Jamie's Phuket Blog

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Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2021

Well after a really cr*ppy 2020, and a not great 2021 so far, let's look at the Top 10 Phuket Hotels for 2021. Hopefully Phuket and world tourism in general will be re-opening for real sometime in 2021, let's hope the Covid-19 pandemic doesn't last for too much longer. But I am guessing it's going to be well into 2022 before we can use the word "normal" again. It seems a little petty to complain that Phuket tourism has suffered when so many have suffered worse, but Phuket does rely to a very large extent on tourism and I hope things can get going again soon. The Thai government "Phuket Sandbox" idea allows vaccinated tourists to visit, but it's not that easy. Not all hotels are taking Phuket Sandbox tourists - look in the hotel information in the links below for the SHA+ certification. Only these hotels can be booked during the "Sandbox" Phuket re-opening period. We all hope things get better soon all over the world and we can book any hotel we want!

For sure the list is still subjective, your personal choice will depend on many factors, and you can search hotels easily on Agoda to try and find the best Phuket hotels for you. It's a big place, Phuket. Take your time when looking for hotels, check the location on a map, read reviews, figure out if you want somewhere really quiet or close to lots of restaurants and bars. The right hotel is there, but you do have to do some digging! When you feel ready to travel - please do visit Phuket!

1. Avista Grande (Karon Beach)

Avista Grande

Avista Grande at Karon Beach leaped into the top 10 last year and now tops the list. The full name is Avista Grande Phuket Karon MGallery by Sofitel .. bit of a mouthful. Sofitel is a chain, part of the Accor group, with MGallery being a more boutique luxury style of hotel. I worked at Karon beach at the Sunrise Divers shop and we had a fair number of happy customers staying at this hotel.

Avista Grande - Information, Reviews & Booking

2. The Cove (Cape Panwa)

The Cove Phuket

The Cove is a smaller hotel (I think it has about 15 bungalows) which has been open for a few years and seems to have suddenly got very popular! It's located in the Cape Panwa area of Phuket which has long been one of my favourite areas miles away from the big beaches, but there are quite a few restaurants and plenty of local life. It's at Ao Yon beach, right by the sand.

The Cove - Information, Reviews & Booking

3. The Chava Resort (Surin Beach)

Chava

The Chava was number 1 in 2016, number 2 last year and now number 3 - pretty consistently one of the best hotels in Phuket! Surin Beach always has something in the top 10! The Chava Resort has 2 - 5 room apartments (an "apartment resort"), some are run directly by the hotel, while some are privately rented. Rooms are really big, great for families and groups. It's a place with sea views, slightly up in the hills, not right on the sand but just few minutes walk from Surin beach.

Chava Resort - Information, Reviews & Booking

4. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)

BYD Lofts

BYD Lofts has been in the top 5 for 6 years. If you want a room near the heart of Patong Beach, close to the action and in the middle of the busiest beach area in Thailand, BYD Lofts offers serviced apartments with the hotel featuring a rooftop pool (and a view over the rooftops and hotels of Patong). There are 1 or 2 bedroom apartments of various sizes. I rarely used to venture into Patong myself - not my style, but Patong beach is very convenient for visitors, with huge numbers of restaurants plus shops/the big Jungceylon Mall and tour agents near you. And bars and nightlife too.

BYD Lofts - Information, Reviews & Booking

5. Navatara (Rawai Beach)

Navatara

Navatara is another that remains popular - it has been at number 5 for 3 years running. Navatara opened in 2013, but with hotels opening all the time I'd not even heard of it until writing the top 10 list in 2016! Navatara has 37 rooms, built (I would say) "Thai style". Some rooms have pool access, and all rooms look pretty big. This is a smaller, Thai style resort away from the main beaches, but not too far - many people ask me to recommend a hotel like this or The Cove. Like many of the hotels on this list, it's not on the beach. Navatara is about 500m from Rawai beach and a few minutes drive from Nai Harn beach and Phromthep Cape. One of my favourite corners of Phuket.

