there. Minivans can take a little longer because they have to drop all passengers off at various hotels along the way.

Metered Taxis

To get to your accommodation quickly, hop into a metered taxi. You can’t miss them — they’re bright yellow and red. A metered taxi is more expensive than the bus or minivan. A ride to Patong costs around 550 Baht (US$16) with an extra 100 Baht (US$3) airport surcharge fee that applies when leaving the airport. To cut the cost of a taxi, you can share a ride with another traveler and split the fee.

Limousine Taxi

If you have a healthy budget to work with, why not go the hassle-free and comfortable route, with a limousine taxi. You can buy tickets at the limousine counters in the arrivals hall or book ahead of time. You’ll find the silver taxis lined up outside the terminal doors.

Car Rental

Driving around Phuket can be daunting. You’ll be navigating some chaotic roads and coping with the erratic driving of locals. But if you’re up for the challenge, renting a car may be the best way to explore the Kathu District and other parts of Phuket. To rent a car in Thailand, you will need an international driving permit. There are at least 10 rental companies at Phuket Airport, some in the arrivals hall and others outside.

Departures

Plan to arrive at the airport at least three hours ahead of an international departure. Remember that traveling back to the airport from Patong can take up to an hour, so make sure you leave in good time. Once at the departures terminal, getting through check-in is straightforward. Phuket Airport is fairly small and finding your way around is easy.

If you have time to kill before boarding, you can relax at one of the eateries, do some last-minute duty-free shopping, or get a quick massage at the spa — all are on the second-floor level. If you’re in for a long wait, there are plenty of power outlets throughout the terminal to keep your cell phone charged.

Where to Stay in Kathu

Kathu has a range of accommodation to suit every type of traveler and budget.

Resort and Luxury Hotels

There are an endless number of hotels in Kathu, with several luxury resort hotels near Patong Beach. If it’s beachfront bliss you’re after, you can’t get closer than Impiana Resort Patong, located right on Patong Beach. The hotel’s beachfront pool is steps away from the beach. It’s also within walking distance of Bangla Road.

Less than a mile up the road is Nipa Resort. It offers guests a quintessential Asian experience, with Thai architecture and decor throughout this 117-room resort hotel. Nipa Resort is only a 10-minute walk from the popular Jungceylon Shopping Center, the largest and most modern shopping mall in southern Thailand.

If you’re planning to exercise your swing at Phuket Country Golf Club, then book into the beautiful Balinese styled Baan Maksong Resort and Spa, less than two miles from the golf club.

Fantasea
The Phuket Fantasea in Kathu.

Mid-range Hotels

Mid-range hotels can be hit and miss when it comes to standard and quality. When it comes to cost, staying off the beachfront is cheaper. Hemingways Silk Hotel is an excellent three-star hotel that offers great value for money. It’s a little further away from the beach, but still in the heart of the entertainment district. The hotel is spotless and the staff are super friendly. There’s a small rooftop pool where you can hang out and their on-site restaurant serves up some pretty decent food.

Opting to stay further north in Kamala will also yield well-priced accommodation. Kamala is the less glitzy cousin of Patong and many who want a quieter vacation choose to stay in Kamala. You’ll find the same breathtaking scenery and pristine beaches, minus the noisy party crowds of Patong. For families, Kamala Beachfront Apartments are ideal. The suites are spacious, with a kitchen and sitting areas. You will enjoy beachfront views, but with a lower price tag than a Patong beachfront hotel. Staying here puts you 10-minutes away from Phuket FantaSea, an extravagant cultural theme park and one of the island’s biggest tourist attractions.

Budget Hotels

Palmview Resort Patong Beach is a small 20-room hotel. It’s set further away from the beach, about a 20-minute walk. This is a no-frills hotel which offers neat, comfortable accommodation and all rooms have a view of the pool. The hotel features a swimming pool and  ponds with tropical plants. It’s perfect for those who want to be close to the entertainment district, but not smack dab in the middle of the madness.

Beds Patong is a simple budget hotel with a hostel-like feel. It offers 16 clean, air-conditioned rooms in minimalistic industrial style and some have bunk beds. You’ll be warmly welcomed by the owner and staff. The funny and inspirational quotes on the walls add a quirky and humorous touch.

Patong Mansion Hotel is another affordable hotel in Patong. Rooms are basic but clean and breakfast is included. Discovering that your budget hotel has a small rooftop pool is a bonus. It’s a great spot to unwind in the evening and take in sunset views across the city. Patong Mansion Hotel is a short walk to Bangla Boxing Stadium, where you can watch Muay Thai boxing, a national sport in Thailand.

Hostel Accommodation

Kathu attracts hordes of young people looking to party hard. If all you want is to lay your head on a pillow at the end of a long night’s partying, then hostel accommodation is the way to. Sharing a dormitory is also a great way to meet fellow travelers and make new friends.

Most partiers want to stay in the heart of the action, near Bangla Road. Kool Backpacker Hostel and WIRE Hostel Patong are both on Bangla Road. Kool Backpacker Hostel is right next to Illuzion Nightclub, which makes it the perfect party hostel. However, those who value their sleep may want to avoid it, as the booming music will keep you awake all night. You may prefer to head to Patong Backpacker Hostel, around the corner in Taweewong Road instead. If you want to save money without sacrificing privacy, WIRE Hostel is a unique capsule hostel that offers single bed capsules, each with a plug and light inside. Just crawl in and snooze.

If you’re planning on a longer stay, monthly rentals of houses, apartments, and luxury villas are available. You can book long-term accommodation with travel agents or simply plan your whole trip from finding flights to booking the best accommodation, right here on GoDoTrip.