Karon Beach features the third-longest beach on Phuket Island. Located on the west coast, between Patong to the north and Kata to the south, Karon Beach is the one of the most popular holiday destinations in Phuket. The beach itself has excellent snorkelling (and even diving) spots at its southern end and is wide enough for beachgoers to never feel crowded. Karon features three main areas, each with their own assets: Karon Centre is a lively small city in which visitors can find a good choice of dining, shopping and nightlife entertainment, as well as a beautiful Buddhist temple hosting a bi-weekly market. Karon Beach Road is ideal for evening strolls and is home to several large resorts, as well as restaurants and shops (including the popular Karon Bazaar). The third main area of Karon is centred around Luang Poh Chuan Road, towards the southern end of the beach, which hosts excellent restaurants and the more raucous nightlife spot of the resort town.
If you are planning your first time in Karon Beach, it can seem like quite a limited destination. It has a fantastic (and very long) beach, lined with some first-rate hotels, but is that all there is? Well, if you take a look at our guide below, you will find that there is a lot more to see and do here. Away from the beach, Karon has an impressive array of restaurants and even a modest nightlife to enjoy while Wat Karon and its weekly market are major attractions for locals and visitors alike. Karon Beach is a good place whether you are looking for peace and quiet or a little bit of excitement. It is such a big place that it can easily accommodate both sorts of setting without one overwhelming the other.
Karon is probably the most family-friendly part of Phuket. It has a very long beach with plenty of activities, a great choice of family resorts, nice restaurants and a modest nightlife. There are also lots of little shopping arcades, selling all of your essential holiday supplies. Those looking for a relaxing break and a good suntan certainly won’t be disappointed.
The main thing to do in Karon is to hit the beach – it’s a really nice beach! One of Phuket’s longest, the sand is soft, white and squeaks when you walk on it. The sea is clear and there are no rocks or obstructions near the shore, so taking a cooling dip is easy. Other than the beach, Karon is particularly good for families, with a choice of sports and activities available and several good budget shopping areas for the grown-ups.
Poh Than Jao Wat is one of the more important Buddhist statues in Wat Chalong. It is located in the westerly old hall of the temple, with two statues of an elderly gentleman called Ta Khee-lek (grandpa Khee-lek), a famous local who won many lotteries after consulting the Poh Than Jao Wat statue. Another statue in this hall is called Nonsi. One of the temple’s halls features a gilt-covered statue of Luang Poh Cham and this busy hall also contains statues of Luang Poh Chuang and Luang Poh Gleum, all ex-abbots of the temple.
The Grand Pagoda dominating the temple contains a splinter of Lord Buddha’s bone and is officially named Phramahathatchedi-Jomthaibarameepragat. The pagoda is decorated with wall paintings depicting the Buddha’s life story and also features various Buddha images. Take your time in the pagoda; it is a breezy, cool location and one which is very popular with visitors to the temple. There is also an air-conditioned ‘exhibition home’ of Luang Poh Cham which features lifelike human-sized wax models of Luang Poh Cham, Luang Poh Chuang, Luang Poh Gleum, and Luang Pu Thuad along with antique Thai furniture, and Benjarong (Thai porcelain designed in five colours), while the famous ‘magic’ walking-stick of Luang Poh Cham is kept at the current Abbot’s dwelling.
PHANG NGA BAY
A distinctive feature of Phang Nga Bay are the sheer limestone karsts that jut vertically out of the emerald-green water. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just two of the more famous spots in this bay. By far the best means of enjoying the spectacular scenery, with only brief encounters with the tourist crowds at James Bond and Koh Panyee, is to take one of the boat trips from the northern end of Phuket. A leisurely day trip cruising through the dramatic limestone islands, occasionally stopping to enjoy quiet beaches, is far more rewarding than the standard bus-boat tour.
James Bond Island: This famous landmark, called Koh Ta-pu (‘Nail Island’), first found its way onto the international map through its starring role in the James Bond movie ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’. And this is where most tours seem to take all of the tourists – all at the same time. The entire area surrounding this island with its signature rocky pinnacle is indeed spectacular, but most of the tours bus visitors up the main highway for an hour on the same well-worn itinerary. An integral part of that tour is lunch at Koh Panyee, a nearby Muslim fishing village.
Koh Panyee: This is a remarkable village, the whole of it built out over water on stilts and with a giant rock monolith guarding its rear. At lunchtime, many tourists on the James Bond Island tours are brought in to eat and shop for handicrafts. Koh Panyee is a small island. Most of it is huge, almost vertical, limestone cliffs. The hundreds of huts, shacks, restaurants and houses where the villagers live are built on stilts over the surrounding shallow sea. No one seems quite sure how many wooden and concrete piles hold up this extraordinary community, but it is certainly a fascinating and unique feat of informal engineering. At first, fishing was the sole industry for this Muslim community but nowadays it is No 2. These days, half the locals service the tourism industry and 40% are still fisherman. The village has its own school, a mosque, a health center, lots of small souvenir shops and a handful of large restaurants, all facing the sea, where tourists can enjoy a fresh seafood lunch.