Navatara - Information, Reviews & Booking

6. The Surin (Pansea Beach)

Surin Hotel

The Surin (formerly called The Chedi) reopened with the new name about 10 years ago, but The Chedi had already been in Phuket for years, with it's uniquely excellent location on a semi-private beach between Surin and Bang Tao beaches in the north of Phuket. I'd like to stay here! Another resort that is a little bit remote but you can get to Surin or Bang Tao for restaurant options. Personally, I'd rent a car if I stayed here. And The Surin is not ridiculously expensive compared to the neighbour - the beach is shared with the very very fancy Amanpuri.

The Surin - Information, Reviews & Booking

7. Marina Phuket Hotel (Patong Beach)

Marina Phuket Hotel

Quite surprised to see a hotel like Marina Phuket Hotel in the top 10 - a block by the side of one of Patong's back roads, a fair walk to the beach, not really a pretty area, but it does seem to have a lot of good reviews on TA and on Agoda (see link below). And it does have a rooftop pool and bar/restaurant. And the price is pretty good.

Marina Phuket Hotel - Information, Reviews & Booking

8. Renaissance Phuket Resort (Mai Khao Beach)

Renaissance Phuket

Renaissance is one of several Marriott resorts north of Phuket Airport at Mai Khao Beach. Renaissance has been on this blog before as part of the Best Luxury Phuket Resorts list and was in the Top 10 Hotels for 2019, 2018 and 2017. Mai Khao beach is still really quiet and unless you stick to the various Marriott hotel restaurants you'll need transport or taxis to get to other places. Rent a car, explore, drive just a few minutes from here and you're over the bridge into Phang Nga province. Ideal for relaxation and a quiet base for exploring the greater Phuket area!

Renaissance - Information, Reviews & Booking

9. Kantary Bay (Cape Panwa)

Kantaray Bay

Another hotel in the Cape Panwa area to the south of Phuket Town and a long way from the busy main west coast Phuket beaches. Kantary Bay is part of the Cape and Kantary group which have very nice hotels all over Thailand - the nearby Cape Panwa Hotel is also theirs. It's located right by the aquarium on a quiet road with a few nearby restaurants and there are often lots of local food stalls on the roadside. Nice view across the bay, but there's not much beach there. The hotel cafe is apparently very good.

Kantary Bay - Information, Reviews & Booking

10. Chanalai Hillside Resort (Karon Beach)

Chanalai Hillside

And another at Karon beach! There are several Chanalai resorts in Phuket (Garden, Hillside, Romantica, Flora) and all are in Kata or Karon. Note - if you stay at one of these, be sure if you book tours that you know which Chanalai you are at (I speak from experience booking people for dive trips!) Chanalai Hillside is .. you'd never guess, on the hillside - about 5 minutes walk to Karon beach.

Chanalai Hillside Resort - Information, Reviews & Booking

And that's the Top 10 Best Phuket hotels for 2021. Maybe. Be sure to check if you can book your favourite hotel during the Phuket Sandbox period. Have you stayed at a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? Go and give it a big review and get it's TA ranking up! Phuket has been on the mainstream tourism route for 30+ years now, and there is a great mix of old and new resorts (hard to keep up with openings and re-brandings!), big hotels, guesthouses, villas, apartments, hillside, beachfront, busy areas, quiet areas and lots to do. There really is something in Phuket for everyone! If you can't get to Phuket in 2021, hopefully you can in 2022.



Chinese Shrines in Phuket

Phuket island has been a port and a crossroads of the sea for many years, so it's no surprise that you find a mix of cultures and religions in Phuket. The island has quite a fascinating history. It's location near the Straits of Malacca led to Phuket being a port used by Indians, Arabs, Chinese and Europeans over the years, and this is reflected in the diversity here - now further diversified by many long term expats from all over the world. Right from the start of this blog in 2006 I started blogging about Phuket's many Buddhist temples and over the years I have also written about mosques and Christian churches in Phuket and even visited a Sikh Gurdwara.

