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.Thankfully, there are upscale places to grab a drink, and every hotel in the ‘expensive’ and ‘moderate’ category has an established bar that offers some combination of well-made cocktails, sunset views, craft beers, and a nice selection of wines. Because it can take more than an hour to get from end to end in Phuket, ask your hotel which resorts nearby have nice spots to grab a drink.
One of the best drinking-related activities on the island is to visit the Chalong Bay Distillery (www.chalongbayrum.com; tel. 093575-1119). Bar none—no pun intended!—this white rum is Thailand’s most famous boutique spirit, and you’ll find it at bars across the country. Thibault Spithakis and Marine Lucchini, a French couple who each grew up in wine producing families, started the company, and this small-scale craft distillery uses French copper stills and traditional distillation methods to make natural rum made from organic Thai sugarcane. The result is a full body, smooth white rum that is knock-out good in mojitos, and you’ll get to sample a mojito after the 30-minute tour (450B; daily on the hour from 2-6pm). Cocktail making classes (2 hours; 1,700B; Monday and Thursday) are fun for groups and great for a rainy day. The popularity of the rum in Thailand and abroad (not to mention a rack of awards) brought expansion to the brand, and now it adds Thai flavors, like lemongrass and kaffir lime, to the line of rums.
In Patong, Craft Beer Lounge (www.grandmercurephuketpatong.com; tel. 07623-1999) has more than 30 beers, including a nice international selection and a few Thai crafts. On the vino front is Luca Cini – A Wine Story (lucacini.com; tel. 094804-4461) which carries more than 100 different types of Italian wines pairing them with a mouthwatering selection of imported meats and cheese. Considering the premium products, the prices are affordable, and a glass of wine starts at 260B. Keeping with the wine trend, Drinks & Co. (tel. 086309-1392) has more than 250 bottles with tons of selection for under 1,000B. The helpful staff can offer opinions for bottles to open and enjoy there or select a bottle or two for a beach picnic.
For mixology and cocktails, these are a few spots we love. Garden’s Gastronomy Bar (www.fb.com/GardensBarPhuket; tel. 062242-0210) carries a premium selection of tonics and gins and the menu is a mix of classics, like a French 75 and a negroni, along with more innovative cocktails that use Asian spirits like soju and sake. For cocktails with a view, try Nikita’s (www.nikitas-phuket.com; tel. 07628-8703) where the lychee gin smash and the fresh-fruit margaritas are irresistible. Delicious wood-fired pizzas are also sold to help soak up all the booze in the blood stream. Inside a Sino-Portuguese shophouse in Old Town is Dibuk House (www.fb.com/dibukhouse; tel. 082733-0442) where posh bartenders in slick uniform shake and stir pineapple-infused rum drinks and fab martinis.
In Phuket Town, there are a few dives with live music that are worth visiting. Consider starting at Timber Hut (tel. 07621-1839) a two-story pub that has nearly 30 years of history to its name, which might be some kind of record in fickle Phuket. The live music is a grab bag night-to-night, so it might be hip-hop, pop or rock but it’s almost always good; stop in for a beer. Or head to Rockin’ Angels Blues Café & Band (www.fb.com/RockinAngelsCafe; tel. 089654-9654) where bike gear and records line the wall and house the blues start around 9 or 9:30pm. We’re also fans of Ka Jok See (www.fb.com/kajoksee; tel. 07621-7903) where there’s music and mayhem most nights when the owner hands out tambourines and encourages guests to dance on the tables (there’s even an occasional cabaret). Reservations are essential a month in advance is you decide to dine here.
Among the most popular ways to enjoy Phuket’s nightlife—and daytime parties—is at a beach club, where combinations of international DJs, fancy buffets with ice-packed towers of crab claws, and swim-up bars make for a full day of fun. Dream Beach Club (www.dreambeachclub.com; tel. 07668-4964) caters to trendy Millennials who are ready to swipe right on a dating app while big-name DJs thump in the background. Café del Mar (www.cafedelmarphuket.com; tel. 061359-5500) is more family-friendly and loved by expats looking to unwind. Landing somewhere in the middle is Catch Beach Club (www.catchbeachclub.com; tel. 065348-2017) where white-washed wood decks flow seamlessly into the soft sand. There’s great food, coffee, and lots of bubbles and sangria to make for a perfect afternoon.
On the south end of Patong, crowds of tourists pack the long-established transgender Simon Cabaret (www.phuket-simoncabaret.com; tel. 07634-2011). There are three shows each evening (6, 7:30 and 9pm) featuring flamboyantly clad transsexuals lip-syncing their way through popular Asian and Western pop songs. Can’t quite picture it? Well, imagine if the Radio City Rockettes got a Thai ladyboy makeover. Its burlesque humor draws busloads—especially Asian grannies who happily dance along in their seats. The sets are impressive and costumes are covered in glitter, rhinestones, and feathers. Tickets are 1,000B and should be booked a few days in advance because, even with 600 seats, the show sells out most nights.
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.