Patong is the center of nightlife on the island, though it serves up the same old sordid stuff as Patpong, in Bangkok; you'll find plenty of bars, nightclubs, karaoke lounges, snooker halls, and dance shows with pretty sleazy entertainment. While some wide-eyed teenagers or washed-up barflies may find it titillating to trawl the hundreds of hostess bars, many people, especially couples with families, may find these venues a complete turnoff. Lit up like a seedy Las Vegas in miniature, the Patong bar areas are filled with (often underage) working girls and boys in pursuit of wealthy foreign men. Since the Vietnam War, prostitutes (some of which are transsexuals) have plied Patong's girlie bars.
Many hotels realize their guests may not want to barge their way through smoke-filled go-go bars, so they duly put on nightly Thai dance shows, which, if done well, can be mesmerizing; check with the resorts listed earlier for info.
For those who don't head for the bars (which are open pretty much all night), Patong's endless markets and restaurants usually stay open till 11pm around the main beach towns, especially Patong.
Bars & Clubs
Scruffy Murphy's (tel. 07629-2590), 50m (164 ft.) from the beach, down Bangla Road in Patong, is an obligatory Irish pub with mostly young Aussie or Brit tourists revving up to make a night of it. There's often live music or sports on TV. Paradise complex, in Soi Paradise (off Rat-U-Thit Rd.; no phone), is a gay-friendly zone of funky bars, clubs, and cafes. The classy Seduction Disco (off Soi Bangla; no phone) usually has fabulous DJs and dancing, whatever your persuasion.
Joe Kool's, at Ramada Resort, Karon Beach (568 Patak Rd.; tel. 07639-6666; www.joekoolsphuket.com), is a family-friendly diner and entertainment venue with live music most nights. Near the center of the island, on the road between Kata Beach and Phuket Town, is the Green Man (82/15 Moo 4, Patak Rd., Chalong; tel. 07628-1445; www.the-green-man.net), a half-timbered English pub, filled with local expats and tourists. There's live music Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it's open until 1am.
Phuket Town also offers a few worthy music clubs. Check out Timber Hut, for live bands in a Wild West setting, after 10pm (118/1 Yaowarat Rd.; tel. 07621-1839), and Phukana Wine & Music (6 Mealuan Rd.; tel. 07623-4495), an intimate club with an excellent live dance band.
Jazz fans should make the trip down to Kata Beach to visit Ratri Jazztaurant, the only real jazz venue on the island.
It's kitschy, it's exhilarating, and, heck, it's so lifelike: Dino Park Mini Golf (tel. 07633-0625; www.dinopark.com) is a great night out for bored teenagers or unruly whippersnappers who will love the Jurassic Park background of giant, roaring mechanical dinosaurs and (very lifelike) erupting volcanoes. Not only is it a good place to let them loose, but adults can even enjoy some grown-up time in the outdoor Flintstone-inspired bar and restaurant while the kids hit the links. Find the course in the heart of Kata Beach, adjoining the popular Marina Phuket Resort.
The island's premiere theme attraction, Phuket Fantasea (tel. 07638-5000 for reservations; www.phuket-fantasea.com), is as touristy and kitschy as the huge billboards and glossy brochures around town make it seem. The show -- set in a theme park filled with glitzy shops -- is at Kamala Beach, north of Patong, on the coastal road. After a huge buffet in the palatial Golden Kinaree Restaurant, visitors proceed to the Palace of the Elephants for the show. As one might expect, the prices are inflated; the souvenirs, an exercise in haute tackiness; and the suppers, so-so (you can at least save your stomach by buying a show-only ticket). That said, the 75-minute spectacle itself is enormously entertaining. You can buy a ticket (including transport) in most any hotel lobby or travel agency, so check for deals. The park opens at 5:30pm, the buffet begins at 6:30pm, and the show starts at 9pm (in high season, Dec-Jan, there are occasionally extra performances at 5 and 7pm). Tickets for the show are 1,500B for adults and children alike, while dinner and transfer fees add another 700B for adults and 500B for children.
On the south end of Patong, crowds of tourists pack the long-established transsexual extravaganza Simon Cabaret, 8 Sirirach Rd., Patong Beach (tel. 07634-2011; www.phuket-simoncabaret.com). There are two evening shows nightly, at 7:30 and 9:30pm. This glitzy entertainment features scantily clad beauties (yes, they really are all male, or male transsexuals), who lip-sync their way through popular Asian and Western pop songs. If you enjoy theatrical high camp, it can be a lot of fun and its burlesque humor draws busloads (especially Asian grannies). The dance numbers have pretty impressive sets and costumes and the numbers are interspersed with light comic acts. The cost is 700B for adults and 500B for kids.
The Phuket Playhouse presents a slick show nearer the heart of Patong (120 Rat-U-Thit Rd.; tel. 07634-1500; http://phuketplayhouse.com). It's similar to Simon Cabaret, but it includes female dancers as well as transsexuals. The dinner (choose from Thai, Thai vegetarian, or Western set menus) is the best dinner-show meal on the island. Cocktails and the show will set you back 700B, while dinner and the show costs 1,500B. Performances are at 8:30pm and 10pm nightly, except Sundays.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.