In the 19th century many Chinese people (mostly men) traveled to various parts of SE Asia seeking a new life. They ended up in ports such as Singapore, Malacca, Penang and Phuket. After recovering from wars with Burma in the late 18th and early 19th century, Phuket became important because of tin mining which attracted many Chinese workers who brought their ideas and culture with them. Phuket festivals such as the vegetarian festival and hungry ghost festival started with these Chinese immigrants. Chinese shrines were built all over Phuket. Not sure how many there are in total - I guess more than 20. The Thai word for 'shrine' is SANJAO (ศาลเจ้า). I have blogged individual shrines before. Other shrines I visited only as part of festivals. Here's a few worth visiting ...

Pun Tuao Kong Shrine

Many of the Chinese temples in Phuket are hidden away down side streets or located out of the normal tourist areas, so you might not see any unless you really go looking, but this one is easy to see - as you cross the big hill between Phuket Town and Patong beach, right at the top of the hill, you may notice cars beeping their horns as they pass this little shrine right by the road.

Pun Tuao Kong Chinese Shrine

(above) Pun Tuao Kong Shrine

Tha Reua Shrine

Another shrine that's easy to find, it's right by the main road heading south from the airport towards Phuket Town, just south of the Heroine's Monument. And this is a big shrine. Tha Reua was one of the older communities in Phuket, before Phuket Town even existed. More info and photos - Tha Reua Shrine.

Dragons at Tha Reua Chinese Shrine, Phuket

(above) Dragons at Tha Reua Shrine

Kathu Shrine

Kathu is the area in between Phuket Town and Patong. It was originally the center of Tin Mining in Phuket and in the mid 19th century was the center of Phuket business before Phuket Town became important. It is said that the vegetarian festival started in Kathu. The shrine was my local and I attended many festival events here including morning and evening street processions, fire walking, and the "crossing the bridge for purification" ceremony on the last night of the vegetarian festival.

Kathu shrine prayers

(above) Vegetarian Festival prayers at Kathu Shrine

Sapan Hin Shrine

Sapan Hin in the south of Phuket Town is a park and recreation area and where the Bang Yai canal meets the sea. This canal used to be navigable through Phuket Town and even up to Kathu and was very important for the tin mining industry. Almost all of the vegetarian festival processions head through town and down to Sapan Hin. More info and photos - Sapan Hin Shrine.

Prayers at Sapan Hin shrine

(above) My family saying prayers at Sapan Hin Shrine

Por Tor Kong Shrine

A shrine that I had not heard of until checking out the annual Por Tor (aka Hungry Ghost) Festival. It's hidden away down a narrow street in Phuket Town and is the center of the Por Tor Festival. Very much worth a visit if you are in Phuket during that event.

Por Tor Kong Shrine

(above) Festival Time at Por Tor Kong Shrine

Shrine of Serene Light

The first time I found this shrine it was very hard to find down the tiniest alleyway in Phuket Town and with a secret pasageway leading to a restaurant on the next street. The entrance was widened some years ago and the shrine made into more of an attraction in the middle of old Phuket Town. Certainly a place to visit while exploring the town. More info - Shrine of Serene Light.

Shrine of the Serene Light

(above) Shrine of Serene Light

Jui Tui and Bang Neow Shrines

The 2 largest shrines in Phuket Town - and on the mornings when these shrines have their street processions during the vegetarian festival it's a bit manic. There are about 10 shrines in the Phuket Town area - the map below shows locations. Much of the time at shrines like this nothing much is happening. if you visit on a random morning, not during a festival, you will find them quiet, but open to anyone who wants to look around. At festival time, it's another story!

Did I overdo the HDR?

(above) Street Procession from Jui Tui Shrine (Vegetarian Festival)

I always found it interesting to explore Phuket's history and culture, which can be hard to find in the more touristy areas, but there's a lot more to Phuket than just being a holiday island with hotels and beaches. Part of the reason for starting this blog way back in 2006 was to show the real Phuket and encourage visitors to see a bit more. Happy Travels!

Location Map - Phuket's Chinese Shrines


View Phuket Chinese Shrines in a larger map



2020 - A Year Not in Phuket

Where to begin? How was 2020 for you? It's been a shitty year for many people. If you are one of those idiots who thinks Covid-19 is a hoax, or if you refuse to wear a mask in a shop, or if you are one of those who has been breaking social distancing rules and don't care because you think you are healthy, well you can go jump in the sea. As I write this, 12 days into 2021, I am waiting for a text with my Covid test result. I took a test at a walk in testing center yesterday after a couple of days feeling feverish, and have now taken a couple of days off work, which might well turn out to be more, depends on the results! I have a close connection to Covid-19. Back in 2019, a few months after arriving back in England, I started working at a company called Abingdon Health, and as 2020 developed, the company has grown and is part of a consortium making Covid-19 antibody tests. And we have been very busy, especially over the second half of 2020. So, one plus for 2020 - I have had a good job! We are still living here in York, England. My son should be doing his GCSEs this year, but ... due to Covid, looks like that might be cancelled. My daughter finished a college business course earier this year and has had a few part time jobs, but due to Covid, jobs are hard to find!

Meanwhile, back in Phuket ... we still have a house for sale. My wife is in Thailand right now, been there for like 4 months. She had to do a 2 week government quarantine when she arrived - not allowed to leave the hotel room - thankfully it was paid by the Thai government for Thai nationals. We also have our house for sale in Chumphon. We had hoped to have sold already, but .. yeh, Covid. Travel restrictions in Thailand have been very strict, there are hardly any foreign tourists, and it's tough for local businesses, such as Sunrise Divers where I used to work and my friend's travel company Easy Day Thailand.

How quiet is Phuket? Have a look at the photo below posted on Twitter by my friend Steve who runs the Pineapple Guesthouse in Karon.

Life has kind of been in limbo for a year. Waiting to sell our property so we can buy here in England, waiting to see what happens with Covid-19, and it's got worse again. We've not taken any holidays. I took quite a lot of long weekends during the year, using up my work holiday allowance bit by bit. And of course I cannot really complain. Many people have had a bad year, lost jobs, lost income, lost loved ones. And let's not even get started on the other news of the year. I mean, here in the UK we have had Brexit and Boris, but that pales in comparison to the USA with continued and very justified anger about police killing black people, and then the USA has had a right wing egotistical, narcisistic clown as President, who refuses to admit he is ever wrong, and gosh, let's hope that is all over in 8 days from now on 20 January.

Normally, my yearly reviews over the years - see list at the end of this post - will show all the places in and around Phuket that we visited. 2020 was the first year for me since 1999 that I did not spend any time in Thailand. The first year since 1994 that I spent the whole year in the UK! Getting used to life back here is not so hard. But we really need to sell our houses soon! And I am not sure I like the winter. Some cold days are nice, if the sun shines and it's not windy, but some days are cold, wet and breezy and I wish I was having a cold beer Chang on the beach in Phuket! Anyway, we did not spend the whole year in lockdown. I have half-heartedly started a Yorkshire Blog. And we did have a lot of nice days out during the summer when we all thought Covid-19 had gone away.



(above) Sunset in Knaresborough, June 2020.



(above) Roseberry Topping in the Yorkshire Moors, July 2020.



(above) Out driving in the Yorkshire Dales in August 2020.

UPDATE : My Covid-19 test was POSITIVE! So the kids and I will be isolating at home for another week.

So, please come on 2021, get better soon! I was maybe hoping we'd have a chance to take a Thai holiday in the summer, but we'll have to wait and see. I hope if you are reading this that your 2020 had some highs and your 2021 has some highs!

Best Wishes from York (England), not Phuket

Previous Yearly Reviews:

2019 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010